Romanian party seeks oust its own government

Romania's ruling party seeks no-confidence vote to oust its own government

Romania's Social Democratic Party has submitted a no-confidence vote against Sorin Grindeanu, their own prime minister. Grindeanu, who is accused of failing to fulfill the party's policies, has refused to step down.

Romania's ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) accused its own government of "contempt for democratic rules... immaturity and political irresponsibility," as it submitted a no-confidence vote before the parliament on Sunday.

The PSD withdrew its support for Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu and his cabinet on Wednesday following a performance review that found the government had failed to fulfill an ambitious policy and economic reform program.

Read more: Romania PM refuses to resign after party withdraws support

However, Grindeanu, who has been expelled by his party, rebuked the findings of the performance review, maintaining that it showed his cabinet had failed to introduce measures that had deadlines for 2018 or later. His refusal to step down deepened internal rifts within the PSD and sparked a political crisis.

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Romanians get referendum on corruption amid protests

If the no-confidence motion passes, the prime minister will be removed from office and the PSD will be allowed to nominate a replacement that will need the approval of president Klaus Iohannis.

The no-confidence vote, which is scheduled for Wednesday, needs 233 votes out of a total of 465 to remove the government. The PSD and its junior coalition ally, ALDE, have enough seats for the motion to succeed, although several PSD could cast their ballots in support of Grindeanu.

However, regardless of the outcome, the ordeal may have inflicted irreversible damage to the PSD's image. Former Prime Minister Victor Ponta, an ally of Grindeanu, described the no-confidence vote as "an atomic war between the Social Democrats and the Social Democrats," adding that it would only empower Romania's center-right president, who himself has the authority to appoint a prime minister with parliament's approval. 

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Call for resignation

On Saturday, the Romanian government bowed to protesters' demands, saying it would repeal legislation decriminalizing certain forms of corruption, but demonstrators said the move is not enough. "Now we’re asking for the government to resign," Mihai Oprica, 31, an IT manager pictured above. "[These protests] can stop if they cooperate. If not, we will continue coming out every day."

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"We woke up"

Since the controversial decree was passed on Tuesday, more than 300,000 people have demonstrated nightly in cities across the country, with 150,000 gathering in Bucharest’s Victoria Plaza, shown above. Protesters chanted "We woke up" through the evening and many expected the largest demonstration yet to take place here on Sunday night, when citizens from rural areas will come to Bucharest.

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"No way, no escape"

"No way, no escape," reads a sign in Victoria Plaza. "Even if they cancel the decree, how do we know they won’t try to pass another one next month?" asked Dan, 36, a state employee. "We have no trust in the government and they should understand that there [are] enough honest citizens that will make sure the law is followed."

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Human chain around the parliament

On Saturday, tens of thousands marched to Romania's parliament building to create a human chain around the complex, which has a perimeter of about three kilometers. One of the protesters on site, Christian Nadu, 32, a corporate project manager, said, "By surrounding the Parliament, we are making a statement that this is our house, not theirs, and we’re taking over."

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Easement on corruption

The one-month old cabinet of Romania’s Social Democrat party (PSD) sparked the revolt Tuesday, by passing legislation that made official misconduct punishable by prison time only when financial damages exceed 200,000 lei (44,000 euros.) The measure would have ended the ongoing trial of PSD party leader Liviu Dragnea, who is convicted of electoral fraud, and was largely seen as a self-pardon.

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"Go home forever"

Sorin Taban, 53, a technical manager from Bucharest, holds a sign reading, '1: Cancel Ordinance. 2: Go home.' He said he would not be satisfied until the PSD cabinet resigns. "The people have so little while politicians have big mansions with swimming pools and billions of euros in foreign banks. This kind of old communist leadership must go home forever!"

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Protest of historic proportions

The ongoing anti-corruption protests are the largest demonstrations in Romania since 1989. "Before this, people didn’t go out to protest because they thought they couldn't change anything," Nadu said. "This is the media's fault. The state channels have always suppressed big movements. Now the Romanian people know they have power and they will not forget this."

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What does victory look like?

Florin Luca, 31, a telecom project manager (not pictured above) said the end goal for protesters should be installing an independent judiciary. "The government was trying to shut the mouth and break the arms of justice and we would lose everything we built over the last ten years. We need a judicial system that stands independent of political parties."

Grindeanu's failure to relax graft reforms

Observers have attested that PSD has sought to dismiss Grindeanu for failing to pass  contested legislation earlier this year that would have relaxed anti-corruption laws.

At stake could be the political future of PSD leader Liviu Dragnea, who holds tight control over the party. Dragnea received a two-year suspended sentence for voter fraud in 2016 and also faces charges of abuse of power. The charges prevent him from running for public office. However, had the corruption legislation passed, it would have allowed Dragnea to run for prime minister.

"Grindeanu's removal seems to be at the forefront of an effort by the ruling coalition to relaunch a drive to weaken the anti-corruption fight," commentator Mircea Marian told the Reuters news agency.

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The government's move to decriminalize a number of corruption offenses shortly after taking office January was foiled after demonstrators took to the streets in what were the largest mass protests seen since the fall of the Communist regime in 1989.

PSD lawmakers, meanwhile, rejected that the no-confidence motion was about relaxing laws for political gain.

"This is a vote against a pseudo-government, one without any legitimacy," PSD senator Mihai Fifor told parliament on Sunday. "A government that believes it can exert power in its own name."

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dm/sms (AP, Reuters)