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Dacian Cioloș: Why Romania's new PM-designate could face a winter of discontent

Romania's prime minister Dacian Ciolos looks up during the swearing-in ceremony of the new government in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015
Romania's prime minister Dacian Ciolos looks up during the swearing-in ceremony of the new government in Bucharest, Romania, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2015 Copyright Credit: AP
Copyright Credit: AP
By Orlando Crowcroft
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Even if Dacian Cioloș can win the support of parliament - which is doubtful - he has an unenviable task ahead, analysts say.


It is only October, but the weather is already beginning to turn cold in Bucharest.

Romania’s political stalemate was ended on Monday night as President Klaus Iohannis nominated the opposition leader and former head of the Renew Europe group in the European Parliament, Dacian Cioloș, as prime minister a week after Florin Citu was ousted in a vote of no confidence.

But it may be just a temporary reprieve, with Cioloș -- who is the leader of the Union to Save Romania party (USR) -- expected to struggle to win the approval of Romania’s parliament. If Cioloș cannot form a government, Iohannis will have to nominate a second candidate to replace Citu.

If that second candidate cannot gain the support of parliament, the country will face new elections.

Cioloș struck a bullish tone in a Facebook post on Monday, saying that USR -- until last week known as USR Plus -- was ready to “start negotiations with other parties [...] to form a new government.”

Citu, the leader of the National Liberal Party (PNL) and key Iohannis ally, was ousted last week after Romania’s opposition parties united in a vote of no confidence brought by the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and backed by USR and the right-wing Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR).

There was speculation that Iohannis could defy the vote and nominate Citu again as leader, but the president backed away from the move in the face of questions about its constitutional legitimacy.

Analysts said that the move by Iohannis was a savvy one, not only because Citu remains as interim leader until his successor gains parliamentary approval, but also because it serves to tarnish Cioloș and his USR ahead of presidential elections in 2024 in which he was expected to run.

Anton Pisaroglu, a political strategist, told Euronews that Iohannis had put Cioloș “in an impossible position: if he wins the vote, he is faced with leading a Romania in the midst of a crisis, and if he loses he will only “build his profile as a loser” ahead of future elections.

“It was a good strategic move from the president,” he said. "[Cioloș'] political career might never recover from this."

If he can win parliamentary support, Cioloș and his government inherit a health care crisis that has seen Romania’s hospitals pushed to the brink and combatting the country’s woeful vaccination record, which stands at a little over 33%, the second-lowest in Europe.

It comes at a critical moment for Romania, when public distrust of and anger with the political class is rising and sees no sign of abatement.

In Bucharest, there is concern that in the face of spiralling natural gas prices Romania could be heading for a difficult winter, said Radu Magdin, an analyst.

"People are watching on TV: news about rising prices, rising energy bills, images from overwhelmed hospitals where people are sleeping on chairs and in garages. There has to be a price to pay," he said.

"I think people are starting to pop the question: Who do you think is guilty?"

Iohannis latest move is undoubtedly an effort to make sure as few Romanians as possible name him as the culprit, and instead turn their ire onto a new progressive party that posed a challenge to the PNL in elections - and could pose a challenge to them again.

Indeed, the only party in Romania that would welcome new elections as soon as possible would be the right-wing Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR), which took 12% of the vote in elections in 2020 and would be likely to double that percentage if elections are held before the end of the year.

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