Tensions between Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and the governing Social Democrats (PSD) over the fate of the country's top anti-graft prosecutor spiraled again on Tuesday. Iohannis once again postponed a decision whether to dismiss National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA) chief Laura Codruta Kovesi, prompting PSD officials to increase pressure and even talk of actions to suspend the head of state.
In his first detailed speech on justice-related issues in a long time, President Iohannis spoke on Tuesday about a recent Constitutional Court decision which would order him to comply with a request to dismiss DNA head Kovesi.
Early this year, Justice minister Tudorel Toader called for the Kovesi's dismissal as chief anti-graft prosecutor. President Iohannis rejected the call. Toader challenged Iohannis answer at the Constitutional Court, which last week said the head of state would have to comply with Toader's request. The Court decision has sparked major debates, as it would allow a stronger political control of top prosecutors.
Iohannis said that he was still analysing the Constitutional Court decision and, while refusing to say that it was political, he noticed it overlapped with governing PSD's attempts to limit the powers of the President.
He said a comprehensive debate on such issues was needed and even raised the possibility of a referendum to clear the situation. He insisted on the need that prosecutors stay outside political influence and remain independent.
And Iohannis openly confronted PSD leader Liviu Dragnea, who has been spearheading a campaign to change the laws of justice and limit the powers of institutions not controlled by the PSD. The President criticised recent statements made by Dragnea on a TV channel, which appeared to threaten magistrates in the case of PSD's prime minister Viorica Dancila, against whom the leader of the opposition called a criminal inquiry recently.
Iohannis wondered how was it possible that a politician "who is also a criminal" - Dragnea has received a suspended sentence for electoral fraud two years ago - "go on TV and threaten magistrates, after having organised an average protest against Justice". Iohannis was speaking of a protest organised by the PSD last weekend, against a so-called "parallel state" of prosecutors and intelligence services, that the PSD blames to justify changes to the laws of justice.
Reacting to Iohannis' statement, two top PSD officials, MP Florin Iordache and Labor minister Olguta Vasilescu, raised the possibility of acting to suspend the president unless he complies quickly with the Court request to dismiss DNA head Kovesi.