Basescu Remains Romanian President, Impeachment Vote Void

World | August 21, 2012, Tuesday // 13:52
Bulgaria: Basescu Remains Romanian President, Impeachment Vote Void A photo dated 22 July 2012 shows Romanian suspended President Traian Basescu gesturing during a media briefing in Bucharest, Romania. EPA/BGNES

In a long anticipated decision, Romania's top court has ruled that a referendum on the impeachment of President Traian Basescu was invalid, because turnout failed to reach 50%.

The decision thwarts efforts by Prime Minister Victor Ponta to oust Romanian President Basescu, a bitter rival.

It means that Basescu, who was suspended from his post pending the referendum, can now return to the presidency.

In the July 29 referendum, more than 87% voted for impeachment - but only 46% of registered Romanian voters took part.

The row between Basescu and Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta has caused alarm among Romania's EU partners.

The row had paralysed political decision-making in Romania at a time when it was finalizing agreements on an IMF-backed aid package. Basescu's popularity had slumped since he backed tough austerity measures demanded by Romania's international lenders.

Basescu had initially urged Romanians to vote "no" to what he called "a coup", but later asked his supporters to boycott the vote altogether, a stance also adopted by the opposition Liberal Democrats.

Some 18 million Romanians were eligible to vote. However, analysts predicted the government would struggle to achieve the required turnout.

The referendum was the latest twist in an ongoing power struggle between Mr Basescu and Mr Ponta, who has been the driving force behind efforts to unseat the President.

Ponta, who is himself embroiled in a scandal over plagiarism, challenged Romania's Constitutional Court and has been accused of threatening judges whom are aligned to the President. The prime minister's actions have provoked harsh criticism from the EU.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy voiced "deep concerns" about the political crisis in Romania "with regard to the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary".

Despite Romania's promises to respect EU institutions, Brussels has said it has yet to see any proof this is the case.

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Tags: Traian Basescu, Romanian President, Referendum, impeachment, viktor ponta, Romanian PM, ROmanian Prime Minister, Constitutional Court
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