Romania's House of Deputies voted on Tuesday morning to reject a request by the prosecutor general to approve a criminal inquiry against prime minister Victor Ponta,

who faces corruption charges including conflict of interest. Ponta thus gets rid of the criminal inquiry for conflict of interest.

The deputies' verdict comes despite a huge scandal sparked by Ponta when he refused to step down as head of government following the National Anti-corruption Department decision last week to launch an investigation against him on multiple corruption accounts - article by 

The House vote was 231 votes in favor of rejecting the call for criminal investigation approval, with 120 votes against. PM Ponta's coalition government holds a comfortable majority in the Parliament.

Prior to the vote, Ponta told MPs that they had to decide whether "anything related to political decision making can be censured by another constitutional power (...) Today, you have to decide whether a representative of another state power can hold those who make a common political decision criminally responsible."And he said a government is named and dismissed through constitutional means, urging MPs to vote against him in a censure motion submitted by the opposition, which is due to be voted later this week.

But opposition leader Ludovic Orban warned deputies that their vote today would have a negative impact on Romania's image and will "go round the world, be followed by all governments of the civilised world, by all our Euro-Atlantic partners." He said MPs were not about to vote whether Ponta was guilty or not, but to establish whether Romania respected the Constitution and the fact that nobody was above the law.

Earlier today, the US Embassy to Bucharest said in a press statement regarding the DNA inquiry against Ponta that "we do not comment on individual cases" but that any accusation of breaches of the law by government officials should be fully investigated without interference. It said the law should be equal to all and that judicial and state of law institutions should be able to do their job in a fully independent manner.

Also today, the head of the European Popular Party, Joseph Daul, said he was "revolted" by the attempts of the Romanian Parliament to impede justice. And he said representatives of the government should not use the parliamentary majority in their own interest.

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