Yesterday, Romanian Prime Minister Mihai Tudose resigned his post following a vote by senior members of his party, the Social Democrats (PSD). Tudose, who generated controversy last week due to threatening statements he made towards his country’s Szekler ethnic Hungarian minority, is the second Romanian premier to be forced out of office in the last year.
Tudose’s firing comes on the heels of a series of inflammatory comments he made last week. In an interview, the Premier was asked about the Hungarian-majority Szeklerland’s aspirations for autonomy. Responding to Realitatea TV, Tudose said
I have sent message that if the Szekler flag flies over the institutions over there, they will all fly next to the flag. Autonomy for Szeklers is out of the question.
His claim that those supporting autonomy would “fly next to the flag” was widely interpreted as a thinly-veiled threat to hang members of Romania’s ethnic Hungarian minority. As such, it caused a major diplomatic backlash. Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó summoned the Romanian ambassador for consultations. He also referred to the Romanian leader’s statement as
Ethnic Hungarian leaders in Romania condemned the statement, asking for its withdrawal and an apology. Bálint Porcsalmi, president of Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ), said that Mr. Tudose can disagree with autonomy aspirations, but he cannot threaten anyone with hanging.
Yesterday, prior to his resignation, Tudose had attempted to backtrack from these comments, claiming that he had not been referring to hanging Szekler politicians, but rather had meant that state offices who had to follow the law would see “their mandate fly [away] next to the flag, if they didn’t enforce the law.”
In any case, Tudose has now become the second Prime Minister in the past seven months to fall victim to infighting within the Social Democratic Party, following the resignation of Sorin Grindeanu in June of last year.
PSD, which came to power in December of 2016, is led by Liviu Dragnea, a politician who is barred from serving as prime minister due to a previous conviction for attempting to rig a national referendum in 2012. He is also currently under investigation by Romanian prosecutors, and is accused of forming a “’criminal group’ to take money from state- and EU-funded projects.”
It is widely rumored that Tudose fell afoul of Dragnea after asking Minister of the Interior Carmen Dan, who has been described as “a close ally of Mr. Dragnea”, to resign. Senior PSD member Paul Stanescu has been appointed interim Prime Minister.
Via politico.eu, transindex.ro, express.co.uk, Reuters, and the Washington Post
Image via Octav Ganea/ Reuters