Romanian PM resigns over austerity protests


THE ROMANIAN prime minister Emil Boc has resigned, blaming widespread discontent with government austerity measures that his successor will be under public pressure to relax.

Thousands of Romanians took to the streets of several towns and cities last month to protest against tax rises and deep cuts to wages and benefits, which were demanded by the International Monetary Fund in 2009 for €20 billion of emergency funding.

With his popularity rating sliding below 20 per cent and elections looming later this year, Mr Boc submitted his resignation yesterday to his close ally, President Traian Basescu. He has named justice minister Catalin Predoiu as interim prime minister until a longer-term replacement can be found.

“I took this decision to release the tension in the country’s political and social situation, but also in order not to lose what Romanians have won,” Mr Boc said in a televised speech. “I know that I made difficult decisions, but the fruits have begun to appear . . .

“In times of crisis, the government is not in a popularity contest, but is saving the country,” added the departing prime minister, who took office in 2008, just before several years of rapid growth ended in deep recession.

With a general election due to be held by November at the latest, analysts believe Mr Basescu might appoint a technocrat government to run the country until then.

Opposition parties welcomed Mr Boc’s resignation and called for immediate elections.

The IMF has praised Mr Boc and Mr Basescu for pushing through painful reforms that have sharply reduced Romania’s budget deficit and returned it to modest growth. “I don’t think there is any reason for Romania’s credibility to be affected,” said IMF official Jeffrey Franks. “The overall parameters of the [loan] agreement are pretty well set.”