The man behind the Committee: Who is Florin Iordache?
As we pull into the third day of the attempted dismantling of Romania’s anticorruption framework via parliamentary committee, we should spend some time and take a closer look at the architect of this so-called “reform” of the Justice laws. While the man calling the shots is Liviu Dragnea, with a generous assist from Senate leader Călin Popescu Tăriceanu, the actual enforcer is former Justice Minister and now MP Florin Iordache.
The man, who would prompt Romania’s biggest protests since 1989 in February of this year, comes from humble beginnings. Florin Iordache was born in Caracal in 1960, a place famous in Romania for a bevy of stereotypes that revolve around its inhabitants inherent shadiness and thick-headedness. But Iordache was no dummy. After working as a head carpenter in the furniture business he graduated to management positions after the fall of communism before finally more graduating to politics. Iordache started his political career as deputy mayor of his hometown of Caracal but, after four years in local office, he finally ascended to his current position, that of PSD MP for the Olt county. Iordache has held on to that position for five consecutive terms and counting.
While previously qualified only in carpentry, Iordache got his law degree two years into his first term in office and five years later he received his doctorate from a dubious private institution called “the Free University of Moldova”. Shorter than a paperback, Iordache’s thesis is also grossly plagiarized. But it takes more than a diploma to become a true legal master and, over the years, Iordache became well known as one of PSD’s frontliners in the fight against anti-corruption. Over the years he passed legislation giving lawyers (such as himself) immunity before the law, as well as his 2017 proposal allowing parties to keep illegally acquired money not spent during the campaign season.
In December 2013, the majority coalition at the time tried to pass a set of laws that, among other consequences, would have created an “Impunity exception” for elected officials at both the local and the central level. Simply put, Mayors and MPs would have been immune from prosecution and not subject to the many restrictions that those in public office usually are. Elected officials would have been able to sit on boards of private companies and own stock, their family members could be hired as public servants, and they would no longer be forced to declare their assets. The legal push on December 10th 2013, nicknamed “Black Tuesday” by commentators in the media was rumoured to be in large part orchestrated by Mr. Iordache alongside other luminaries, like Sebastian Ghiță or Liviu Dragnea. Due to public pressure and some clever manoeuvring by magistrates, the “black Tuesday” laws failed to pass. But that was not the last of Iordache’s moves.
After the PSD’s triumphant return to power in early 2017, Dragnea basked in the glory of having secured for the PSD the best result in two decades. He had free reign over who to appoint to office and he naturally chose his traditional allies and supporters from PSD strongholds in the south. Iordache was appointed Minister of Justice to push the kind of laws Dragnea wanted, but from a position of absolute authority. And with the impunity, self-sufficiency and arrogance that few are capable of.
The now famous Government Emergency Ordinance 13 (OUG 13) that drew hundreds of thousands of Romanians to Victoria Square in protest was all Iordache’s doing. Iordache pushed OUG 13 (which he recently described as “perfect”) and the amnesty law in the dead of night, without any public consultations. The result was chaos. Chaos that Iordache met with an arrogant smirk and his now famous phrase, in the face of baffled reporters who could not get a straight answer: “another question”. The maelstrom that followed OUG 13 forced Iordache out of the Minister’s seat.
As the noose draws ever closer around Dragnea, Tăriceanu and other Romanian prison-bound politicos, Iordache’s usefulness is once more reaching its peak. He is in charge of pushing through parliament and amending the three laws generically referred to as the “Justice laws”. Transformed, the one-time carpenter is now a chair. The chair of the committee that is slowly — at least a lot slower than Iordache would like — but almost surely dismantling Romanian anticorruption like an Ikea chair.