Mr. Dragnea was found guilty on June 21 of abuse of office, after intervening to keep two of his party’s employees, who performed no state work, on the public payroll from 2006 to 2013, when he was a local council leader. The court sentenced Mr. Dragnea to three years and six months in jail, though the verdict is expected to be appealed.
Mr. Dragnea was previously given a two-year suspended sentence for electoral fraud.
Mr. Iohannis, the president, is a vocal proponent of Romania’s anti-corruption efforts. He is currently under pressure to fire the country’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor, Laura Codruta Kovesi, however, after the justice minister recommended her dismissal and the Constitutional Court ruled in May that he was unable to block the decision. So far, he has declined to act, which could pave the way for his suspension.
“Right now, the Social Democrats can use this moral upper hand to attack the president for not respecting the Constitutional Court decision, if he will react more against what they are doing right now,” said Radu Delicote, a strategist at the political consulting group Smartlink Communications. “The tensions are very high and things are reaching a boiling point,” he added.
Romania is also likely to face growing international pressure on the matter. Christian Wigand, the European Commission’s spokesman for rule of law, said in a statement sent to The New York Times that developments in the country were being followed closely.
“We will examine the final texts of the legislation for its compatibility with relevant E.U. law in the field of criminal justice and police cooperation and international standards,” he said. “As the guardian of treaties, we will not hesitate to take action where necessary to ensure such compatibility.”
Last month, the United States Embassy in Bucharest, along with 11 other Western embassies, issued a statement that read: “We, Romania’s international partners and allies, call on all parties involved in amending Romania’s criminal and criminal procedure codes to avoid changes that would weaken the rule of law or Romania’s ability to fight crime or corruption.”
With Romania’s government continuing to push forward with its measures, tensions are likely to rise further. “It’s going to be a very hot summer,” Mr. Delicote said, “and a very hard fall.”