Just three months after taking office, the Romanian left wing Government has operated another reshuffle.
Quite rare in post-communist Romania have been the governments to operate reshuffles so fast as the Government headed by Social-Democrat Sorin Grindeanu, the cabinet which was formed in the wake of the parliamentary elections of December 2016 and which took office in early 2017. On February 23rd, no less than four ministers were replaced, the ministers of justice, economy, business environment and European funds. At first, only the ministers of justice and the business environment were expected to be removed against the backdrop of the serious political crisis sparked off by the Government’s attempt at amending criminal codes under an emergency ordinance.
Perceived by public opinion, the media, the right wing opposition in Bucharest and Romania’s foreign partners as an attempt to weaken the pace of the anti-corruption fight and exonerate influential politicians and administrative managers from criminal liability, the move made hundreds of thousands of protesters take to the streets. The mastermind of the ordinance, the unpopular justice minister, Florin Iordache was compelled to step down and the minister of the business environment, Florin Jianu resigned of his own free will, saying his conscience dictated he must step down.
A former judge at the Constitutional Court, Tudorel Jianu was appointed Minister of Justice. Alexandru Petrescu, former Minister of Economy, was appointed Minister of the Business Environment and the economy portfolio went to Mihai Tudose, who had held that office in the Victor Ponta cabinet too. Rovana Plumb, who was part of the the Adrian Nastase Government, in the early 2000, became Minister of European Funds. Whereas all those reshuffles involved members of the Social-Democratic Party, the big winner of the parliamentary elections with 45% of the votes, now it was the turn of the ruling coalition member, the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, to make a reshuffle. The party appointed Gratiela Gavrilescu, former minister for Liaison with Parliament, as Environment Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. The leader of the group of Liberals and Democrats in the Senate, Viorel Ilie, became Minister for Liaison with Parliament.
A week ago, the party leadership decided to withdraw its political support for the party’s co-president, Daniel Constantin, deputy prime minister and environment minister at the time, against the backdrop of his ever deeper differences of opinion with the other liberal-democrat co-president, Senate Speaker Calin Popescu-Tariceanu.
The president of the Social-Democratic Party, the strongman of the coalition, Liviu Dragnea said, without concealing his regret, that the coalition members had to take into account that political decision. Dragnea, who has become the target of several Social-Democrat contesters, talks to former party leader and Prime Minister Victor Ponta only via social networks and in polemical terms. The media insistently speculates that Victor Ponta and Daniel Constantin are already preparing to launch a new party, temporarily called “the new left-wing”, designed to undermine the unity of the present governance. (Translated by A.M. Palcu)