Romanian PM survives no-confidence vote amid graft trial

AP News
Posted: Sep 29, 2015 2:44 PM
Romanian PM survives no-confidence vote amid graft trial

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Romania's prime minister on Tuesday survived a parliamentary no-confidence vote, as expected, a week after the start of his corruption trial.

Premier Victor Ponta is on trial on charges of tax evasion, money laundering, conflict of interest and making false statements while he was working as a lawyer in 2007 and 2008. He denies wrongdoing.

Lawmakers voted 207-8 for the no-confidence motion, well short of the 275 votes needed to dismiss Ponta from office. Lawmakers from his ruling Social Democratic Party and another party didn't vote.

Both chambers of Parliament voted and there are a total of 588 seats in the two. Ponta belongs to the larger Chamber of Deputies.

President Klaus Iohannis has urged Ponta to resign, saying his refusal has undermined Romania's anti-corruption drive which has stepped up in recent months.

Several of Ponta's allies are facing corruption charges or have been convicted. The opposition has also been tainted by allegations of corruption.

On Monday, parliamentary deputy speaker Dan Motreanu and former presidential adviser George Scutaru, both from the opposition Liberal Party, were indicted on bribery charges and will face trial.

Motreanu, who is speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, said on Tuesday he would resign from his post as of Oct. 1. Scutaru is not a member of Parliament.

As the parliamentary session got underway, several thousand people demonstrated in a park next to Parliament, shouting "down with the government!" and "you are a disgrace for Romania in the European Union!"

Ponta accused the opposition Liberal Party, which brought the motion, of "hiding behind prosecutors."

Liberal Party co-chairman Alina Gorghiu responded that Ponta was divorced from the reality of his situation.

Ponta, 43, boasts that Romania's economy has recovered during his tenure and that his dismissal would bring political instability. He became prime minister in 2012.