Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Romanian PM nominee set for confidence vote defeat

By Radu Marinas

BUCHAREST, Nov 4 (Reuters) - Romania's parliament is likely to reject prime minister designate Lucian Croitoru and his proposed cabinet on Wednesday, extending a political deadlock and putting at risk a 20 billion euro IMF-led rescue package.

Since the collapse of the centrist cabinet last month, political forces have jockeyed for position ahead of an expected Dec. 6 presidential runoff vote, complicating talks on the 2010 budget and endangering the rescue package.

Croitoru was nominated by centrist President Traian Basescu.

But the powerful leftist opposition, with two thirds of the seats in parliament, is united behind provincial city mayor Klaus Johannis and has made clear it will vote against Croitoru, a respected central banker.

'Croitoru has zero chance to succeed. It would be the biggest suprise of the year if he won parliament's confidence,' said political commentator Cristian Patrasconiu.

Analysts say that if Croitoru is rejected in the vote of confidence, Basescu will have to nominate a new candidate, and it is most unlikely a stable cabinet can be formed before the first round of the presidential vote on Nov. 22.

There is already great concern that Romania, a Balkan country with 22 million people, may run out of time to meet the terms for its next tranche of aid.

Croitoru, who has been a policy adviser to the central bank governor, was a member of the Romanian team that negotiated the IMF/European Union/World Bank aid package.

AID RISK

Romania must convince an International Monetary Fund mission ending on Nov. 9 that it can muster broad-based political support for its commitments and approve a tight 2010 budget by Dec. 10.

If it can achieve this, it will receive a 1.5 billion euro IMF loan tranche crucial to staving off further financial crisis and safeguarding the recession-hit economy.

But obstacles remain. EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said on Tuesday that Romania risked delays in receiving the funds because it was hard to tell if it had met the terms of the deal.

The leftist opposition Social Democrats (PSD) have agreed to back speedy approval of the 2010 budget.

But politicians believe the deadlock will probably not end until the result is known of the presidential election between President Traian Basescu, PSD head Mircea Geoana and liberal leader Crin Antonescu.

'Sorry to say this but the political crisis will continue. Only elections can end it,' said PSD Vice-President Ilie Sarbu.

While praising Croitoru's economic skills, opposition parties say they would prefer Johannis to form the next cabinet, saying he has better managerial skills.

An ethnic German, Johannis has won praise for major restoration work in Sibiu, a medieval city in Transylvania, that earned it the title of European Capital of Culture in 2007.

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