Romania: PSD chief Liviu Dragnea jailed

28 May 19

The man widely described as ‘Romania’s most powerful politician’ has been jailed on corruption charges relating to a fake jobs scandal.

Liviu Dragnea, the leader of Romania’s ruling Social Democrats (PSD), was taken into custody after the country’s Supreme Court upheld a graft conviction yesterday. He has been handed a three-and-a-half year sentence.

Dragnea is speaker of the lower house of parliament, but enjoyed considerable power setting the agenda of the PSD, which has been the dominant partner of the coalition government since 2017.

He was barred from standing as prime minister due to a previous conviction for attempting to rig a 2012 referendum to impeach the president.

Viorica Dancila, who has been serving as prime minister since last year, has now been appointed interim leader of the PSD.

Dragnea’s recent sentence concerns a stint as a local council leader in southern Romania, which ended in 2012. Prosecutors said he used his influence to procure fake jobs at a child protection agency, according to the BBC. He was found guilty of facilitating two PSD party members receiving payment from the agency for fake roles.

His arrest comes shortly after Romanians voted in a non-binding referendum for a ban on governments offering amnesties and pardons for graft-related crimes or using emergency decrees to change judicial legislation.

More than 80% of the vote favoured the corruption ban, according to Politico. The referendum was called by the country’s centrist president, Klaus Iohannis.

The Romanian government has repeatedly fallen foul of the European Commission for attempting to weaken the rule of law. Twelve countries including the US, Germany and France last month issued a joint warning against proposed emergency laws they said risked weakening Romania’s judiciary and ability to fight corruption.

Romania has been consistently ranked one of the EU’s most corrupt member states by Transparency International.

Support for the PSD fell sharply in last week’s European election, which came second to the alliance led by Mr Iohannis’ National Liberal Party (PNL).

Dancila told reporters at the party’s headquarters on Monday: “We will make an analysis to see what we did wrong and we will try to win back our electorate. I think the best solution would be to continue our governing programme.”

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