The education portfolio in the cabinet
made up of the Social Democratic Party-the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats is
vacant, after the relevant minister Valentin Popa stepped down on Thursday.
Actually, his name had already been mentioned for a prospective government
reshuffle, likely to be made next month. An engineer, professor, rector of
Suceava University in the north-east, Popa was sworn in at the start of the
year, when a cabinet was formed by his Social-Democrat colleague, Viorica
Dăncilă. He is the second minister to resign, after research minister Nicolae
Burnete discretely made public his decision to step down on August 31, without
however detailing the reasons behind his decision.
The press has however
speculated that Burnete was allegedly discontented about the insufficient funds
allotted to his domain and that he was among those envisaged for a possible
reshuffle. In exchange, Popa's resignation has stirred rumours. In
Transylvania, central Romania, which is home to the largest Hungarian community
in Romania, of up to 1.2 million people, ethnic Hungarian teachers had gone on
a token strike. They had made public their decision to go ahead with their
protest until the suspension of a government decision stipulating that Romanian
language course in primary schools with tuition in Hungarian be given by
teachers of Romanian. The leader of the Democratic Union of Ethnic Hungarians
in Romania, UDMR, Kelemen Hunor, has put the issue on UDMR's agenda and called
for Popa's resignation. Until then, he has warned, the parliamentary
cooperation protocol between the Union and the majority made up of the Social Democratic
Party-the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats remains suspended.
language and Romania do not make the object of negotiations, Popa responded,
saying that he stepped down precisely because he does not agree with UDMR's
request to change the government decision. In exchange, Kelemen Hunor says that
tendering his resignation was the right decision, adding that Popa should
assume responsibility for the consequences produced by the measures he had
taken and which created confusion among tens of thousands of pupils, teachers
In turn, the president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, Călin
Popescu-Tăriceanu, has said he does not know the reasons behind the resignation
and added however that the UDMR leader had already told him about his
discontent over the teaching of the Romanian language in classes with tuition
in the Hungarian language. The National Liberal Party, in opposition, claims
the minister's resignation is not an act of honour, but one showing
incompetence and weakness and that his successor will take over a difficult mission.
Analysts believe the reasons behind Popa's resignation are purely mathematical.
Over the past 20 years, thanks to its 6%
presence in the Romanian Parliament, UDMR has frequently been included in the
coalition cabinets in Bucharest, be they of right or left wing orientation. And
when it is not in power, the Union usually votes alongside the Power. Against
this backdrop, for the Social-Democratic leader of the coalition, Liviu
Dragnea, the ethnic Hungarian MPs' votes might become vital, at a time when
more and more people are leaving the party ranks. Therefore, pundits say it is
not by chance that Popa tendered his resignation soon after having a private
talk with Dragnea.
(Translated by D. Vijeu)