Thursday, October 1, 2009

AP: Romanian Government Collapses

BUCHAREST, Romania -- Romania's coalition government collapsed Thursday after Social Democratic ministers quit in protest at the firing of the interior minister.

Social Democratic Party leader Mircea Geoana said the nine ministers resigned "in solidarity" with Dan Nica, a party member who was fired by Prime Minister Emil Boc on Monday over comments the interior minister made about potential fraud in elections scheduled for Nov. 22.

The comments were widely interpreted as an accusation that Mr. Boc's Liberal Democrats might try to cheat to get President Traian Basescu re-elected.

The coalition collapse goes far beyond the nine ministers. Thousands of Social Democrats will lose their jobs and positions in the ministries and local administration throughout Romania.

"Throwing Romania in this political crisis will have grave effects," said Mr. Nica, who was also deputy prime minister, as he stood with the ministers who resigned. "Each minister tried to do their duty," He vowed the party would return to the government after presidential elections.

Mr. Geoana blamed Mr. Basescu for instigating the political crisis ahead of elections, saying that it created further uncertainty in Romania. The country is mired in a deep recession, and is dependent on a loan from the International Monetary Fund to pay state sector salaries. In recent weeks there have been protests and strikes by railway workers, magistrates and some public workers.

Liberal Democrat Adriean Videanu, who is economy minister, said the Social Democrats were to blame for the crisis and called the party "hypocritical" for walking out.

Mr. Basescu called the two parties to mediate on Tuesday and suggested that a politically independent minister or a minister from an opposition party be named. The Social Democrats refused. According to a coalition agreement between the two parties, the interior ministry is led by the Social Democrats.

Mr. Boc named Vasile Blaga, a Liberal Democrat who is close to Mr. Basescu, as the interim interior minister Tuesday. The ministry is one of the country's most powerful because it controls a controversial domestic intelligence agency and has almost 200,000 employees.

Both Messrs. Basescu and Geoana are expected to run in the presidential elections.

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