Perhaps, in other countries, presidents who are currently during their last week of mandate would usually make a final report of their activity and would assume the position of an observer or of a neutral viewer to the electoral campaign that decides the destiny of his future successor to the highest position in the state.
Things are quite different in Romania, where the present President in function, Traian Basescu, ignores the boundaries and the rules imposed by the Constitution and becomes an increasingly active attendant to the electoral campaign, launching unleashed attacks, in an unprecedented aggressive language, targeted at the main electoral adversaries of his favourite candidate: Ms. Elena Udrea, President of the People’s Movement Party.
The support granted by Mr. Traian Basescu to Ms. Elena Udrea is hardly anything new. Nonetheless, on Monday evening, the head of the state launched an endless range of accusations, more vehement than ever before, against the opponents of the PMP candidate, especially against the present PM Victor Ponta, the ACL candidate Klaus Iohannis and the independent Candidate Teodor Melescanu, former head of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE). Basescu’s attacks against Ponta and Iohannis started on Monday evening, during a declaration that was broadcasted live from the Cotroceni Palace, in prime time. They went on, on a harsher tone, at Realitatea TV, on the set of the talk show “Jocuri de putere” (“Power Games”), which featured Traian Basescu as the invited guest of TV host Rares Bogdan. Yet, Basescu did more than continue attacking Ponta and Iohannis; he started a rough and unexpected attack against Melescanu as well, whom he accused of having protected Victor Ponta and having been his “accomplice” in his position as head of SIE.”
While the President’s attacks targeting Victor Ponta and Klaus Iohannis were nothing new and, therefore, meant no surprise to anyone, or, at least, no more than usual, his wild criticism aiming the former head of SIE left the analysts speechless. Especially that, after last week’s war of declarations against Justice and the Supreme Court of Magistrate, this time, Basescu grabbed the opportunity to antagonize, for the first time, the activity of an intelligence service, as well.
Basescu: “I have the right to an option, too!”
In a declaration broadcasted live on TV, made on Monday evening at the Cotroceni Palace, Traian Basescu added that he will continue supporting Elena Udrea, the PMP leader, in her candidacy for Presidency, because “she is a fair person, she is a person who does not lie and a person who really made a difference while she was a Minister”. He powerfully outlined that he does support neither Victor Ponta, nor Klaus Iohannis, and that he had to agreement with them.
“PSD stated that I had an agreement with Iohannis, PSD and all of their propaganda makers, ACL and all of their propaganda makers, unfortunately even people who claim to belong to the right wing entered this area, although, two months ago, many of them were trying their hardest to win Ponta’s affinity; and now, they are the ones to stir rumours that the President has made an agreement with Ponta. I will disappoint both groups by declaring that I do not support, and will not support Ponta, and I have no agreement with him; and also, I do not support and will not support Iohannis, and I have no agreement with him”, Basescu declared.
“Ponta and Iohannis are liars and corrupt”
Basescu explained: “The reason (for lack of support, editor’s note) goes for both of them and may be expressed shortly, in two words: both of them are liars, both of them are corrupt.”
“Let us not mention the opportunism that defines both of them”, the President added afterwards.
Asked a question after his declaration, regarding the fact that the statements he had just made might violate the Constitution, President Traian Basescu declared: “I also have the right to an option and, perhaps, I might want to let Romanians know what it is, just like you do. The president may be covered with insults, over and over, all day long, and yet, when the president takes a stand, all of you act so surprised: “Oh, my god, what did the President say, in his official position!”
The head of the state continued: “Today, in my official position, I just told you that neither Ponta, nor Iohannis is a solution for Romania and that Romanians will deeply regret their choice a few months after the elections, if one of them wins the position of President.
“There are people who would be better for Romania than Udrea, but they are not running”
While on the set of Realitatea TV, Basescu expressed the opinion that there are politicians who would make better presidents for Romania than Elena Udrea, but they are not attending the elections. Moreover, he outlined that he appreciated the PMP candidate’s “light nationalism”.
When asked a question about people who might be more adequate for Romania than Elena Udrea, the Head of the State gave a positive answer, yet refused to mention any names.
