Romanian PM-Designate Abandons Candidacy, Citing Coronavirus Outbreak

Romania's prime minister-designate, Florin Citu shocked the nation on Thursday by renouncing his candidacy only minutes before he was due to seek the support of parliament to be voted in office.

"Florin Vasile Citu today renounced his mandate as prime minister-designate," the presidential website announced in a three-line-sentence statement that promised more details later.

The parliamentary leader of Citu's National Liberal Party, Florin Roman, offered some details to journalists, however, citing the coronavirus crisis as the reason for the prime minister-designate's decision to step back.

"When there is a war, the commander never leaves the frontline," Roman said, praising the "fantastic working capacity" of the current acting prime minister and National Party Leader Ludovic Orban, and calling him the right person to deal with the epidemic.

Roman said Citu had decided to retreat after holding consultations with his colleagues. "His decision means that Ludovic Orban, the person who has managed [the crisis] from the beginning, has the obligation to rally the entire political class, public opinion and society… so we prevent all the noxious effects of coronavirus," he added.

Roman did not answer questions about the exact timing of this last-minute move; Citu had gone through the whole process required to face parliament after President Klaus Iohannis nominated him as prime minister-designate on February 26 - when the first case of coronavirus was diagnosed in the country.

Parliament was widely expected to reject Citu's nomination as prime minister, so advancing President Iohannis' goal of triggering early elections; the National Liberal Party does not have a majority in the two chambers and Citu is particularly unpopular among the...

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