Thursday, September 3, 2009

Romanian cabinet calls confidence vote on reforms

By Radu Marinas

BUCHAREST, Sept 2 (Reuters) - Romania's centre-left coalition said on Wednesday it would call a confidence vote in parliament next week in an effort to speed up approval of IMF-prescribed reforms linked to a 20 billion euros aid package.

The two groupings in Prime Minister Emil Boc's eight-month-old government have about 70 percent of the votes in parliament but their relationship is uneasy."The government decided to take responsibility for three key pieces of legislation. We hope this will mark the first reform steps in Romania," Boc told reporters after a marathon cabinet meeting.

Like some other East European countries, Romania has sought cash this year from an IMF-led consortium of lenders, including the European Commission, in an effort to avoid a financing crisis and lift an economy battered by the global credit crunch.In return, it has to slash state spending and pledge to reduce its bloated public sector.

Analysts say a Nov. 22 presidential election that is expected to be hotly contested is a source of strife between coalition partners and could weaken government efforts to meet conditions for the 20 billion euros ($28.48 billion) of aid.

The confidence vote procedure is designed to avoid lengthy parliamentary debates and quicken adoption of legislation, but it could lead to a government falling if there is no majority.The three bills involve restructuring of the bloated public sector by cutting the number of state-controlled agencies, imposing a new wage scheme for state employees and reforming the outdated education system.

The main contenders for the presidential poll, most likely including incumbent centrist Traian Basescu, are linked to the two coalition groupings, making it difficult for the government to agree on policies and reforms.Opinion polls show Basescu, who has yet to announce his candidature, winning with a third of the votes.His left-wing opponent Mircea Geoana, who heads the Social Democrat Party, has about a quarter of the votes, according to the surveys.Third in the running is the opposition Liberal Party's Crin Antonescu with some 15 percent.

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