On trial but in office: Romanian premier survives no-confidence vote


Romania’s Parliament on Tuesday knocked down a no-confidence motion the opposition had launched against Prime Minister Viktor Ponta, keeping him in office, although he has been on trial for corruption since last week.

Only 413 of the 588 members in the two-chamber Parliament showed up for the vote, and two-thirds, or 275, of them would have had to support the measure to topple the 43-year-old Social Democratic leader. However, the motion obtained only 207 votes. Another 198 lawmakers abstained.

The country’s Supreme Court opened the trial against Ponta on September 21 on charges of forgery, tax evasion and money laundering worth at least 180,000 lei (45,000 dollars).

His political rival President Klaus Iohannis urged Ponta to resign, saying that otherwise he would harm Romania’s anti-corruption drive.

Iohannis is unable to oust Ponta from the office himself because the alleged crimes were committed before Ponta became prime minister in May 2012.

Romania, a member of the European Union since 2007, has earned praise in recent years for its crackdown on corruption.

The courts have sentenced several top officials for taking bribes, including former prime minister Adrian Nastase, Ponta’s political mentor.

Ponta is the first sitting premier to go on trial for corruption in the former Communist country.