He said that, of all candidates, Elena Udrea would be the best choice for the top position in the state, because she is not a liar and she has proved, as a minister, that she is able to make a difference. Besides, Basescu pointed out that he appreciated Udrea’s “light nationalism”, mentioning though that, in his opinion, patriotism and the love for one’s country “should be kept inside their soul”.
“Ponta was a SIE undercover officer during 1997 – 2001”
During his Monday evening interview for Realitatea TV, President Traian Basescu also revealed the name of the former undercover officer hiding among the presidential candidates, the undercover officer he had made subtle hints at a few weeks ago, without mentioning back then who he was. This time, Traian Basescu declared: “Prime Minister Victor Ponta was a SIE undercover officer during 1997 – 2001”.
The head of the state had declared that one of the candidates must come out and reveal his identity as an undercover officer, otherwise “he will have his former boss laughing him in the face”. “He will laugh him in the face when he becomes president. The fact he is laughing him in the face right now, when he is Prime Minister, is still acceptable”, Basescu continued.
“Victor Ponta must admit that he had been a SIE undercover officer during 1997 -2001”, the head of the state announced, mentioning that this fact also explains his “ascension”.
“He had this position during 1997 – 2001, which also gives an explanation regarding his sudden rise from District I Court Prosecutors’ Office straight to the General Prosecutors’ Office. “This is not a bomb, this is a fact and I am ready to prove it”, Basescu further mentioned.
“Melescanu initiated a government decree protecting former officers, signed by Ponta”
In order to support his claim that Victor Ponta was a SIE officer, Basescu presented on Monday, during his interview for Realitatea TV, a government decree, initiated by Teodor Melescanu and signed by the Prime-Minister, extending the protection granted to officers upon those who had finished their work for the Service.
Basescu mentioned that this decree was not submitted to the Supreme Council of National Defence (CSAT), as it should have been, and also mentioned that, if the decree would have been submitted to CSAT, he would have overruled it. The President also explained that he does not even think that the decree was ever voted in the Government, merely claiming that Melescanu started it and Ponta signed it.
The head of the state also mentioned that Melescanu was a friend of Ponta’s father-in-law, Ilie Sarbu. He mentioned that he had not noticed the government decree from the very beginning; he discovered it only after Senator Valer Marian questioned Ponta on whether he had been an undercover officer of SIE during 1997 – 2001.
Basescu also declared that Melescanu had initiated a government decree that changed a law adopted during the Adrian Nastase government and declassified SIE activities, while also violating the laws regulating the activity of the service, in order to cover PM Victor Ponta.
He explained that the initial government decree adopted by the Nastase government had adopted a list including categories of intelligence services included in the field of activity of SIE and that it had a secret addendum that was never published.
This government decree mentioned that only the identities of SIE personnel represented a state secret, “not those of the agents”, Basescu mentioned.
Government decree no. 233 of April 2013 made an extension, including on the list of stare secrets “the personnel in the field of intelligence-related activities, even after the time of employment or collaboration is over”, Basescu mentioned, showing that the addendum was no longer a secret. This represented a violation of the Service Law that stipulated that “the activity of SIE must be a state secret”.
When asked who the initiator of the government decree was, Traian Basescu stated it was Teodor Melescanu, adding that, afterwards, the decree was signed by Victor Ponta. “I really do not think there was any discussion on this topic in the Government. (…) But, before getting voted by the Government, this decree should have been passed through CSAT, because only CSAT is entitled to approve the classification of documents referring to intelligence services. (…) If it would have been submitted to CSAT, I would have never approved that extension, at point 4, that even persons who no longer work for SIE should be kept secret for their entire lives. Such thing is not possible”, Basescu stated.
Moreover, he pointed out that, by this government decree, TeodorMelescanu and Victor Ponta “increased the vulnerability” of SIE.
Asked whether Melescanu was an accomplice to this deed, Basescu answered: “Totally”. “I was terribly annoyed by this political game. I was dismayed that a man I appointed and trusted – Mr. Melescanu – was able to be part of a game like this, unjustly dragging the Service in a political action merely to cover a politician who, at that time, was no longer a member of the Foreign Intelligence Service. “I am not as mad at Victor Ponta as I am at Melescanu for revealing all activities that were state secrets and publishing them in the Official Monitor merely to make that extension from active officers to retired ones”, the head of the state declared.
