The Romanian parliament has rejected the request of the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) to lift Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s immunity regarding graft investigations on Tuesday.
The request was rejected with the support of 231 members of parliament, while the other 120 voted to lift Ponta’s immunity. According to AP, since Ponta’s centre left coalition dominates parliament the result was expected.
At the beginning of June, the DNA started a criminal investigation into Ponta over allegations of money forgery, tax evasion, money laundry, and conflict of interest. Because Ponta’s immunity has to be lifted by the Romanian parliament for further investigations, DNA prosecutors announced that they filed petitions calling for the abolishment of Ponta’s immunity.
Following the voting process in the parliament President Klaus Iohannis released a statement repeating his demand for the “whole government to resign, not just Ponta.”
"It is a proof of maximum irresponsibility and lack of respect for public opinion that most lawmakers are preventing justice from doing its duty ... to save a single person," Iohannis said.
The US embassy also released a statement saying “allegations of wrongdoing by government officials should be fully investigated without interference, and the law should be applied equally to everyone. "
Ponta rejected all allegations saying "I will present all evidence, because I haven't had any possibility up to now to do it, and I am absolutely sure that I am innocent."
Earlier this week, Ponta called the corruption accusation and ongoing probe into his activities an attempted “coup d’etat” against the Romanian government in order to destabilise the country.
Ponta rejected all demands that he resign, saying that the criminal case was set up by his political enemies.
The DNA has accused Ponta of using fake documents from a law firm to buy apartments and car when he worked as a lawmaker in the Social Democratic Party (PSD) between 2007 and 2008.
The investigators added that the law firm belongs to Ponta’s friend and former Infrastructure Projects of National Interest and Foreign Investment Minister Dan Sova, and Ponta received 40,000 euros from that firm although he did not work there.
Ponta’s questioning was part of a general DNA investigation which resulted in the arrests of several politicians, judges, prosecutors and media moguls including Elena Udrea, a former minister of tourism and former presidential candidate.
Ponta’s family members have also been investigated regarding the same allegations.
Centre-left Social Democratic Party (PSD) leader Victor Ponta has served as Romania’s president since 2012.
Friday’s vote of no-confidence
Ponta and his governing centre left coalition on Friday will face a vote of no-confidence demanded by Romania’s centrist opposition in parliament.
On Tuesday, Ponta said his government will “survive” the vote of no-confidence, which he claimed will end the political crisis in the country and will allow a return to focusing on the government’s upcoming International Monetary Fund (IMF) talks.
“I am convinced that after Friday’s vote in parliament things will be clear: we either have a solid majority - and I believe we do - or we’ll have another majority.”
Ponta said that "the leu's exchange rate, all data regarding investors' trust in Romania have yet to be altered so that's why it is fundamental to show that we are not dealing with a long-term crisis."
Romania is to meet with the IMF and European Commission in early July to revise Romania’s 4 billion aid deal and its plans for tax cuts.