Premier Victor Ponta was indicted on Monday in the case in which he is prosecuted alongside Dan Sova, and prosecutors will audit his assets in order to freeze some of them. According to the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), the Premier made no statements, using his right to remain silent. Ponta showed up at the DNA on Monday morning, in crutches, and spent approximately 30 minutes at the hearing. On his way out, the Premier stated that he will return to the DNA for hearings in August, after the financial audit ordered in the case is finished. He refused to state whether he will resign.
DNA prosecutors started a penal action against Premier Victor Ponta, changing his status from suspect to defendant in the Turceni-Rovinari case.
According to the aforementioned sources, in this context prosecutors have decided to freeze some of Ponta’s assets. Investigators will audit Ponta’s movable and immovable assets, bank accounts, valuables and real-estate properties, in order to freeze some of them up to the value needed to cover the damage ascertained in the case in which he is investigated. Premier Victor Ponta was at the DNA on Monday, being subpoenaed in the Turceni-Rovinari case in which he is accused of forgery of private documents and of being an accessory to tax evasion and money laundering, crimes he allegedly committed when he was a lawyer. Victor Ponta arrived at the DNA headquarters around 10.55 a.m. and used crutches.
Victor Ponta did not make any statements at the DNA on Monday, invoking his right to remain silent, the aforementioned sources added. According to the same sources, prosecutors did not expand their prosecution against Ponta to include accusations other than the ones brought against him on June 5.
When leaving the DNA headquarters, where he spent approximately 30 minutes, Ponta stated that he made not statements in the case and he will return in August for hearings. The Premier pointed out that the financial audit ordered in the case should be finished by then, without pointing out what the goals of the audit are.
Asked whether he will resign, Victor Ponta said: “Don’t you want us to talk politics somewhere else, not at the DNA? We’ll see each other at the party, at Parliament.”
While walking toward his car, Ponta stopped and reproached the journalists for breaking his crutch in the melee.
In crutches and surrounded by security agents and journalists, the Premier found it difficult to get from his car to the building. Ponta even had an amusing exchange with the journalists present, whom he reproached for blocking his way.
“I implore you. Don’t be angry with me, but I can’t walk very well and I wouldn’t want you to topple me. I want to get to the DNA and you are not allowing me, it’s unheard of. Be careful, the cable is here and you topple me. Be careful, you’ve just hit me in the head with the camera. Thank you very much,” Victor Ponta said.
Victor Ponta was summoned before DNA prosecutors on June 5, the latter informing him that he is prosecuted for forgery of private documents and for being an accessory to tax evasion and money laundering. The crimes he is accused of are investigated in the Turceni-Rovinari case and were allegedly committed when Ponta was a lawyer.
The DNA asked the Lower Chamber back then to approve its prosecution against the Premier for conflict of interest too but the MPs rejected the request on June 8.
On June 14, the date on which he should have been heard in the Turceni-Rovinari case, Ponta was hospitalized at the Medipol University Hospital in Istanbul, where he underwent knee surgery a day later. After he left hospital, Ponta decided to remain in Turkey for recovery, and returned to Romania on July 8, after almost a month of absence.
During his absence, Loredana Radu, Ponta’s lawyer, went to the DNA several times in order to study the case in which he is prosecuted.
While in Turkey, Premier Victor Ponta stated that on his first day back in Romania he will go to the DNA for a new hearing, pointing out that the prosecutor might decide to remand him on conditional bail.
On his return, Ponta only went to the Government, in crutches, and asked the President to take note of the fact that he has resumed his activity, “bearing in mind the removal of the causes that generated the impossibility of exercising the Prime Minister’s prerogatives.”
During his absence, PSD’s leadership was taken over ad interim by Rovana Plumb, while Gabriel Oprea was appointed interim Prime Minister.
Ruling coalition’s urgent meeting
Premier Ponta, Deputy Prime Minister Gabriel Oprea and ALDE leaders Calin Popescu Tariceanu and Daniel Constantin arrived at the ruling coalition meeting at 2 p.m. Ponta refused to make any comments on his arrival at the PSD headquarters. “I am answering an invitation,” the Premier stated briefly.
In his turn, the Deputy Prime Minister briefly expressed his support for Ponta. “UNPR is a serious and consistent party that shows seriousness and security,” adding that the party he leads plans to remain a member of the governing coalition given the fact that the current Prime Minister remains in office. “We remain members of the coalition with Victor Ponta as Romania’s Prime Minister,” the UNPR leader concluded.
