Romanian lawmakers endorse PM Orban in vote of confidence

By Radu-Sorin Marinas
Romanian interim PM Ludovic Orban delivers a speech before a no-confidence vote session in the Romanian Parliament

By Radu-Sorin Marinas

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's centrist Prime Minister Ludovic Orban won a parliamentary vote of confidence by a large margin as expected on Saturday, with all parties seeking to end a political stalemate and focus on reining in the spread of coronavirus.

On Saturday, President Klaus Iohannis declared a state of emergency from Monday, opening the door to more government aid to combat the disease.

"This state of emergency will enable allotting new important resources to fight the crisis," Iohannis said. "The government will allot more funds for .... healthcare, medicine, equipment," he said, adding that the move also cut through red tape for government purchases.

Lawmakers toppled Orban's minority Liberal government early last month but he has continued running the country on an interim basis with limited powers. Iohannis asked the interim premier to form a government on Friday.

Orban and his cabinet ministers quarantined themselves for two weeks on Friday, after coming into contact with a coronavirus-infected lawmaker. The country has recorded 102 cases of the illness so far, but no deaths.

"It's been 286 votes for the government out of 309 cast ballots and 23 MPs voted against it," a senior ruling party deputy told Reuters of Saturday's vote.

Since the vote against Orban's government in February, rival parties have been jockeying for position before municipal and parliament elections in June and November, respectively.

But the onset of the coronavirus meant Orban's nomination passed easily through parliament - restoring full powers to his government to fight the outbreak.

"Our party has taken full responsibility at these difficult times, and now, with a full power government, I'm confident we will manage to rein in coronavirus more resolutely," Orban said in an online speech.

On Saturday, Romania increased restrictions on the public, banning cultural, scientific, religious activities involving more than 50 people in a closed space, down from 100 at present.


(Additional reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Edmund Blair and Frances Kerry)