Romania's president designates former finance minister to form center-right cabinet
Romania's president Klaus Iohannis (right) designated finance minister Florin Citu (left) to form a new Government on behalf of a center-right coalition of three parties formed around the National Liberal Party (PNL).
Citu should come up with a cabinet and get the lawmakers' vote within ten days. The ruling Coalition's leaders pledged to have the new Government endorsed in Parliament by the end of this week.
The three political forces in the Coalition already split the 18 ministries. PNL will control traditional ministries, including the portfolios of defense, interior, finance, energy, and foreign affairs, and will also appoint the ministers of education, culture, agriculture, and labor. These ministries are essential for president Iohannis' main strategic projects, including the strategic partnership with the US in the energy and defense sectors.
The reformist alliance USR-PLUS will control the ministries with the potential to boost the public sector development: justice, EU funds, health, transport, research and development, and economy.
The ethnic Hungarians' party UDMR was assigned several key ministries as well: development (regional development financed from national budget) and environment (supposed to intermediate major financing for Green Deal), plus the ministry of youth and sports.
Fragile center-right Coalition signs agreement for four-year term
Backed by a fragile majority of 52.4% in Parliament, the National Liberal Party (PNL), the reformist alliance USR-PLUS and the ethnic Hungarians' party UDMR sealed a ruling agreement expected to remain in force for the coming four years. Both major partners in the Coalition, PNL and USR-PLUS, got scores some 5pp lower than expected. Meanwhile, the Social Democrats (PSD) won the biggest chunk of the votes and are in control of just over one-third of the MP seats - a blocking minority that is of practical importance only in the case of major decisions such as the indictment of the president or the amendment of the Constitution.
At this moment, these are remote scenarios but they may occur during a four-year term - the populist party AUR plans to suspend from post and overthrow president Klaus Iohannis, and the ruling Coalition might want to change the Constitution in several points: banning the appointment in public seats for candidates convicted for important criminal deeds or even cutting down the number of MPs to 300 in line with a public referendum already passed.
Under a clause of the agreement, the signatory parties consent not to accept MPs of other parties - a clause broadly seen as authored by the smaller party of ethnic Hungarians as a precaution. But the clause may erode the position of the ruling Coalition if its MPs decide to defect. At this moment, the ruling Coalition holds 11 MP seats more than needed for a qualified majority in joint sittings. In the Chamber of Deputies, the margin is even smaller: four out of the 330 votes. However, the ethnic minorities' deputies (18) have traditionally backed the ruling Coalition by default - once it was established.
Ruling Coalition's flexible agreement sets principles only
The ruling Coalition's agreement sets seven major principles - one of them mentioned above, related to not accepting MPs (defectors) from other parties.
Under another clause, the Coalition's members are entitled to make their own decisions regarding the candidates for "the public seats agreed." The clause implies a public seat-sharing agreement that is not part of the seven-point Coalition agreement published. Besides the minister positions, state secretaries are also appointed politically. The parties pledged to follow the meritocracy principles when making their nominations.
The Coalition's agreement includes other pledges to comply with best practices in politics: transparency, consultation with social partners, and developing the state.
Center-right Coalition will control both Chambers' steering bodies
Former prime minister Ludovic Orban, the president of the PNL, was voted president of the Chamber of Deputies. It was the first test for the new majority, which received ten votes more than its MP seats: 179. The Social Democratic Party (PSD) candidate received 110 votes, namely those coming from his party's deputies alone. Besides PSD, the ruling Coalition, and the ethnic minorities' MPs, 33MPs of the newly emerged AUR party opted to remain in opposition - yet not siding with PSD.
USR-PLUS senator Anca Dragu, a former finance minister in the cabinet of Dacian Ciolos, was voted president of the Senate, the first woman to hold the job. She received 75 votes in favor and 51 votes against, from a total of 133 votes cast. PSD senator Lucian Romascanu, a former culture minister in the Government of Mihai Tudose, also ran for the job. He received 51 votes in favor and 75 against. Dragu received the ruling Coalition's 75 votes, but Romascanu received - in addition to PSD's 47 votes - four votes from other parties, which means AUR (since the ethnic minorities have no senator seats assigned).
The two Chambers' steering bodies will also be controlled by the parties that form the center-right Coalition, following the legislative forum's elections. This provides the ruling Coalition with control over the two Chambers' procedures (schedule, agenda). In the Senate, the majority holds 7 out of 13 seats, and in the Chamber of Deputies it holds 8 out of 13 seats.
(Photo source: Presidency.ro)