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Romanian PM-Designate Loses Confidence Vote To Extend Political Crisis Amid COVID Surge.

BUCHAREST -- Romanian Prime Minister-designate Dacian Ciolos has failed in his bid to form the next government after his centrist minority cabinet was rejected in a confidence vote, extending the country's political crisis.

Ciolos's proposed cabinet received only 88 votes from lawmakers on October 20, well short of the 234 needed to be approved.

The political turmoil comes as one of the European Union's poorest states struggles with a surge in COVID-19 cases, a sluggish economy, and rising energy prices.

“Regardless of the result of the vote, regardless of the political struggle, we share the good or bad results with the citizens. We are in a time of deep crisis,” the 52-year-old Ciolos, who has previously served as prime minister, said.

Romanian lawmakers from across the political spectrum voted overwhelmingly on October 5 to topple Prime Minister Florin Citu's center-right minority government.

The move follows the USR withdrawal from Citu's National Liberal Party (PNL)-led government, complaining about his "dictatorial attitude" after he sacked several USR members of the coalition, including the justice and health ministers.

The ongoing crisis threatens to further hamper Romania’s efforts to tackle an alarming surge of COVID-19 infections in the nation of 19 million.

President Klaus Iohannis has called a meeting of government officials on October 20 to “establish clear, restrictive measures” to reduce the spread of COVID-19 infections after the country hit daily records in both coronavirus infections and deaths.

The country confirmed a record-high 18,863 new COVID-19 infections and 574 deaths in one day on October 19. It was the first time Romania surpassed 500 deaths in a single day.

Iohannis has called for increases in vaccinations, saying it is the only thing that has worked in all countries where the pandemic has slowed. He also tried to give assurances to skeptical Romanians that the vaccines available are safe and effective.

Romania has the second-lowest vaccination rate in the European Union behind Bulgaria. Just 34 percent of adults are fully inoculated, compared to the bloc average of 74 percent.

With reporting by Reuters and AP

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