Romania’s National Liberal Party has voted to expel a former prime minister and party chairman, Ludovic Orban, over ongoing public feuding that has undermined the party’s image.
Mr Orban, 58 is an arch-rival of acting Premier Florin Citu and President Klaus Iohannis, who supported Mr Citu’s bid to win the party leadership in September.
Mr Orban, who was prime minister from 2019-2020 failed to get re-elected. He was blamed for a poorer-than-expected results in December 2020 elections that left the party struggling to form a majority.
In essence, Mr Orban was pushed before he could jump. He has been increasingly vocal in his criticism of the party leadership. He accused Mr Iohannis, a former Liberal chairman, of meddling in party affairs.
For months, the Liberals, who are nominally the ruling party, have been torn by deep opposition within its own ranks. The dispute between the acting prime minister and former premier has overshadowed other business.
The Liberals recently decided to set aside years of bitter with the Social Democrats to form a new government by the end of the month which would have a solid parliamentary majority.
The Social Democrats which have dominated politics for the past 30 years have 152 seats in the bicameral parliament and the Liberals have 117.
Mr Orban on Friday threatened to break away and form a rival party with „genuine Liberal values.” He is believed to have about 20 Liberal lawmakers that would join him.
Mr Orban is one of the longest-standing members of the center-right party, which he joined 30 years ago.
In Friday’s vote, 31 regional leaders voted to expel him, two voted against and there were two abstentions.
He was accused of violating the party’s ethical code and the party statute. “He should have been removed a long time ago,” the party’s general secretary Dan Vîlceanu said.
Another colleague Florin Roman claimed Mr Orban had a secret understanding with the Social Democrats to secure their support for his bid for premier. Now, that isn’t an option, he has criticized negotiations between the two parties.
In the party meeting where he was excluded, Ludovic Orban told party leaders that acting Premier Florin Citu “wasn’t fit to run a residents’ association.”
In another development, party members are calling on two Liberal leaders to resign after the anti-corruption office opened an investigation into influence trafficking. “Even if we have a presumption of innocence, they are harming the party’s image,” a statement said.