Friday, August 12, 2022

Impeachment decision looms for Romanian president

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The leader of Romania’s ruling Social Democrats said Thursday the party will decide next week whether to impeach President Klaus Iohannis for violating the constitution.

The governing leftwing coalition accuses Iohannis of the centre-right opposition of delaying the sacking of a top anti-corruption prosecutor despite a court order.

“From my point of view, impeachment must be a serious option,” Liviu Dragnea, the powerful leader of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), told reporters in parliament on Thursday.

“He’s mocking the constitution. He seems uncomfortable with this (ruling) majority,” he added.

The remarks came a day after lawmakers voted through controversial changes to the penal code, a move condemned by Iohannis as “dictatorship of the majority”.

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The president says the decision is an attempt to overturn a prison sentence given to Liviu Dragnea.

Iohannis, an ethnic German, became president in 2014 for a five-year term after campaigning on an anti-corruption platform.

He announced last month that he would seek a second term at elections scheduled for 2019.

Since taking office, Iohannis has been locked in battle with the PSD over a wide range of issues.

He has denounced the party for attempting to weaken the fight against corruption in graft-riddled Romania, interfering the judicial system and implementing bad fiscal policies.

In a victory for the government in May, the Constitutional Court ordered the president to sack the highly popular head of the anti-graft office, Laura Codruta Kovesi, for “harming the image of the country”.

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However, Iohannis’ appeal for more time to consider the judgment has angered the party.

Dragnea, widely seen as the most powerful politician in the country, was sentenced last month to three-and-a-half years in prison over a fake jobs scandal, a decision he has appealed.

He could not serve as prime minister because of a previous conviction, in 2016, for vote-rigging during a referendum for the dismissal of former president Traian Basescu, who was twice impeached by the Social Democrats and their allies.

Impeachment is a lengthy and complex procedure in Romania that requires a ruling from the Constitutional Court and a national referendum within 30 days of the parliamentary vote triggering it.

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