A second criminal conviction for Romania’s de-facto leader is set to fan political tensions over corruption in the Black Sea nation.
Social Democrat boss Liviu Dragnea was handed a 3 1/2-year jail sentence for abuse of office, though he won’t be sent to prison until the appeals process has been exhausted. In a sign of the impending battle, the opposition urged him to quit as parliament speaker, while ruling-party officials rallied behind him in Bucharest.
The ruling will worsen the struggle between Romania’s top branches of government over an unprecedented anti-graft drive that’s locked up scores of officials. The Social Democrats say the initiative is politicised and unfairly targets its members. Their efforts to blunt it have brought mass demonstrations. Klaus Iohannis, president of the European Union and NATO member, backs the crackdown, as do the US and the EU.
“Dragnea is the strongest person in Romanian politics — he won’t yield without a political fight,” said Radu Magdin, a political consultant who’s worked with the Social Democrats. “I expect increased polarisation in politics and society.”
Dragea’s latest conviction stems from him installing two people as state employees when in reality they worked for his party. An earlier one carried a suspended jail term and already prevented him from leading the government.