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Romanian PM Sacks Justice Minister, Endangering Coalition Government

Romanian Prime Minister Florin Citu (file photo)

Romanian Prime Minister Florin Citu sacked his justice minister late on September 1, plunging the EU member’s governing coalition into crisis.

The centrist prime minister accused Justice Minister Stelian Ion of undermining a 50 billion lei ($12 billion) community development plan aimed at modernizing infrastructure. The plan needed the Justice Ministry's approval.

"I will not accept ministers in the Romanian government who oppose the modernization of Romania," Citu told a news briefing.

"Blocking the activity of the government only because you do not agree to develop communities means violating the mandate given to you by parliament through the governing program,” he added.

The move threatens a coalition made up of Citu's Liberal Party, Ion's USR-PLUS, and the ethnic Hungarians group, which jointly control 56 percent of parliament.

Following the sacking, USR-PLUS decided to withdraw its support for the prime minister and called for the start of coalition talks to form a new government. If coalition talks fail to find a new prime minister, USR-PLUS said it would support a censure motion against the Citu government.

"Tonight, Prime Minister Florin Citu has just shown that he has no respect for the law, for the constitution," Ion said. “In this way, Florin Citu actually signed his own departure from the government because it is only a matter of time until Florin Citu will go home.”

A rupture in the coalition could endanger the government's agenda to curb its yawning deficit and fight the coronavirus pandemic, leaving it without a majority.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, Romania was struggling with a widening budget shortfall from years of political instability and fiscal largesse.

With reporting by Reuters and RFE/RL’s Romanian Service
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