Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Romanian government set to beat June 15 confidence vote

(Reuters) - Independent parliamentarians expressed their support for Romania's troubled coalition government Tuesday, increasing the likelihood it will be able to defeat a crucial no-confidence vote due next week.

Prime Minister Emil Boc relies on backing from an ethnic Hungarian party and independents to command a fragile majority and needs their votes to push through controversial spending cuts and secure international aid.

"We will not back the opposition's motion. The main reason is that we want to ensure Romania's stability and we want to offer the IMF a legitimate partner in its relations with Romania," Marian Sarbu, head of the UNPR independent group, told reporters.

To back the motion "would have fueled an unprecedented economic and social crisis in Romania."

Boc's austerity plans, needed to secure the latest tranche of a 20 billion-euro International Monetary Fund aid deal, have been challenged by the leftist opposition and trade unions, who plan to stage a general strike the same day as the vote, now scheduled for June 15.

Analysts had said the independents might abstain, in which case the government would probably still have garnered enough votes to survive. But a small majority would have dramatically weakened its mandate to reform the recession-hit economy.

While some independents could still abstain or even vote against Boc, it now looks more likely the government will survive by a comfortable margin.

That would give it a free hand to slash state wages and pensions to reduce the ballooning budget deficit, though the plans could still be derailed by legal challenges at the powerful constitutional court.

The opposition, including leftist Social Democrats, currently commands about 200 seats and needs 236 votes to topple the government and stop the planned spending cuts.

It would have to gain some support from the independent and government camps to force through the no-confidence motion, but many parliamentarians are wary of voting against Boc because they fear the consequences of a political crisis.

Social Democrat head Victor Ponta said Tuesday his grouping still needed 20 more votes to topple the government.

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