Romania on BRINK as after justice minister sacked – crisis amid coalition fracture

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Romanian Prime Minister Florin Cîțu sacked his justice minister yesterday, triggering a political crisis. He dropped Stelian Ion, a member of the Union to Save Romania PLUS (USR PLUS), the second-largest coalition member behind his National Liberal Party (PNL). The ensuing outrage threatens to de-seat him as the party has now drafted a motion of no-confidence.

Mr Cîțu has attempted to force a local spending programme through Parliament questioned by deputy Prime Minister and USR PLUS member Dan Barna.

Mr Ion had withheld approval of the spending programme as Mr Barna sought to amend it with transparency measures.

USR PLUS leaders said they would oppose the plans until the government included distribution criteria and control mechanisms in its €10 billion infrastructure plan.

Local insiders believed Mr Cîțu would use the deal to gain support from influential local politicians in the run-up to a PNL internal election.

The Prime Minister claimed the act was “blackmail” as he removed the minister.

Announcing the decision via Facebook, he added he would not accept “ministers who oppose Romania’s development” in his government.

He said: “Blocking government activity just because you do not agree to develop communities means violating the mandate given by Parliament through the government program.

“I will not allow the Romanian people to be blackmailed! Tonight’s decision was a necessary one.”

President Klaus Johannis will have to sign off first, and he is presently “analysing” Mr Cîțu’s action.

As he awaited the final decision, Mr Ion also took to social media.

He told Facebook followers he believed the Romanian PM had dismissed him amid attempts to make the selection process for top-ranked prosecutors more transparent.

Mr Ion said Mr Cîțu had “actually signed his own departure” from the government.

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He added: “The story also has an unseen substratum, related to the ongoing procedure for appointing high-ranking prosecutors.”

In a statement, USR PLUS drew a red line with Mr Cîțu, accusing him of igniting a “political crisis”.

The party announced it had started drafting a vote of no-confidence.

The statement said it was “withdrawing political support” for the Prime Minister, branding him “irresponsible”.

Representatives added it would “not ever underwrite the plundering of public money.”

But the Prime Minister has not officially responded to this, instead focussing on football.

He came out in support of the country’s national team ahead of a game against Iceland.

Writing on his Facebook page again, he wished the team good luck, adding: “Today we are winning big time!”

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