JUSTICE POLITICS

Targeted by corruption probe, PNL’s Orban ends race for Bucharest City Hall

*The Liberal was placed under judiciary control for obtaining undue benefits during election campaign

 

National Liberal Party (PNL) First Vice President Ludovic Orban was summoned at the National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA) on Monday, where he was notified that he is a defendant in a case concerning the obtaining of undue benefits during the elections campaign. When leaving the building, Ludovic Orban announced his decision to withdraw his candidacy for the Bucharest City Hall and to step down from the political offices he holds within PNL, namely that of First Vice President, and from the position of Deputy Speaker of the Lower Chamber.

When leaving the DNA headquarters, Ludovic Orban stated he is a defendant in a corruption case that concerns the obtaining of undue benefits, but offered no other details. He added that he has been placed under judiciary control for 60 days.

“In these conditions, I withdraw my candidacy for the Bucharest City Hall,” Ludovic Orban stated, visibly affected.

“I won’t run anymore. I haven’t collected a single RON. For the time being, I haven’t let anyone down. The court decides whether a person is innocent or not. My career does not end here. I’m not playing around with my political life and public activity. As long as I’m involved in a criminal trial I cannot come before citizens asking for their votes. I am affected, in a way I feel wronged, but I’m not questioning in any way DNA’s activity,” the Liberal added.

“I cannot come before citizens asking for their votes as long as I’m involved in a criminal investigation. I am withdrawing my candidacy because I cannot put at risk PNL’s chances of winning the Bucharest City Hall,” he argued.

“I haven’t let anyone down for the time being. In 25 years, I was never suspected of corruption. When I arrived at the DNA I did not know all these details. PNL will decide whom it will back from now on,” the Liberal stated before entering the DNA headquarters.

“I’m not afraid, I have 25 years of career in public life, period in which I was not even suspected of involvement in corruption, in which I did not break the law and everything I won I won based on my work. It’s not a subpoena, it’s an invitation,” Ludovic Orban stated before meeting the DNA prosecutors, Mediafax informs.

Ludovic Orban had announced early in the morning, on his Facebook page, that he was subpoenaed by the DNA: “Today I will change my usual schedule, I won’t take part in any meeting with voters, I won’t take part in any TV show, I won’t meet independent specialists in order to finalize the platform for Bucharesters; today I found out I have to do something else. At 3 p.m. I will be at the DNA headquarters, where I was invited. I am curious to find out the reasons I was summoned.”

 

Prosecutors’ explanation

 

The prosecutors’ judiciary control ordinance shows that there is evidence according to which:

On March 1, defendant Orban Ludovic, first vice president of a party, contacted a businessman he knew, asking him for financial support for the elections campaign for the local elections scheduled in the summer of 2016, in which Orban Ludovic is running for the office of Bucharest Mayor.

Subsequently, on March 20, during a new meeting, defendant Orban Ludovic asked the businessman for the sum of EUR 50,000, cash, pointing out that he will have to give the money to persons he named, persons that hold decision-making positions within two television stations, in order for the candidate’s image to be promoted. Defendant Orban Ludovic pointed out that he needs the sum in approximately one or two weeks’ time.

The businessman accepted to pay the EUR 50,000, taking into consideration the leadership position that Orban Ludovic holds within a party and his potential to intervene in domains that are of interest for the businesses that the businessman controls.

On Monday, before Orban was summoned at the DNA, PNL Co-President Alina Gorghiu stated that she does not know in what capacity PNL’s candidate was summoned at the DNA, stating that the fate of Orban and other Liberals that are under DNA scrutiny will be decided by PNL’s decisions and statute.

“I never made a statement before seeing what this is about. I talked with Ludovic in the morning, I knew he was going to go at the DNA, not even he knows why he is summoned, so the wisest thing we can do is have a little patience and wait for Mr. Orban’s statements. I’m sure he will make statements. What I can note is that we never made a circus out of this, out of any kind of MP was heard at a criminal prosecution body where he was invited. Likewise, I would like to tell you that what happens next to anyone who is heard at the DNA or in court does not depend on me or on anyone else, it only depends on the PNL statute and PNL decisions. We have that Decalogue of integrity that is very clear,” PNL Co-President Alina Gorghiu stated after she found out that Orban will be heard at the DNA.

