BUCHAREST, Romania – A mayor from a small political party was nominated on Wednesday to be Romania's new prime minister following the collapse of the country's government.
Klaus Johannis, mayor of the central city of Sibiu, held talks with the Social Democrats, the Liberal Party and the party that represents the interests of Romania's 1.4 million ethnic Hungarians. Together, the parties have a comfortable majority in parliament.
They sent the nomination to President Traian Basescu who needs to make an official proposal to Parliament which will then vote on it.
Given the political infighting and economic crisis that brought down Romania's government, the parties that nominated Johannis see it as a plus that his small party has never had a member of Parliament, and that his region of the country — Transylvania — is considered more Western-oriented in its outlook than other areas.
Before meeting with political leaders to discuss the nomination, Basescu said he wants a government of` "national unity" or one formed of mainstream politicians. He did not rule out Johannis, but only if his Cabinet ministers would be from main political parties.
Basescu added that he did not want a shaky government that would last only until Romania's Nov. 22 presidential elections. Earlier in the day, the president met with European Union ambassadors. Romania joined the EU in 2007.
Johannis, 50, told reporters he would prefer a government of nonpolitically aligned ministers and would reduce the size of the Cabinet. He said he was politically independent but would name ministers after consulting with the political parties that nominated him.
Romania's minority centrist government led by Prime Minister Emil Boc fell Tuesday after he lost a confidence motion in Parliament. Boc will continue to be prime minister, with limited powers, until a new government is approved by Parliament.
Commentators said that Johannis enjoys wide political and public support because he is an ethnic German and not a member of any of the mainstream parties. He is viewed as being removed from the bitter political feuding that has engulfed Romania in recent years.
Johannis is seen as having a West European approach in his management style. Sibiu was named the European cultural city of the year in 2007, and local authorities have been praised for the refurbishment of the old city center.
Meanwhile, concerns about political instability affecting Romania's agreement with the International Monetary Fund continued.
Romania's IMF representative, Mihai Tanasescu, said a delegation would arrive in Bucharest next week to determine whether the country — which is suffering a recession — can keep its agreement with the IMF, which gave it a $17.1 billion loan to help pay public salaries and pensions. The IMF is concerned that instability could lead to Romania being unable to meet a budget deficit of 5.9 percent.
Johannis, a former physics teacher and school inspector, was first elected mayor of Sibiu in 2000 and has been re-elected twice. In the last 2008 ballot, he received more than 80 percent of the vote. Johannis heads the Democratic Forum of Germans, a small centrist party devoted to the interests of Romania's 60,000 ethnic Germans. The party has never been represented in the Romanian parliament.