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Jun 01, 2020 PRINT EDITION

BUCHAREST: Romania's president said Wednesday that the Social Democrat (PSD) minority government must seek the confidence of MPs, a move which could bring it down.

Prime Minister Viorica Dancila has been fighting for her political survival since the PSD's junior partner quit the coalition on Monday, leaving the EU member state's first woman leader with a minority government.

President Klaus Iohannis, who hails from the centre-right and has been a trenchant critic of the government, said in a televised speech that he would not accept a reshuffled PSD government.

"The current government needs new confirmation from parliament," where PSD now has only 205 of the body's 465 seats, he said.

Iohannis added that if the government could not find a majority in parliament, a "transitional solution" would be needed.

"This toxic government is kept alive by the parliamentary configuration elected in December 2016," Iohannis said, referring to Romania's last parliamentary elections.

Dancila was defiant in response, saying: "We'll go to parliament and we'll try to gain the necessary support to carry out our mandate until the end" -- meaning December 2020.

"We have a responsibility before the Romanian people", she said, also speaking on Romanian television, accusing Iohannis of "blocking" and "destabilising" the government.

The two speeches came hours after another setback for the government, when MPs scrapped a bill that would have given politicians a way to avoid jail for corruption.

The changes, part of a controversial package of measures proposed by the PSD, would have pardoned all prisoners serving sentences of up to five years except for those convicted of violent crimes.

Romanians overwhelmingly voted against the PSD's judicial reforms in a referendum on May 26 held at Iohannis's instigation.

The same day, the PSD suffered a drubbing in European Parliament elections.

Critics said dozens of politicians, mostly from the ruling PSD, would have benefited from the legal changes -- including strongman Liviu Dragnea, who headed the party until May when he was jailed for corruption, leaving Dancila to take over.

Brussels has regularly warned the left-wing government in Bucharest not to pursue the changes, saying it would reverse progress on the rule of law since 2007, when the country joined the European Union.

Demonstrations against the reforms have drawn tens of thousands of Romanians.

Copyright AFP (Agence France-Press), 2019