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Romanian president demands government step down

ROMANIAN President Klaus Iohannis demanded the government stand down today and said the country was not ready to take up the EU rotating presidency on January 1 as planned.

But ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) chief Liviu Dragnea rejected the demand, saying the president was doing “a disservice to Romania.”

Mr Iohannis contends that “things have gone off the rails” since the resignation of European Affairs Minister Victor Negrescu on Saturday. Mr Negrescu did not explain the reason for his resignation but had been attacked by other Social Democrat MPs for failing to “soften” EU criticism of the government’s judicial reforms.

The president said replacing the government was a “political necessity. It’s the 12th hour and we are totally unprepared. There’s no chance of a good government or proper involvement in European affairs.”

Last month, the European Commission expressed “concern” after Romania’s Justice Minister Tudorel Toader said he would begin proceedings to dismiss prosecutor general Augustin Lazar. Critics accuse the Romanian government of seeking to raise the bar for corruption convictions to get key PSD figures off the hook — Mr Dragnea himself is barred from the premiership due to a conviction for vote-rigging.

But the PSD retorts that it won a convincing victory in the most recent parliamentary elections, winning 154 Chamber of Deputies seats compared to 69 for the president’s National Liberals (PNL) and 67 Senate seats to the PNL’s 30. 

Mr Dragnea and Mr Iohannis have clashed repeatedly. The president has called the PSD chief a “delinquent” who has “climbed on top” of the Romanian state, while Mr Dragnea has accused the president of inciting the violent overthrow of the elected government.

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