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Top Romanian Social Democrat Members Urge Party Leader To Resign

Liviu Dragnea is leader of Romania's Social Democrat party
Liviu Dragnea is leader of Romania's Social Democrat party

Top politicians in Romania’s ruling Social Democrats (PSD) have called on the party leader to step down over criminal corruption convictions and party-related violations.

The call to resign was delivered in a letter to Liviu Dragnea on September 19 and was signed by three prominent members of the PSD, including Deputy Premier Paul Stanescu.

The letter said Dragnea's continued leadership of the party was a vulnerability ahead of elections in 2019 and 2020.

"Party leader Liviu Dragnea's vulnerable legal situation has become the party's major vulnerability, the opposition and civil society's main attack element, a constant source of mistrust domestically and abroad," stated the open letter from Stanescu, lawmaker Adrian Tutuianu, and Bucharest Mayor Gabriela Firea said.

The letter suggested that Prime Minister Viorica Dancila replace him as interim party leader until a nationwide congress is held in early 2019.

There have been several large protests since the PSD took power in early 2017 and began decriminalizing several corruption offenses in what some say is a campaign to save Dragnea from going to jail after he was condemned for abuse of office.

Dragnea was sentenced to three and a half years in prison by the Supreme Court. But under Romanian law, the sentence handed down on June 21 was preliminary, and Dragnea will not be incarcerated before an appeal is decided.

Dragnea is barred from becoming prime minister because of his conviction but he continues to maintain a tight grip on the party.

Dragnea has refused to comment until the party's executive committee meets on September 21.

Based on reporting by Reuters and dpa