Romania Government Sets Date for Presidential Impeachment Referendum

World | April 25, 2007, Wednesday // 00:00

Romania's cabinet decided on Wednesday to hold a referendum that will endorse or reject the Parliament's impeachment of President Traian Basescu on May 19.

The country's lawmakers voted last week to suspend Basescu with an overwhelming 322 in favour and 108 against, claiming he had overstepped his constitutional powers.

Basescu, who has the highest approval among Romanian politicians, is expected to see the referendum reinstate him, unless fewer than half of the country's 18 million eligible voters turn out at the polling stations.

Thousands of Romanians attended protest rallies in his support since Thursday, but even if he is reinstated, it is likely to further deepen the political crisis in the country.

Romania joined the European Union in January, celebrating the occasion with its worst political crisis after the fall of communism.

Basescu's ongoing war of words with Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu and the left-wing opposition had little effect on the president's public approval rankings, but effectively paralysed both the government and the parliament.

Tariceanu resolved to boot ministers from Basescu's Democratic Party out of the cabinet earlier this month, ending the four-year-long association between the Democrats and Tariceanu's own Liberals.

The two parties were previously the senior partners in the cabinet that pushed for the reforms that took Romania into the EU, but the standoff between Basescu and Tariceanu highlighted the deficiencies of the Romanian political system, which mixes features of the parliamentary and presidential republic.

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