Romania's Dacian Cioloș unveils new cabinet ahead of parliamentary vote

October 18, 2021
Romania’s leader-designate Dacian Ciolos
Romania’s leader-designate Dacian Ciolos

BUCHAREST — Romania’s leader-designate Dacian Ciolos has unveiled his pick for a new government made up entirely of members of his own USR party after failing to strike a coalition deal with the National Liberal Party (PNL) and ethnic Hungarian parties in parliament.

Ciolos’ cabinet will include all the USR MPs that were part of the last government with the PNL until earlier this year when Prime Minister Florin Citu’s dismissal of Stelian Ion, the USR justice minister, led to the withdrawal of the USR -- then called USR Plus -- from the coalition.

That in turn led to a vote of no confidence brought against Citu by the opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD) — and supported by USR.

It easily passed in the Romanian parliament and led President Klaus Iohannis to dismiss Citu and appoint Ciolos as a potential replacement.

Critics saw the appointment as a canny political move by Iohannis and a lose-lose for Ciolos, who was seen as unlikely to be able to assemble a cabinet that would gain the approval of parliament. That failure could hurt the USR and Ciolos’ own presidential aspirations for 2024.

Even if Ciolos was able to assemble a cabinet and win the backing of parliament, the logic runs, he would take over the helm of a Romania reeling from a health care crisis, a spiralling fourth wave of COVID-19 and widespread anger towards the political class.

But it is that last consideration, analysts told Euronews on Monday, that may actually mean Ciolos can win the backing of parliament for the government he announced on October 18. Indeed, both the PNL and PSD may welcome having someone else at the helm during a period that -- even in October -- is already being referred to as Romania’s “winter of discontent.”

“I think they have a chance, not because it is the best cabinet or government you can have, but because it is a government of sacrifice,” Anton Pisaroglu, a political strategist, told Euronews.

A patient lies on a bed in the emergency room, turned into a CODIV-19 unit due the high number of cases, at the Bagdasar-Arseni hospital in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Oct. 1Andreea Alexandru/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

He echoed his comments of last week, however, when he argued that Ciolos’ personal political career will be hurt either by his failure to build a government or his failure once in government to pull Romania out of crisis.

“For Ciolos, long term, this is going to be a very big problem for his presidential run and also for USR as a party,” he said.

Others have argued that "short of a miracle" Ciolos may not get his cabinet through parliament, his effort to put one anyway could play well with voters.

"Ciolos wants to play the responsibility card and then say, if his attempt is unsuccessful, that at least he tried and that PNL and PSD have an informal coalition," said Costin Ciobanu, an analyst.

Euronews has reached out to representatives of Ciolos and the USR for comment.

A parliamentary vote on the new cabinet has not been scheduled, but will likely take place this week as Ciolos' deadline to assemble a government and gain approval expires on October 20.

If parliament votes against, Iohannis will be tasked with making another nomination for prime minister.

It has been suggested that he could try to re-appoint Citu, or failing that another PNL member that is more able to assemble a government.

Although an Iohannis protege, Citu is unpopular within the PNL, especially with supporters of former prime minister Ludovic Orban, who stood down following the PNL's dismal performance in the 2020 elections. — Euronews

October 18, 2021
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