Romanian deputies debate plan to topple government

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BUCHAREST, Oct 3 (Reuters) Romania's parliament launched debate on a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu's minority government today, with deputies from the divided opposition likely to decide his cabinet's fate.

Analysts say Tariceanu, who lost his majority when his Liberal Party split with its allies, can survive the cliffhanger vote because some leftist deputies from the Social Democrat Party (PSD) may refuse to oust him.

Results of the ballot are expected after 1930 IST.

Tariceanu has won praise for speeding up reforms that earned Romania entry to the European Union in January, but political feuds, particularly with President Traian Basescu, have stalled policy momentum.

Analysts say the collapse of Tariceanu's troubled cabinet could give Basescu a chance to glue back together a centrist majority of his Democrat Party and the Liberals under a new prime minister.

Tariceanu defended his record and said his 3-year-old cabinet needed to stay in power.

''I know for sure that Romania will stagnate if internal political disputes continue,'' he told the legislature.

A new cabinet would have a good shot at reviving reforms before the next parliamentary election scheduled for late 2008, analysts and diplomats say.

But talks on forming a new coalition could also delay debate on the 2008 budget, which the government needs to approve this month and which should outline plans to tap EU funds.

Tariceanu may yet survive the vote because of splits within the PSD. It backed the prime minister in recent months, but has recently changed tack, saying the government failed to curb poverty and absorb EU aid.

''Almost 80 per cent of Romanians do not experience the benefits of economic growth,'' PSD head Mircea Geoana said.

The no-confidence motion requires support from at least 232 out of 462 votes in both houses of parliament.

The PSD has 146 seats. Along with 77 Democrat deputies and some 30 deputies who have left Tariceanu's Liberal party, they have enough votes to remove Tariceanu.

But analysts say many PSD deputies may defy the leadership and hold fire in the secret ballot, loathe to torpedo a weak cabinet which they now have influence over.

Romanian media have speculated that a top candidate for Tariceanu's job could be former Interior Minister Vasile Blaga, praised in Brussels for his work in helping Romania join the EU.

REUTERS SKB BD1920

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