Liviu Dragnea, president of the ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) in Romania, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for abuse of office on Thursday, in a decision by the Supreme Court that will likely be appealed by Dragnea. The court found Mr Dragnea guilty of personally intervening to keep two PSD members on the payroll of a welfare agency in his home county of Teleorman in southern Romania.
The opposition, joining the numerous citizens who took to the streets to protest against rampant corruption in the country, has unanimously called for Dragnea’s withdrawal from political life while his PSD colleagues have called the judges’ decision “unjust”, stressing that the ruling is not final.
Romanian President and fellow Social Democrat Viorica Dancila, has expressed her support for Dragnea. “The decision of the Supreme Court on the case of the President of the PSD shows us that in Romania the laws are still applied under the influence of arbitrariness,” she said in a press release.
It is not the first time that Dragnea has had problems with the law. In 2015 he received a two-year suspended sentence following a conviction for manipulated votes in a referendum, which barred him from running for the office of prime minister in 2016.
“Dragnea must leave politics: a man with two convictions can not lead Romania and dictate the country’s criminal policy”, commented former Prime Minister Dacian Ciolos of the opposition. Thousands of Romanians took to the streets to demonstrate against the widespread political corruption in the country, which among the highest in Europe.