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Romania’s President Urges PSD Government To Back Down On Judicial Changes

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Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has called on the government to reveres a series of judicial reforms criticized by the U.S. and EU.

Romania's president has called on the ruling left-wing government to honor referendum results and reverse a series of measures to weaken the judiciary and the rule of law that have been criticized by the European Union and United States.

Following a May 26 nonbinding referendum on the issue, center-right President Klaus Iohannis said he wanted the revision of the government's judicial amendments to become part of a "national pact" between Romania's political parties in order to ensure the results of the vote are enacted.

Iohannis, who often clashes with the country’s government, said on June 5 that "Romanians voted clearly and firmly against an anti-European approach."

"We didn’t enter the EU by accident or by mistake. We want to have the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and good laws for the justice system," he said.

The PSD and its junior ally suffered serious losses in the May 26 European Parliament elections that ran alongside the referendum.

The government was criticized for obstructing the voting process abroad by imposing a complicated procedure which prevented tens of thousands of Romanian expats from casting their ballot.

Millions of Romanians have left the country over the past two decades. Expats have traditionally voted against the left.

Since January 2017, thousands of Romanians have repeatedly taken to the streets in protest as the PSD passed without public debate emergency measures that critics said reversed judicial reforms and threatened the rule of law. The measures have prompted EU and U.S. criticism.

Critics have said that PSD moves to decriminalize several corruption offenses were intended to save former PDS leader Liviu Dragnea from going to jail.

But on May 27, Romania's highest court rejected Dragnea's appeal against an abuse-of-office conviction and immediately sent him to prison to begin a 3 1/2 year sentence.

Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, a Dragnea protege, was elected interim PSD leader the following day.

The PSD said on June 5 that it was committed to upholding the result of the referendum but that it wanted to attach several other measures to Iohannis's pact to curb alleged abuses on the part of prosecutors.

"PSD supports political consensus on major topics of national interest, especially when such an initiative is real and not an election campaign gain," it said.

Before the PSD-led coalition came to power in late 2016, Bucharest had earned praise from the EU for its crackdown on corruption under the leadership of chief anti-corruption prosecutor Laura Koevesi, who was dismissed last year by the leftist government for alleged abuse of power.

Koevesi's dismissal was regarded by analysts as an attempt by the PSD to prevent her DNA anti-corruption agency bringing its leader, Dragnea, and other corrupt politicians to justice.

Despite her dismissal, Koevesi earned the preliminary backing of a European Parliament committee in February to become the EU's first anti-fraud prosecutor.

Romania joined the EU alongside Bulgaria in 2007. Both countries remain under Brussels' monitoring due to concerns over corruption and the rule of law.

With reporting by AFP and Reuters
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