A constitutional crisis is unfolding in Romania as the government is continuing to mount pressure on the President Klaus Iohannis to fire chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Codruța Kövesi, after she was accused of political bias.
Kövesi is currently serving her second term heading the anti-corruption agency (DNA), with her mandate is due to expire in 2019. During her two terms, she has brought charges against and secured the convictions of a number of prominent members of the political establishment, including the leader of the ruling Socialist Party of Romania, Liviu Dragnea.
In 2017, Kövesi’s DNA secured the conviction of 713 public officials, including 28 mayors, and a senator.
At the end of May, Romania’s Constitutional Court recommended that Iohannis fire Kövesi after a case was initiated against her by Justice Minister Tudorel Toader, who claims the prosecutor had exceeded her mandate and abused her position of power in 20 cases.
For his part, Iohannis has refused to fire Kövesi, saying no grounds exist for her dismissal.
The court’s ruling acknowledged the constitutional conflict between the two branches of government, over the future of Kövesi, but also said that the office of the President does not have the legal authority to defend the prosecutor.
Escalation of conflict
Dragnea warned Iohannis on June 11 not to make the “fatal mistake” of defying the court’s ruling, New.ro reports. Dragnea has tried to pressure Iohannis into following the court’s ruling by calling for mass demonstrations in the capital Bucharest.
The latest rally on June 9 saw up to 200,000 people gather in central Bucharest, backed by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), to demandKövesi’s ouster.
European news agencies reported that local officials that ranged from hospital managers to school headmasters told their employees that they must attend the rally. The ruling party, who is openly hostile to Kövesi, provided transportation for the demonstrators to bus them into Bucharest from across the country.
In a TV interview following the rally, Dragnea spoke of a “shadow state” financed by “foreign partners” that is undermining rule of law. Dragnea’s own conviction for a vote-rigging charge has barred him from claiming the premiership.
The opposition claims that the government wants to prevent the anti-corruption agency from being able to continue prosecuting prominent members of the government.