Leader of Romanian’s Social Democrats indicted

Leader of Romanian’s Social Democrats indicted
By Carmen Simion in Bucharest July 15, 2016

Romanian anticorruption prosecutors have indicted the leader of Romania’s Social Democratic Party (PSD) Liviu Dragnea for instigation to abuse of power and instigation to forgery when drawing up documents, the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) announced on July 15.

Dragnea, the head of Romania’s largest party, has already been given a two-year suspended prison sentence for his involvement in voter manipulation in a referendum on the impeachment of former President Traian Basescu back in 2012. The indictment might put extra pressure on the party ahead of the general elections which are expected to be organised this autumn.

The DNA claims in a statement that between 2006 and 2013, Dragnea, who at the time was the head of Teleorman county council and the leader of the local PSD branch, ordered the executive manager of Teleorman's general directorate of social assistance and child protection to violate her duties by keeping two employees on the payroll although they did not come to work. In fact, the two employees worked for the PSD's Teleorman branch.

Other employees of the Teleorman's general directorate of social assistance and child protection, including Dragnea’s former wife, Bombonica Prodana, have been indicted in the same file, being accused of abuse of office and instigation to abuse of office. DNA prosecutors claim the employees drew up and signed documents including assessments of the two employees, and even forged their signatures in order to justify their presence on the payroll.

The damage caused to the Teleorman general directorate of social assistance and child protection amounts to RON108,612 representing the salaries paid to the two employees who in fact worked for the PSD branch.

Despite the indictment, Dragnea is not expected to resign from the party leader post as he has refused to do so when he was given his suspended sentence. Moreover, the former Senate speaker, Valeriu Zgonea, lost the support of the PSD after he suggested that Dragnea should resign after a court issued the sentence.

Although it has a negative impact on the party’s image, the indictment might not have a strong impact on voters. Results from the recent local elections showed that the suspicion of corruption hanging over some candidates had no impact on voters. In Bucharest, for example, Robert Negoita, who was under investigation for tax evasion, won another mandate as mayor of Bucharest district 3, while Gabriel Mutu, under investigation for forgery, was elected the mayor of Bucharest district 6.

Dragnea resigned in May last year from from his positions of development minister and PSD executive president position after being found guilty for his involvement in the voter manipulation case. However, he was elected the party’s president for an interim term in July, only to be confirmed in the position a few months later. Dragnea replaced former Prime Minister Victor Ponta as head of the PSD after Ponta resigned from his position amid corruption allegations.

Romanian anti-corruption prosecutors have stepped up their efforts to fight high level corruption in recent years. The DNA reported a record year in 2015. It indicted over 1,250 people for high and medium-level corruption crimes, and 970 defendants received final convictions. Five times more ministers - including one sitting prime minister (Ponta) - and members of parliament were sent to trial in 2015 compared to 2013.