New Romanian president promises crackdown on corruption

Klaus Iohannis says he plans to seek political consensus for key state initiatives

Klaus Iohannis shortly after the swearing-in ceremony, in Bucharest, Romania. Photograph: Robert Ghement/EPA

Klaus Iohannis shortly after the swearing-in ceremony, in Bucharest, Romania. Photograph: Robert Ghement/EPA

 

Centre-right politician Klaus Iohannis was sworn in as Romania’s president on Sunday, promising to crack down on corruption and strengthen institutions 25 years after the fall of communism.

Mr Iohannis won a surprise victory against the leftist prime minister, Victor Ponta, in November’s election and was sworn in yesterday for a five-year term. He said he plans to seek political consensus for key state initiatives to overhaul education, healthcare and the judiciary. The new president said he will initiate talks with parties from the ruling coalition and the opposition to decide on “the main common objectives and outline a calendar for completing the projects”.

“Education and healthcare should be the main priorities because they are suffering the most after the economic crisis,” Mr Iohannis said. “In terms of the judiciary, fighting corruption and the rule of law, the steps taken so far must be protected and continued.

“There is a need for the whole political class to understand there is no other way for Romania except that of a country rid of corruption,” he told the joint session of the lower house and senate.

“I want that at the end of my term people can see we have made durable laws, solid institutions,” he said in the blue-and-gold domed hall of the parliament building built by former communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

Mr Iohannis, an ethnic German, replaces centre-right politician Traian Basescu, who served for a decade in which Romania joined the European Union in 2007 and saw record economic growth rates before a real estate bubble burst, forcing it to seek help from the International Monetary Fund.

The former communist state of 20 million is emerging from painful budget cuts imposed during the slowdown. Growth rebounded to more than 3 percent in the third quarter of 2014, but corruption and tax evasion are rife. Progress to implement reforms and overhaul a bloated state sector is mixed.

Political squabbles have often hampered Romania’s progress in its 25 years of democracy. Prime minister since 2012, Mr Ponta often feuded with the outgoing president, which stymied policymaking and caused a constitutional crisis.

The presidential role is largely ceremonial, but comes with important powers at important moments. The president oversees foreign politics, appoints the prime minister and he can also veto bills and send them back to parliament for more consideration. – (Agencies )