Romania parliament gives green light to minority liberal govt

Bucharest (AFP) –


Romania's pro-European liberals on Monday succeeded in getting parliamentary approval to form the next government, ending months of political uncertainty and paving the way for the new prime minister to appoint an EU commissioner.

The EU member's previous left-wing government -- besieged by protests over controversial judicial reforms and a perceived failure to fight corruption -- collapsed in a no-confidence vote last month.

President Klaus Iohannis then tasked Ludovic Orban, chief of the National Liberal Party (PNL), to form a new government, but his proposed minority line-up needed parliamentary approval.

A total of 240 lawmakers of the 465-member parliament -- just enough for the simple majority needed -- voted in favour of Orban's government.

"Our objective is to re-establish the confidence in Romania of our Euro-Atlantic partners," the former transport minister, 56, told lawmakers from his PNL and four small parties whose support he secured before the vote.

Orban is expected to appoint a new EU commissioner after nominees from the previous Social Democrat (PSD)-led government were rejected, leaving the new European Commission unable to start work.

"We will make a decision as soon as possible, after consulting the president and after a hearing in the parliament," Orban said after the vote.

He blamed PSD leader Viorica Dancila for the rejection of the first candidates in Brussels.

Incoming European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen -- who wants her new team to be up and running by December 1 -- has urged Romania to propose a new EU commissioner "without delay".

- Presidential race -

The crucial parliamentary vote also comes just ahead of a first round of presidential elections on Sunday with incumbent Iohannis, a former PNL leader himself, the clear front-runner.

The 17 cabinet members -- all from the PNL except for the defence and foreign ministers who have no party affiliation -- will be sworn in later on Monday.

Among its priorities, the government -- seen as a transitional one until the next parliamentary elections in late 2020 -- aims to keep the annual budget deficit under three percent of output, the EU limit, and to reverse the judicial reforms introduced by the PSD.

Dancila, whose government collapsed in the October 10 no-confidence vote, is also running in the weekend's presidential elections, but her chances are seen as slim.

The PSD boycotted Monday's vote. Afterwards, Dancila accused Iohannis of "confiscating the executive power".

"The aim of this government is to give Iohannis a second (presidential) term, and this is an insult to democracy," Dancila said.

Since taking power in late 2016, the PSD government faced massive protests and criticism from Brussels over reforms seen as helping politicians to escape corruption sentences.