Former European commissioner chosen to be Romania's PM

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 10, 2015 10:29 AM

By Radu-Sorin Marinas

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romanian President Klaus Iohannis named former European Commissioner Dacian Ciolos, a technocrat, to head a broad-backed government to replace that of leftist Victor Ponta who quit last week amid public anger over a deadly nightclub fire.

Ciolos, 46, who was picked by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in July as his special adviser on food security, will easily garner parliament support in a confidence vote likely at the end of this month, analysts said.

"I see a government of technocrats as the solution for now," Iohannis told reporters. "Political parties agree with this idea. I'm convinced this is the right path for a year (until a parliament election)."

Ponta unexpectedly quit on Nov. 4 after tens of thousands, mostly young people, took to the streets to protest high-level sleaze following the fire in a Bucharest night club. He now faces charges of forgery and money laundering.

Forty-eight people have died and scores of others have been left seriously hurt from the Oct. 30 disaster at a rock concert.

The biggest party, the Social Democrats (PSD) had been the only grouping that had made a nomination - though they had proposed deputy central bank governor Liviu Voinea to take over, suggesting a split in their coalition.

Other parties stopped short of proposing a premier.

The centrist Liberal opposition, a former Ponta junior ally, and ethnic minority groupings, including the Hungarians UDMR Party, which have a combined majority in parliament without the PSD, have said they will back any Iohannis proposal.

Under the constitution, Ciolos has 10 days to draft a program, come up with a team of ministers and ask parliament for a vote of confidence.

"We've been through a key period for our society. Romanian society has reached that degree of maturity that requires a public presence by a government, so that it acts like a bridge between various state institutions," Ciolos told reporters.

"He (Ciolos) will likely try to select independent candidates to head individual portfolios. His government will not make any significant changes in current policies. It will be a cabinet of 'status quo maintenance'", said Otilia Dhand, an analyst at Teneo Intelligence, a New York-based political risk consultancy.

Commentator Mircea Marian said a technocrat cabinet with the term ending in late 2016 will easily pass parliament.

Regular parliament elections are scheduled for Dec. 2016.

The leu firmed 0.3 percent on the day to 4.4455 against the euro after the nomination.

"We still expect a swift resolution to the political instability, which would be friendly for Romanian marlets markets," analysts at ING Bank in Bucharest said. "A nomination that would likely be approved by parliament should send the pair below 4.4500."

(Additional reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Richard Balmforth)