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Romanian Prime Minister Resigns Amid Austerity Protests


Emil Boc has resigned as Romania's prime minister. (file photo)
Emil Boc has resigned as Romania's prime minister. (file photo)
Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc has resigned, saying he wants to "ease the social situation" in the country after weeks of protests against austerity measures.

Boc, who became prime minister in 2008, defended his record, saying he had taken "difficult decisions thinking about the future of Romania."

Boc told a news conference in Bucharest on February 6 that the unpopular measures his government had to take to avoid a Greece-like economic collapse are now bearing fruit.

"I believe that this government did its duty," Boc said. "I believe it's time to make room for a new government that should consolidate the results of our work and be more popular, since there are no more austerity measures to be taken."

Boc added that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has forecast growth of up to 2 percent this year -- lower than expected but higher than the European Union average.

Romania in 2009 agreed to a $26 billion loan with the IMF, the EU, and the World Bank to help pay salaries and pensions.

In 2010, the government upped the sales tax from 19 percent to 24 percent and cut public workers' salaries by one-quarter to reduce the budget deficit.

Small but persistent antiausterity protests took place in Bucharest and several other Romanian cities for more than two weeks in January.

Reports about the resignation of Boc's cabinet have been circulating for weeks.

"Of course, there are two more steps to take in order for Romania to really have the chance of a new and legitimate political leadership -- President [Traian] Basescu's resignation and early elections," said Crin Antonescu, one of the two leaders of the left-right opposition alliance USL.

The presidency has said in a statement that Basescu has appointed Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu as acting head of government.
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