Deputy PM and regional development minister Sevil Shhaideh, EU funds minister Rovana Plumb and transport minister Razvan Cuc have announced resignations yesterday evening, after a six-hour meeting of the Social Democratic Party (PSD)’s executive leadership. We remind that the corruption investigations on three ministers have created image problems for the government and for Romania abroad, as PM Mihai Tudose stated earlier this week. Tudose mentioned that the European authorities are reluctant in working with government officials that are suspected of corruption. Thus, he was considering asking them to step down and was even mulling himself to resign in case the ruling coalition would not support his decision. In addition, party sources have revealed that Tudose might also change the transport and education ministers, apart from the investigated three, due to the intense public criticism against them. The three investigated ministers are the regional development minister, the EU funds minister and the minister for liaison with parliament, from the junior ruling ALDE.
The investigation of the regional development minister Shhaideh and EU funds minister Plumb is a delicate issue for the PSD, because it involves some property transfer allegedly linked to the PSD leader Liviu Dragnea. In addition, the regional development minister is very close to Dragnea and had a major importance for the regional administrations, especially the PSD barons, as she managed a big portion of the country’s budget, the major financing source for the regional administrations. Thus, when the PM put Shhaideh and Plumb on a reshuffle list, the PSD seniors mumbled in discontent and it became clear that Tudose and Dragnea were no longer in very good terms in their cooperation. Liviu Dragnea called an executive meeting of the party for voting on the PM’s intentions to change those ministers and allegedly asked for an individual vote, hoping to save at least Shhaideh. The situation was tensed, as the PSD executive leadership expressed support for the ministers. Moreover, Dragnea said that the investigations were all setups and inventions of prosecutors to undermine the PSD ruling. Hence, without the party’s endorsement on reshuffle the PM would have resigned, generating another political crisis, just a few months after the former PM Sorin Grindeanu was forced to step down through a no-confidence motion filed by his own party.
Broadly, the political crisis seems to be on its way to resolve. The other investigated minister for corruption is Viorel Ilie, Minister for Liaison with Parliament, who is from the junior ruling ALDE. Ilie is also backed by his party and has not been asked to resign. In fact, ALDE’s leader clearly declared that the party would not withdraw its minister. Another meeting, of the ruling coalition, is scheduled for today, to clarify this issue. Nevertheless, PM Tudose said he wants all three changed, otherwise he would resign.