Romanian government survives no-confidence motion in boost for stability

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania’s centrist minority government survived a no-confidence motion in parliament on Monday, improving political stability as the country struggles to curb the coronavius epidemic that has pummeled its economy.

FILE PHOTO: Newly appointed Romanian PM Ludovic Orban attends the validation session of his cabinet in Bucharest, Romania, November 4, 2019. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via REUTERS

Parliamentary debates and a vote were canceled due to lack of a quorum, helping Prime Minister Ludovic Orban foil an attempt by Social Democrats to oust him, a move the opposition had hoped would boost its profile ahead of countrywide municipal elections on Sept. 27.

Orban hailed the outcome, saying it was beneficial for the country and his government while “facing challenges in short and medium term ..., requiring (us) to work at full capacity”.

“We can note now that there’s a majority that understood us and has backed us,” Orban added, after only 226 legislators out of the minimum required 233 needed to topple the government showed up in parliament on Monday.

Romania’s two-house parliament has 465 legislators.

Asked by reporters if he would try to reschedule the vote, Social Democrat leader Marcel Ciolacu said: “There’s nothing to reschedule, it failed. We struggled to form a 233-seat parliament majority and we failed.”

Ciolacu said his party would expel from its ranks all those absentees who helped his no-confidence vote attempt to fail.

The Social Democrats remain Romania’s largest party but lost control of government late last year amid mass protests over the party’s repeated attempts to politicize the judiciary and the conviction of leader Liviu Dragnea on corruption charges.

They have since lost about half their support in opinion polls. That suggests Orban’s centrists stand a good chance of forming a coalition government after a parliamentary election probably due in December.

That could restore investor confidence, eroded by years of political instability and fiscal largesse.

Romania has reported 87,540 coronavirus infections and 3,621 deaths since February and the daily number of infections picked up to average above 1,000 a day in August. The government has extended a state of alert until mid-September.

Editing by Alison Williams, Giles Elgood and Mark Heinrich