Ponta on being an undercover officer:
“These are nothing but lies; the President is extremely troubled and disturbed”
On Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Victor Ponta declared that the statements made by Traian Basescu on his alleged work as an undercover officer are “nothing but lies”. Ponta continued by saying that the President is “extremely troubled and disturbed” and that “Romania no longer has to depend on the issues of one person”.
PM Victor Ponta was in Iasi on Tuesday morning, preparing his attendance to the St. Parascheva Holy Mass, when he had the first reaction to Traian Basescu’s statements, accusing him of being a former undercover officer.
“For many years, I am a regular attendant to the celebration of St. Parascheva, beside the Mayor of the city, of local authorities and the Metropolitan bishop of Moldova and I am happy that, unlike the last few years, God helped us and the weather is sunny. I hope Romania will be better and sunnier from now on. I understood that, last night, President Basescu has continued his attacks, not only against me, but against all candidates. After ten years of lies and dirty games, after witnessing how President Basescu had used all the institutions of the state in his personal interest, today, we are counting 33 days of this tragedy that lasted for nine years and eleven months (Basescu’s time as President, editor’s note). In my point of view, anything President Basescu will say or do during these 33 days will be a mere example of how not to behave when I become President. I did not check whether his latest statements violated the laws, but, if they did, we certainly will demand a proper sanction. But, until then, during these 33 days, we must show that we can be different and that Romania can be different, after these nine years and eleven months of defamation and dirty hits below the belt”, the Prime Minister declared.
He also mentioned that, ever since 1995, when he graduated the Law University, he always acted according to the law, he served his country and he intended to continue doing so.
“As for me, I am telling you very clearly and very frankly that, after I graduated the Law University, in 1995, and up to this day – there are almost 20 years gone – I always acted according to my country’s laws, I served my country as a magistrate, as a deputy, as a minister and I will continue doing so as Romania’s President”, Victor Ponta declared.
Finally asked whether there was anything true in Basescu’s statements of Monday evening, Ponta declared: “No, they are nothing but lies”.
Iohannis on Basescu’s accusations: “The existence of these accusations does not mean they are true”
The leader of PNL and ACL candidate for Presidency Klaus Iohannis declared on Monday morning that the mere fact that President Traian Basescu had launched accusations concerning him is not a proof that they are true, mentioning that the statements made by the head of the state show why Iohannis intends a “different approach to politics”.
Iohannis was asked on Monday night what he had to comment on President Traian Basescu’s accusations. “See, this is why I intend to have a different approach to politics in Romania. I am sick of this never ending, useless controversy that leads to nothing good. I will not give any answer, because this approach to politics is not my style”, the PNL leader declared.
He was asked how he saw the vehement accusations of corruption. “The mere existence of these accusations does not mean they are true. This is precisely the kind of politics I want to change. It is very simple and I am going to do it”, Iohannis declared.
Moreover, the president of PNL was asked about the Grivco situation, one of the accusations President Basescu had brought up against him. “Well, this entire Grivco story is so old and over discussed”, Iohannis declared.
Questioned what President Basescu’s purpose was in making all these statements, Iohannis answered: “The purpose of the statements may be found precisely in the statements, and it is as you all understood pretty well”. He also recommended the head of the state to stop worrying uselessly as far as the trial with ANI and its impact on the right wing was concerned.
Moreover, Iohannis was asked whether Basescu’s attacks could mean that his voters will no longer support him for the second round. “We will see that. I am not having a dialogue with the President, or with the Prime Minister, I am having a dialogue with the voters. Everybody has already understood what this was all about, everybody understood pretty well why I intend to have a different approach to politics in Romania, free of all this controversy and noise, and focused on finding solutions to Romania’s problems, not to invented issues, and this makes me truly optimistic”, the ACL candidate to Presidency pointed out, mentioning that he did not believe in notions such as “the electorate of X or Y”.
“People will see two candidates in round two, they will see who did what, and what they failed to do, and they will vote. I have full trust in them and know that they will vote well”, Iohannis declared.
Iohannis urged Prime Minister Victor Ponta to clarify his ‘situation’ and explain what is true of allegations he was a Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) officer between 1997 and 2001.
