Victor Ponta announced his resignation on Wednesday after dozens of thousands of people had protested in Bucharest and in the country Tuesday night urging the resignation of the prime-minister, of the Interior Minister, Gabriel Oprea, and of the Mayor of District 4 of Bucharest, Cristian Popescu Piedone, after the Colectiv nightclub tragedy.
“I have the obligation to note the legitimate discontent that exists in society and the wish, once again legitimate, to have greater responsibility than the owners of the respective firm [editor’s note: the Colectiv nightclub, where a fire killed and injured scores last Friday]. The people feel the need for more and it would be a grave mistake for me to ignore this. I do not want and I do not believe it is fair to leave this responsibility on those who have been in the field, or on mayors, state secretaries, ministers. I am ready to make this gesture that an important part of society is expecting and, obviously, starting today I am submitting my resignation as Prime Minister and, implicitly, of the Government,” said the Prime Minister according to Agerpres.
Ponta expressed hope that his gesture to resign will satisfy the expectations of those who have protested in the street these days.
“I hope that my, and the Government’s, resignation satisfies the expectations of those who have protested and that we return to reason as quickly as possible and to rational solutions for what needs to be done in Romania. We have obtained, by hard labour, in the past years remarkable economic, social results and if we have a long period of instability, of social and political unrest, we risk losing all and returning to the moment of 2012,” said the prime minister, referencing the protests in 2012 that led to the toppling of the cabinet headed by PM Emil Boc.
He added that in a climate of instability, it is impossible to promote positive projects. “I am only good at positive projects. Those who believe that with hatred, and by being opposite, can lead a country, they will notice as in 2012 that it cannot be done,” said the Premier.
Ponta added that along the years, as a politician, he proved that he can hold his ground against political adversaries.
“Never, however, will I go against the people. And I believe it would be a great mistake and we would all suffer,” says the resigning Premier.
He added that the suffering and anger of people should not degenerate “in political games, power games, with negative effects that are impossible to anticipate”.
“And I believe that aggressiveness, intolerance and violence, even verbal, represents a cost that we should not assume if we want to live in a country that improves every day,” Ponta said.
The Prime Minister has thanked those who voted for and supported the Ponta Government in all these years. “I want to thank those who have voted for this Government, the governing coalition leaders and the MPs who have been close to the Government every time loyally. And I am, also, convinced that the political forces and MPs who have supported us have reason of pride in the social and economic results of the Government, Ponta said.
According to him, “those who speculate in a political sense the suffering of people, sooner or later, will pay a high price.” “And I fear I will be right,” Ponta completed.
Victor Ponta also said he would propose to President Iohannis to appoint Defence Minister Mircea Dusa as acting Prime-Minister.
The last meeting of the Ponta Cabinet lasted a few minutes. The resigning prime-minister explained his gesture to his colleagues, with the argument that he didn’t want ‘the good things’ they had done ‘to be ruined by social unrest and turbulence’.
‘It is time we made room for better ones… as the case may be. I want the new Government to be even better, it does have better circumstances, unlike ours, but a prolonged period of instability could ruin everything’, Victor Ponta also said. The PM noted that his hope was that all parties would come to an agreement soon so that the situation of instability could be quickly ended.
Liviu Dragnea: “We are waiting for the president to invite us to Cotroceni’
PSD President Liviu Dragnea said on Wednesday that, after the PM sent to Cotroceni his resignation and the proposal that Mircea Dusa should become acting PM, he would wait to be invited by the president.
‘We will go there with a proposal for prime-minister we hope will be accepted and supported in Parliament. Our proposal will consider the developments and dynamics of the society’, the Social-Democratic leader continued.
Dragnea stressed that he did not like PNL’s proposal to hold a snap election ‘because that would mean that, starting today, for a few months, we will have an unstable Government whilst we need to adopt the Budget Law, the winter is coming and an interim PM cannot keep everything under control’.
