President Klaus Iohannis must dismiss the chief anti-corruption prosecutor to resolve an institutional conflict with the government, the Constitutional Court said on Wednesday.
This ruling leaves prosecutors vulnerable to political interference. It limits the president’s powers and gives the justice minister a political appointee, and more control over prosecutors.
Under the political pressure, Justice Minister Tudorel Toader called for chief-prosecutors’s dismissal in February, saying she had exceeded her authority and damaged the country’s image abroad. His request drew thousands of anti-graft protesters onto the streets.
The country’s judicial watchdog said the request was unfounded and President Klaus Iohannis rejected it. Legally, the president has final say in the dismissals of chief prosecutors, which are requested by the justice minister and need approval from the judicial watchdog. But on Wednesday, the court ruled the president does not have the constitutional right to oppose a dismissal request legally initiated by the justice minister. Instead, he is limited to assessing the legality of the procedure.
Yesterday, an estimated 4,000 people gathered outside government headquarters after the decision. The protests will continue in the next days.
Since Laura Codruta Kovesi took over the anti-corruption prosecuting agency DNA in 2013, conviction rates have risen sharply, winning praise from Brussels, which has Romania’s justice system under special monitoring.
A lot of politicians from the current ruling coalition are under investigations or sent to court for corruption, abuse in office and money laundering. Among them there are the chairs of the ruling parties. Blocking the activity of the DNA and removing of the severe chief prosecutor would give them an opportunity to influence on pending investigations.
The ruling was been approved by 6 votes to 3, the majority of the Constitutional Court being close to the Social-Democrats.