Political instability is governing current period, especially after European elections in May 2019 when PSD and ALDE obtained an unexpected low result. However, in Parliament PSD has a fragile majority and political cohabitation with ALDE, UDMR and minority group is essential. In Government, multiple changes took part in the last months and will continue with a new reshuffle in August or early September, including key ministries.
The political landscape in Romania looks as follows: the President (in his last months of mandate, as at the end of 2019 will take place new presidential elections) is liberal (PNL), but the Government is led by a coalition formed by social-democrats (PSD) and liberal-democrats (ALDE). Besides PNL, the most vocal party in the opposition has been the Save Romania Union (USR). Other important parties are Pro Romania, the party of former Prime Minister Victor Ponta, and UDMR, the main party of the Hungarian minority. PMP, party of former President Traian Băsescu, is currently a marginal party in the Parliament, though the party has gained some prominence after it managed to get 2 of its members in the European Parliament after the May elections.
The PSD-ALDE leading coalition has been marked by internal tensions in the last couple of weeks. Several ALDE leaders declared their dissatisfaction with the way PSD, and especially PSD Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă, chose to treat their coalition partners. On August 13th, ALDE Senator Daniel Zamfir mentioned that his party cannot remain an ally of PSD no matter what, and that a restructuring of the Governmental programs would be required if ALDE were to remain part of the coalition. ALDE leader and Chairperson of the Senate, Călin Popescu Tăriceanu, also asked for a restructuring of the Government. Another topic of concern for ALDE is that PM Dăncilă did not consult them regarding the nominations regarding the European Commissioner. The budgetary rectification was also criticized by ALDE, as it ”showed that the initial budget was not a realistic one”. Meanwhile, Viorica Dăncilă keeps mentioning that PSD wants ALDE to be a part of the coalition, as otherwise Romania would lack stability.
Possible scenarios concerning the evolution of the Government
Despite increasing opposition from PNL, USR and tensions within the coalition, we believe that the current political landscape will not change in a radical way in the upcoming months. PM Dăncilă will opt for a reshuffle, giving more cabinets to the ALDE partners, but a full restructuring of the Government will not take place. However, during the electoral campaign and after the presidential elections we can expect potential Governmental changes, due to the posibility of early Parliament elections.
1. Restructuring of the Government
On August 19th, the leaders of the Coalition met in order to discuss potential developments. However, Prime Minister Dăncilă could not attend, so that the subject could not be settled. What was announced after the meeting, however, was that Tăriceanu will take a decision concerning the coalition only after consultations with regional leaders of the party. ALDE maintains its stance that Dăncilă needs to restructure the Government and to put forth a new governing program, while Dăncilă asked ALDE “to understand that a party cannot be in a leading position as well as in opposition”.
Meanwhile, Viorica Dăncilă is looking for potential new sources of support. Thus, she had discussions with UDMR and with Pro Romania (although UDMR announced that it would not endorse the present Government). According to Victor Ponta, the leader of Pro Romania, at the moment discussions between PSD and his party reached a stalemate, due to the fact that Dăncilă insists on remaining the candidate for the presidential elections, although ”she would agree with a new Governing program, with giving up on governing through emergency ordinances that change the fiscal code and with a restructuring of the Government”.
2. Censure motion
Viorica Dăncilă mentioned that she is not worried about a potential censure motion, as the last one filed by PNL failed to gather enough votes to pass. She also said that she wants ALDE to remain part of the coalition but is also intent on looking for new partners in order to maintain power.
PMP leader Eugen Tomac mentioned that he does not believe that ALDE will give up on the power it holds in the coalition, as ALDE holds no power outside the coalition, especially after it failed to raise enough votes to get over the electoral threshold at the elections for the European Parliament. In his opinion, the Government should be replaced, and his party will endorse a censure motion if the opposition files one.
USR leader Dan Barna also stated that the USR Parliamentarians will endorse the censure motion, which “will probably be filed in the autumn”. According to Barna, “if this censure motion passes, the solution is to organize snap elections. If snap elections will be organized, all our resources will be used so that we can get a good result and become a part of the Government”.
3. Status quo bias with a reshuffle of the Cabinets – most probable scenario
In our opinion, the most probable scenario is that ALDE will continue to be a part of the coalition, in spite of the internal tensions that marked the last couple of weeks. ALDE leader Călin Popescu Tăriceanu has probably been more public in his criticism of PSD so that the portfolios of the Ministers that will be replaced in the reshuffle will be allocated to his party. Viorica Dăncilă will not give up on the opportunity to be a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections, so this excludes a deal between Pro Romania and PSD. UDMR remains a wild card in this equation. Snap elections could not occur, given the fact that the constitutional provisions preclude the President from dissolving the Parliament in the last 6 months of his mandate. The censure motion is difficult (if not impossible) to pass, and previous motions show how difficult it is in the current political configuration for such an initiative to pass. This means that the status quo will probably be maintained for the time being, and that ALDE could get some new political power in the reshuffled Cabinet (for instance, the Minister of National Education portfolio or the Internal Affairs one will probably be given to ALDE).