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Saturday 17 February 2018

Immunity backing for Romania leader

Victor Ponta said the resignation of his government would cause a
Victor Ponta said the resignation of his government would cause a "political crisis of three, four, five months" (AP)

Romania's parliament has voted to keep the immunity of the prime minister, who is a suspect in a corruption probe.

Lawmakers voted 231-120 against anti-corruption prosecutors' request to prosecute Victor Ponta.

The premier is suspected of corruption charges, including being an accomplice to tax evasion from 2007 to 2008 while serving in Parliament, a conflict of interest and money laundering.

After the vote, President Klaus Iohannis renewed his call for Mr Ponta's resignation and criticised Parliament for voting to keep his immunity.

"It is a proof of maximum irresponsibility and lack of respect for public opinion that most lawmakers are preventing justice from doing its duty ... to save a single person," Mr Iohannis said in a statement.

The US Embassy said in a statement that "allegations of wrongdoing by government officials should be fully investigated without interference, and the law should be applied equally to everyone".

Mr Ponta earlier told foreign media that he considered resigning after being informed that he was a suspect last week, but decided to stay on to ensure political stability. He denies wrongdoing and says he will cooperate with prosecutors.

Mr Iohannis has said that he would prefer the whole government to resign, not just Mr Ponta.

Mr Ponta's centre-left government faces a vote of no-confidence on Friday. The prime minister said he hoped he would survive.

Mr Ponta told journalists that the political crisis was an "an unexpected gift" for Russia, which has cool relations with Romania.

Press Association

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