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BUCHAREST, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Romanian lawmakers toppled the centrist minority government of Prime Minister Ludovic Orban on Wednesday, raising the prospect of an early election which Orban's party is confident of winning.
Striving to regain power after being ousted in a censure motion in October, the opposition Social Democrats (PSD) have criticized Orban for trying to alter electoral laws without public debate ahead of a mayoral ballot in June.
"This government is now dismissed by parliament by a large margin," said Marcel Ciolacu, the leader of the opposition Social Democrat Party, which spearheaded the no-confidence vote. "We did not create this crisis," he added.
Official data showed 261 lawmakers voted to topple Orban. The motion needed 233 votes to pass.
Commentators said the vote could open the way for an early election which Orban's Liberal Party (PNL) and its key ally, President Klaus Iohannis, have long sought, in order to take advantage of the Liberal's rising approval ratings.
Orban's PNL has doubled its popularity ratings to about 47% since a 2016 parliamentary election, while PSD's have halved to about 20% over the same period.
Romania, a European Union member, is currently expected to hold local and general polls in June and December respectively, with no more elections scheduled after that until 2024.
"This government has landed on its feet," Orban, who will now serve as an interim prime minister, told reporters in reference to the possibility of an early poll.
Iohannis is expected to call political parties for consultations on forming a new government on Thursday. He has made it clear his choice would only be Orban. (Editing by Toby Chopra)