In what concerns Ponta’s decision to quit the helm of PSD, albeit temporarily, Oprea avoided expressing a point of view, only stating that that is the Premier’s decision. “Victor Ponta is my friend, my ally, a man I respect a lot and it is his personal decision, which I respect,” Gabriel Oprea concluded before entering the building.
The leaders of the ruling coalition concluded the meeting that focused on the situation generated by Victor Ponta’s withdrawal from the helm of PSD, while the Social Democrats have scheduled a PSD National Permanent Bureau meeting for Wednesday in order to discuss the same situation.
UNPR President Gabriel Oprea stated on Monday, at the end of the ruling coalition meeting, that the current government will carry on and Victor Ponta’s resignation from the position of Prime Minister is out of the question. Oprea said that the current coalition will carry on in its current form. Asked by journalists whether Victor Ponta expressed, during the meeting, his intention to resign from the position of Prime Minister, he pointed out: “Certainly not.” Asked whether he left the ruling coalition’s meeting upset, Oprea answered: “No, I am very cheerful. It’s over (the meeting – editor’s note).”
Oprea also denied there are any misunderstandings concerning Liviu Dragnea’s statements. Last week Liviu Dragnea asked for clarifications in the relationship with UNPR. “There are no misunderstandings, ask Dragnea.”
ALDE Co-President Calin Popescu Tariceanu stated that the current coalition wants to govern until the local elections next year. “Of course, we cannot hide the fact that Premier Ponta’s problem looks like harassment. We live in a democratic country in which we see attempts are made to overthrow the order that citizens have established by democratic vote,” Tariceanu stated.
Liviu Dragnea: “The resignation was an error”
PSD’s political coordinator Liviu Dragnea considers that Victor Ponta’s decision to resign from the helm of the party was “an error,” pointing out that at this moment the Social Democrats have no leader, not even an interim one.
“I believe Victor Ponta’s retirement is an error. He should have waited, we should have seen what was going to happen with this legal case, but one takes the decisions one sees as being fit, good for him and for the party,” Liviu Dragnea stated on Monday at the PSD headquarters.
According to him, “almost all party members want PSD to remain in government with Victor Ponta as Prime Minister.”
“There was a period in which Victor was absent and in my opinion he shouldn’t even have deputized it (his party president position – editor’s note), but now there is a need for legitimization within the CEX. PSD is not a party that can be led through deputizing. It is a large party, but there is the need for legitimization within the National Executive Committee. It’s important for PSD to have a leadership team legitimized through vote by all CEX members. There is nobody in the position of interim party president, we do not have an interim party president, we have a party president who has resigned and a vacuum has been left,” Dragnea pointed out.
Asked whether he wants to be party president, PSD’s political coordinator hesitated: “let’s get to that point first,” Dragnea said. A PSD CEX meeting would take place “if not this week then next week at the latest.”
At the same time, asked whether the current situation risks leading to the loss of some party members, Dragnea answered: “If this ambiguous situation extends for a long time there is every risk.”
On the other hand, Dragnea wants clarifications within the coalition after UNPR voted in favour of Mihai Razvan Ungureanu’s appointment at the helm of the Foreign Intelligence Service (SIE).
“There is the need for relations based on respect within the coalition, in order to be able to have a discussion that would clarify things within the coalition. There are several natural questions that will be raised and several answers that will be given today,” Liviu Dragnea added.
Rovana Plumb, harsh retort to Dragnea: Who doesn’t get this is playing for political opponents
PSD Interim President Rovana Plumb gave a harsh retort to PSD political coordinator Liviu Dragnea.
“PSD has to act as a team. Who doesn’t get this is playing for political opponents. We don’t need congresses now, we should not endanger our presence in the government. In all important moments PSD acted as a team. This is what needs to happen now too. Today, PSD is led by a solid team; we have to keep acting as a team – not to attack each other. Division would be an unhoped-for advantage for our opponents,” Plumb said.
She added that she supports the extension of the mandate ad interim voted and accepted by the party’s national political bureau. “I support this formula and I believe all of my colleagues should support it; in line with the statute, the chairman of the National Council ensures the party’s leadership for any period of ad interim, in-between Congresses. Those who talk about organizing a congress do not relate to PSD’s well-being but to the hopes of our opponents. We have no reason to organize congresses in order to play into the hands of PSD’s opponents, because we risk gradually losing the government and also the allies we have. And we would stand to win nothing,” Rovana Plumb told Dragnea and those close to him, without nominating the latter.
