Romania faces the prospect of early elections after Ludovic Orban’s minority centrist government lost a no-confidence vote in parliament on Wednesday.
The motion brought by the left-wing opposition Social Democrats (PSD) against Orban’s Liberal Party (PNL) – in protest at electoral reform – was backed by 261 lawmakers, well above the 233 needed to cause the government’s downfall.
Opposition parties are strongly against government moves to alter electoral laws ahead of elections for local mayors in the spring.
The PSD and the ethnic Hungarian UDMR fear they will be penalised by plans to introduce two rounds of voting instead of one – as this would give centre-right candidates the chance to form alliances against the left.
Orban’s party only came to power in November on a platform to fight corruption – replacing the Social Democrats under former Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, who were ousted by parliament the previous month.
It’s thought early elections could now take place in May or June. Some commentators say this is the outcome the government has been seeking. Orban had reportedly discussed the possibility of a snap poll with President Klaus Iohannis, but this could only happen if the government fell.
The ruling party has reason to be confident of winning an early vote. An opinion poll published on Tuesday (February 4) put support for the PNL at 47.4%, comfortably ahead of the PSD on 20.6%.
The former PSD-led government is still feeling the fallout from its attempted reforms to the justice system, which brought large protests across Romania. In its 2019 annual report, the European Commission criticised Romania's "backtracking from the progress made in previous years" on judicial reforms and the fight against corruption.
The result of the no-confidence vote means President Iohannis will consult political parties to find a new prime minister. The Liberal Party said before the vote it would propose Orban again for the post.
“We’ve lost a battle but for Romania, we will win the next round,” Ludovic Orban said. “The government has fallen on its feet.”