Romania's Minister of Justice Tudorel Toader is pushing for the dismissal of the country's leading light in the fight against corruption. Laura Codruta Kövesi, head of the anti-corruption authority DNA, enjoys international recognition and considerable popularity at home. The governing parties are accusing Toader of using underhand methods in the investigation. Commentators spring to Kövesi's defence.
It all hangs on the president now
Hotnews outlines the possible scenarios:
“The dice have been cast. The decision now lies with President Klaus Iohannis. If he fires the head of the DNA it will be the end of his career. If he thinks twice about it, he might make friends among [the governing] PSD opponents, but at the same time he will risk being removed from office himself. It doesn't look like he will go along with Toader's demands. This is the start of a new phase of political instability in Romania. It probably means a new wave of demonstrations (potentially on both sides) and tension between officials. And more wind in the sails of the politically corrupt.”
This political farce cannot harm Kövesi
Romania's Minister of Justice read out a list of 20 charges against Kövesi. For Evenimentul Zilei many of these are absurd - and counterproductive to the minister's intentions:
“Many of Toader's arguments are just PSD propaganda. For example the damage to Romania's image abroad [supposedly caused by Kövesi in interviews with Western media]. Toader's intention was to convince the public but his performance was a disaster. Whether consciously or not he succeeded in strengthening Kövesi's position at home and abroad and gave President Iohannis munition for the election campaign to boot. Because Iohannis will most certainly reject Toader's demand for Kövesi's resignation.”
Corrupt politicians want to escape investigation
What is needed now is an objective debate about any mistakes or omissions made by the DNA, but unfortunately that won't be possible, writes Revista 22:
“Despite everything the DNA is the institution that has made the most progress in Romania's morass of corruption. It is effectively the only institution that receives praise instead of criticism from the EU Commission. The lynch campaign that has been waged against it for years, the various attempts to weaken the judiciary through changes to the penal legislation, all pursue the same goal: to escape the investigations, the convictions, of the DNA chief. It's not so much Kövesi's departure that would be the problem but the probability of her being replaced by a PSD puppet who keeps the DNA on a tight rein.”
Will the people just go along with it all?
The consequences of the affair will ultimately depend on how the people react, Adevărul points out:
“Let's assume that the president rejects the [potential] demand by the minister of justice that Kövesi be dismissed: then his popularity would increase. But at the same time it would accelerate the PSD-Alde coalition's assault on the judiciary in general and himself in particular. ... This is a difficult moment for Romania. ... Much now also depends on how civil society, the EU and the US react. Those now in power are even willing to cut the ties with the EU and the US if that means saving their own skin and avoiding imprisonment. What is not clear is whether the population will accept that.”