Alina Gorghiu stated that there is a difference worthy of note. When a PSD member goes at the DNA “he is very popular, a victim, there is an eternal drama and the judiciary is targeting them and victimizing them;” on the other hand, when a Liberal is summoned at the DNA “it is very clear from the very start that he has a corruption problem.”

Asked how she sees the fact that a candidate is summoned at the DNA on the day candidacies are filed, Gorghiu stated that PNL and Ludovic Orban will respect any decision.

“You’re asking me if I still believe in coincidences? I believe, I’m convinced PNL and Ludovic Orban will respect any decision taken, because we will never find excuses and pretexts in various coincidences, undertakings, in order to push on when there is no need to do so. I have great confidence things are not forced and we will shortly hereafter see a statement from Ludovic, who will not hesitate to offer all details, especially since he previously was as transparent as possible. I don’t want to tell you that he will come out with no capacity, nor that nothing will happen next, it depends on the decision that DNA will let candidate Ludovic Orban know,” the PNL Co-President added.

Asked whether candidate Orban’s image is affected by the fact that he was summoned at the DNA, Gorghiu stated that the Liberals claimed throughout time that they will respect any procedure, stating that “showing up as a witness in a case is not the end of the world.”

Gorghiu added that “it depends a lot on the capacity in which you show up there, the charges the DNA presses or not.”

“At this moment I don’t believe going there to make some statements is a liability, but let’s wait and see what this is about,” the PNL Co-President pointed out.

 

PNL leaders in emergency meeting

 

Immediately after Orban announced he will pull out of the Bucharest City Hall race, after DNA prosecutors charged him and remanded him on 60-day conditional bail, PNL leaders convened an emergency meeting.

 

PNL’s options after Orban’s indictment

 

PNL leaders have stated for stiripesurse.ro that Ludovic Orban legal problems and his decision to drop out of the race for the Bucharest City Hall prompt PNL to analyse two options.

The first option is for PNL Bucharest President Catalin Predoiu to enter the race, being pressured by party leaders to file his candidacy.

The second option is Cristian Busoi, PNL’s former candidate, who bowed out in order to make way for Ludovic Orban. Some party leaders allegedly want Busoi to run because he allegedly has a good score in Bucharest and already has a platform and project.

On the other hand, the DNA’s indictment of Ludovic Orban could be a public relations loss for PNL, but at the same time could generate problems for PSD, according to analyst Val Valcu.

“PSD had a certain electoral edge in Bucharest, given by the fragmentation of votes on the right wing of the political spectrum. One-round elections favour the best ranking candidate, and PSD had a 10 percent lead in Bucharest. The Right Wing’s electorate was split between PNL, ALDE, M10, PMP and USB, which was also drawing most of those dissatisfied with traditional parties,” Valcu stated for dcnews.ro.

The journalist emphasises that PNL was faring poorly in the polls. In recent days, there was a rumour that Ludovic Orban will not be PNL’s candidate and the Liberals will support Nicusor Dan instead, a rumour that was eventually refuted. However, following Ludovic Orban’s “invitation” at the DNA, the idea of a PNL-USB alliance for the Bucharest City Hall becomes credible.

If PNL backs Nicusor Dan, it will equalize PSD in the political vote (27 percent PNL, 10 percent USB). Moreover, Nicusor Dan also attracts some of the Bucharest voters that favour independents, based on the Sorin Oprescu model. Nicusor Dan could remain the only solution for PNL, constrained by time to find a candidate with chances, following Ludovic Orban’s resignation because of his legal problems.

This coalescing on the right wing of the spectrum could also push through an ALDE-PSD electoral alliance, after PSD decided on Monday to run alongside UNPR all over the country.

 

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