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Romanian PM Ciuca resigns in power swap agreed by ruling coalition


BUCHAREST (Reuters) -Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca said he had resigned on Monday as part of a ruling coalition deal for a rotating premiership, meant to ensure stability but which has stalled policymaking and delayed European Union recovery funds.

Ciuca’s centre-right Liberals and their former rivals, the leftist Social Democrats (PSD) formed a grand coalition government in late 2021 together with a junior partner, the ethnic Hungarian UDMR, following the collapse of a previous centrist cabinet after less than one year in office.

At the time, the main parties agreed to rotate prime ministers, with the Liberals’ party leader Ciuca going first.

President Klaus Iohannis is widely expected to designate Social Democrat party leader Marcel Ciolacu as the next prime minister, with a vote in parliament later this week.

“Our objective is to have a new government sworn in by Thursday,” Ciuca told reporters, “so that we can continue … to handle the priorities.”

Ciolacu has said he sees the current coalition going forward even after a general election in 2024 for the sake of policy continuity. Romania, one of the EU’s least developed states, has had 11 prime ministers since it joined the bloc in 2007.

The new cabinet could face unrest from a disgruntled public sector over pay demands, as well as pressure to enforce already delayed economic reforms agreed with the European Commission in exchange for recovery funds.

Meanwhile, Romania must bring its consolidated budget deficit below the EU’s 3% ceiling by 2024, when the country holds presidential, general, local and European elections.

The three coalition parties are still negotiating key jobs in the swap.

The PSD holds the powerful finance, farming, defence and transport ministries and the Liberals are at the helm of departments such as justice, energy, home and foreign affairs.

The two parties often clash over key policy measures including a flat tax on income, a legacy item for the Liberals that the PSD want to replace with progressive taxation.

The Romanian leu was down 0.1% versus the euro on the day.

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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