After months of mounting pressure from the government, Romania’s president confirmed his dismissal of the country’s top anti-corruption prosecutor on July 9. Laura Codruța Kövesi was the chief prosecutor of Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate (DNA), a position she held from May 2013 until the time of her sacking.
Described by The Guardian as a “quiet, unassuming chief prosecutor who is bringing in the scalps,” Codruța Kövesi led “an anti-corruption drive quite unlike any other in eastern Europe – or the world for that matter.” During her tenure, she brought cases against mayors, judges, MPs and even Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who resigned in November 2015 after popular protests partially triggered by the corruption charges against him.
Codruța Kövesi’s fight against high-level graft did not make her popular with the ruling, left-wing Social Democratic Party (PSD). The PSD-led government has made corruption its trade mark over the past two years. The party has fiercely opposed the prosecution of politicians who have accepted bribes, by proposing changes to the criminal code that would absolve these individuals of responsibility. These amendments to the code were passed by parliament in record time, last week.
In its effort to protect its power and privileges, in February, the PSD launched a process to oust Codruța Kövesi, with PSD Justice Minister Tudorel Toader accusing her of “violating the constitution” and “harming Romania’s image” abroad. The move was criticized by the center-right President Klaus Iohannis, as well as by the European Commission and the Council of Europe. But, five weeks ago, the Constitutional Court ordered the president to fire Codruța Kövesi, at the request of the Minister of Justice. Presumably, it was the threat of an impeachment by the same corrupt ruling party and cabinet to which Iohannis bowed and gave up his resistance to Codruța Kövesi’s dismissal.
“The decisions of the Constitutional Court need to be implemented both by the President and the majority in the Parliament,” the president’s spokesperson Madalina Dobrovoschi said. “But the fight against corruption will not stop. Whatever the name of the DNA chief prosecutor, this institution needs to ensure the fight against corruption takes place at the highest possible level,” Dobrovoschi added.
Now only the Romanian people can hold the country’s corrupt political elite accountably, namely, at the polls in early 2021.