Romania's liberal government falls after three months in office

Ludovic Orban, seen speaking during the no-confidence vote, blamed "retrogressive forces" for his government falling -- though his liberals lead polls for an expected snap election (AFP Photo/Daniel MIHAILESCU) (AFP)
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Bucharest (AFP) - Romania's liberal government collapsed in a parliamentary no-confidence vote on Wednesday after only three months in office, bringing the EU member closer to early elections.

A total of 261 of 465 MPs voted in favour of a motion against the minority government led by Ludovic Orban, which took over in November.

"The Orban government fell. It's a very big step for Romanian democracy," said Marcel Ciolacu, leader of the opposition Social Democrats (PSD), which had launched the motion.

The move was triggered by Orban's attempt to change the law for local elections, re-introducing a two-round voting system. The change won't be implemented now that the government has collapsed.

The PSD is vehemently opposed because it sees the move as a threat to their chances of success in local elections due in June.

Paradoxically, the collapse of its own government might benefit Orban's National Liberal Party (PNL), which wants an early election to capitalise on a currently large lead in the polls.

The PNL government was installed in November following a previous no-confidence vote against the former PSD-led administration.

"A parliament dominated by retrogressive forces, which walked all over democracy, today decided the collapse of the government I lead," Orban told reporters after the vote.

President Klaus Iohannis must now appoint a new prime minister who in turn must try to assemble a parliamentary majority.

According to the country's constitution, the president can only dissolve the parliament after two failed attempts to install a new executive within 60 days.

Romania has not held a snap election since the fall of Communism 30 years ago.