Romanian prime minister Victor Ponta has announced that he decided to step down from the leadership of his Social Democratic Party (PSD) until he proves his innocence against the charges anti-graft prosecutors have issued against him. He made the statement weeks after the National Anti-Corruption Department (DNA) launched a graft investigation against him, prompting insisting calls - including President Klaus Iohannis' - for him to step down as head of government, which he has rejected so far.

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  • UPDATE PSD interim president Rovana Plumb later today said Ponta did not resign, but stepped down temporarily as head of the party. She said Ponta's resignation as prime minister was out of the question as it would provoke a "major political crisis". And she said she would serve as interim until the next party congress, which is due next year.

PM Ponta made the announcement about his party leadership withdrawal in an open letter to the party leadership, which he published on his Facebook account.

It comes just days after he returned from Turkey, where he spent the past couple of weeks treating a knee injury and allegedly undergoing a medical intervention. He returned to work this week.

He said he made the decision to step down from all leadership positions within the PSD because "a new, special situation has emerged, about which I have to react: the president of the PSD is investigated by the DNA (no matter how and why!). And others of our colleagues have temporarily stepped down from political positions until their judicial situation is cleared. And I cannot ask of others to make a sacrifice which I am not ready to make myself.

I am informing you about my decision to no longer hold any leadership position within the Party until I prove my innocence against the charges against me, in order to prevent this situation from affecting the PSD (...)".