Romanian lawmakers approve new gov’t in closed session amid virus fears

Bucharest, Mar 14 (efe-epa).- Many lawmakers were wearing masks Saturday when Romania’s parliament met behind closed doors to ratify a new government led by caretaker Prime Minister Ludovic Orban, who missed the session because he is under quarantine after exposure to someone diagnosed with the coronavirus.

Just weeks after passing a motion of no-confidence in Orban’s center-right PNL administration, 286 of the 310 legislators present voted to give him a new mandate.

In fact, with many PNL lawmakers in isolation and unable to attend, it was support from the main opposition Social Democrats that allowed the motion to pass.

Lawmakers cast their ballots in small groups in a room next to the legislative chamber as a measure to avoid contagion.

The fastest installation of a new government in Romania’s democratic history was prompted by the coronavirus crisis, as a caretaker premier lacks the authority to issue the emergency decrees that many expect to become necessary in the coming weeks.

Romania currently has 102 confirmed cases of infection with the coronavirus, or Covid-19.

The PNL-backed president, Klaus Iohannis, initially wanted to take advantage of the Feb. 5 fall of the first Orban administration to call snap elections.

Romanians are scheduled to go to the polls in December, but Iohannis sought an earlier ballot with the idea that it would be better for the PNL’s prospects.

Though early elections can only be called if parliament rejects two prospective prime ministers in succession.

With that in mind, the president chose to nominate someone he expected lawmakers to reject, former Finance Minister Florin Citu.

On Friday, however, Citu withdrew his candidacy to clear the path for confirmation of Orban.

Iohannis and Citu told the press that they changed their plans in view of the growing seriousness of the situation, which has already prompted the prohibition of gatherings of more than 100 people.

Orban echoed that sentiment in comments following Saturday’s vote.

“It’s time for the political games to stop,” he said. EFE


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