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Senate speaker quits before rivals move against him in struggle to install new government

The speaker of Romania's Senate has resigned before the prime minister could remove him.

Liberal Party leader Crin Antonescu announced Tuesday on live television that he was leaving the country's second most powerful position, making himself the day's top news rather than the prime minister's struggle to get approval for a new government.

The Liberals, who had 10 ministers, quit the coalition on Feb. 25 after Prime Minister Victor Ponta refused to accept their nomination for interior minister, a popular mayor.

Ponta called the resignation "political suicide," while Antonescu urged Ponta to resign.

Parliament will vote later on a new leftist coalition of loyalists, ethnic Hungarians and a champion runner.

Antonescu is expected to be a candidate in Romania's presidential election in November. The incumbent, President Traian Basescu, will be stepping down after 10 years.