June 30, 2015 / 6:52 PM / 2 years ago

Romania's opposition wins spy agency vote as Ponta government limps on

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania’s opposition secured its first parliamentary victory on Tuesday after the UNPR junior coalition party temporarily switched sides, raising the chances that any new no-confidence motion might topple the leftist government.

Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta addressess to media as he leaves the anti-corruption agency, locally known as the DNA, in Bucharest, Romania June 5, 2015. REUTERS/Octav Ganea/Mediafax

UNPR lawmakers, whose leader, acting premier Gabriel Oprea, backed centrist President Klaus Iohannis’s nominee, Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, as spy chief, helped secure a 278-6 victory for the opposition Civic Force party senator and former prime minister.

The absence of Prime Minister Victor Ponta, in Istanbul for up to a month for medical treatment, has prompted feverish speculation and concern among some of his supporters about his political future and the stability of the government.

Ponta’s Social Democrats (PSD), whose majority is ensured by the UNPR and another party, boycotted the vote on the grounds that Iohannis had not consulted them on his choice of candidate to run the foreign intelligence service.

Ponta said he was recovering at the Medipol facility in Istanbul and had temporarily delegated his powers to deputy prime minister Oprea.

Ponta had posted on his Facebook page from his hospital room in Istanbul: “UNPR ... are our PSD party’s partners, regardless of the vote for the head of the secret service.”

Anti-corruption prosecutors named Ponta this month in criminal inquiries into forgery, money-laundering, tax evasion and conflict of interest. He denies wrongdoing and says the accusations were made by political enemies.

The PSD saw off the centrist opposition’s third censure motion on June 12 in the government’s first big political test since losing a presidential election to Iohannis in November.

On June 9, parliament blocked a criminal investigation into Ponta over conflict of interest, prompting more criticism of the EU country’s anti-corruption drive. Iohannis has asked for Ponta’s resignation pending the investigation.

Editing by Louise Ireland

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