By STEPHEN McGRATH
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romanian lawmakers on Thursday voted in favor of a new coalition government led by a Liberal former army general, which could usher in an end to a months-long political crisis in the Eastern European nation.
The vote in parliament, which passed overwhelmingly, caps a protracted political crisis that prompted an unlikely partnership between the center-right National Liberal Party and the leftist Social Democrat Party — former political rivals and Romania’s two biggest parties.
Newly-appointed Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca, a former defense minister, will lead the new three-party coalition which is comprised of the Liberals, the Social Democrats, and Romania’s small ethnic Hungarian party UDMR.
Ciuca, who served in both Afghanistan and Iraq, said in parliament Thursday that members of the coalition would set aside pride and political differences in “the interest of Romanians.”
“We who are in front of you today have gone through things that separate us and we have found things that unite us,” Ciuca said. “We are determined to put an end to the tense situation we are going through.”
The country’s 20 ministries will be shared among the parties. Together, the three parties control around two-thirds of the 466-seat legislature.
Part of the deal between the new coalition partners, that includes social spending hikes requested by the Social Democrats, is that the prime ministerial role is rotated every 18 months. Ciuca will first hold the position after which a Social Democrat premier will replace him.
President Klaus Iohannis will swear in the new government later Thursday.
Social Democrat Party leader Marcel Ciolacu acknowledged on Thursday rising energy prices and noted that Romania has been hard-hit by the pandemic. “Romania needs a new path,” he said.
“It’s time to prove to Romanians that they can have a government that works for them,” Ciolacu said.
Since early September, Romania, a European Union country of around 19 million, has been in political turmoil after former Liberal Prime Minister Florin Citu fired the justice minister from its junior coalition partner USR for not signing off on a regional development fund.
USR, which expressed transparency concerns about the funds, reacted by quitting the three-party coalition. Citu’s government was then ousted on Oct. 5 in a no-confidence motion filed by the Social Democrats, and supported by USR.
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