Tuesday, October 8, 2013

AFP: Romania deputy PM to face trial over referendum fraud

Romanian deputy Prime Minister Liviu Dragnea will face trial over alleged fraud in last year's impeachment referendum against the president, prosecutors said Monday.

Dragnea, formerly secretary-general of the Social Democrats (PSD), was charged with "using his influence and authority within the party in order to obtain undue electoral advantages", a press release of the anti-corruption prosecutor's office (DNA) said.

The centre-left governing USL coalition called a referendum in July 2012 to impeach rival President Traian Basescu. The Constitutional Court at the time ruled that the vote would be valid only if the turnout exceeded 50 percent.

To mobilize voters, "Dragnea coordinated a complex mechanism ... aimed at altering the referendum turnout", prosecutors said.

He allegedly called on local party leaders "to do their best and break the law" if needed, just to help reach the turnout threshold.

The vote eventually failed to reach the requisite threshold and the president re-assumed office after being suspended although 87 percent of voters had said they wanted Basescu to go.

Besides Dragnea, 74 other people including local PSD leaders and polling-station officials will also face trial over fraud charges.

Dragnea claims he is innocent and said he would not step down.

"I am confident the judges will refute these 100-percent political allegations," Prime Minister Victor Ponta said, blaming Basescu for the case against Dragnea.

The European Union and the United States last year vigorously criticised the USL's contentious moves to impeach Basescu.

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