Dragnea’s answer to the questions on the future of UNPR in the ruling coalition was: ‘The coalition is now stable and we will make a proposal that will hopefully be accepted by the president and that will be supported by a majority in Parliament. (…) we will not make a proposal that will not be supported in Parliament (…). At this time we do have a majority in Parliament’, the PSD leader further said, according to Realitatea TV.
PSD’s leader Liviu Dragnea was actually the first to announce Ponta’s resignation.
PNL wants early election by political agreement and refuses dialogue with UNPR
PNL reacted on Wednesday to PM Victor Ponta’s resignation with the proposal to hold an early election by political agreement.
PNL Co-president Alina Gorghiu announced that on Wednesday she would start having talks with the political leaders to find support for the early election.
“PNL understood very well the protests last night (…) it is [e.n. – the protest] against negligence, arrogance, corruption in administration. (…) It is categorically a powerful warning that Romanian citizens, the civil society in Romania gives to the political class, to society in its entirety. It is no surprise for anyone that today PNL requests snap elections. We have requested this since January 2015. (…) We believe today the most reasonable and most balanced thing and which comes to meet the requests of the civil society is none other than the solution of snap elections through a political agreement. I hope that in the final hour we will have responsible parliamentary party leaders that will understand how important it is at this moment not to ignore or pretend we don’t understand what the requests of those who protested were,” said Gorghiu in a press conference.
She mentioned that this is the mandate with which PNL will go to the consultations with the head of state, and “if there is goodwill and a little respect towards citizens” this crisis will be resolved through a political agreement.
“Neither I, nor Vasile Blaga, nor our colleagues, nor other leaders in Parliament or in Government, are allowed to remain indifferent to public opinion. (…) We will make the first step and we will initiate dialogue with the political party leaders to see if this option can take shape (…) in accordance with the demands of Romanian society at the moment,” Gorghiu added.
Responding to a remark of a journalist noting that the protesters requested the entire political class take a step back, the PNL co-chair stated that the proposal of the party she is leading, namely snap elections, means exactly this.
“Exactly the option that the PNL proposes today for discussion is this step back because snap elections mean, in fact, a new Parliament that has the legitimacy of the people’s vote, including of those who have protested last night, but not only. There is a need for a fresh start in Romanian politics, we will also be very careful, in case of snap elections, to what the parliamentary lists imply, but all these discussions are premature,” Alina Gorghiu said.
The Liberal leader added that all the leaders of parliamentary parties will be called for negotiations on the topic of the PNL proposal.
“We will call Mr. Dragnea, we will call Mr. Tariceanu, we will call them all and tell them what our point of view is and I hope we will find openness towards a formula that (…) would mean a new Parliament legitimated by people’s vote,” Gorghiu declared.
PNL Co-president Vasile Blaga, in turn, commented on Ponta’s resignation and resumed the plea for organising a snap election. ‘I have seen Mr. Ponta’s decision, it comes late, but better later than never’, he said.
PNL’s First Vice-President Ludovic Orban is categorically against a possible ruling coalition with UNPR following Premier Victor Ponta’s resignation.
‘After the no-confidence vote, we said we would have no dialogue with UNPR’, Orban said.
The politician pointed out that he did not rule out the possibility that PNL might take over the Government. He added that the fact that people took to the streets in Bucharest protesting against the political establishment after the Colectiv nightclub fire showed a need for a fundamental change in Romanian politics.
PNL’s First Vice-President Catalin Predoiu thinks the PM’s resignation on Wednesday is exclusively the victory of the street.
“It is solely the victory of the street [protests]. Respect! A lesson for all politicians. Let’s understand it,” said Predoiu on Facebook.
In his 2014 election campaign, Klaus Iohannis promised to appoint Catalin Predoiu as Prime-Minister if he was elected president.
Gabriel Oprea does not want to be a member of any other Government
Vice-Premier Gabriel Oprea declared on Wednesday that he does not want to be a member of any Government in the future, regardless of whether the party he leads, the National Union for Romania’s Progress (UNPR), will be partner in the Government.
