BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania's president on Monday asked the current prime minister to form the new government despite a bitter feud between the two top officials.
President Traian Basescu's decision follows Prime Minister Victor Ponta's center-left governing alliance victory in Dec. 9 parliamentary elections. Ponta, whose coalition won 68 percent of the seats, has 10 days to appoint the new Cabinet that is expected to be approved by Parliament.
The enmity between the two men has poisoned the political atmosphere in Romania for months, a conflict that came to a head in the summer when Ponta tried unsuccessfully to impeach Basescu, a 61-year-old former ship captain. Romanians voted overwhelmingly to impeach Basescu, fed up with the combative nature of the leader in power since 2004. But the bid failed because of low voter turnout.
Before the elections, Basescu had said he was reluctant to reappoint Ponta, calling him "a pig," and "a compulsive liar."
European Union officials voiced concern that the feud between the two would bring more political turmoil, harming Romania's reputation and deterring much-needed foreign investment.
The EU and the United States criticized the government this summer for failing to respect the rule of law during the impeachment process. Ponta has admitted that the government "hurried" the procedure to oust Basescu on the grounds he overstepped his authority.
The country has been rocked this year by political turmoil and huge protests against government policies and tough austerity measures put in place to deal with the country's debt. Romania took out a €20-billion ($26-billion) bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in 2009 to help pay pensions and salaries.
Ponta is Romania's third prime minister this year.