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Romania's government survives confidence vote ahead of EU presidency

Romania's Prime Minister Viorica Dancila
Romania's Prime Minister Viorica Dancila   -   Copyright  Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea via Reuters
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Romania's government has survived a parliamentary no-confidence vote just before it is due to take over the European Union's rotating presidency.

Opposition parties accused the Social Democrat-led ruling coalition of endangering the rule of law in Romania and weakening the fight against corruption.

Romania’s National Liberal Party (PNL) lead a coalition of MPs from PNL, Save Romania Union (USR) and Pro Romanian (PMP) parties to call for the no-confidence vote.

But only 161 opposition MPs supported the motion, well short of the 233 votes required for it to succeed.

"I will not resign because I have the certainty that Romania is on the right path, that Romanians are appreciating the measures we are taking," said Prime Minister Viorica Dancila.

Moves to overhaul judicial legislation and oust chief prosecutors and judges have dominated the public agenda since the Social Democrats came to power in early 2017, and threats to judicial independence could intensify a creep away from democratic values in some of the EU's eastern member states.

Changes to criminal codes and other judicial bills raised criticism from the European Commission, the US State Department, thousands of magistrates, and triggered the country’s biggest street protests in decades.

Social Democrat leader Liviu Dragnea, who has a suspended jail sentence in a vote-rigging case and has appealed a separate conviction for abuse of office, has been pushing Prime Minister Viorica Dancila's government for further changes, including an emergency decree that would grant prison pardons and amnesty.