Emil Boc, the prime minister of Romania, has resigned after three weeks of street protests against his government's anti-austerity measures.
Boc announced the decision to "give up the government's mandate" after meeting with his cabinet, in a speech broadcast live on national television Monday morning. President Traian Băsescu has appointed Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu as interim PM.
It is hoped the move will "defuse political and social tension," the BBC quoted Boc as saying. "It is the moment for important political decisions."
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The announcement comes after thousands of protesters demanded that Boc and Băsescu resign and early elections be called, decrying wage cuts, tax hikes and alleged government corruption.
Taxes have increased and public wages have dropped by 25 percent since 2009, when the Romanian government took a two-year $27.5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the World Bank. In return, Romania pledged to impose the tough austerity measures that are now attracting public ire.
According to the Associated Press, Boc 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."
Romania's next parliamentary elections are not due until November. President Băsescu is expected to bring them forward to the summer, according to the BBC.
The left-wing USL opposition alliance has been leading in opinion polls with more than 50 percent approval, Reuters reported. Boc's ruling PDL party scores less than 20 percent.
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