A new Romanian government led by Social Democratic PM Sorin Grindeanu received parliamentary approval on Wednesday, promising to make Romania "normal". Grindeanu's team, picked - including the prime minister - by Social Democratic Party leader Liviu Dragnea, offered during preliminary hearings today a series of hints on where the act of government is heading, beyond the official government planning announced by the PSD.
In public statements over the past several days, Liviu Dragnea has made clear he is the de facto head of the government officially headed by Grindeanu. Dragnea himself could not stand for office after his party won the general elections in December, because Romanian law prevents people with criminal sentences to hold government office. Last year, Dragnea received a suspended sentence for electoral fraud.
But in statements made in Parliament today, he claimed the act of government would not be decided at the party headquarters, but by the government itself.
295 MPs - 63 more than the minimum threshold - voted in favor of the new government with 133 against.
The Grindeanu government numbers 26 ministers - quite many even by Romanian standards - many of whom have been facing or were subjects of controversies over the past several years. These include:
- a Muslim woman close to the PSD leadership who had been the first nomination for PM following the latest general elections, but who has been rejected by the President; she is married to a Syrian businessman connected to the Assad regime; she now serves as deputy PM
- a communist-era diplomat - now returned at the helm of the Foreign Ministry - who pursued a political career for the past 25 years and who has been harshly criticized for his stance in the 2014 presidential elections, marked by major irregularities in the organisation of voting in Diaspora;
- a politician seen as one of the brains before a major parliamentary push against judiciary reform and high profile graft investigations several years ago; he was now named Justice minister
- a minister who has been under criminal investigation;
- a minister who had been ousted from lower government ranks recently for incompetence-related reasons;
- the first former official to have been dismissed in the wake of a fire disaster that killed dozens of people in 2015;
- a professor who had been withdrawn his authority to lead PhD studies because of irregularities in his own academic career
Earlier today, the nominees faced preliminary hearings in parliamentary commissions, where they were treated in a friendly manner, with a limit of only 30-minutes for each session, including their speeches and questions from MPs.
And they consistently dodged any reference to the fight against corruption and issues such as major infrastructure projects, while sticking to the official PSD government program which promises lower taxes, higher incomes and other sorts of benefits for various parts of the population.
And they either referred to plans to lower judicial checks on mayors or stopped short of openly admitting plans to change the law in such a way that PSD leader Dragnea and other criminally sentenced people become members of the government. Such an amnesty would allow Dragnea to become PM in the near future.
Separately today, Romanian Ombudsman Victor Ciorbea announced today that on Thursday he would turn to the Constitutional Court to challenge the constitutionality of a law dating back to 2001, which bans sentenced criminals to hold government office - as is Dragnea's case.