“Staying in government is a priority. So is Victor Ponta solving his legal problems,” Rovana Plumb concluded.
Ion Iliescu: “He did not consult with the party’s leadership”
PSD Honorary President Ion Iliescu stated on Monday for gandul.info that Premier Victor Ponta did not consult PSD’s leadership before announcing his resignation from the position of party president and that his decision is a mistake.
“It would have been natural for him to first have a dialogue with the party’s collective leadership and to take this personal decision through consultation, something that he did not do and it’s not good. It is undoubtedly a mistake on Victor Ponta’s part. It would have been natural for there to be a discussion, it wasn’t good, it wasn’t good,” Ion Iliescu stated.
In the opinion of the former president, this is “a watershed moment” both for Ponta and for “the party’s leadership, which should reflect on the way in which it will act next… I am sure solutions will be found in order to overcome this moment. A forum for the debate of this situation is absolutely needed, first within the limited leadership and then in a wider format. I don’t know if a Congress will be needed, it’s an issue that has to be discussed within the Executive Committee. Ponta didn’t tell me anything,” he added.
Adrian Nastase: “He should have discussed this with his colleagues”
Former premier Adrian Nastase commented on his personal blog on Premier Ponta’s decision to suspend himself from the position of PSD President, opining that the PSD President should have taken the decision after discussing it with his party colleagues within the party’s leadership bodies.
“I don’t know why Victor Ponta suspended himself. I suspect he had his reasons. However, maybe he should have discussed this with his colleagues too, within the party’s leadership bodies. When you have the feeling you’ve solved one problem numerous other problems appear, problems that will have to be solved too,” the former premier wrote on his blog.
PSD’s Firea: Under no circumstances will Ponta resign as PM; that would be a mistake, big loss
Spokesperson for the Social Democratic Party (PSD) Gabriela Firea said Monday that Victor Ponta will not resign as prime minister, as resigning would be a political mistake and a big loss because the legitimacy of the incumbent Government has been validated by Parliament rejecting a motion of censure tabled by the National Liberal Party (PNL).
“Under no circumstances will Mr Victor Ponta resign as prime minister, and consequently he needs not inform us about any intention to resign as prime minister. It would be a big loss and that would be a mistake, I could say that. The legitimacy of this Government headed by Victor Ponta was once again underscored in Parliament when the motion of censure tabled by the National Liberal Party (PNL) was defeated and the majority made up by the Social Democratic Party (PSD), the National Union for Romania’s Progress (UNPR), the Conservative Party (PC) and the Liberal Reformist Party (PLR) once again proved that it supports the governmental team headed, I repeat, by Mr Victor Ponta and nobody else,” Firea said before a convention of the PSD leadership in response to whether or not Victor Ponta announced his colleagues in the party’s leadership about an intention to step down as prime minister.
She added that Ponta did what was wise, a step aside instead of a withdrawal.
“As for the fact that there are always solutions and human resources for the leadership of a party and the management of a government, I do agree: nobody is irreplaceable but in this instance Victor Ponta did what was wise and correct to do, a step aside. That was not withdrawal or abandon. And I am convinced his return as the party’s national leader will happen as soon as possible,” said Firea.
The M10 party asks for the ‘immediate’ resignation of PM Ponta
The M10 party asks for the ‘immediate’ resignation of Prime Minister Victor Ponta and demanded him to assume responsibility for his acts ‘in front of the country and in front of the justice, and not just in front of his own political party.’
‘Romania cannot have a Prime Minister who has also the capacity of a defendant! The M10 party demands Victor Ponta to assume responsibility in front of the country and in front of the justice, and not just in front of his own political party. Victor Ponta staying head of the Government represents a defiance of the rule of law, which proves, once again, that for the resigning chairman of the PSD the country’s interests and Romania’s image are less important than the mafia interests of the Social Democratic criminal group,’ reads a release of the M10 party on Monday sent to Agerpres.
According to the abovementioned source, Ponta’s resignation “represents an imperative and an absolutely necessary act” for Romania to maintain its credibility at international level.
‘Victor Ponta must resign from his office of head of the Executive today, so that he will stop bringing prejudice to Romania and the Romanians,” said the abovementioned source.
ALDE’s Tariceanu: I have confirmed support for Ponta Cabinet
Senate Chairman and co-chair of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats (ALDE) Calin Popescu-Tariceanu on Monday said the representatives of the ruling coalition reaffirmed to Victor Ponta support for his Cabinet, adding that their plan is for the government as it stands to continue throughout the end of 2016.
