Romanian PM Temporarily Vacates Post for Health Reasons


Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who is under investigation for money laundering and tax evasion, announced Sunday he was temporarily stepping aside for health reasons.

Ponta, who is receiving treatment in Turkey for an injury sustained during a basketball game, will send a letter to President Klaus Iohannis asking him to name deputy prime minister Gabriel Oprea as his replacement "for up to 45 days", as allowed for by the constitution, the government said in a statement.

In a message on his Facebook page, the 42-year-old Social Democratic premier said he would leave hospital on Sunday after receiving surgery on his knee but would need weeks to recuperate.

"In 28 days maximum I'll be able to resume normal activity," he said.

Ponta slipped out of Romania on Monday, without informing the president.

The corruption allegations against him have plunged Romania into a political crisis.

He is under investigation on suspicion of tax evasion and money laundering between 2007 and 2011, when he was a lawyer.

Ponta is also suspected of conflict of interest in his role of prime minister since 2012, over his appointment of a close business associate as a minister. 

He has protested his innocence and ruled out resigning, as demanded by conservative Iohannis.

Ponta has the backing of parliament, which rejected a request by prosecutors to strip him of his immunity from prosecution over his actions as prime minister, and voted down a no-confidence motion in his government.

Oprea, 54, is a member of the leftist National Union for the Progress of Romania.