The leader of Romania's governing coalition Liviu Dragnea on Monday strengthened his rule over his party by removing influential critics from key positions. He and his prime minister Viorica Dancila announced several major changes to the governmental team, while the Bucharest mayor, a prominent member of Dragnea's Social Democrats (PSD) and an opponent of the party strongman, was left without political functions.
This came at the end of marathon party leadership talks. Dragnea emerged apparently strengthened, despite a new press investigation published in the morning showing him in suspicious circumstances.
- Investigative reporting group RISE Project published a piece showing images of Dragnea and top PSD officials attending brutal hunting parties organised with top managers of Tel Drum, a company based in southern Romania. Tel Drum has been the subject of a major investigation by anti-graft prosecutors and has been linked to Dragnea, who has so far dismissed any link to the company. The revelations on Monday along with a previous series are based on documents RISE says were hidden in a piece of luggage found in Teleorman, the county where Tel Drum is based.
As party talks concluded late on Monday, Dragnea dismissed any relationship with Tel Drum again and suggested that he attending such hunting party had no relevance whatsoever.
Instead, he and prime minister Viorica Dancila presented a series of governmental changes by which some key opponents of Dragnea's were removed from the government.
The most prominent case is that of Paul Stanescu, who has served as Development minister and who, along Bucharest mayor Gabriela Firea and others, has formed a nucleus of opposition against Dragnea within the PSD.
- Paul Stanescu has turned against Dragnea despite a long period of collaboration. He appears along other top PSD officials in the images of hunting parties published on Monday.
Another prominent change is that of Defense minister Mihai Fifor, who resigned in the morning just to be named in charge with the National Council of the PSD on an interim basis.
Eight ministers in total are replaced:
- Lia Olguta Vasilescu, who so far served as Labor minister, takes over as Transport minister
- Marius Budai takes over as Labor minister
- Nicolae Badalau takes over as Economy minister, a position held so far by a person who had no experience whatsoever and was seen as a puppet for other interests
- A former minister for small and medium enterprises, Alexandru Petrescu, who has held a tense term as manager at Romanian Mail company, takes over as Communication minister
- Professor Daniel Breaz was named Culture minister
- Bogdan Matei was named Sports minister
- And Paul Stanescu was replaced as Development mnister by Ilan Laufer, also a former minister
- Gabriel Les was named Defense minister instead of Mihai Fifor
Another major move was that Bucharest mayor Gabriela Firea, who was noted for being the PSD official with most votes received in elections, was forced to resign as interim president of the Bucharest branch of the PSD and was forced out as president of the party branch in the district of Ilfov surrounding the capital city. A former TV news star, Firea more recently led a wave of resistance against Dragnea within the party ranks.