13 October 2009

Romanian government falls in confidence vote

By ALINA WOLFE MURRAY, Associated Press Writer Alina Wolfe Murray, Associated Press Writer – 56 mins ago

BUCHAREST, Romania – Romania's government fell Tuesday in a confidence vote in Parliament, with lawmakers saying it has failed to improve the economy after it went into recession following three years of growth.

Lawmakers voted 254-176 to oust the centrist minority government of Prime Minister Emil Boc. It was the first time Parliament dismissed a government since communism ended in 1989.

Boc said that his government "has lost a battle and not the war." He said that lawmakers voted against him because of pension reforms, which would reduce lawmakers' and other high-end pensions.

Although the vote ostensibly was aimed at punishing Boc for his economic performance, it comes before Nov. 22 presidential elections, which President Traian Basescu is favored to win for a second term.

Basescu is close to Boc, who heads the Democratic Liberal Party. Opposition lawmakers hope to dent his chances.

Boc's government can stay in office, with limited powers, pending the appointment of a new prime minister by Basescu. Once appointed, the prime minister has 10 days to form a Cabinet, which needs parliamentary approval.

The opposition Liberal Party filed the motion after the coalition government's position was further weakened when another party — the Social Democrats — quit the government 10 days ago after one of its Cabinet ministers was fired..

Calin Popescu Tariceanu, a Liberal Party lawmaker, alleged that the government "managed to destroy the country's economy, it devalued the national currency, increased taxes and still does not have money for salaries and pensions, and investments are blocked."

Romania has been hit by the global downturn this year and it secured a $17.1 billion International Monetary Fund loan, which was needed to help the country balance the books this year so it can keep paying public salaries and pensions.

The unemployment rate is about 7 percent, up from 4 percent a year ago, and the economy is expected to contract by 8 percent this year, following three years of an annual economic growth of 8 percent.

Boc said that ousting his government because of difficult reforms demanded by the IMF "could endanger Romania's agreements" with the IMF. The IMF is due to visit Bucharest for its next review in November.

Democratic Liberals warned that ousting the government could lead to instability at a time of recession.

"We have to see what will be the implications of a political instability in a year that is pretty difficult. ... We should not neglect the indirect impact of political instability just for the sake of political games," Finance Minister Gheorghe Pogea said.
Cezar Preda, deputy chairman of the Democratic Liberals, said the vote was "a simple political feud" against Basescu before the presidential election.
Associated Press writer Alison Mutler contributed to this report.
(This version CORRECTS vote tally to 254-176 sted 258-176.)

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