Romania's ex-PM Dancila ousted from PSD leadership after losing presidential race

By bne IntelliNews November 27, 2019

Former Romanian prime minister Viorica Dancila was forced to resign from the helm of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) after a six-hour meeting of the party leadership on November 26, a couple of days after she lost the presidential elections.

This has been a disastrous two months for Dancila, who has been struggling to maintain control over the party since her former mentor, the PSD's former leader Liviu Dragnea, was sent to prison in a corruption case in June. Dancila's government lost a confidence vote in October, and she was convincingly defeated by the incumbent Klaus Iohannis in the second round of the presidential election on November 24. 

Marcel Ciolacu, head of the Chamber of Deputies and the leader of the Buzau regional PSD organisation, takes over as interim head of the party until the extraordinary congress of the party expected to take place before the end of the year.

Dancila told media that her resignation “was not a weakness” and she will return “as part of the party’s leading team” after the extraordinary congress.

Ciolacu taking over the party leadership was rumoured during the morning of November 26 as a done deal, but by the time the party leadership meeting started at 18:00, Dancila reportedly changed her mind and decided not to resign. Former finance minister Eugen Teodorovici, the party’s secretary general and Dancila’s second-in-command, is understood to have convinced her to attempt to hold onto her position. 

One hour before resigning just before midnight, Dancila and Teodorovici refused to leave their seats after half of the party’s leading body resigned to support Ciolacu. 

Ciolacu (52), became the president of the Chamber of Deputies in June after Dragnea was sent to prison. His position and his record as a good manager make him the best option for leading the party, Ciolacu claimed after taking over as interim head. 

After the second ballot of the presidential election, Ciolacu organised meetings with local PSD leaders and he visited Dancila to request her resignation.

Ciolacu, a low-profile figure within the PSD, has climbed up in the party hierarchy and maintained good ties with the party’s influential leaders, including Dragnea, who appointed him as deputy PM in the government of former prime minister Mihai Tudose in June 2017. He is now very close to both Tudose and fellow former prime minister Sorin Grindeanu (who left the party to join the dissident faction of former PSD leader Victor Ponta, Pro Romania), but also to Gabriel Vlase, the head of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE).

A graduate of a private university in Bucharest immediately after the fall of communism, Ciolacu followed a career in the local administration in the city of Buzau, in a region dominated by the PSD. He also graduated from the higher education institution sponsored by the domestic intelligence service, SRI. Since 2012, he has served as a deputy in Romania’s parliament.

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