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Cablegate: Chamber of Deputies, Negative Vote Freezes

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RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN
RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHBM #0653/01 2280829
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 150829Z AUG 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8606
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BUCHAREST 000653

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

STATE FOR EUR/CE SCHEIBE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL RO
SUBJECT: CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES, NEGATIVE VOTE FREEZES
INVESTIGATIONS INTO TWO HIGH-LEVEL CORRUPTION CASES

1. (SBU) Summary: In an emergency session called by
President Basescu, the Chamber of Deputies on August 13 voted
against referring to the National Anti-Corruption Directorate
(DNA) the corruption charges against former Prime Minister
Adrian Nastase and former Transportation Minister Miron
Mitrea. Avoiding a repeat of a June vote that was invalidated
for lack of a quorum, the outcome shows that despite looming
parliamentary elections, abysmal approval ratings, and a
recent pledge to commit to judicial reform in order to end
continued monitoring by the European Commission, many
politicians remain willing to avoid at any cost creating a
precedent for holding senior officials accountable for
corruption allegations. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On the Nastase corruption allegation, the votes by
secret ballot were 120 in favor of investigation versus 150
against (6 votes were invalidated). On the Mitrea corruption
allegation, 160 Deputies voted for starting an investigation
versus 105 against (one vote was invalidated). The measures
failed on both counts because of the lack of a "super
majority" (e.g., two-thirds of the number of Deputies or 218
votes). The results seemed to contradict public statements by
PD-L, PNL, and PRM leaders that their caucuses would vote for
the investigations to proceed.

3. (SBU) Subsequent vote counts suggest that at least 23 of
PD-L, PNL, and PRM,s combined members did not vote the
professed party line on the Nastase request. Conversely,
approximately two dozen members from the PSD, PC, and UDMR
camp apparently voted for the investigation into Mitrea file
to proceedt. Following the parliamentary vote, a DNA
spokesman told the media that both investigations were now
"definitively blocked, as the criminal action cannot proceed
absent authorization from the relevant body. The prosecutors
cannot find any use for these files any more, and will close
them."

4. (SBU) Parliament's move to block further investigation of
the charges against Nastase and Mitrea came despite public
pledges from parliamentarians to cooperate on an action plan
to deal positively with the corruption issue. In the
aftermath of a recent critical European Commission report on
the lack of progress in Romanian judicial reform (and which
specifically singled out the Romanian parliament as being
obstructionist) all parties committed to take action that
would put an end to the EC's continued "humiliating"
monitoring of Romania. (note: The July 23 EC report devotes
six pages to shortcomings in Parliament, and specifically
urged that "independent investigation of former ministers and
members of Parliament by the judicial authorities be allowed
to proceed in order to restore public confidence in the fight
against corruption and in respect for the rule of law.")
Asked for comment, EC spokesman Martin Selmayr said that
progress in the fight against high-level corruption,
including cases involving MPs and former and current
ministers, remain Romania's main challenge so far as its
commitments to the EU are concerned.

5. (SBU) After the parliamentary vote, Mitrea announced that
he would make good an earlier vow to resign from Parliament
so he would have his day in court to clear his name. In
contrast, Nastase continued to argue the criminal charges
against him were nothing but a political vendetta,
characterizing the vote as "a political solution to a
political case." His colleague, PSD secretary general Titus
Corlatean remarked that the vote was "predictable" since most
members were convinced the cases were political. He added
that giving DNA the go-ahead would have amounted not to
justice being served, but to surrender to "Basescu,s
prosecutors" who were continuing to "harass" the two PSD
Deputies throughout the parliamentary election campaign.
(Note: commentators have noted that Mitrea's gesture appears
to be motivated by a desire to differentiate himself from
Nastase's hard-line strategy of "stonewalling" judicial
action, and reflects his confidence that the courts will not
convict based on the evidence available and that he will be
reelected to parliament after the November election.)

6. (SBU) PD-L chairman Emil Boc called the outcome
"shameful" and a "mockery of justice," while PD-L caucus
leader Cristian Radulescu blamed the "unpleasant situation"
created on those "parties which showed they can and will
obstruct justice." PD-L Deputy Cornel Stirbet, however, told
PolOffs that the "silver lining" for his party is that now
everyone now has "clear proof" that the PD-L differs from all
other parties in its commitment to the anti-corruption
effort.

7. (SBU) Comment: The Chamber of Deputies vote was not a

BUCHAREST 00000653 002 OF 002


surprise, but is nevertheless a blow against prosecutors and
others seeking parliamentary accountability in the fight
against corruption. Prosecutor General Laura Codruta Kovesi
has said that she would ask the Justice Ministry to sponsor a
bill to curtail top officials and MPs, immunity to criminal
investigations, and the Constitutional Court is scheduled to
rule soon on PD-L challenges against the current requirement
for a two-thirds "super majority" in order to approve
criminal investigations of current or former Cabinet members
who are also Deputies, on the grounds that there is a double
standard for the threshold needed to remove the President for
misdeeds (e.g., a simple majority vote) and the two-thirds
threshold for Deputies. However, even if PD-L,s challenges
are upheld and the bar for clearing high-level corruption
investigations by the legislature is lowered, the chances
that a majority of MPs would vote to send cases involving
their peers to court still remains slim. End Comment.
TAUBMAN

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