Wednesday, November 4, 2015 3:15 pm
Romania’s Prime Minister Victor Ponta quit on Wednesday in a surprise move that will lead to the formation of a new cabinet, after street protesters demanded cabinet resignations as the death toll from a weekend Bucharest nightclub fire climbed.
Ponta, the country’s only sitting premier to face a trial for corruption, had already been under pressure to resign from the opposition and President Klaus Iohannis, who defeated him in last November’s presidential election.
His departure could pave the way for a political realignment, although there were no immediate signs of a split in the coalition of three mainly leftist parties that form a majority in parliament, and fresh elections are not due until December 2016.
Ponta was stepping down to take responsibility for a nightclub fire on Friday night that had claimed the lives of 32 people by Tuesday and set off protests nationwide.
“I can carry any political battles, but I can’t fight with the people,” Ponta told reporters.
Angry about the way authorities grant permits and inspect public venues, protesters poured into the streets late into Tuesday night, carrying banners saying “Corruption Kills” and chanting “Murderers!” In Bucharest, about 25,000 people marched to the government headquarters and the interior ministry on Tuesday.
“Victor Ponta is giving up his mandate. Someone needs to assume responsibility for what has happened. This a serious matter and we promise a quick resolution of the situation,” the head of the ruling leftist Social Democrat Party, Liviu Dragnea, told reporters in parliament.