BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania's president on Friday urged Prime Minister Victor Ponta to resign over corruption allegations including tax evasion and money laundering. Ponta refused, saying that only Parliament could dismiss him.
President Klaus Iohannis said after meeting Ponta that it was "an impossible situation for Romania for the prime minister to be accused of criminal acts." Iohannis warned that Romania could be embroiled in a political crisis if he did not resign.
The 42-year-old premier had met earlier with the anti-corruption prosecutor's office and then told reporters he was suspected met of making false statements, money laundering and being an accomplice to tax evasion. He had not previously been identified as a suspect in the anti-corruption drive.
Ponta, chairman of the ruling Social Democratic Party, was elected prime minister in April 2012. Ponta ran for president in November 2014 but lost to Iohannis, who headed the rival Liberal Party.
Ponta's party counts on the support of smaller parties for a slim majority in Parliament.
The prosecutors have asked Parliament to prosecute Ponta. The allegations relate to his work as a lawyer from 2007 to 2008 when he was also a lawmaker for the Social Democratic Party.
Ponta is the most prominent suspect to be identified as Romania's anti-corruption drive has intensified in recent months.
In 2014, the anti-corruption office secured a record 1,051 convictions, including a former prime minister, seven former ministers, a former deputy prime minister, four lawmakers, one member of the European Parliament, 39 mayors, 25 magistrates and two tycoons.
Members of Parliament are immune from prosecution unless there is a vote to lift their immunity. Dan Sova, a member of Parliament and a close associate of Ponta, has beaten two attempts to lift his immunity.