It has been a bad start for the new leader of Romania’s biggest political party.
Marcel Ciolacu suffered a humiliating defeat Monday in his first test as leader of the Social Democratic Party after he failed to get enough lawmakers into Parliament to vote on a no-confidence motion against the minority government.
On paper, it should have been relatively simple.
Ciolacu, who was elected leader on August 24, said he easily had the numbers, counting on party members and political allies to dismiss the Liberal government of Ludovic Orban. But when it came down to it, he was short of the 233 votes he needed.
As the session got underway on a scorching Monday afternoon on the last day of August, Ciolacu, who is also the speaker for the Chamber of Deputies, ordered a one-hour break. That was presumably in the hope that lawmakers were late for the emergency session, either due to the infamous Bucharest traffic or because they were returning from somewhere nice after the weekend.
He threatened to expel lawmakers who didn’t turn up for the vote and said he didn’t believe those who reported they were sick.
After the recess, there were only 226 lawmakers present and ready to vote. The ballot was canceled in the absence of a quorum.
Even before Monday’s extraordinary session, the motion got off to a rocky start.
Premier Orban, 57, challenged the vote at the Constitutional Court saying it was against the rules to submit it during a parliamentary recess. The court will publish its opinion on Tuesday.
President Klaus Iohannis called the vote “toxic” and said the party was “fundamentally corrupt.” An opinion poll came out Monday morning giving the Social Democrats the lowest score they’d had in eight months.
The Social Democrats said they submitted the motion over the Liberals’ handling of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic downturn.
But critics said the timing was a cover so that the Social Democrats could return to power before local and then parliamentary elections scheduled for the end of the year and boost their chances in both ballots.
Commentators say Ciolacu is likely to face internal dissent over the fail. The party may submit a second motion in September, where, on paper, at least, at time of writing, it has enough votes. A party leader later said he thought a second motion was unlikely.