November 17, 2015 / 1:26 PM / 3 years ago

Romanian government meant to tackle corruption wins parliament's backing

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania’s government of technocrats won a confidence vote in parliament by an overwhelming margin on Tuesday for a one-year term to drive through reforms and stamp on corruption.

A woman holds a national flag and makes the victory sign as her vehicle passes in front of the government headquarters in Bucharest, Romania November 4, 2015. REUTERS/Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea

Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos’s predecessor, leftist Victor Ponta, stepped down on Nov. 4, bowing to public anger over a nightclub fire which killed 56 people and prompted a popular campaign slogan ‘Corruption kills’. He is facing charges of forgery and money laundering.

“It is a critical moment,” Ciolos told parliament just before the vote. “Confidence in politics, in state institutions seems weakened. People are expecting, now more than ever in the last 25 years, a change in the way public interest is managed.”

The cabinet of experts, a first Romania’s 25 post-Communist years, was backed by the biggest parties, the Liberals and former ruling Social Democrats. It includes European Commission staff, diplomats and civil society leaders and was approved by 389 votes to 115,

Its first task will be to prepare a 2016 budget and push it through parliament.

“This government can’t be anything but yours too, to the extent that you take responsibility for it,” Ciolos told deputies.

Parliament had earmarked tax cuts proposed by the leftists, including a reduction in general value added tax to 20 percent from 24 percent and state wage hikes in next year’s plans - which the finance minister has made clear cannot be changed.

Fitch Ratings warned last week that fiscal relaxation could hamper the stability of public finances.

Among the government line-up, Ciolos picked Anca Paliu Dragu, an economist at the European Commission, to take over the finance ministry and Raluca Pruna - an anti-corruption expert who works at the European Commission in Brussels, as justice minister.

Romania ended a precautionary aid deal led by the International Monetary Fund in September and a new deal will likely not be considered in the next year as Romania’s finances are in good shape and economic growth solid, Dragu has said.

President Klaus Iohannis said on his Facebook page after the vote: “This is a proof that parties understood that a government of technocrats represents now the best solution for Romania.”

Local elections are scheduled in Romania in the first half of 2016, followed by parliamentary elections in December.

Editing by Ruth Pitchford

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