Romanian president nominates former army general as premier

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania’s president on Thursday nominated a former army general to be prime minister in the latest effort to end a political crisis amid a coronavirus surge that is stretching the country’s health care system to capacity.

After holding consultations with Romania’s parliamentary parties, President Klaus Iohannis asked Nicolae Ciuca of the National Liberal Party to try to form a new government. Ciuca, who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, currently serves as the caretaker defense minister.

Iohannis said a “real solution is needed, a government that starts solving the problems that concern Romanians.”

“We have a pandemic crisis, a dramatic situation in hospitals, winter is knocking, energy prices are increasing,” Iohannis said. “Even if we now have solutions, we must urgently have a government with full powers to put these solutions into practice.”

Ciuca will now have to draft a list of ministers and propose a governing program.

The nomination comes a day after the previous prime minister-designate, centrist Dacian Ciolos, failed to win support from lawmakers to form a government.

Radu Magdin, CEO of a Bucharest-based political risk analysis firm, Smartlink Communications, said that the next government “will have to manage not one crisis but a cocktail of crises.”

Romania, a European Union country of around 19 million, is currently facing a record-setting surge of both coronavirus cases and deaths. On Tuesday, a pandemic high of 574 deaths was confirmed. Iohannis on Tuesday called it “national drama of terrible proportions.”

“Ciuca really does stand a chance to form a government due to the health crisis and the need for a pair of safe hands,” Magdin said, adding that Ciuca has wider support among the parliamentary parties. “He won’t start like other politicians with an initial, popular honeymoon (period).”

The protracted political crisis began when the former prime minister Florin Citu, who was ousted in a no-confidence vote on October 5, fired a USR justice minister in early September for not signing off on a regional infrastructure development program.

Former coalition partner USR, which had concerns over the transparency of the funds, reacted by quitting the government and later supported a censure motion launched by the opposition Social Democrat Party after its own censure motions failed.

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