‘Allegations have been made that raise major question marks as to the past of one of the candidates for president, namely Mr Victor Ponta. Given that such issues and such allegations are very serious, they cannot be covered up. I urge Mr Victor Ponta to clarify his situation before the nation, to shed light on this matter and explain us very well what things are true and what not true of what has been said about him’, Iohannis said at the National Liberal Party (PNL) headquarters.
According to Iohannis, the incumbent prime minister ‘cannot be the president of Romania’, since he is ‘a liar, double-dealing and pawn politician’.
‘Mr Ponta, what other things have you also hidden in your CV? What other things have you not told us and should have told,?’ the Liberal chairman asked.
Melescanu: “It’s illegal and immoral to drag intelligence services into an electoral scandal”
Ex-SIE head Teodor Melescanu told a press conference on Tuesday that Traian Basescu was the first post-Revolution president to have asked intelligence services to give him lists of covert officers, and added that the head of state broke the law by making the statements he made Monday night.
‘Traian Basescu is the first post-1989 president to have asked intelligence services to give him lists of covert officers. To which end that served him, you could see last night’, Melescanu said.
He said the answer he had sent to the president to such a solicitation was made on behalf of the Service, according to the law.
Melescanu said the law in question is law 1/1998 which, he says; the president broke by the things he said Monday night. More exactly, the stipulation that ‘sources of information, methods and means of labour may not be disclosed to anyone and under no circumstance’.
Teodor Mele?canu refused to confirm or deny what the president said about Victor Ponta having been a covert officer between 1997 and 2001.
‘I do not cover or uncover anyone’, the ex-SIE head added.
Melescanu said President Traian Basescu had visited the headquarters of the Service asking to have a meeting with the entire operative leadership, where he demanded access to all information. Melescanu said that, during the meeting, Basescu ‘expressed his decision, with arguments, that he had to gain access to all information’.
He noted that the answer of the SIE leadership was that the president already had access to all information he needs for his activity as head of state, but not to sources or anything else that pertains to the ‘internal kitchen’.
Melescanu added he is ‘deeply disappointed’ by the way President Traian Basescu chose to end his term, and points out it is ‘illegal and immoral’ to drag intelligence services into an electoral scandal.
‘I am deeply disappointed by the way the President ends his term. After they permanently served Romania’s interests for 10 years, it is illegal and immoral to drag the intelligence services into an electoral scandal. It shows naivety to think that such a scandal could be beneficial to a certain candidate, as Romanians know very well why they do not vote for one candidate or another. I therefore carry on my candidacy, getting a renewed impetus and an additional argument for Romania’s need for a serious, honest and lucid political project,’ Melescanu declared .Asked whether the unfolding scandal of undercover officers has a negative impact on Romania on the international level, Melescanu answered, ‘Definitely yes. Any disclosure of the identity of an undercover officer who participated in various operations results, if they are exposed, into a review of all the instances where they were present in a country, by the partner and non-partner services of other countries, based on the idea that such a presence was hostile; this results in many difficulties for us, both in terms of service and of image,’ he explained.
Udrea asks Ponta, Melescanu to withdraw their presidential bids
The presidential candidate of the People’s Movement Party (PMP), Elena Udrea on Tuesday requested Victor Ponta to withdraw from the presidential race and resign as prime minister, following President Basescu’s statement according to which Ponta was an undercover officer of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) between 1997 and 2001.
The PMP leader also demanded Teodor Melescanu to give up to his presidential candidacy.
“In light of the statements made by President Traian Basescu yesterday evening, I take note of the serious situation facing Romania. The Prime Minister of Government and candidate for Romanian President, with best chances of winning the elections, according to survey polls, has violated Romania’s Constitution. He has violated the law and he has lied this whole time, over the past few years. … Mr. Victor Ponta was an undercover officer. At the same time, he was also prosecutor of Romania. According to the 1991 Constitution, in force until 2003, article 131, paragraph 2, the position of prosecutor is incompatible to any other public or private position, except for teaching positions in higher education units. Mr. Victor Ponta has broken Romania’s Constitution when being prosecutor and SIE undercover officer at the same time,” the PMP candidate told a press conference on Tuesday.
Elena Udrea added that Victor Ponta also violated article 111 of Law no. 92/1992 reading that “the position of magistrate is incompatible to any other public or private position except for teaching positions in higher education units.’
