Romania's ruling lawmakers seek to oust prime minister

Romania's ruling left-wing coalition called an extraordinary session of parliament on Sunday to file a censure motion against embattled Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu.

The standoff between Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu and his own Social Democratic party comes just months the country witnessed its largest protests since the fall of communism over government efforts to water down anti-corruption laws
The standoff between Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu and his own Social Democratic party comes just months the country witnessed its largest protests since the fall of communism over government efforts to water down anti-corruption laws (AFP)

Romania's ruling left-wing coalition called an extraordinary session of parliament on Sunday to file a censure motion against embattled Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu.

Grindeanu's own Social Democratic Party (PSD) unexpectedly withdrew its support for him on Wednesday, claiming he had failed to implement economic reforms in the European Union's second-poorest country.

But Grindeanu refused to step down, accusing PSD head Liviu Dragnea of seeking to "concentrate all power in his hands".

"Romania can not be seized. We are defending democracy and the vote of Romanians," lawmakers from the PSD and its ally, the small ALDE party, wrote in their motion.

Analysts say the standoff is the culmination of a power struggle between the 43-year-old premier and Dragnea, the powerful PSD head who had been hoping to lead the government himself.

The centre-right opposition and the prime minister himself boycotted Sunday's session.

Romania's left-wing coalition plans to file a censure motion against Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu
Romania's left-wing coalition plans to file a censure motion against Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu (AFP)

The motion needs 233 votes out of 464 to pass, a move that would lead to the collapse of the government.

The ruling coalition counts 246 seats but some members could cast votes in support of Grindeanu in the ballot, which is scheduled for Wednesday.

If the no-confidence vote passes, the PSD and ALDE will have to come up with a new candidate for prime minister to present to centre-right President Klaus Iohannis.

In December, Iohannis had rejected an initial candidate -- a woman from the country's Muslim minority -- before agreeing to nominate Grindeanu.

Dragnea, who had led the PSD to a crushing election victory in December, had to renounce his ambitions for the position after a conviction for voter fraud.

It is the second major crisis to hit the party since it rode back into power, barely a year after being forced from office over a deadly nightclub blaze.

The standoff comes just months after Romania saw its largest protests since the fall of communism when the government tried to water down anti-corruption laws.

Analysts say Grindeanu's fall from favour could be linked to his perceived failure to push through the contested legislation, which could have allowed Dragnea to run despite his conviction.