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News 28 Aug 12

Romania's Suspended President to Return to Post

Traian Basescu is to resume his duties after parliament on Monday accepted a court ruling, which deemed the result of a July referendum on his impeachment invalid.

Marian Chiriac
Bucharest

Romania's parliament on Monday said that it recognized the ruling of the Constitutional Court, which last week said the July 29 referendum result concerning President Basescu was invalid.

The Court’s decision was simply presented before parliament, which took no vote on the subject, although some members of the ruling centre-left coalition voiced disagreement.

The Constitutional Court said the referendum on the President's future was not valid because the turnout did not exceed the required threshold of 50 per cent.

Although most voters in the referendum backed impeaching the President, the turnout was only around 46 per cent.

Of approximately 8.3 million people who voted, around 87 per cent were in favour of impeaching the President, however.

While Basescu argued that the low turnout had invalidated the result, Prime Minister Victor Ponta's leftist coalition initially maintained that the list of eligible voters was out of date.

Basescu was Romania’s most popular politician for a decade, but lost support over widely disliked health reforms and austerity measures.

His impeachment divided the country, with supporters and opponents spending hours engaged in bitter verbal battles in public spaces, on the internet and on television.

Prime Minister Ponta accused Basescu of blocking government reforms, of abusing his position to grant favours to his allies and of interfering in the judicial system.

Basescu said his adversaries were taking revenge for the corruption conviction this year of the former prime minister, Adrian Nastase, a senior member of Ponta's coalition.

He also accused the government of attempting a “coup d’etat” not just against him but also against the judiciary.

Basescu was previously suspended in 2007 for one month, but returned to power following a popular referendum.

European Union officials have expressed considerable disquiet over recent events in Romania, questioning the Ponta government's commitment to the rule of law and democracy.

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