Moreover, Elena Udrea called for the resignation of the members of the SIE control commission in Romania’s Parliament, given the fact that this commission “has been aware and covered up this situation this whole time.” The PMP candidate also accused Teodor Melescanu of “being guilty for having covered up for Victor Ponta.”
“As head of SIE, he has covered up for Victor Ponta, he supported the legislative initiatives Victor Ponta had this year to cover up his situation between 1997 and 2001. … Mr. Melescanu knows things about Victor Ponta, but he keeps them secret or he uses them as Victor Ponta wants,” said Udrea.
She also requested Teodor Melescanu to withdraw his presidential bid.
Macovei: “Ponta should resign and withdraw his candidacy”
Victor Ponta must resign this moment from the office of Prime Minister and withdraw his candidacy for Romania’s president, says independent candidate Monica Macovei, in a press release remitted on Tuesday to mass media.
“After resignation and withdrawal, Ponta must explain to the people why he infringed the Constitution and lied so many years. According to the Constitution, Ponta, as a prosecutor, was not allowed to be a SIE [Foreign Intelligence Service] officer, the two posts being incompatible. The incompatibility is provided for in art. 132, paragraph 2 of the Constitution now in force and in art. 131, paragraph 2 of the Constitution in force between 1991 and 2003. Ponta and those in SIE who have recruited Ponta by infringing the constitution must answer”, Macovei shows.
She believes that several questions arise: what trust can Romanians and NATO partners of Romania place “in a Prime Minister who was a covert officer that was, probably, spying on Romania’s western allies?”, what trust can Romanians and NATO partners of Romania place “in a Prime Minister who was a covert officer and who intervenes in favor of a Russian company suspected of tax evasion and money laundering on the instructions of the Russian ambassador?”.
“What trust can Romanians and NATO partners of Romania place in a Prime Minister who was a covert officer that has ceded, totally inexplicably, through financial scheming, to Kaz Munai Gaz, 400 million dollars that the company owed to the Romanian state? What trust can Romanians and NATO partners of Romania place in him as a Prime Minister or President? Do the Russians have something on officer Ponta? Or is Ponta a simple bribe-taker? Can such a person be a Prime Minister or a Presidential candidate?”, Macovei concludes.
SIE Committee chairman wants to hear Service head following Basescu’s statements
The Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for the Control of SIE, Mihaita Calimente, said on Tuesday that he would ask to hold hearings of the interim SIE head about the allegations made by President Traian Basescu against Teodor Melescanu and the fact that Prime-Minister Victor Ponta supposedly was a covert officer.
‘Because the president also presented some documents, because he incriminates also the former director of the Service one way or another – he said that, after that incident, he stopped communicating with the Service via Mr. Melescanu, but talked directly to his deputies, who are officers, we want to talk to Mr. Predoiu, who is not interim President of the Service, to check if what the president says is true or not’, Calimente said.
He also said that the issuance of the government decision presented by Traian Basescu, with a not secret character, disclosed the activity of SIE. ‘If there is that Government decision – the only thing is that the one before referred directly to the institution, and this is what the president accuses, that, under Mr. Ponta’s signature, a new decision was made adding things and disclosing the type of activities performed by the Service, since, in the first decision, that section was secretised, Calimente added.
The chairman of the SIE Committee was asked how Teodor Melescanu had sent the letter regarding the covert officers, if he was asked to bring clarifications on that.
‘When the president made those assertions, I received a phone call from Mr. Sarbu, who is Deputy Chairman of the Committee, who told me we should call the Committee in session. Because I was at home, in my constituency – it was a Thursday or a Friday when that happened – I waited until I returned to Bucharest on Monday to call the meeting. To my surprise, when I got to the Parliament, at the Committee, the answer had already come, telling me that the institution had taken action automatically’. Calimente said.
He said the answer sent by Melescanu noted that there were no covert officers in the Government.
Tariceanu: “Basescu created a vulnerability for SIE”
Senate Chairman and independent presidential candidate Calin Popescu-Tariceanu says President Traian Basescu’s created ‘a vulnerability’ for the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE) by declaring that Prime Minister Victor Ponta was an undercover officer of this service between 1997 and 2001.