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Romania MPs 'offered bribes' to support embattled PM Florin Citu, claims opposition leader

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By Orlando Crowcroft
A woman shouts during an anti-government and anti-restrictions protest organized by the far-right Alliance for the Unity of Romanians or AUR, in Bucharest, Romania, Saturday,
A woman shouts during an anti-government and anti-restrictions protest organized by the far-right Alliance for the Unity of Romanians or AUR, in Bucharest, Romania, Saturday,   -   Copyright  Vadim Ghirda/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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MPs from a nationalist opposition party claim to have been offered bribes in return for abstaining from a vote of no-confidence in Romanian Prime Minister Florin Citu on Tuesday (October 5).

George Simion, the president of Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR), which has over 40 seats in Romania’s parliament, said MPs were offered lucrative positions for associates or relatives at state-owned energy companies in return for boycotting the vote on Tuesday.

Simion said that the calls were taped and that the recordings would be released later on Tuesday. The right-wing party, which won 9% of the national vote in legislative elections in 2020 just a year after its founding in 2019, has made a formal complaint to the authorities.

“We were contacted by government MPs and offered a bribe,” he told Euronews.

Citu’s National Liberal Party (PNL) did not respond to requests for comment by Euronews.

The AUR’s own vote of no confidence in Citu in September was blocked by parliament and has been referred to Romania’s constitutional court. But a second no-confidence motion due to be debated on October 5, and lodged by the Social Democratic Party (PSD) is set to go ahead.

It is supported by the PSD, the AUR and the PNL’s former coalition partners, USD Plus, which broke with the government over the sacking of Justice Minister Stelian Ion, on September 2. If it succeeds Romania’s president, Klaus Iohannis, will be required to appoint a new prime minister.

Speaking on Thursday, Simion said that the result of the vote was sure.

“I think we will have 60% of the votes,” he said. “100% the government will fall.”

Citu is under fire for the handling of the COVID-19 crisis, which has seen Romania facing a resurgence of cases and is currently the second-worst vaccinated country in Europe.

The pandemic has also exposed serious deficiencies in Romania’s struggling healthcare system, with three deadly fires in public hospitals in the last year alone.

On Saturday, Romania reported 12,590 new COVID-19 infections in a 24-hour interval, the highest ever daily number since the start of the pandemic.

Citu is also facing opposition from within the PNL from supporters of Romania’s former prime minister, Ludovic Orban, who stood down after the party’s poor showing in the 2020 elections.

Citu defeated Orban in a leadership bid for the PNL last week, but his rival remains a powerful force within the PNL and his supporters are lobbying for his return.

If the crisis continues, Romania could face new elections, in which Simion is confident the AUR could increase its vote share even further.

The AUR has ruled out a coalition with either the PSD or the PNL but said it would take part in a national unity government in return for key ministerial posts, such as education.

First formed in order to advocate for a union between Romania and Moldova, the AUR has broadened into a populist right-wing party which Simion told Euronews is modelled on Poland’s Law and Justice Party (PiS) or Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party in the UK.

Although it does not want to see Romania leave the EU, the AUR opposes Brussels' climate change and green energy goals and supports Hungary’s recent anti-LGBT law.

It is also opposed to compulsory vaccination as well as ongoing lockdown restrictions in the country.