Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dancila’s beleaguered left-wing government has lost a no-confidence vote a year before a general election and just weeks ahead of presidential polls.
The October 10 vote passed when 238 deputies voted for the no-confidence motion, five more than what was needed for a majority in the 465-seat legislature.
Dancila lost her parliamentary majority in August after the junior partner in the governing coalition, the Liberal-Democratic Alliance (ALDE), withdrew support following disagreements, after its leader did not win the nomination as the coalition's sole presidential candidate.
The PSD instead chose Dancila to run for president in the next month's poll.
On October 2, the National Liberal Party (PNL), the largest opposition party, announced that it had collected enough signatures to file the no-confidence motion.
Dancila became prime minister in early 2018 -- the third since the PSD-ALDE alliance came to power in late 2016 -- with the backing of then-PSD leader and lower house speaker Liviu Dragnea, who could not take the job himself because he had a suspended prison conviction for influence peddling.
The PSD-ALDE alliance was faced with huge street protests over judicial moves many Romanians say threatened the rule of law and for weakening anti-corruption legislation. It had also faced sustained heavy criticism from the European Union and the United States for reversing hitherto successful reforms.
Anti-government protests reached a peak in August 2018, when a 100,000-strong demonstration in Bucharest in support of the rule of law was violently repressed by riot police, who used tear gas, water cannons, and batons against peaceful protesters. Scores of people sustained injuries and one person apparently died as a result of the crackdown.
The popularity of the PSD-led coalition sank to new lows in 2019, when it suffered a heavy defeat in May at the hands of the PNL and a newly formed center-right party, Save Romania Union (USR) in the elections for the European Parliament.
A day after the election, Dragnea lost an appeal in a second influence-peddling trial and was sentenced to three years in prison.
After the collapse of Dancila's government, President Klaus Iohannis, who is a clear favorite to win a second five-year term on November 10, announced that he favors early parliamentary elections and would hold consultations on the issue with the PNL, USR, and the other opposition parties.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled toward the end of next year.
First, however, the center-right Iohannis has to appoint an acting prime minister to run one of the EU's poorest and most corrupt countries.
Observers say he is most likely to appoint PNL leader Ludovic Orban to the job.