Romania’s Prime Minister Ludovic Orban quits

The new interim prime minister is ex-army general Nicolae-Ionel Ciucă.

Romania’s Prime Minister Ludovic Orban quits

Ludovic Orban’s party is staying in power — but he is out.

Legislative elections Sunday, held against a background of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic and the lowest turnout in the country’s democratic history, made the Social Democratic Party (PSD) the winners, with 30.16 percent of the Senate and 29.7 percent of the Chamber of Deputies.

By comparison, Orban’s National Liberal Party (PNL) took 25.6 percent and 25.2 percent respectively, after more than 95 percent of votes had been counted.

Orban initially claimed victory based on exit polls showing the PSD with a small lead on Sunday, but the PNL’s presumptive coalition partners, the USR-PLUS party, later said they wouldn’t work with him. After a reportedly tense meeting with President Klaus Iohannis Monday afternoon, Orban told a media conference he was giving up the premiership with immediate effect.

Orban’s Defense Minister Nicolae-Ionel Ciucă was named interim prime minister by Iohannis Monday evening. Ciucă is a former general and army chief of staff who formally joined the PNL in October.

Eduard Hellvig, currently chief of Romania’s internal security service (SRI), is one of those being considered as Orban’s permanent replacement, according to media reports.

“I want my decision to show clearly that I am not clinging to the post of prime minister and that the upcoming negotiations must lead to a center-right government that support our euro-atlantic orientation, and use their opportunities to increase the standard of living,” Orban said.

USR-PLUS leader Dacian Cioloș said he was also interested in being prime minister. His party obtained 15.2 percent of the Senate votes and 14.7 percent of those for the Chamber of Deputies. The third party in a possible center-right coalition being sought by Iohannis is the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), with 6.2 percent and 6 percent of the Senate and Chamber of Deputies respectively.

“A center-right coalition is crystallizing, which will be able to propose a government,” Iohannis said. “In a few days I will convene discussions with the new parliamentary parties. The new government will manage the measures necessary in the pandemic and will urgently present reforms that had been long-awaited and much postponed.”