- Peter Mircea-Ditiu
A New Start for Romania
Protests in Romania
No one wants a corrupt ruling party and luckily, Romania has managed to avoid this. Due to a larger turnout of Romanian people at the European Parliament Elections, the ruling party of the Romanian parliament, the SPD, suffered a major setback. Having had more than half of the seats in both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, the SPD has an unparalleled influence in the Romanian parliament. Expecting a comfortable and ordinary dominance in the elections, the socialist party fell to second place, behind the opposition the National Liberty party, only managing to get 22.67% of the votes, far less than their previous 37% in 2014. This party has never suffered any type of defeat in elections and now, for the first time in many years, the people of Romania made their sentiments evident.
One day later, on the 27th of May 2019, the leader of the SPD, Liviu Dragnea, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison. Dragnea was arrested on charges of corruption and inciting others to commit abuse of office. For a few years now, Romania has become heavily associated with corruption. Most of these constant headaches were all instigated by this man and his party. Liviu Dragnea was one of the most powerful men in all of Romania. Monica Macovei, a former Romanian justice minister who set up the anti-corruption institute called the DNA stated that “He is the person doing everything, telling all the ministers, the prime minister (what to do), they are all in his hands”. Although he was banned from being prime minister due to a previous conviction of vote rigging, he was seen as the leader of the government. He was also the key figure behind extremely controversial judicial reforms essentially decriminalising corruption, which sparked mass protests in the country and created tension between the country and the European Union. Guilty of electoral fraud, abuse of office, inciting others to commit abuse for office and forming an organised criminal group with the aim of stealing a number of funds, it is understandable why he was so mobilized to decriminalize corruption.
On the same day as the European elections, centrist president Klaus Iohannis called for a referendum to prevent the SPD from further attempting to decriminalize corruption. 80 per cent of voters opposed the methods promoted by the SPD to decrease corruption penalties.
One thing that was made clear by this experience, was the growing unrest among the Romanian population. Constantly being affiliated with corruption, frustrated the Romanian people. Television stations were live streaming Dragnea being taken into custody and crowds outside were shouting “Go to jail!”. The leader of the centrist party, Save Romania Union, (USR), Dan Barna said “Today’s ruling ends the Liviu Dragnea Era, one of the darkest times in politics of the last 30 years. We are returning to Europe.” Romania is currently ranked as one of the most corrupt members of the European Union by Transparency International but now it appears that Romania is approaching the light at the end of the tunnel. With Dragnea who was both the speaker of the lower house of parliament and the leader of the ruling party in Romania, in prison, it gives Romania the opportunity to restructure itself exactly how it wants to. Moreover, as suggested by Sergiu Miscoiu, who is a political science teacher at Babes-Bolyai University, this experience has shown that the justice system and institutions in Romania are still somewhat working regardless of the constant tension.
The population of Romania was undeniably, extremely unhappy under the rule of Liviu Dragnea. But now, with this man in prison and the future of Romania in their hands, they must ensure that they make the appropriate decisions so that they avoid enduring this complete catastrophe all over again.