Romania. The year began with a government crisis. The
Interior Minister dismissed the country's chief of police
following a police scandal, but Prime Minister Mihai Tudose
did not accept the decision. Instead, Tudose wanted to
dismiss the Interior Minister, who then sought support from
the ruling Social Democratic PSD's powerful leader Liviu
Dragnea. As a result, Tudose was forced to resign.
As the new prime minister, the PSD proposed EU
parliamentarian Viorica Dăncilă, closely allied with the
corruption-accused party leader Dragnea. President Klaus
Iohannis wanted to strengthen the fight against corruption
and was hesitant to Dăncilă, but the PSD had a majority in
parliament and she was approved as head of government.
Countryaah.com, about 50,000 people protested in the capital Bucharest
against the corruption and the government's attempt to
weaken the independence of the judiciary through a new law,
which was appealed by the opposition. The Supreme Court
ruled in January that the law violated the Constitution and
must be rewritten.
Prime Minister Dăncilă set up a new ministry for managing
EU funds and appointed a parliamentarian who was suspected
of corruption. The appointment attracted much criticism.
In February, a former finance minister was sentenced to 8
years in prison for bribery. According to the prosecutor, he
had received the equivalent of SEK 15 million in bribes from
companies that received government contracts.
The government decided to dismiss the anti-corruption
bureau chief Laura Codruța Kövesi, who was said to damage
Romania's reputation. Kövesi had been successful with
corruption charges against politicians, not least from the
PSD. Thousands of people protested in her defense, urging
the president not to approve the dismissal. The president
wanted to keep Kövesi, but the Constitutional Court gave the
government the right to dismiss her.
After a visit to Israel, PSD party leader Dragnea wanted
Romania to follow the US example and move its embassy from
Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. President Iohannis protested on the
grounds that it would violate UN Security Council
resolutions. The PSD leader and Prime Minister Dăncilă
traveled to Israel and received praise for the government's
plans, but the president felt that Dăncilă was failing his
job and should resign.
In June, PSD leader Dragnea was sentenced to three and a
half years in prison for abuse of power. Dragnea, who was
also the Speaker of the House of Commons, was found guilty
of having two people receive salaries from the state despite
being employed by his party. Dragnea denied the charges and
Thousands of people gathered outside the government
office demanding that both Dragnea and Prime Minister
Dăncilă resign. Similar protests were held in several
cities. The opposition demanded a vote of no confidence
against the government, which, however, remained with a
solid majority in parliament.
In August, close to 100,000 people in Bucharest protested
against the corruption and demanded the resignation of the
government. Hundreds were injured in violence between police
and protesters, and many were arrested. The police were
criticized by the president for brutal methods. The protests
continued for days and spread to several cities.
Three leading PSD politicians and former allies of party
leader Dragnea invited him in September to step down as
party leader. They felt that the judgments against him for
crimes of corruption made the party vulnerable and became a
constant source of mistrust at home and abroad. However,
during a crisis meeting with PSD's leadership, Dragnea was
supported by a majority and struck back the demands for
The European Commission warned in October that Romania
was weakening its legislation and fighting corruption. The
Prime Minister rejected the criticism and urged the EU not
to treat Romania separately.
A referendum in October on same-sex marriage was annulled
because of too low turnout. Same-sex marriage is forbidden,
but the referendum was about a change in the constitution
that defines marriage between man and woman and not only
between spouses. Over 93% of the voters said yes to the
change, but the turnout was only 21%.