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Romania's PM-Designate Gives Up Nomination, Extending Political Crisis

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Acting Defense Minister Nicolae Ciuca (file photo)

Acting Romanian Defense Minister Nicolae Ciuca has officially renounced his mandate to form a new government, a day after announcing that he did not have enough support in parliament to become the new prime minister.

Nicolae Ciuca returned his mandate in a letter to parliament after saying on November 1 that the "mathematical reality" of his National Liberal Party's (PNL) attempt to form a minority government without other parties meant he could not garner enough support.

Ciuca, speaking to reporters after an emergency meeting of the PNL, told reporters he decided to give up the nomination after the executive political bureau of PNL withdrew the mandate.

"I have the conviction that all the activities taking place at the level of the political parties should be based on dialogue and the understanding of the situation the country is going through at the moment," he said.

Ciuca was nominated on October 21 by President Klaus Iohannis in a second bid to end a political stalemate that has hampered efforts to tackle a surge of COVID-19 infections and deaths.

Iohannis asked Ciuca, a retired general, to form a minority center-right government a day after his first choice, Dacian Ciolos, the leader of center-right Save Romania Union (USR), failed to win a parliamentary vote of confidence for his cabinet.

Iohannis will now have to try for a third time to find a prime-minister nominee, meaning continued political uncertainty. The crisis began when the center-right coalition under PNL leader Florin Citu was ousted by a no-confidence vote in parliament after a former coalition ally, the USR, walked out of his government.

Even though he enjoyed the political backing of Iohannis, Citu had been subjected to scathing criticism from all parliamentary parties for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and a looming economic crisis prompted by rising energy prices.

Fresh negotiations between the PNL and the other political groupings could be launched on November 2, should Iohannis choose to do so, Ciuca said.

Cițu, who is still serving as prime minister in a caretaker role, said that instead of seeking a minority government again, the party will now draft a more "flexible" mandate to form a coalition.

Ciuca had been attempting to secure the support of the leftist Social Democratic Party (PSD), the largest single party in parliament, as the PNL and their allies in the UDMR, the party representing Romania's ethnic Hungarian minority, control only 150 of the 466 parliamentary seats.

The USR had been ruled out as a partner by both the Liberals and Iohannis after Ciolos's failure to garner support for a USR minority government.

Romania's political crisis continues as the country faces a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections. The country's hospitals have been under strain and an average of more than 400 deaths have been registered each day over the past three weeks.

Iohannis himself has come under attack for his handling of the pandemic and his support for Citu, with the Alliance for the Union of Romanians (AUR), a newly formed far-right party that acceded to parliament in December, starting to collect lawmakers' signatures to suspend the president.

The AUR, which has also called for early elections, has only 43 lawmakers and needs the backing of other big parties to garner the 117 signatures -- one-third of lawmakers -- needed to kick off the impeachment procedure.

With reporting by G4media.ro. Hotnews.ro, AFP, and Politico
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