Opinions are divided with regard to the make-up of the new government in Bucharest.
“We are a political government, but politics is conducted elsewhere,” said Romania’s new Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu even before he was sworn in. He insisted that his cabinet, a partnership of the Social Democratic Party and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats, would focus on managing the country with “responsibility, modesty and respect for the Romanian people,” as he himself put it.
The Prime Minister also said he was very much aware of his position, thus admitting that the purely political decisions would remain the prerogative of the Social Democrat leader Liviu Dragnea and the Liberal Democrat leader Calin Popescu Tariceanu, who have been recently sworn in as speakers of the two chambers of Parliament.
The head of the County Council in Timis, in the west, and a former Social Democrat MP, 43-year-old Grindeanu was Dragnea’s choice to implement the ambitious programme with which the Social Democratic Party categorically won the parliamentary elections on the 11th of December.
He was in fact the second option after president Klaus Iohannis rejected the first person nominated for the job, the former development minister Sevil Shhaideh, for reasons he did not name. If approved, Shhaideh would have become Romania’s first female prime minister and first Muslim prime minister. She is still a member of the new cabinet, as deputy prime minister and minister for regional development, public administration and European funds.
The other deputy prime minister and minister for the environment is Daniel Constantin, the co-president of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats and a former agriculture minister. The new cabinet has 24 ministers, two of whom also serve as deputy prime ministers, as well as two ministers delegate.
Some of the appointments have already sparked controversy in the media. Re-elected mayor of the southern city of Craiova in June despite being the subject of an ongoing trial for corruption, the Social Democrat Lia Olguta Vasilescu is now the new minister for labour and social justice, which will lead to early elections in Craiova. At 75, Teodor Melescanu from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats takes over the foreign affairs ministry, after having resigned in 2014 and apologised to the Romanians living abroad for the poor organisation of the voting for presidential elections abroad, when thousands of Romanian citizens living abroad were unable to cast their votes. The minister delegate for European affairs is the MP Ana Birchall, while Romania’s ambassador to Israel Andreea Pastarnac has been appointed minister for Romanians abroad.
Political commentator Cristian Pirvulescu says the new ministers are “generally people close to the leader of the Social Democratic Party and, with few exceptions, people who are not very well known to the public.” The sociologist Marius Pieleanu, on the other hand, has described the new cabinet as a “team of professionals” able to obtain “good results,” while his colleague Alfred Bulai warns that difficult times are ahead for the new government.