Romania’s Most Powerful Politician Is in Jail, but Its Corruption Fight Isn’t Over

Romania’s Most Powerful Politician Is in Jail, but Its Corruption Fight Isn’t Over
Liviu Dragnea, the former leader of Romania’s ruling Social Democratic Party, center, arrives escorted by police officers for a court hearing in Bucharest, Romania, April 15, 2019 (AP photo by Vadim Ghirda).

Some protesters mockingly waved handcuffs in Liviu Dragnea’s face as he left the courtroom in Bucharest to start a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence on May 27. Many others celebrated less publically, seeing the fall of Romania’s most powerful man as proof that the country’s embattled institutions, though under more and more political pressure, still function independently.

Dragnea’s arrest put the brakes on the government’s controversial judicial reforms, viewed by many of Romania’s allies as an attempt to undermine a strikingly successful anti-corruption drive. The government’s staunchest critics hope it will be a knockout blow for the ruling Social Democratic Party, or PSD, which until recently was led by Dragnea and which opponents see as little more than a crypto-communist organization supporting kleptocracy.

The new PSD leadership, under Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, has already moved quickly to build bridges with the European Union and with President Klaus Iohannis, with whom the party has long been at loggerheads. Yet even many of those who welcomed the judgment against Dragnea are cautious about leaping to the conclusion that the war against corruption in Romania is won. A divisive debate over Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate, or DNA, and the tensions between different institutions in the country’s public life, are not about to disappear.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.