PM Victor Ponta heard as witness in Referendum case:PSD used a computer-aided system other parties were also using to check the voter turnout

PSD President Victor Ponta (photo R) was heard on Wednesday by the High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ) as a witness in the case where party Vice-President Liviu Dragnea (photo L)  had been brought to trial for a fraud related to the referendum of July 2012. Ponta said that for the 2012 referendum called for unseating then President Traian Basescu, the Social Democratic Party (PSD) used a computer-aided system other parties were also using to check the voter turnout, which is absolutely legal.

The court on Wednesday ordered the download from the Central Electoral Bureau of all the decisions issued by this institution in regards with the referendum of 2012, the documents to be assessed in the session of March 19.

At the same time, the judges established the debates on the body of evidence on March 30.

‘I want to tell the truth. I wanted to tell the truth in front of the prosecutor, but the prosecutor would not have me’, Ponta said as he had arrived to ICCJ, referring to the fact that the case prosecutor had refused to hear him when he dealt with the case.

According to Mediafax, the President of PSD, PM Victor Ponta, said he could not remember if he, too, had received on his private telephone a text message signed by Liviu Dragnea, sent from the number 1855, on the day of the 2012 referendum, but noted that he knew that calls to vote were being exclusively sent from the national party structures.


Ponta: I knew SMSs with calls to vote were beings sent out


Asked at ICCJ if, on the day of the referendum, he had received from the number 1855 a SMS signed by Liviu Dragnea, Ponta answered: ‘I can’t remember if I received a text message on my private telephone, but I was aware that they were sending SMSs from the central structures only to call people to the polls. Not to sound impersonal, the messages were signed, but it doesn’t mean that Dragnea was personally texting people, it would have been impossible. It’s a text messaging system used by telephony operators for other types of campaigns – humanitarian, advertising’.

In the case prepared by the prosecutors there is a suspicion that the text messaging system used a data base with the telephone number of the person reporting the data and with the polling station from where figures were being reported, to which a SMS was sent from the number 1855, notifying them to separately report the turnout per station and the number of votes in favour and opposed in that particular polling station.

In Court, Victor Ponta pointed out that he knew the text messaging system used by the Social-Liberal Union (USL) during the 2012 referendum and how the application operated, but noted that it only recorded the turnout and data from the reports, not the number of votes in favour and opposed as well.

He explained that, ever since the 2009 presidential election, his party, the Social-Democratic Party (PSD) had decided to implement a system to check turnout, similarly to other parties, the Liberal Democratic Party (PDL) being the first party using such system.

‘When I became the president of PSD, I decided to implement this system PSD first used for the June 2012 local election, then for all types of elections, including in November 2014, like other parties’, Ponta said in Court.

Asked if he had participated in the meeting of the party Executive Committee where the system had been approved, Ponta said that, initially, the USL meeting had decided to put Liviu Dragnea (for PSD) and Eduard Hellvig – currently head of the Romanian Intelligence Service – (for PNL) in charge of the campaign for the 2012 referendum and that the joint campaign headquarters would be the one in Kiselleff, as it offered better logistical conditions.

Asked if the application was however presented during that meeting, Ponta said the common decisions were implemented in each of the parties afterwards.


We used the application to only know the turnout, as other parties were doing


‘We knew the application and its operation through text messages from our representatives in the polling stations and data uploaded to the software’, Ponta said. He added that the main condition based on which USL had approved the system was to only check the turnout as other parties were doing and that the system also allowed the sending of results from the official reports prepared in each polling station after the sealing of the ballot boxes, ‘a parallel vote count’ all other parties do, very accurate and close to official results.

Asked if the application had been also used for sending the number of votes in favour and opposed during the voting day, Ponta answered negatively, explaining that, during the day, the system only permitted the sending of turnout figures, being impossible to know the result while people were still voting.

The lawyer of PSD Executive President Liviu Dragnea asked the High Court on 5 February to bring PM Victor Ponta to the stand in the referendum case.

The lawyer also asked that 18 PSD coordinators of the 2012 referendum campaign on the dismissal of the president should also testify in Court.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta said on 3 October 2013 that the ex-head of DNA Department I, Lucian Papici, had refused to hear him as a witness in the case although he had made two such requests to him in writing.


A case is credible if backed by evidence


‘A case is credible if it is also backed by evidence. I want to confirm one thing. In my capacity as prime minister and head of USL during the period Mr. Morar and Mr. Papici claim there was a referendum fraud, so not as  a journalist or columnist, therefore only as prime minister and head of USL, I asked twice: <Mr. Papici, would you also hear me? Maybe I am also a criminal, maybe I also robbed votes. Don’t you want me to tell you?> The answer was <No. I don’t want to.> He told me twice he was not interested in the evidence, that he didn’t want to know anything. He refused to hear me, he refused to hear Crin Antonescu. (…) As if we were two people who had just landed there from the street. No, we organized the referendum. If you, as a prosecutor, have information that something illegal happened there, hear me. This is the way to do it. I have never seen anything like this. I was a prosecutor for so many years, and, since then, I have never heard of a prosecutor who refused to hear a witness. Please forgive me, but I think I am a relevant witness to what happened last year’, Ponta said at the time, having been asked whether a case prepared by Lucian Papici could be credible after allegations being brought against him about answering political orders.


Dragnea: I don’t know who created the text messages used in referendum


Minister Liviu Dragnea said at the High Court of Cassation and Justice (ICCJ) on Wednesday he doesn’t know who created the text messages which appear in the body of evidence drawn up by the prosecutors nor if they were written by a Social Democratic Party (PSD) copywriter team.

“As any ballot, the referendum also benefitted from consultants, with the main purpose of creating the public messages, namely what the leaders say in the public space and on TV. Moreover, they create the graphic concepts for posters and flyers, as well as the election slogans. I have no knowledge on the copywriter teams having discussed about writing text messages. I don’t know who created the text messages that appear in the body of evidence,” Dragnea said in front of the judges.

Dragnea’s clarification comes after Prime Minister Victor Ponta said in court on Wednesday that the messages sent from the PSD headquarters to the persons in charge nationwide were created by a copywriter team, made up of consultants specialised in communication.

When asked by the journalists about this, Dragnea said: “What I said there I also say here. I believe that, if you take a careful look, this is not about something true or something untrue. Mr Victor Ponta had an opinion, I said what I know, I have no other information.”

Moreover, Dragnea was asked by journalists if he believes that Victor Ponta’s testimony will help him in court. “It is not my capacity to analyse the lower or higher importance of the testimonies of some witnesses,” Dragnea replied.


Dragnea brought to trial by DNA on 7 October


Liviu Dragnea was referred to Court by the DNA prosecutors on 7 October 2013 for the commission of the crime of using his influence or authority as a leading official in a political party for obtaining undue benefits for self or others.

According to DNA, as Secretary General of PSD, Liviu Dragnea, on the occasion of the referendum of 29 July 2012, used is influence and authority in the party in order to obtain undue electoral gains for the political alliance his party belonged to, namely the fulfillment of the minimum turnout requirement with the help of votes obtained under conditions other than legal.








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