By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
The National Liberal Party (PNL), the junior party of the ruling coalition in Romania led by PM Victor Ponta, has today nominated Klaus Johannis, mayor of Sibiu, a city in central Romania, to fill in the vacant positions of minister of Interior and deputy-PM, sparking comments from the coalition partners whether the nominee can accumulate so many jobs in the local and central administration.
PNL designated Johannis to replace Radu Stroe, who resigned last month following uninspired comments made after a tragic plane crash which left two people dead in the Western Carpathians. But Johannis’ appointment also came amid liberals’ removal of two other ministers, a move many put in the context of internal infighting for influence.
Daniel Chitoiu, minister of Finance and deputy-PM, Andrei Gerea, minister of Economy, were removed from their positions. Chitoiu is to be replaced by Eugen Nicolaescu, the current minister of Health. Nicolaescu’s current position will be filled by Cristian Busoi, former Euro-lawmaker and head of the state health insurance agency.
But the liberals also proposed Johannis, a mayor with a very good public image, also takes the deputy-PM position Chitoiu held. Chitoiu was removed from his job upon suspicion he had become very close to the social-democrats, Ponta’s party. Therefore, Johannis’ nomination, a staunch ally of Crin Antonescu, the liberal leader, raised the social-democrats’ eye-brows. All the more, Johannis’ is one of the strongest voices among the liberals that call for the party’s withdrawal from the ruling coalition which makes the social-democrats uneasy about him getting the second job in the government.
The latter pointed out the deputy-PM position should be held by the minister of Finance, the structure which the Romanian Parliament approved last year. A change in the governmental structure would call for another vote in the plenum of the legislative, said Daniel Sova, minister of large infrastructure projects. Moreover, he questioned the legality of Johannis holding both a ministerial position and the seat of mayor in Sibiu.
The same issue was raised by Catalin Ivan, spokesman of the social-democrats, who said Johannis could hardly get the deputy-PM job since this risks creating “instability” in the ruling coalition.
Johannis confined to saying he would not leave the seat of mayor in Sibiu, a city which he has managed since 2000, but rather seek to ensure an interim over a couple of months. “If things go well and the party is satisfied, then I will probably have to renounce the position of mayor” said Johannis. PM Victor Ponta, who is attending the opening of the Sotchi Winter Olympics, has not yet reacted to Hohannis’ appointment.