Prime Minister-designate Nicolae Ciuca on Thursday asked lawmakers to approve his Cabinet, a move which will end a months-long political crisis and bring a degree of stability to the country battling the pandemic and rocketing energy prices.
The coalition is a broad alliance of Romania’s two biggest parties _the National Liberal Party and the Social Democrats_ which are at different ends of the political spectrum, and a minority group.
The previous coalition collapsed in September when a junior party walked out after one of their ministers was fired. Interim Prime Minister Florin Citu lost a confidence vote in early October and two subsequent attempts to form a government failed as they couldn’t muster political support.
Mr Ciuca, a retired army general from the Liberal Party whose last job was defense minister on Thursday promised a new start.
“Our aim is to ensure the development and prosperity of the country,” he said. “We can offer stability and predictability.”
The new Cabinet has 20 ministers, up from the current 14, which will put pressure on the budget during the pandemic and the likelihood of a bigger budgetary deficit. Two new ministries were specially created during negotiations for the new government.
However, he tried to reassure business and promised to keep the flat tax. He also said his center-right party opposed tax hikes, which could be a sticking point. The Social Democrats are generally in favor of higher taxes. He said the government would allocate 7% of the GDP to investment.
On a new note, Mr Ciuca, 54, said he wanted to “encourage demographic growth and (support) the institution of family,” a policy his party shares with the socially conservative Social Democrats.
Answering criticism that the two groups are an ideological misfit, he said “(Critics) were more concerned with finding differences than things that unite us.”
However, there are bound to be frictions within the alliance. Although the Liberals nominally lead the coalition, the Social Democrats are the bigger party. The party was born from the ashes of the defunct Communist Party which collapsed during the 1989 revolution.
It has adapted since then and is a mishmash of Socialist-style spending, while also supporting socially conservative policies such as opposing same-sex unions.
Social Democrat leader Marcel Ciolacu on Thursday sought to assert his party’s dominance in the new coalition.
‘Responsible and stable’
„The PSD is the most responsible and stable party in Romania,” he told lawmakers. „We accepted this challenge because we don’t run away from responsibility.”
„We must apply PSD measures from day one,” he added.
The Social Democrats have been criticized in the past for lavish spending and running up the budget deficit. When they were last in office from 2017 to 2019, the party tried to dilute anti-corruption laws, sparking the biggest protests since the collapse of communism.
It is unclear what their current position is on tackling corruption. Former party leader Liviu Dragnea was sent to prison for official misconduct in May 2019 and was released earlier this year.
The coalition includes an ethnic Hungarian party, the UDMR, which will have three ministerial portfolios in the new government.