Romania's Ruling-Party Boss Strengthens His Grip on Power

  • Dragnea ally will take vital post inside Social Democrats
  • Party leader also vows to push ahead with judicial reform

Romania’s de facto leader strengthened his grip on power by helping elevate an ally to a pivotal post within the ruling party.

Social Democrat boss Liviu Dragnea’s proposal to make Prime Minister Viorica Dancila executive president was approved Saturday by the party’s congress, which is usually convened every four years, after two other candidates withdrew before the vote. The move will firm up Dragnea’s control of the Social Democrats as he continues to fight a conviction for vote-rigging that’s preventing him from becoming premier himself.

“Romania’s sovereignty is more precious than any fight for power, than any local interest and that’s why we’ll protect it through explicit laws, debated and voted in Parliament,” Dragnea said. “While respecting the western countries that help us modernize our country, I strongly say that the design of our national sovereignty must be done here and not outside the country. ”

Despite a landslide victory in elections in 2016, the Social Democrats have been roiled by infighting that’s brought three prime ministers in little more than a year. Dragnea is seeking to steady the ship as the Black Sea nation’s economy slows from the one of the highest growth rates in the world last year.

Judicial Overhaul

Dragnea also vowed to proceed with an overhaul of the judiciary that would give the government more control over corruption cases. The plan has drawn criticism from judges and the European Union, as well as triggering street protests. An anti-graft push has locked up or sent to trial hundreds of officials in recent years, including Dragnea.

He also pledged to present a detailed country strategy to help Romania join the euro-area in 2023-2024 and start talks on the subject with the central bank and the president.

A few hundred people protested outside the building where the congress was held in Bucharest.

Dancila will replace Nicolae Badalau, who repeatedly criticized Dragnea for bickering with the previous two premiers. Several party members said Saturday’s election procedure wasn’t “democratic” because some people were prevented from submitting their candidacies.

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