Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc resigned on Monday (February 6th), saying he wanted to ease the nation’s political and social tension following weeks of unrest and anti-austerity demonstrations in dozens of cities.
“I have decided to tender the resignation of my government in order to defuse political and social tension and preserve Romania’s hard-won stability,” the AFP quoted the prime minister as saying at a cabinet meeting that was broadcast live.
The AFP reported that Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu has been named interim prime minister and has been asked to form a new cabinet. Boc had urged lawmakers to approve a new government as quickly as possible to prevent instability at a time of crisis in the Eurozone.
Boc, who is also the leader of the centrist Democratic Liberal Party (PDL), took office in December 2008. Just three months later, the country was forced to seek financial assistance from the IMF, the EU and the World Bank to stave off a looming economic crisis.
In exchange for the package of loans worth a total of 20 billion euros, Romania imposed a series of unpopular austerity measures to cut public spending. Aside from reducing state sector wages and jobs, in 2010, the government also froze pensions in one of the EU’s poorest members. The cuts led to widespread protests, similar to those that have swept Greece, Spain and other countries.
Boc last month fired Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi for calling protesters “people stupefied by television”, but it did little to placate demonstrators. Protesters also have demanded the resignation of President Traian Basescu.
Ahead of parliamentary elections in late 2012, public support for the PDL has been shrinking and, according to German news agency DPA, currently stands at 15%, down from 21% in December.
“A political decision had to be taken by the end of this month, because the later, the worse. We have local elections in June and a later resignation would have complicated the internal affairs of the country”, Marius Spinu, a PDL lawmaker, told SETimes.
Analysts said Boc’s resignation aims to restore the confidence of the voters ahead of parliamentary polls, which are expected in late 2012. The USL leftist alliance reportedly enjoys the backing of more than 50% of voters in the country. A Reuters report quoted the coalition’s leader, Victor Ponta, the chair of Romania’s Social Democratic Party, as telling the agency last week that he wanted an early election.
George Patrascu, a small business owner, told SETimes, said Boc’s fate was inevitable.
“The small economic progress made as an effect of the austerity measures might be swept off unless this resignation makes room for a chaos on the political stage”, he said. “Because we know how politics works in entangled ways here and the party interests always come first. ”
Septimius Pirvu, deputy director of the Pro Democracy Association, a leading Romanian NGO, said both demonstrations and internal politics led to Boc’s resignation.
“The next government should have the wisdom to heed what the Boc government neglected – the voice of the street. I think the best choice for a next government is a combination of a political and technocrat, with the latter filling key positions that lacked professionals in the Boc government, especially economic ones”, Pirvu told SETimes.