Moreover, Social – Democrat sources declared for Mediafax that PSD rules out any negotiations with UNPR on any formula or possible majority to found a new Executive.
The decision not to discuss with UNPR is supported and promoted in the party even by PSD President Liviu Dragnea, political sources also declared.
Gabriel Oprea revealed that on Tuesday evening, during the protests, he had analysed all possible solutions with PM Ponta.
“Last night I discussed with Premier Victor Ponta from 9pm till 11pm and together we decided that we must listen to the voice of the street, the Romanians’ reason and that the best solution is for Prime Minister Ponta to give up his mandate. This has been done and it was normal and fair that the prime minister said it”, said Oprea, also a Minister of Internal Affairs in the outgoing Victor Ponta cabinet.
Asked whether he wanted to be in a new government, Oprea dryly answered “No.”
He prompted more details on questions about the resignation of Bucharest District 4 Mayor Cristian Popescu, a.k.a. Piedone: “I have advised Piedone, every time we discussed – an investigation is in progress at the Colectiv club – I told him to take the wisest decision, and I understand he did.”
“I advised Piedone to made the best suited decision and I understand he complied. (…) There is an ongoing investigation at Club Colectiv, I told him to admit the truth and make the wisest decision. I have heard that he did”, Gabriel Oprea declared.
UDMR rules out supporting the present coalition
Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR) President Kelemen Hunor declared on Wednesday after PM Victor Ponta’s resignation that his decision was natural and now, a Government is needed as fast as possible, mentioning that there are several possible options.
Of all possible versions to found a new Government, Kelemen Hunor identified a few, including a minority Government of the present Opposition, a Government of technocrats that would manage the situation and organize next year’s elections as well as organizing anticipated elections.
“I do not think that the present coalition can keep ruling. (…) I do not rule out almost anything, but I do rule out providing support to the present coalition the way we did so far. We may also support a minority Government, we will reveal it after discussions”, Kelemen Hunor mentioned.
Basescu: If I were President I would nominate a Prime Minister I would see as able to face everyday challenges
Former President Traian Basescu declared on Wednesday, after Victor Ponta announced he would resign, that this thing should have happened a long time ago and that the Premier’s resignation is a present to the Romanian nation who, by going to the streets, proved it was “a living nation”.
The leader of the Popular Movement, who had celebrated his 64th birthday on Wednesday, stated that, if he were President, he would nominate a “Prime Minister I would see as able to face everyday challenges, I would not wait for negotiations with the parties”.
“The Romanian nation is alive and they have reacted, just like they had reacted to the salary cut in my times”, the former President of Romania declared.
Daniel Constantin: It was a gesture of honour of Premier Victor Ponta at a moment when, unfortunately, nobody was assuming any responsibility
Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s resignation was a gesture of honour, as he assumed responsibility for what has happened over these days on everybody’s behalf, said Daniel Constantin, co-chairman of Romania’s Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE, a ruling coalition partner) on Wednesday.
“It was a gesture of honour of Premier Victor Ponta at a moment when, unfortunately, nobody was assuming any responsibility and he assumed responsibility for what happened over these days on behalf of us all. From this viewpoint, he has our respect. (…)
Unfortunately, sad things have happened and I think somebody had to assume responsibility. Until those responsible criminally and legally are identified, I appreciate this gesture of honour of the premier and his assuming the things that have happened on behalf of all”, Constantin, the agriculture minister in the outgoing cabinet, told media at the Palace of Parliament.
Senate Speaker: The coalition does not want anticipated elections
According to the Alliance of Liberal Democrats (ALDE) leader Calin Popescu Tariceanu, the coalition does not want anticipated elections. He outlined, at the same time, that “such situation would paralyze state institutions”.
