BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — The Romanian prime minister on Monday announced the immediate resignation of himself and his government, saying he wanted to protect the stability of the country.
Emil Boc said he was resigning "to ease the social situation" — referring to weeks of protests in Romania over austerity measures that he introduced in 2010.
Boc, who became prime minister in 2008, urged Romania's feuding politicians to be mature and rapidly vote for a new government. He defended his record, saying that he had taken "difficult decisions thinking about the future of Romania, not because I wanted to, but because I had to."
He added that the International Monetary Fund has forecast growth of up to 2 percent this year — lower than expected, but higher than the European Union average.
Opposition politicians called for early parliamentary elections, which are currently scheduled for November.
"This is a victory for those that demonstrated on the streets," said Crin Antonescu, who heads the opposition Liberal Party. "The most corrupt, incompetent and lying government" since the 1989 anti-Communist revolt has gone, he said.
President Traian Basescu is expected to hold talks Monday with the country's political leaders about a new prime minister, his spokesman Valeriu Turcan said.
Romania signed up for a euro20 billion ($26 billion) loan with the IMF, the European Union and the World Bank in 2009 to help pay salaries and pensions, after the economy shrank by more than 7 percent. In 2010, the government increased sales tax from 19 percent to 24 percent and cut public workers' salaries by a quarter to reduce the budget deficit.
In January, Romanians staged weeks of protests to express anger at cronyism and a perception that the government is not interested in the problems of ordinary people in this nation of 22 million. They protested low living standards, widespread corruption, and the passage of some laws without a parliamentary debate.
"I know that I made difficult decisions, but the fruits have begun to appear," Boc said in a statement. "The most important thing is the economic stability of the country," he said, adding, "In times of crisis, the government is not in a popularity contest, but is saving the country."