The short lived Ungureanu government fell in April, but the vote of no confidence that sealed its fate only came at the end of the month. Before that there was the failed Cupru Min privatization, which was one of the reasons given by the then opposition Social Liberal Union (USL) for calling the vote of no confidence.
Right at the beginning of the month, AP ran a story which at once exposed serious problems in the Romanian health service and highlighted the dedication many doctors have to their patients. A Romanian doctor at a specialist unit in the Bucharest Children’s Hospital found he couldn’t get staff to work without bribes. Instead he sent babies to Western Europe for treatment.
If anybody needed it, more evidence emerged in April of just how venal and corrupt former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase was. This time he was found guilty of blackmail and was put on probation for three years. It was Nastase’s second conviction in 2012 and the fourth case he had faced since 2010.
There’s something heartening about big companies being held to account and having to face charges when they bend the law too far or flout it altogether. McDonald’s got into trouble with Romania’s Consumer Protection Authority (ANPC) in April over the ‘McDonald’s fries remind you of your grandparents’ advert. Presenting McDonald’s fries as made by traditional grandma style methods from market bought potatoes was apparently too much for the Consumer Protection Authority to stomach, so a fine was imposed and the audio visual watchdog advised to take action. The ingredients, according to McDonald’s, are potatoes, vegetable oil, natural beef flavor (which contains wheat and milk derivatives), citric acid, dextrose, sodium acid pyrophosphate and salt. The fries are prepared, by an industrial process according to the ANPC, in vegetable oil (Canola oil, corn oil, soybean oil, hydrogenated soybean oil with TBHQ, citric acid and dimethylpolysiloxane added). Rather a mouthful and with some ingredients probably not found in a typical grandma’s store cupboard.
The Cupru Min privatization appeared to be going fairly well. Four international companies had participated in the bid for the state owned Romanian copper mine. The winning firm was Roman Copper, which had been set up in Canada by Baywater Capital to take part in the bid. So far, so good. But problems started during the negotiations over the terms of the contract, which eventually failed despite the apparent efforts of the Roman Copper company.
On April 19, the Social Liberal Union (USL) announced that it would call for vote of no confidence. The reason given was to protest against both the government’s privatization plans in general and the failure of the Cupru Min sell off. With a the government having a parliamentary majority, the vote of no confidence appeared at the time that it would be protest and nothing more. However, with astonishing alacrity, the government crumbled over the following week.
First a few resignations and a defection gave the USL a slim majority in the Romanian Senate. Then came the vote of no confidence itself and as the session started there were warning signs – the USL already had confirmed support from 227 delegates, just a few short of the winning figure. The debate in parliament was described as “heated” and reportedly included tears and threats. Minority parties that had joined with the ruling coalition jumped ship and voted with the opposition and so after less than three months in power, Mihai Ungureanu’s government was brought down. The USL gained power and current PM Victor Ponta was asked to form a government by President Traian Basescu, who didn’t have much as a choice as Mr Ponta was the only candidate.