Bucharest nightclub flame: PM and government resign after protests

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President to name new PM to form government after Victor Ponta resigns following protests by 20,000 people

The embattled Romanian “ministers ” has announced the resignation of his government following large protests over a nightclub fire that killed more than 30 people.

Im handing in my mandate. Im resigning and implicitly my government too, Victor Ponta told, adding that he would stay on until a new government was in place. I am obliged to take note of the legitimate grievances which exist in society. I hope handing in my and my governments mandate will fulfill the demands of protesters.

About 20,000 people held a demo in Bucharest on Tuesday evening, calling for the resignation of Ponta, the home minister, Gabriel Oprea, and Cristian Popescu Piedone, mayor of the district where the Colectiv nightclub was situated.

Some waved the national flag with holes in it a symbol of the popular revolution 25 years ago that toppled despot Nicolae Ceauescu. Many screamed shame on you and assassins.

Anger at the government has been growing, with many perceiving it as being corrupt, and last weeks fire delivered the final blow.

Piedone, who also resigned on Wednesday, said he was morally guilty for the deadliest fire in Romanias history. I presume the moral blame. As for the legal[ blame] I will leave it to justice to pronounce, he said.

President Klaus Iohannis wrote on his Facebook page late on Tuesday: I understand what is being asked and what is expected, and they are right, “someones got” take political responsibility. The next step is for legislators, who cannot dismiss this sentiment of revolt.

Victor Ponta: Im handing in my mandate. Photo: Vadim Ghirda/ AP

Witnesses said the fire broke out during a heavy metal concert in the cellar club when a spark kindled foam decor, sending people stampeding for the single-door exit. The death toll stands at 32, while 130 remain in hospital, dozens in a serious or critical condition.

Ponta, the countrys only sitting prime minister to stand trial for corruption, had been under pressure to resign from Iohannis, who defeated him in last Novembers presidential election.

Ponta, a Social Democrat, was indicted in July as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation and had his assets seized. The charges against Ponta include tax evasion, money laundering, conflict of interest and inducing false statements while he was working as a lawyer during 2007 and 2008. He was also a politician at the time. He denies wrongdoing.

The accusations against Ponta, who took office in 2012, include forging expense claims worth at least 181,000 lei( APS2 9,000) from the law firm of his political ally Dan Sova. Prosecutors allege he pretended he did work as a lawyer to justify getting money from the firm.

The funds were used to pay for two luxury apartments and the use of an SUV vehicle. Prosecutors say that after Ponta became “ministers ” in May 2012, he appointed Sova as pastor three times.

Ponta has immunity from some of the charges, including the conflict of interest accusation. But he does not have immunity for the tax evasion and money laundering charges. He had repeatedly ignored calls to resign and pledged to serve out his term until the end of 2016, when the country is scheduled to hold its next parliamentary elections

Pontas departure may lead to a political realignment in Romania, where a coalition of three parties form a majority in parliament. Iohannis, the former opposition leader, has said his aim was to bringing his former Liberals to power.

Ponta resigned as chairman of the ruling Social Democratic party in July saying he wanted to prove his innocence. I can carry any political battles but I cant fight with the people, Ponta told.

He will probably remain in his post with his cabinet until the president nominates a replacement.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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