Special Report: 27th of April – President asks for Prime-Minister’s resignation

President’s speech

On Friday, April 27, 11 a.m. sharp, President Klaus Iohannis announced that he withdrew confidence for the head of the Government, Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă, and asked for her resignation.

“The Government was sworn into office three months ago. After these three months, I am entitled to a conclusion. Madam Dăncilă is not fit for the position of Prime Minister, and she therefore turns the Government into a liability for Romania. This is why I publicly demand Madam Dăncilă to resign from the position of Prime Minister of Romania.” said Iohannis.

PM Dăncilă was supposed to meet President Iohannis on Friday, at 11 a.m., as part of the mediation process between the Government and the National Bank of Romania. However, the PM announced the President that she canceled the meeting. The meeting was supposed to take place the day after PM Dăncilă returned from Israel, where she and Chamber of Deputies Chairman Liviu Dragnea met with the Israeli President and PM. BNR was not the only point on the agenda. A day before the scheduled meeting, President Iohannis stated that he would ask PM Dăncilă “why she went to Israel without saying a word” to him.

In a seven-minute-long speech, President Iohannis accused PSD of trying to interfere with the independence of the National Bank of Romania, in an attempt to politically subdue the Central Bank. “My intention was to mediate between them [PSD & BNR]. Madam Dăncilă failed to understand it,” said President Iohannis. Iohannis described the ongoing dynamics between “Government, respectively PSD and the National Bank of Romania” as “conflictual” and argued that BNR’s independence is at stake.

The other bone of contention was the secret Memorandum on the relocation of the Romanian Embassy to Israel from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem. In this case, Iohannis accused PM Dăncilă and PSD’s Liviu Dragnea of overstepping their prerogatives, since, according to the Constitution, the President of the Republic is in charge of making decisions on matters of foreign affairs.

The Constitution

As stated under Art. 107, Para (2) of the Romanian Constitution, the President cannot dismiss the Prime-Minister. Only the Parliament can withdraw confidence from the PM after a no-confidence vote.

Art. 103, para (3) states that the Gov’t has to secure an approval vote from a majority of all members of Parliament. Alternatively, in case of a no-confidence vote, the same scenario applies (Art 103, para 1). As such, a vote of no confidence against the Gov’t can be put forward by ¼ of deputies and senators, but in order to pass, it requires the vote of at least 50% + 1 of the total number of MPs. Given that PSD-ALDE is the ruling coalition (and subsequently holds the majority of votes in Parliament), the scenario for a PM dismissal seems highly unlikely. Another unlikely turn of events is that Viorica Dăncilă hands in her resignation at President Iohannis’ request, 3 months after her appointment.

It is expected that this matter is taken to the Constitutional Court of Romania to analyze whether there is an institutional conflict between Government and President.

Reactions from the ruling coalition

Senate Chairman Călin Popescu Tăriceanu reacted to Iohannis’ statement and underscored that the PM is free to attend any high-level meeting without prior approval, adding that the President is not the sole decision-maker when it comes to foreign affairs matters. For Tăriceanu, the situation boils down to the President’s intention of starting an overt conflict with the ruling coalition and the Gov’t.

Former JustMin Florin Iordache endorsed Tăriceanu’s stance and mentioned that the President just wanted to set the tone for the 2019 Presidential elections, being “bothered” by the “successful meeting of PM Dăncilă in Israel”. He went on to add that Dăncilă actually informed Iohannis about her intent of leaving the country and that Iohannis’ overstepped his prerogatives with this morning’s statement (“only as a citizen of Romania can he make such a statement […] not as President”, Iordache said).

Reactions from the opposition

PNL President Ludovic Orban agreed with Iohannis’ viewpoint, arguing that the inervention has a symbolic significance that raises a red flag on the current state of affairs. Orban also seized today’s opportunity and stated that a no-confidence vote can be put forward when the time is right, so as to gain the necessary amount of votes.

USR President Dan Barna stated that USR might side with PNL in this attempt and that talks are scheduled throughout the day. Both USR and PNL party leaders were vocal against PM Dăncilă’s visit to Israel, voicing concerns about Dăncilă and Dragnea having destabilized Romania’s diplomatic past, also doubting the PM’s of professional capabilities 3 months into the job.

PNL’s Alina Gorghiu announced that NatLibs’ Executive Bureau convenes on May 3 to discuss this matter. Gorghiu also demanded PM Dăncilă’s resignation. “She does not understand concepts such as the cooperation of powers, or the colaboration between the PM and the president. (…) Her visit to Israel without consulting with the president, governmental clumsiness, social tension, all these lead to only one conclusion (…) that she must resign and let me tell you that all these are going to be subject of a no-confidence vote.”

PNL’s Raluca Turcan wrote on Facebook that “Viorica Dăncilă must resign immediately. All her actions confirmed that she does not meet the requirements of her position. (…) Unknowingly, or because of her obedience to Liviu Dragnea, she stepped outside the Constitution.”