“Today, all of us at the table confirmed to Victor Ponta that the coalition will support the incumbent government headed by him,” Tariceanu said in reply to whether or not Ponta still has the support of ALDE.
He mentioned that the meeting of the ruling coalition focused on topical political and economic issues as well as future themes.
Asked whether or not the incumbent ruling coalition has any problem with a defendant prime minister, Tariceanu said, “The coalition per se has no problem.”
“Not to mince words, Prime Minister Ponta has this problem, which, as I said yesterday obviously looks like harassment beyond the political arena; had the harassment been perpetrated by the Opposition, I would have had nothing to complain about, but we are in a democratic country where we witness attempts to overthrow the order established by the democratic vote of the citizens, in a way that is not democratic. Consequently, I believe the coalition should continue to focus on achieving its political objectives. Polls reveal a significant support of the citizens for what we have done so far and for the commitments we still have. And we intend to go further,” said Tariceanu.
Tariceanu added in the same context that the incumbent ruling coalition should continue to aim to meet the commitments the late Social Liberal Union (USL) pledged under its 2012 governing programme.
“That is the thing we discussed with my colleagues. They all reaffirmed their intention to act so that the political coalition may function as an as strong a support as possible for governing. Our plan is to walk together until the general election of late 2016,” added Tariceanu.
PNL’s Turcan: Ponta will pull Romania down; he places party interests above country interests
The National Liberal Party (PNL) deputy chairwoman Raluca Turcan believes that Prime Minister Victor Ponta places his political party above the country, above the national security and the welfare of the citizens, with the conflict he prepares in order to be able to “grab hold of his chair” to cost Romania “the little economic stability achieved.”
‘Victor Ponta throws Romania into chaos. The PM places his party above the country, above the national security and the welfare of the citizens, above our international agreements and commitments. The conflict he prepares in order to be able “grab hold of his chair” will cost us the little economic stability that we have right now. Our head of the Executive needs to understand that it was not his Government who generated this economic stability and the peace we see in Romania this days he keeps bragging about, but the private environment. However, he prepared a battle for power, since without this shield of power he won’t be able to respond to his criminal acts. And this battle will affect both the institutional functioning and our economy,” Turcan said on Facebook.
Alina Gorghiu: “Premier walks on dead-end street”
The DNA’s decision to indict Premier Victor Ponta is not surprising, PNL Co-President Alina Gorghiu stated on Monday, adding that the Premier is walking on “a dead-end street.”
“What happens to Victor Ponta is precisely the turn of events we all expected when he was placed under criminal prosecution. The national and international press is abuzz, PSD is in turmoil, the public opinion is vexed. Nobody understands why the Premier keeps walking on a dead-end street,” Gorghiu wrote on her Facebook page.
Alina Gorghiu considers that not the Premier’s problems but the state of the education system, “the Baccalaureate’s pass rate, the absorption of European funds, the deplorable state of public administration and the rethinking of the salary system” are aspects that should be debated instead.
“It gives me no pleasure at all to see a politicians going to the DNA, least of all the still-acting Premier – even though this Premier does not understand that politics does not rule out fair-play,” Alina Gorghiu added, pointing out that, although Victor Ponta is “a specialist” when it comes to smear campaigns, politics means opponents and opposing opinions, not enemies and smear campaigns.
Iohannis : I maintain my viewpoint of June 5; we shall collaborate institutionally
President Klaus Iohannis on Monday said that he will collaborate institutionally with Prime Minister Victor Ponta and that he maintains his viewpoint voiced on June 5 regarding the PM.
“My viewpoint in this matter is very well knowns as early as June 5. I have nothing to add, I maintain this assessment. As for the rest, I believe it is goof to focus on the relation with Spain. But we shall collaborate institutionally, so I don’t leave [this matter] in suspense,” Iohannis said according to Agerpres, after the meeting he had with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, when asked how he will collaborate with the Government and with Victor Ponta after the latest decision of the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA).
On June 5, President Klaus Iohannis asked for Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s resignation. “Today the National Anti-corruption Directorate has publicly communicated that Prime Minister Victor Ponta is charged with major offenses. In my opinion, it is an impossible situation for Romania to have the Prime Minister charged with major offenses. On the other hand, the worst thing that could happen to Romania now is a political crisis. Considering all these, I am calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Victor Ponta,” the head of state said at that time.