As Romania just took over the revolving presidency of the European Union for six months, Financial Times ran a lengthy profile of the country’s strongman Liviu Dragnea entitled “Romania’s convicted powerbroker faces EU scrutiny”. While there is a saying that there is no such thing as bad publicity, given both the title and content of the artilce, Dragnea would probably disagree.
“Anyone who thinks Romania is at risk of becoming a fiefdom for Liviu Dragnea, its most powerful politician, will find plenty in his home town of Alexandria to confirm their view. Mr Dragnea’s sprawling villa, with its tennis court and pool, stands near the centre of town, the capital of one of the poorest regions in Romania.” – begins the article by Valerie Hopkins.
The article then goes on about Dragnea’s two convictions – the reason why he cannot be Prime Minister despite his Social-Democrat Party (PSD) – having had won the last elections. Dragnea (56), an engineer by training, was convicted a suspended two-and-a-half-year sentence for electoral fraud in 2015 and to three and a half years in prison for incitement to abuse of office, pending appeal in 2018.
“The EU spotlight will also expose Romania’s opaque power structure, feuding leadership and pervasive corruption to closer scrutiny than at any time since it joined the bloc 12 years ago”, the FT article says.
He is also described as the puppet master of Romanian politics, running the country through proxy, with the titular Prime Minister being Viorica Dăncilă. Victor Ponta – former PSD president and former Prime Minister under whom Dragnea served as deputy – told FT “Romania has never been more corrupt than it is in 2018. Because now corruption has been institutionalised.”
Title image: Romanian Prime Minister Viorica Dăncilă and PSD President Liviu Dragnea