Ludovic Orban. Picture: REUTERS/OCTAV GANEA
Ludovic Orban. Picture: REUTERS/OCTAV GANEA

Bucharest — Romania’s pro-European government collapsed in a parliamentary no-confidence vote on Wednesday after only three months in office, bringing the EU member closer to early elections.

A total of 261 of 465 MPs voted in favour of a motion against the minority government led by Ludovic Orban that took over in November.

“The Orban government fell. It’s a very big step for Romanian democracy,” said Marcel Ciolacu, leader of the opposition Social Democrats (PSD), which had launched the motion.

The move was triggered by Orban’s attempt to change the law for local elections, which the PSD saw as a threat to its chances in a poll due in June.

Orban had wanted to reintroduce a two-round voting system, but the change will no longer be implemented.

Paradoxically, the government’s collapse might benefit Orban’s National Liberal Party (PNL), which wants early polls to seize on a series of victories in the past year.

A recent opinion poll suggested PNL was riding high, with 47% support compared with 20% for PSD.

“We’ll land on our feet. We were judged by a toxic alliance that lost people’s support,” Orban told reporters after Wednesday’s vote.

“Romanians will soon be called to decide the country’s fate. We lost a battle, but we will win the battle for Romania.”

Romanians have grown frustrated with persistent corruption, which has implicated the highest echelons of the PSD — the party’s former leader Liviu Dragnea was jailed for corruption in 2019.

Political wrangling 

President Klaus Iohannis must now appoint a new prime minister who in turn must try to assemble a majority, unlikely to be easy in a fragmented parliament.

The Social Democrats already announced they would come up with their own proposal, while the liberals hope Iohannis will again pick Orban for the role.

But it is unlikely that a new stable government will be formed to lead one of the EU’s poorest countries.

According to the constitution, the president can dissolve parliament only after two failed attempts to install a new executive within 60 days.

The PNL wants an early election, close to or at the same time as the local elections in June.

Romania has not held a snap election since the fall of communism 30 years ago.

The PSD won the 2016 parliamentary election with a landslide — but it was weakened by waves of street protests over judicial reforms and eventually thrown out in a no-confidence motion in 2019.

That year, the PSD took a drubbing in European elections and its candidate was heavily beaten in a presidential election, handing a second term to Iohannis, who hails from the centre-right PNL.