Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Alison Mutler: Romania's government collapses after protests

Romania's government collapses after protests
By Alison Mutler

Romania's government has collapsed following weeks of protests against austerity measures, the latest debt-stricken government in Europe to fall in the face of raising public anger over biting cuts.

Emil Boc, who had been prime minister since 2008, said Monday he was resigning "to defuse political and social tension" and to make way for a new government. Thousands of Romanians took to the streets in January to protest salary cuts, higher taxes and the widespread perception that the government was not interested in the public's hardships in this nation of 22 million.

President Traian Basescu quickly appointed Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu, the only Cabinet member unaffiliated with a political party, as interim prime minister to serve until a new government is approved.

Basescu also nominated Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, the head of Romania's foreign intelligence service, as the country's new prime minister and asked him to form a Cabinet. Parliament must approve Ungureanu and his ministers in 60 days, or the legislature will be dissolved and new elections held.

Boc's party and his allies still have a majority in Parliament, but opposition parties late Monday called for Basescu to resign and for early parliamentary elections to be scheduled now.

In a brief statement Ungureanu, a former foreign minister, said his priority as prime minister would be "the economic and political stability of Romania." He is considered a loyal ally of Basescu and pro-American in his outlook.

But the opposition said it opposes Ungureanu and that it will continue the boycott of Parliament it began last week. "We are not going anywhere with this new government," said Crin Antonescu, head of the opposition Liberal Party.

Boc's resignation came as Romania is starting to feel the effects of the widespread cuts that the government put in place in exchange for a euro20 billion ($26 billion) loan from the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the World Bank in 2009, to help pay salaries and pensions after its economy shrank by more than 7 percent.

To Read the Rest of the Report

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