The leader of Romania’s ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD) has been sentenced to three and a half years in prison after the Romanian High Court upheld his conviction for corruption.
Minutes after having the sentence confirmed Liviu Dragnea was was transferred to Rahova prison in Bucharest to begin serving his sentence.
The failure of Dragnea’s appeal against a 2018 conviction for creating fictitious jobs for supporters adds to the woes of the ruling Social Democrats which suffered a significant decline in votes in Sunday’s European elections.
The jailing of Dragnea sees the probable end of his political career, which lately has been marked by a push for controversial judicial reforms that critics say threaten to undermine the independence of the judiciary and grant amnesty to corrupt politicians.
These reforms were roundly rejected in a referendum held on the same day as the European election results. Called by President Klaus Iohannis of the opposition Liberal party, 80 percent of voters sided against the government’s judicial measures in the non-binding poll.
Meanwhile, in the European elections, the Social Democrats came in second place to Iohannis’s National Liberal Party (PNL). The PNL got 26.2 percent of the votes while the PSD got 23.7 percent, a 13 percent fall in support since the last European Parliament elections in 2014.
Speaking after the referendum result was announced Iohannis said: “It is European Romania that wins this referendum. Now we live in a country where thieves and those who commit crimes are behind bars and not at the head of the state”.
With Mr Dragnea in prison, some of PSD deputies and senators could now be tempted to join the ranks of PRO Romania. Created by former Social Democrat Prime Minister Victor Ponta, a former friend of Mr Dragnea, the party won 7 percent of the vote in the European elections.
“The vote showed us what Romanians think of Liviu Dragnea,” said Mr Ponta. This man, blinded by arrogance and malice, pushed Romania, the government, Parliament and his own party into a pit.”
Prime Minister Viorica Dancila is expected to take the over presidency of the PSD until the party’s next congress. The opposition parties that won in the European elections have demanded the resignation of the social democratic government.