Romania: Convicted Dragnea digging in his heels

Liviu Dragnea, head of Romania's Social Democratic Party (PSD) and of the Chamber of Deputies, is refusing to step down despite having been sentenced last week in the first instance for abuse of power. Thousands once again took to the streets in protest against the dismantling of the rule of law in Romania. But commentators doubt that the public outcry will make any difference - particularly as the EU is remaining silent.

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Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

Dragnea knows he will escape EU punishment

The dismantling of the rule of law is not meeting much resistance from either the left or the right, the Süddeutsche Zeitung bemoans:

“There are certainly a few thousand people demonstrating in Bucharest and other cities against the reforms to dis-empower the judiciary. But the current protests in Romania are a far cry from the half a million people who took to the streets at the start of 2017. And Europe's reaction is utterly shameful. Berlin, Paris, and the entire EU Commission are doing next to nothing. ... Their first crime, which was to allow Hungary to turn into an authoritarian state, was followed by their failure to act when the rule of law was dismantled in Poland. This poor track record will no doubt have encouraged Dragnea to secure his own power by disassembling the democratic constitutional state.”

Revista 22 (RO) /

Europe too weak to react

Revista 22 explains why we are not hearing any critical voices from the EU Commission:

“It's not 2012 any more, when [the former PSD leader and President Victor] Ponta was called upon by the EU Commission and western powers to introduce a minimum participation percentage for referendums, [at the time the PSD wanted to remove then president Traian Băsescu from office with a referendum]. The EU is weakened and divided. Migration, the lack of understanding in various EU states, the growing rift between the EU and the US under Trump, Brexit, the 'Eastern European' front which Romania is now joining, Russian intrigues - all this tells us that we are not going to see a reaction. We're on our own now.”

Deutsche Welle (RO) /

The purge has begun

The Dragnea era is coming to an end, according to the Romanian service of German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle:

“Once again this power-hungry clique has forgotten an important factor in its calculations: civil society refuses to be intimidated and is taking to streets. It has been doing so every day since the beginning of 2017. Sometimes there are more demonstrators, sometimes fewer. But they are always unflinching. This surge of democracy in a society can no longer be ignored by rational PSD politicians. In other words, the clean-up has begun, the Dragnea era is drawing to an end. It is not just about the survival of the Social Democrats as a political force. For some time now, what has been at stake is nothing less than the credibility of Romania as a member of the EU and Nato.”

Adevărul (RO) /

Loss of face in front of other EU states

The PSD can no longer cling to Dragnea, Daniel Gorgonaru writes in his blog on Adevărul:

“A country in which the leader of the most important party is also the head of parliament and has been convicted twice becomes an unacceptable partner for other EU states. And that's not all. The Romanian Social Democrats are becoming a millstone around the necks of their colleagues in the Party of European Socialsts (PES). They are being forced into a corner by their enemies from the European People's Party and accused of supporting a convicted man and a government which has subordinated itself entirely to him. ... In view of all this, political pragmatism obliges the PSD leaders to start thinking about how to remove Liviu Dragnea from office - by persuading him to leave or forcing him to.”