Opposition turning to Constitutional Court, demanding new elections
Romania’s Parliament has approved a new government by a narrow majority in the absence of opposition MPs whose indefinite boycott of the chamber started on 1 February.
Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, former head of Romania’s Foreign Intelligence Agency, was named as the new Prime Minister hours after the resignation of the centre-right Emil Boc. Ungureanu’s appointment put paid to speculation that a technocrat or an economy specialist would be chosen to steer the country through its economic crisis.
A career diplomat who previously led the Foreign Ministry between 2004 and 2007, he confirmed that his premiership will see no deviation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF)-backed austerity drive launched under Boc, except for some potential limited increases in pensions and wages.
The opposition Social Liberal Alliance said it will turn to the Constitutional Court to challenge the decision to form a new government rather than organise early elections before the end of the current parliamentary term in November.
Though triggered by the ruling Democrat-Liberal party’s loss of its majority in the upper house this month after the defection of two MPs to the opposition, the change of prime minister comes after weeks of street protests by Romanians increasingly wary of austerity measures.
The protests, some violent, morphed into expressions of general discontent against the government and President Traian Basescu, who has so far refused to stand down, arguing that the country needs stability.
With inflation at a record low in January, a good agricultural output in 2011 and a recovery in the labour market, Romania is projected to experience modest economic growth this year.
But the austerity measures – including a freeze in pensions and wages, reductions in state jobs and a 5 per cent increase in VAT – pushed through in exchange for a EUR 20 billion rescue package from the IMF, World Bank and European Union have severely hit the country, the second-poorest in the EU.