Romania’s government collapses after protests

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Premier Emil Boc announced he fired the foreign minister over insulting remarks about anti-government protesters, which did not nearly satisfy them in central Bucharest, Romania on Monday.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania’s government collapsed Monday following weeks of protests against austerity measures, the latest debt-stricken government in Europe to fall in the face of raising public anger over biting cuts.

Emil Boc, who had been prime minister since 2008, said he was resigning “to defuse political and social tension” and to make way for a new government. Thousands of Romanians took to the streets in January to protest salary cuts, higher taxes and the widespread perception that the government was not interested in the public’s hardships in this nation of 22 million.

President Traian Basescu quickly appointed Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu, the only unaffiliated Cabinet member, as interim prime minister until a new government is approved. Basescu also nominated Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, the head of Romania’s foreign intelligence service, as the country’s new prime minister. Parliament must approve Ungureanu in 60 days, or the legislature will be dissolved and new elections held.

But the opposition opposes Ungureanu and will continue the boycott of Parliament it began last week. “We are not going anywhere with this new government,” said Crin Antonescu, head of the Liberal Party.

Boc’s resignation came as Romania is starting to feel the effects of the widespread cuts that the government put in place in exchange for a $26 billion loan from the IMF, the EU and the World Bank in 2009, to help pay salaries and pensions after its economy shrank by more than
7 percent.