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PSD's Dragnea resigns as minister, party leader

Executive Chairman of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) Liviu Dragnea on Friday announced having resigned his office as Minister of Public Administration and Regional Development, adding that on Monday he will also tender his resignation as PSD executive chairman."As I have continually said, I believe I am innocent. Nevertheless, I took note of today's court decision and I tendered my resignation from the office of the Minister of Development to the Prime Minister. I also informed him that my resignation as the party's executive chairman will be on the table of the party's National Standing Bureau. I confess I do not understand what the court's arguments were or will be; it is a decision I respect, because it is a decision of a court of law. On the other hand, my questions are still valid about how to campaign for the elections in Romania since voter turnout can be deemed ill-gotten gain," Dragnea said at the PSD headquarters.

He claimed that this is dangerous precedent for anyone wanting to conduct an election campaign now at any level, a precedent that can affect democracy and the freedom of political parties to urge people to show up to vote.

"It could emerge in the collective subconscious the idea that voter turnout can be something wrong or condemnable," said Dragnea.

The judges of the High Court of Cassation and Justice convicted Development Minister Liviu Dragnea to a one-year suspended prison sentence with three years probation, the decision being open to appeal. 

Liviu Dragnea was sent to court by the National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) prosecutors in connection with the misuse of influence or power by a person holding a leading office in a party in order to get ill-gotten gains for self or others. 

According to the DNA, Dragnea, in his capacity as PSD secretary general, used his influence and authority inside the party in order to get ill-gotten gains of electoral nature for the political alliance of which the party represented by the defendant was a member, namely to secure the turnout quorum in the July 29, 2012 referendum with the aid of votes gotten under other circumstances than the legal ones. 

According to the prosecutors, Dragnea coordinated a complex mechanism and got more people involved into it over whom he had influence by virtue of the party office he was holding, with the purpose of misrepresenting the turnout.

"As a first step, Liviu Dragnea, in his capacity as secretary general of the party he was representing and also coordinator of the electoral camping, issued two notes - dated July 12 and July 13, 2014 - for the party's county branches and the campaign chairs and directors, respectively, as well as for the PSD mayors all over the country in which he was urging them to take measures penalised under Law 3/2000 (in fact promises of material gains in order to determine voters to vote in the referendum), while also urging prefects to set up polling stations in tourist resorts, which are not territorial-administrative units in themselves, all for the purpose of securing a 60-per cent turnout," says DNA. 

Dragnea was also accused of having concomitantly coordinated a complex information system through which he delivered to county campaign managers/mayors/ and party activists messages, orders and recommendations related to boosting voter turnout in the referendum using forbidden means.