Romania’s senate speaker declares war on anti-corruption agency

Romania’s senate speaker declares war on anti-corruption agency
By Carmen Simion in Bucharest October 17, 2016

Romania’s senate speaker Calin Popescu Tariceanu has asked MPs not to respond to any request from the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) to start an investigation into any politician.

Romanian MPs have blocked the activity of the DNA prosecutors several times by not allowing them to start investigations into MPs. Many MPs have questioned the DNA's methods and claim it is overreaching its mandate, though this appears to be motivated at least partly by the agency's scrutiny of their affairs. The European Commission has repeatedly criticised the parliament for failing to support the anti-corruption drive in the country in its annual Cooperation and Verification Mechanism, (CVM) reports. 

In a statement posted on the senate’s website on October 15, Tariceanu asked MPs to refuse to respond to any request from the DNA until the end of their mandate. A new parliament will be elected on December 11. 

“It is well known that I believe the DNA no longer serves justice, but behind the wall of necessary and legal fight against corruption, it has also become a tool used to annihilate political enemies of those who direct the activity of this institution through secret channels,” Tariceanu said.

“The scenario from the campaign for the local elections, when the DNA made public all sorts of inconsistent cases, which were later rejected by courts or about which we have heard nothing else since then, but which achieved their purpose of eliminating from the race unwanted and inconvenient candidates, is repeating now, before the campaign for the general elections. Old events, which happened five, six, seven or eight years ago are now returning to the DNA prosecutors’ attention, as a coincidence, only two months before the elections,” he added.

Tariceanu is a harsh critic of the DNA which he considers to be a “tool to annihilate political enemies of those who direct the activity of this institution through secret channels.” In July, the DNA indicted Tariceanu for perjury and for facilitating the perpetrators in a large-scale corruption case.

Tariceanu was an influential member of the National Liberal Party (PNL) until 2014, when the PNL ended its alliance with the left-wing Social Democratic Party (PSD). Since then, he has set up his own party, of liberal orientation.

Liviu Dragnea, the leader of the PSD, a close ally of ALDE, said on October 17 he understands Tariceanu’s preoccupation and asked President Klaus Iohannis to ask state institutions to stay away from the campaign.

“I have seen Mr. Tariceanu’s statement and I understand his preoccupation, it can be considered justified, but I am telling him that there are no reasons for concern because I am convinced that the law enforcement institutions will not get involved in the electoral campaign,” Dragnea said, according to Mediafax news agency.

The parliament has a history of refusing to allow DNA investigations into its members. The most recent case is that of former Interior Minister Gabriel Oprea, whom the DNA wanted to investigate on suspicion of manslaughter.

The parliament’s decision caused a public outcry. Oprea resigned from the senate following street protests and the prosecutors indicted him of manslaughter on October 17, according to press reports.

Two leaders of ALDE’s youth branch announced on October 17 they are leaving the party. They accused party leader Tariceanu of supporting corrupt politicians and carrying out an "anti-justice policy", local media reported.

The move came less than two months before the general elections and might weaken ALDE’s credibility. The two politicians claimed they are speaking in the name of other young people in several youth organisations. 

“We have chosen to make liberal policy with ALDE, believing that a former Liberal PM, the only Liberal PM after the revolution, a man who declared himself a Liberal even from the beginning of the nineties will make the policy we all want. We were wrong. We have been deceived,” Elena Alecu and Andrei Timis said in a statement quoted by News.ro.

The leaders of the youth branch claim Tariceanu has populated the party with politicians investigated and indicted for corruption whom he now supports in the general elections.

“We are young people who want to make policy. Liberal policy, not anti-justice policy. ALDE, a political project which had a nice start, has become in the past month the safety belt Tariceanu offers to outlaws,” the statement added.

According to a poll conducted by Kantar-TNS for Save Romania Union (USR), PSD and ALDE are expected to get a combined 52% of the votes and 56% of the seats in the upcoming election.

The PSD would get 45% of the votes, followed by PNL with 25% of the votes. USR is ranked as the third largest party with 10% of the votes and only two other parties would meet the 5% threshold: ALDE (7%) and Hungarians’ party UDMR (5%).

 

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