Electoral campaign in Romania hits the ceiling: PM Victor Ponta, alleged secret agent

Electoral campaign in Romania hits the ceiling: PM Victor Ponta, alleged secret agent

 

By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest

The presidential campaign in Romania has hit a high following revelations last night by President Traian Basescu who broke a month long silence by disclosing PM Victor Ponta, a fronr runner in next month’s presidential elections, is a former under cover agent working for Romanian foreign intelligence service SIE.

Early September, Basescu had warned one of the candidates to the top job in the country is hiding his past and urged him to come clean. At that time, he pointed out that he would be forced to reveal the truth himself if his appeal falls on deaf ears. “Yes, because I have the obligation to do it. When we talk about the position of president of Romania, you cannot miss to inform, no one says the service should do it, because the low doesn’t allow it, but the candidate has the obligation to do it. I will be able to come up with evidence about what this double button means” Basescu added.

The media quickly turned their attention to the main two contenders, PM Victor Ponta, and his rival Klaus Iohannis, German ethnic mayor of Sibiu, a city in central Romania. They both denied having worked for a secret service.

Last night, a little more than a month after making the above-mentioned statements, Basescu said that it is PM Ponta he was talking about when speaking of the former under cover agent seeking to become president. “Victor Ponta has to admit that he was a SIE under cover agent between 1997 and 2001” when Ponta was a prosecutor, Basescu said last night in a TV talk show. The President said he had become suspicious in 2013 when a senator publicly asked Ponta whether he had been a secret agent and the latter refused to answer.

Basescu also accused Teodor Melescanu, until last month director of SIE who gave up his job to join the presidential race, of covering Ponta and refusing to publicly admit there are former secret agents in the Romanian Government. The head of state also pointed out Ponta broke the law when accepting to work for SIE because the law banned a prosecutor from deploying such activities. Basescu also underlined he is not breaking any law when making such revelations since “it is inadmissible for the secret services to have officers in the government, parliament and the justice field”.

Ponta was quick to react today calling Basescu’s revelations “lies and slanders”. “After I graduated from the Law School, I have each time observed the laws of the country, as a magistrate, minister and I will continue to do so”, Ponta said today. He accused Basescu of using state institutions for his personal interest.

It is too soon to gauge the effects on Ponta’s chances to become the next Romanian President at this point, even though several rivals have called for his resignation. Many say the biggest impact will be outside the country, in the West, already disappointed by Ponta’s erratic political behavior in the summer of 2012 when he encroached on constitutional freedoms to oust rival Basescu. If further details surface about Ponta’s missions abroad as a SIE agent, because the media say he was deployed in Western countries over that period of four years, they will probably further isolate him, should he become the next president. All the more Ponta’s alleged job as a secret agent occurred when the Romanian intelligence was still teaming with Soviet style commanders before the post-NATO accession cleansing.