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Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban
Image: Daniel Mihailescu/AFP/Getty Images

Romanian prime minister resigns after election defeat

December 7, 2020

Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban has stepped down after the opposition Social Democrats cemented 30% of the votes in both houses of parliament with almost all votes counted.


Ludovic Orban, Romania's center-right prime minister, resigned Monday after the populist opposition Social Democrats (PSD) party won around 30% of votes with roughly 95% of ballots counted.

"I'm not clinging to any post," Orban said, albeit adding that he did intend to participate in upcoming negotiations on a potential coalition government.

Orban's centrist National Liberal Party (PNL)  came in second, with 24.2%-24.7% of votes for the two houses. The centrist alliance USR-Plus, a likely coalition partner for the Liberals, won 15.4% of votes. 

Orban said earlier Monday that coalition talks with the PSD were out of the question. However, he did not provide a clear explanation for how his party plans to form a new governing majority. 

"Talks to form a majority ... won't be long ... this country needs a government as soon as possible," Orban told supporters, adding that his party had four potential coalition partners to form a majority.

Dancing through the pandemic

Despite dissatisfaction with the coronavirus pandemic response, Orban had gained support for the PNL by pledging to modernize the country and maintain a "pro-European" path.

Just 1 in 3 voters turned up

Over 18 million Romanians were eligible to vote, although turnout dipped to historic lows in part due to concerns over becoming infected with the coronavirus.

Polling stations required voters to wear masks, maintain social distancing and sanitize their hands — but no additional virus precautions were put in place.

By Sunday afternoon, only a quarter of those who were eligible to vote had cast their ballots, according to data released by Romania's Central Election Bureau. 

The data put voter turnout at 33%, a record low for a parliamentary election in the country.

What could happen next?

The PNL is set to fall short of a governing majority, but analysts predict that the party could try to seek a coalition including the USR-PLUS Alliance.

The PNL and the USR-PLUS Alliance campaigned on promises to reform Romania's civil service and bolster the country's public health and education systems.

The Social Democrats won the previous election in 2016 by a landslide, but the party faced massive anti-corruption protests and disputes with the EU over controversial judicial reforms and graft scandals.

The PNL took the reins of a rocky minority government a year ago after the Social Democrats ran through three prime ministers and dozens of minister reshuffles.

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rs,lc,wr/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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