President Klaus Iohannis may suspend Prime-Minister Victor Ponta, under the Constitution, only if he is referred to court for offences allegedly committed during the period when he is a member of the Government, like any other minister. Section 109, Chapter III of the Constitution stipulates that ‘the referral to court of a member of the Government leads to his/her suspension in office’.
The president of Romania may suspend any member of the Government only if the alleged offences were committed during the period when the person was a member of the Executive. In this case, Victor Ponta has been brought to trill but for offences allegedly committed when he was a lawyer, before becoming prime-minister, therefore the president is unable to suspend him.
Art. 109. (1) Government is politically responsible only towards the Parliament for its entire activity. Each member of the Government is politically responsible jointly with the other members for the activity of the Government and its acts.
(2) Only the Chamber of Deputies and Senate of Romania may ask for the criminal investigation of the members of the Government for offences allegedly committed in the exercise of their office. If the criminal investigation has been asked for, the President of Romania suspends them from office. The referral to court of a member of the Government leads to the suspension of the person from office. The High Court of Cassation and Justice has jurisdiction.
(3) The cases of liability and available punishments for members of the Government are regulated by the law on ministerial responsibility.
On September 4th, PM Ponta told a televised show that there was no reason to resign, arguing that even if he is sent to court the President has no constitutional right to suspend him from office.
Ponta added that he is innocent as far as the accusations of tax evasion levelled at him are concerned, and that would be why he asked the DNA prosecutors to consider the allegations separately from a larger case Rovinari-Turceni so that a solution will be soon found.
He said once again that he will not resign his prime ministerial office as long as he has the backing of the ruling coalition, adding that he does not want to still be in the office after 2016, but he may be considering running for a seat in the Chamber of Deputies.
On September 8th the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) head, Laura Codruta Kovesi said the investigation in the Prime Minister’s criminal case is almost completed, pending a few evidence to be added to the file.
President Iohannis: “The simplest solution would definitely be the one that I also proposed in June”
President Iohannis said, after PM Victor Ponta’s case had been referred to court, on Thursday, that ‘the image of Romania is being massively hurt’ and that, from his point of view, the solution to the problem was the one he had also suggested in June, when he asked the PM to step down.
‘The situation, in my opinion, is growingly problematic for the prime-minister, Government and PSD. But we have to admit that the image of Romania is being massively hurt as a result of this matter. I hope the situation is analysed with due responsibility and that those who are able to will come up with solutions’, said the president.
Iohannis pointed out that he was still standing by the solution he had proposed back in June, when he asked the PM to resign.
‘My opinion has not changed. The simplest solution would definitely be the one that I also proposed in June’, Klaus Iohannis noted.
President Klaus Iohannis said, on 5 June, that, after DNA’s communication that Prime-Minister Victor Ponta had been charged with the commission of criminal offences, he had urged the PM to resign. At the time, the president stressed that, in his view, it was ‘an impossible situation’ for Romania that the PM should be subject to criminal charges.
Afterwards, PM Ponta said he respected the president’s public position but explained that, since he had been appointed to lead the Government by the Parliament, only the Parliament could dismiss him.