A group of prominent members of Romania's governing Social Democrats (PSD) on Wednesday made available to the public a letter in which they call for the resignation of PSD leader Liviu Dragnea both as party head and as speaker of the House. They speak of a "crisis situation" and a need to avoid "international isolation" and urge the leadership of the party to discuss their request. For his part, Dragnea dismissed the move as a "game" in the benefit of intelligence services and President Klaus Iohannis.
The party leadership committee CEx is expected to discuss the request in a session on Friday.
The list of PSD members who signed the letter urging Dragnea to leave includes a long number of top, influential local branch leaders and prominent officials such as deputy PM Paul Stanescu, party secretary general Marian Neacsu and Bucharest mayor Gabriela Firea. Many of them have a long history of supporting Dragnea.
On the other hand, Dragnea is said to have secured the support of a little over a dozen local branches.
Dragnea reacted on Wednesday afternoon by suggesting that those who are attacking him were acting at the orders of President Iohannis, who he has been blaming for many of PSD's and his troubles. He also blamed it on the intelligence services, which the PSD and Dragnea have been associating with a so-called "parallel state" threatening the order of the country, not so much different from the "deep state" invoked by other authoritarian officials internationally.
"I as President [of the PSD] can't let the party become a tool for these institutions," he said.
The revolt becomes public after a long period of simmering discontent within the PSD, which however has always been stifled by Dragnea and his men. This month, protests intensified especially through the public protests of Gabriela Firea, the mayor of Bucharest, who has accused Dragnea publicly over hoarding too much power in his hands.
Dragnea's challengers say PM Viorica Dancila - a prime minister seen as a puppet for Dragnea - should serve as party leader for an interim period.
Dragnea has been leading the PSD with an iron hand for years. He has a definitive but suspended (not properly served) prison sentence for electoral fraud and another criminal sentence, which he appealed and is due to be judged again starting this fall, he received earlier this year.
Due to his criminal record, he could not serve as prime minister, a position he has been controlling through cronies. Two of them resigned last year, while the third since the PSD win in the 2016 elections, incumbent PM Viorica Dancila, has managed to serve in office for more than half a year.
Dragnea and his long time supporters - including many of his current challengers - have been pursuing an agenda to subdue the judiciary politically, end the fight against corruption and using huge amounts of public money for voter friendly decisions instead of investments. Over the past year, still more international media and Western officials started to include Romania under Dragnea's government along Hungary and Poland as trouble countries in the European Union.