Romania loses second PM in seven months

Romanian Prime Minister Mihai Tudose in Bucharest, 12 January 2018 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Mr Tudose has served for less than seven months in the post

Romania has lost its second prime minister in seven months after Mihai Tudose's own political party withdrew its backing.

The Social Democrat (PSD) prime minister said he was resigning "with his head high".

The party has been riven by a power struggle which also claimed his predecessor, Sorin Grindeanu, in June.

It has struggled to win public confidence after ballot-rigging and other corruption scandals.

At the same time, Romania, one of the EU's poorest member-states, is enjoying strong economic growth.

Romania's 2018 budget plan envisions economic growth of 5.5% and a deficit just below the EU's ceiling of 3% of gross domestic product, Reuters news agency reports.

What's going on?

The PSD leadership voted overwhelmingly to withdraw its support, an unnamed member told Reuters by telephone.

Reports say Mr Tudose fell out with his party's powerful president, Liviu Dragnea, after sparring with a Dragnea ally, Interior Minister Carmen Dan.

Last week, he called for Ms Dan's resignation, accusing her of publicly lying to him. Now he is resigning himself.

"I did not want to break the party," Mr Tudose said on Monday. "They named me, they removed me. I take responsibility for my deeds and I do not regret anything in my actions [as prime minister]."

Deputy Prime Minister Paul Stanescu will replace him temporarily after he formally submits his resignation to the country's president, Klaus Iohannis - perhaps as early as Monday night.

Who is Mr Dragnea?

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Protesters mocked Mr Dragnea when he appeared in public in October

In politics for more than two decades, he has served as a cabinet minister but was barred from becoming prime minister in 2015 because of a conviction for ballot-rigging during a 2012 referendum.

He was given a one-year suspended prison sentence, later increased to two years.

Romanian prosecutors are also investigating allegations that he illicitly obtained EU funds during his time in local politics in Teleorman, in 2000-2012. He denies wrongdoing, saying the allegations are politically motivated.

Now speaker of the Romanian parliament, he is regarded as the power behind the PSD throne.

He was instrumental in forcing out Mr Tudose's predecessor, Mr Grindeanu. The mood between the two men had soured after the government was forced in February by mass protests to scrap a decree that would have shielded many politicians from prosecution for corruption.

Last year, the EU's executive warned the country's fight against corruption was under serious threat from political and media attack.

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