Wednesday, October 17, 2012

AFP: Calls to bar 'racist' soccer boss from Romania polls

BUCHAREST — Rights groups called on Romania's left-wing ruling coalition Tuesday to bar the accused-racist owner of Steaua Bucharest football club from running in December 9 parliamentary polls.

Members from several groups forming an "anti-discrimination coalition" wrote a letter to the ruling Social Liberal Union (USL) citing several of Gigi Becali's discriminatory remarks targeting women, homosexuals and Arabs.

"He has turned discrimination into his main political platform," the letter stated, adding that accepting Becali's candidacy would be "shocking and intolerable."

"We hope you will not help a misogynist, homophobic and racist politician become the Bucharest voters' representative in parliament," the groups said.

Becali did not immediately issue any public response.

The call came a day after the Liberals, who are part of the USL, said they wanted Becali to run for parliament as a USL candidate.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta and Senate speaker Crin Antonescu, who are also USL co-presidents, on Monday said they had nothing against Becali's candidacy.

Becali has been repeatedly fined by the national anti-discrimination council (CNCD) and by the professional soccer association for racist and insulting remarks.

Last week he picked on CNCD president Csaba Asztalos, a Hungarian ethnic. A few days later, four men attacked Asztalos in the street.

A wealthy businessman and member of the European parliament, Becali is facing trial over charges of graft and unlawful confinement.

Ponta's government has come under fire from international observers including the European Union after the coalition tried to remove the country's President Traian Basescu, a centre-right politician, in July.

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