Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Romanian government is latest victim of EU austerity

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PARIS — Romania's government fell Friday in a no-confidence vote just two months after taking office, the latest government in Europe to crumble amid disputes over unpopular austerity measures and declining growth rates.

Some 235 lawmakers voted against the center-right government of Prime Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu, four more votes than needed, plunging the country into crisis and raising the prospect of months of political and economic uncertainty.

The International Monetary Fund, which had been reviewing a precautionary loan for Romania of $6.6 billion, said Friday that it would halt the review pending the formation of a new government, Reuters reported.

President Traian Basescu is expected to nominate a new prime minister, who will be required to present his governing program to Parliament for approval. Analysts say the process could drag on for months.

Governments have been collapsing across Europe amid calls by Germany and others for tough austerity measures to help restore confidence in the eurozone, even as some critics complain that aggressive cuts are undermining economic growth and spurring Europeans to protest. The sovereign debt crisis, accompanied by visceral frustration with the extent of painful spending cuts, has helped unseat leaders in countries including Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain.

The center-right government of the Czech Republic on Friday survived a vote of confidence in Parliament by 12 votes, staving off early elections for the time being and helping to clear the way for unpopular new spending cuts of the sort that unhinged the Romanian government.

While neither the Czech Republic nor Romania uses the euro, both are members of the European Union and have been trying to meet the stringent budget deficit targets. Yet both countries are suffering from weak growth, and voters have shown little appetite for enduring further sacrifices.

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