AFP: Romanian cabinet changes tighten party chief's grip on power19 November 2018 | 23:00 | FOCUS News Agency
The move was seen as a bid by embattled Social Democratic Party (PSD) chief Liviu Dragnea, 55, to tighten his grip on power.
PSD leaders decided to change the ministers for transport, econonomy, culture, development, labor, sports, defence and communication.
Six were fired, while Lia Olguta Vasilescu, an ally of Drangea, moved from the labour to transport ministry. Defence Minister Mihai Fifor resigned earlier in the day.
Justice Minister Tudorel Toader kept his position, despite rumours that he too would be fired.
Speaking alongside Dragnea in a press conference, Prime Minister Viorica Dancila said the new cabinet would bring "added value" to the government. She also invoked preparations for taking over the six-month rotating EU Presidency in January.
"We're taking over the EU presidency and we need experienced people", Dancila said.
- No place for critics -
Meanwhile, Bucharest mayor and leading Dragnea critic Gabriela Firea lost all her PSD executive positions.
"It's just revenge", said Firea, who has repeatedly accused the party leader of "dictatorial" tendencies.
Dragnea led the PSD to a sweeping victory in 2016 elections but could not become prime minister owing to legal troubles that include a two-year suspended prison sentence for vote-rigging in a 2016 referendum.
He is widely considered to be the government kingmaker however.
In June, Dragnea was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison in connection with a fake jobs scandal, a conviction he has appealed.
He is also suspected of having used false documents to obtain EU funds.
The European Commission complained last week that Romania has backtracked on court reforms and urged Bucharest to fight corruption and ensure judicial independence.
The European Parliament has also warned Romania not to undermine courts and to fight corruption before it assumes the EU presidency.
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