Thursday, October 15, 2009

Romanian Mayor Nominated as New Prime Minister

Associated Press

BUCHAREST -- Three Romanian political parties on Wednesday nominated a Transylvanian mayor to be the new prime minister following the collapse of the country's government.

The Social Democrats, the Liberal Party and the party that represents the interests of Romania's 1.4 million ethnic Hungarians jointly nominated Klaus Johannis, mayor of the central city of Sibiu. Together, the parties have a comfortable majority in parliament.

The parties sent the nomination to President Traian Basescu who needs to make an official proposal to Parliament, which will then vote on the proposal and on the ministers Mr. Johannis names.

Mr. Johannis, 50, told reporters that if he is appointed he would prefer a government of ministers who aren't politically aligned and that he would would downsize the Cabinet. He said he was politically independent but would name ministers after consulting the political parties who proposed him.

Romania's minority centrist government led by Prime Minister Emil Boc fell Tuesday after he lost a confidence motion in Parliament. Mr. Boc will continue to be prime minister, with limited powers, until a new government is approved by Parliament.

Mr. Basescu called parliament's four political parties for talks on the political situation later Wednesday. He met the ambassadors of European Union countries earlier.

Romania joined the EU in 2007.

Commentators say that Mr. Johannis enjoys wide political and public support because he is an ethnic German and not a member of any of the mainstream parties. He is viewed as being removed from the bitter political feuding that has engulfed Romania in recent years.

Mr. Johannis is seen as having a more Western European approach in his management style. Sibiu was named European cultural city of the year in 2007 and local authorities have been praised for the refurbishment of the city center.

Concerns about political instability affecting Romania's agreement with the International Monetary Fund continued.

Romania's IMF representative Mihai Tanasescu said a delegation would arrive in Bucharest next week to determine whether Romania can keep to the terms of an agreement under which the IMF gave the country a loan of $17.1 billion to help pay public salaries and pensions.

The IMF is concerned that instability could lead to Romania being unable to meet the agreed budget deficit of not more than 5.9%.

Mr. Johannis, a former physics teacher and school inspector, was first elected mayor of Sibiu in 2000 and has been re-elected twice. In the most recent election in 2008 he received more than 80% of the vote. Mr. Johannis heads the Democratic Forum of Germans, a small centrist party devoted to the interests of Romania's 60,000 ethnic Germans. The party has never been represented in the Romanian parliament.

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