Romania’s president fired the country’s chief anti-corruption prosecutor after months of escalating conflict between her and the governing Social Democratic Party, local media reported Monday.
In her role as the head of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate, Laura Codruta Kovesi maintained an aggressive approach against corruption. She oversaw the prosecution of thousands of government officials, lawmakers, and business leaders, according to the New York Times.
Her hardline stance, however, was controversial in a country that ranks among the most corrupt in Europe.
Since the Social Democrats took control in 2016, the party has pushed to relax the fight against corruption that Kovesi has championed since her mandate began in 2013.
The country’s Justice Minister Tudorel Toade recommended she be removed in February, accusing Kovesi of abusing her power and damaging Romania’s international reputation.
President Klaus Iohannis, who has been a vocal supporter of Romania’s anti-corruption drive, initially refused but in late May, the country’s Constitutional Court ruled that Iohannis did not have the power to override the justice minister.
Nevertheless, the president continued to stall the decision for five weeks until the Social Democrats likely forced his hand on Friday by mentioning the possibility of suspending him from office for his continued refusal to axe Kovesi, according to the New York Times.
“The decisions of the Constitutional Court need to be implemented both by the president and the majority in the parliament,” the president’s spokesperson Madalina Dobrovoschi said on Monday.
“But the fight against corruption will not stop. Whatever the name of the DNA [National Anti-Corruption Directorate] chief prosecutor, this institution needs to ensure the fight against corruption takes place at the highest possible level,” she said, according to Balkan Insight.
Romania’s anti-corruption push has sparked a wave of opposing protests in recent months, with pro-Social Democrat critics arguing that prosecutors have too much power.
Kovesi, who was the country’s youngest chief anti-graft prosecutor and first female attorney general, left the Anti-Corruption Directorate amid applause from her colleagues on Monday, Balkan Insight reported.
“Today’s episode is not a defeat,” Kovesi said at a press conference, according to local media. “Corruption can be defeated.”
In the interim, the Anti-Corruption Directorate will be run by deputy chief prosecutor Marius Iacob.