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Romania's ruling coalition loses parliamentary majority: what it means

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Romania's ruling coalition loses parliamentary majority: what it means

Victor Ponta
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Romania's ruling coalition lost its parliamentary majority on Tuesday after several MPs defected to another party, once again highlighting the political instability in the country just weeks before it takes over the EU's presidency.

Four members of the Social Democrats (PSD) defected to join the Pro Romania Party launched last year by former Prime Minister Victor Ponta.

The ruling coalition made up of the left-leaning PSD — which secured 148 MPs in 2016 elections — and the centre-right Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) — which has 19 MPs — are now two MPs short of a parliamentary majority.

Euronews recaps what it means for the country.

Pro Romania party gains momentum

Ion Mocioalca, one of the four MPs switching parties, explained in a Facebook post that he is defecting because he cannot recognise the party anymore and no longer trust its leaders.

"After 24 years of active policy, sustained values, victories and defeats, in and for the Social Democratic Party, I decided today to separate from the road the party is taking," he wrote.

"I resigned from the PSD and adhered to the parliamentary group in which I find the values that I have supported and continue to support," he added.

READ: Former Romania PM Victor Ponta tells Euronews about his political comeback bid

Ponta welcomed the defection to his new centrist movement in his own Facebook post in which he blasted the PSD for having been "hijacked by a criminal group leading the country to disaster".

The Pro Romania party now has 10 MPs, a figure that, although low, brings legitimacy as it allows them to be recognised as a parliamentary group, Radu Magdin, a political analyst, told Euronews.

"He (Ponta)'s likely to be one of the main voices of the opposition," Magdin said.

Steady as she goes for the ruling coalition?

Since coming to power with a comfortable majority two years ago, the ruling coalition has been mired by scandals.

Over the summer, PSD leader Liviu Dragnea was sentenced to three-and-a-half years of prison for abuse of power, which he has appealed.

The European Commission accused the country of backsliding in the fight against corruption last month just days after the EU's affairs minister unexpectedly quit.

Domestic political infighting has also raised doubts over Bucharest's ability to take on the presidency of the EU in January.

Still, the PSD/ALDE alliance has survived and the latest scandal is unlikely to impact it or alter its policy course.

"People disagree with Dragnea, they're more and more dissatisfied, yet at the same time he manages to get a strong majority each time his mandate is under question," Magdin explained.

"Dragnea's force is to show he's bringing other MPs from other parties," he added.

The PSD leader's first appeal will probably be to the left-wing National Popular Party. If that fails, he'll then turn his attention to the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR).

"It's more about making cooperation official because typically the Hungarians are pretty constructive with regards to a parliamentary majority in Romania. They prefer to be on board in government," Magdin said.

Public opinion is shifting

Romanians though are increasingly wary of all the political bickering.

"People wanted serious politics," Magdin said. "This parliamentary majority had a strong mandate for change in the sense of stability and prosperity and unfortunately in terms of perception, the main fight was more with prosecutors."

So a backlash could be on the cards in 2019 as two key elections will be held: the EU parliamentary elections in May and the country's presidential ballot in December.

"I think the PSD right now is in retreat," Magdin said, forecasting that EU elections could be hard for the party.

Opposition parties

The beneficiary of a possible backlash could be small opposition parties, including Ponta's Pro Romania movement, Save Romania Union, and the Romania Together Movement.

"I think the smaller parties are interested in being more vocal and they're capitalising on the fact that the biggest opposition party (the National Liberal Party, PNL) is not that strong in terms of political strategy," Magdin explained.

"So there is room for these parties simply because the two elephants, the ruling PSD and opposition PNL, are not that good with their communication.

"It means more political competition and that's good for the country," he added.