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Opposition leader says has votes to topple Romania's cabinet

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania’s opposition Social Democrat Party said on Thursday it had the votes needed to topple the centrist minority government of Prime Minister Ludovic Orban in a no confidence vote on Monday over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

FILE PHOTO: Romania's Prime Minister Ludovic Orban listens during a panel discussion at the annual Munich Security Conference in Germany February 16, 2020. REUTERS/Andreas Gebert/File Photo

The government has challenged the vote in the Constitutional Court, saying lawmakers cannot file a no confidence motion while parliament is on recess. The court has said it will only set a date to hand down its ruling after Sept. 1, but the Social Democrats have already scheduled the vote for Aug. 31.

“At the moment, we have sufficient votes for the motion to pass,” Social Democrat leader Marcel Ciolacu told reporters. “If it doesn’t, it is possible we will file another one in September.”

Analysts said the Social Democrats’ move is aimed at boosting their profile ahead of local and parliamentary elections in the weeks ahead.

The Social Democrats, who lost control of government late last year but remain parliament’s largest party, have seen their popular support halve since sweeping a 2016 parliamentary election, following repeated attempts to weaken the rule of law.

If the vote were held and the government were to be defeated, it would be likely to stay in place on an interim basis until the local election on Sept. 27 and a parliamentary poll expected in December.

Centrist President Klaus Iohannis, an ally of Orban’s government, has repeatedly said he would not designate a Social Democrat as prime minister, even if the party had a majority with other small parties.

However, an interim cabinet cannot issue emergency decrees, an instrument Orban has used to contain or stall social spending measures approved by lawmakers.

Romania has reported 83,150 coronavirus infections and 3,459 deaths since late February and the government has extended a state of alert until mid-September.

The Romanian leu was flat on the day against the euro.

Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Alison Williams