Romania's government faces no-confidence vote
(BUCHAREST) - Romania's centre-right government faced Friday a no-confidence vote tabled by the left-leaning opposition protesting key reforms including the privatisation of major national assets.
But Prime Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu warned lawmakers that the vote, which comes while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union are carrying out an assessment on the reforms, could compromise its negotiating position with its two international lenders.
Romania was forced to call on the IMF and the EU for a 20-billion-euro ($26-billion) lifeline in 2009 and took drastic measures in return to curb spending, cutting public sector wages by 25 percent and freezing pensions in 2010.
It also agreed to privatise national assets, including Romania's biggest copper mining company Cupru Min, as well as sell minority stakes in several energy firms.
"This no-confidence motion will only generate instability and make Romania look unpredictable," Ungureanu told lawmakers as he opened the parliamentary session.
By tabling it, "the opposition is weakening our negotiating position with the IMF," he added.
"The authors of the motion claim that the objective of modernising Romania is wrong and that privatisations are detrimental to the Romanians' interests," he said.
Instead, opposition MPs who criticise his government's privatisation programme, appear to be "further away from the European values than anyone could imagine."
The opposition Social-Liberal Union (USL) said it has 227 votes on hand, four short of the 231 needed to topple the government in power since last February.
But after a string of defections by a dozen lawmakers from the ruling Liberal-Democrat Party (PDL), analysts are not ruling out that others may rebel.
"I hope several MPs of the ruling coalition will be courageous enough to back the no-confidence motion," one of the two USL presidents, Victor Ponta, said shortly before the start of parliamentary debate.
"The fate of millions of Romanians depend on your vote," he later told lawmakers.
"As far as I am concerned, I am ready to assume responsibility for leading this country," said Ponta.
However, some within the USL feel that it would be wiser for the alliance to remain in opposition until the general elections due in September, as opinion polls indicate that its popularity ratings currently top 50 percent.
In their no-confidence motion, opposition lawmakers blasted the government's plans to sell Cupru Min and its decision to allow American oil company Chevron to explore for shale gas in eastern and south-eastern Romania.
They also criticised the allocation of public funds to local communities whose mayors are members of the ruling coalition.
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