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Romanian PM Wins Party Leadership Amid Political Stalemate

Romanian Prime Minister Florin Citu (file photo)
Romanian Prime Minister Florin Citu (file photo)

Romanian Prime Minister Florin Citu has won the leadership election of his ruling Liberal Party -- a vote seen as further reducing the chances of reuniting the fractured centrist coalition government that collapsed earlier in September.

Citu secured his leadership in a vote during the Liberal Party congress on September 25.

The demise of the Liberal Party-led coalition threatens Romania's economic recovery and efforts to reduce large state deficits.

The coalition included the junior partner USR Plus and the ethnic Hungarian group UDMR.

But USR Plus, a relatively new centrist party, withdrew its ministers from the cabinet in early September in a dispute over a regional development fund. It filed a no confidence vote in parliament against Citu's government and says it will not return until Citu is no longer prime minister.

USR Plus opposed a government decree to set up an $11.85 billion regional infrastructure-development-financing scheme that would give local mayors access to funds with limited oversight.

Political analysts say the vote for the leadership of the Liberal Party has dominated the public agenda for months and stalled policymaking.

Citu, a relative newcomer who is backed by centrist President Klaus Iohannis, challenged the unseated former party leader and prime minister Ludovic Orban.

Liberal Party lawmakers have objected to USR Plus's no-confidence motion at the Constitutional Court on technical grounds. A ruling is expected from the court next week.

Regardless of the no-confidence motion, Citu must still present a new cabinet lineup to parliament for approval in October to replace the former ministers from USR Plus who resigned.

A minority government of the Liberal Party and ethnic Hungarians would need backing from the opposition leftist Social Democrats, which would likely require political concessions.

With reporting by Reuters
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