Romania's centrists inch closer to rebuilding ruling coalition

FILE PHOTO: Romanian prime minister-designate Nicolae Ciuca delivers a press statement in Bucharest, Romania, October 21, 2021. George Calin/Inquam Photos via REUTERS/File Photo

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's ruling centrist Liberals and their former USR ally inched closer to rebuilding their majority ruling coalition on Wednesday, their leaders said, a first step toward ending a month-long political stalemate jeopardising reforms.

The Liberals (PNL), led by caretaker Prime Minister Florin Citu, cancelled a vote of confidence on a minority cabinet line-up put forward last week by premier-designate Nicolae Ciuca on Monday due to the meagre chances of success.

Romania has been in political deadlock since Citu's government was toppled by parliament on Oct. 5, threatening economic recovery and efforts to rein in a large budget shortfall and current account deficit in one of the European Union's poorest member states.

"There are great chances to rebuild our coalition, talks today were like group therapy," Citu told reporters, adding that the USR had agreed to allow him to propose a prime minister.

The next step will be further negotiations on a cabinet line-up before consultations with President Klaus Iohannis, whose approval will be needed as he will nominate a premier-designate and install the government.

A previous Liberal coalition unravelled last month after USR, a relatively new grouping, withdrew its ministers in a row over a regional development fund, stripping Citu of a parliamentary majority.

Citu's caretaker cabinet, which includes ethnic Hungarian UDMR ministers, jointly controls 163 seats in parliament, 71 seats short of a majority. Adding USR would give them a functioning majority of 243 seats.

"These exploratory talks have been very good. A majority can be formed and can exist, as it used to be, by further co-opting our UDMR colleagues," USR head Dacian Ciolos said.

(Reporting by Radu Marinas; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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