“A solution requiring anticipated elections would certainly lead, during a certain amount of time, to a paralysis of state institutions, with all inherent risks generated by it. There are other reasons as well: the situation in Moldova, I do not think that Romania, that has been a column of political stability in Eastern-European region can afford to cause worries. Our proposal is to not choose this solution. As long as the Parliament voted in a democratic manner, there is a majority that may help is exit the political challenges we are going through by finding a solution that, certainly, would be mediated by the President. The Prime Minister may make such proposal. Here, we should see clearly what the Constitution says and the President is the one to appoint an interim Prime – Minister, but, in such situations, it is important that the Prime – Minister benefits of political support. I will have a discussion with my colleagues in the management of ALDE and, afterwards, with our partners in the coalition”, Tariceanu declared.
“I think that assuming responsibility by the gesture of resignation is a powerful action that proves the present coalition has somehow understood how to react to such events”, the ALDE leader mentioned.
Other political leaders’ reactions
MEP Cristian Preda responded on Facebook: “The weakest Prime Minister we have had since 1989 has resigned”.
MEP Monica Macovei says that Ponta’s resignation could only be achieved due to people who were out on the streets and she demands a Government of technocrats. “PSD, PNL, UNPR, UDMR showed their tricks for so many years. Neither of these old political parties earned the moral credibility that would grant them legitimacy now to form a new Government. A Government of technocrats is the solution”, she further declared.
Mircea Geoana, the leader of PSRo, considers that Prime Minister Victor Ponta resigned too late.
“Victor Ponta’s resignation is too little and it comes too late. A year ago, Romanians had said this cannot go on any longer this way. Yet, their voice was ignored”, Geoana posted on Facebook.
President Iohannis: “People needed to die for this resignation to take place”
President Klaus Iohannis has stated on Wednesday that he expects Prime Minister Victor Ponta to tender his resignation, showing that the consultations with parliamentary parties will take place on Thursday or Friday.
“Now we have a new situation, a resigning government. I expect the resigning prime minister to forward the resignation of the Government and I will immediately contact parliamentary parties and call for consultations with the parties. These consultations, in the optimum variant, will take place tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, at the latest,” said the head of state at the Cotroceni Palace, the seat of the Presidency according to Agerpres.
He mentioned that, until the end of this week, he wishes to finalize the first round of consultations in order to have an image of how the parties see solving of this situation.
“We will have an interim Government, we will have a solution that I will communicate when it crystallizes,” Iohannis also said.
Regarding variants launched by parties and analysts, the head of state claimed that he does not want to enter technical details.
“Only after we take the following steps, after the first round of consultations, will I come in front of the public opinion and expose my first conclusions, my opinion regarding the things to come, yet these changes are only a new step, an important step, but only one step in the direction of changing Romanian politics, in the direction of improving the performance of the Romanian political class, towards a sort of politics as we all want, pragmatic and transparent. There is still a lot to do. We cannot believe that a simple change of Government solves Romania’s problems, not even the problems of the political class. There is much, much more needed. I am willing to assume these demarches that will, finally, lead to a different kind of politics in Romania, politics for the citizens, predictable and transparent,” Iohannis said.
He emphasized that the Government has resigned “very late.”
“Last night there were the most appropriate street protests that I have ever seen: the people went out, protested, went to various places where they voiced their dissatisfaction, there were no incidents, no brawl, no inappropriate approaches, but people clearly said what their expectations were. Late, very late, the Government resigned. People needed to die for this resignation to take place. If respect for norms and laws had been imposed, none would have had to die,” said Iohannis.
“On the subject of the other kind of requests that have been made these last few days, also during last night’s protests – it is true that the protesters did a simple thing: they told us what they believes should happen in the foreseeable future. I think these claims are correct and reasonable. They mentioned Bucharest buildings that are at seismic risk and where we must intervene. True. The need to improve situation in hospitals. True. Proposals have been made that must be taken into account by politicians and anyone on the new Government will have to produce solutions. For that we need public consultations and politicians will have to get used to listening to those who sent them there, the citizen, and then can we, together, resolve a range of known shortcomings. We know these things. However, some of the people who have ruled preferred to postpone or ignore them and I hope the next ones will not repeat the mistake”, the President said.