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As the showdown between the Prime Minister and head of state hots up, the centre-left coalition has opened proceedings to impeach President Traian Basescu.
Romania’s leftist ruling coalition said on Wednesday that it will start impeachment proceedings against its most powerful opponent, President Traian Basescu, amid a row that has almost paralysed political activity in the Balkan country.
In a 17-page document, the ruling Social Liberal Union, USL, accused the President of “overstepping his authority”, “breaching the rule of the separation of powers in the state” and “unfairly meddling in the country’s institutions”.
Parliament will debate the call to strip the President of his official powers on Friday in a special session.
To ease the impeachment proceedings, the government on Wednesday approved a controversial emergency decree, curbing the powers of the Constitutional Court.
The decree bars the court from ruling on parliamentary decisions and allows it to give only a consultative opinion on impeachment proceedings.
Many experts say the government's latest move is in contradiction to the rule of law. “The emergency decree is unacceptable in a democratic country. Parliament has to be accountable for its activity and to approve laws that are constitutional,” a lawyer who declined to be named told Balkan Insight.
If approved by parliament, Traian Basescu’s removal must be put to a referendum within 30 days.
Basescu was previously suspended in 2007 for one month, but returned to power following a popular referendum.
But the chances of removing him from office are higher today, because many Romanians are disappointed with the austerity measures that he enforced in 2010 in agreement with the International Monetary Fund, IMF.
Furthermore, according to a new law approved last week, only a simple majority of voters in a referendum is now needed to remove the President. Before, an absolute majority of the electorate was needed, whether they voted or not.
If the referendum dismisses the President, the new pro-government speaker of the Senate, Crin Antonescu, will become interim President. The government will then have to organize presidential elections within three months.
For weeks, Romania has been gearing up for a major fight between President Basescu and Prime Minister Victor Ponta, whose new leftist government has a majority in parliament.
The two leaders rowed publicly over who was entitled to represent Romania at the European Council on June 28.
On Tuesday, lawmakers ousted the speakers of both houses of parliament, both of whom are Basescu allies, and replaced them with politicians close to Ponta.
Furthermore, while parliament has passed legislation making it easier to impeach the President, Ponta has accused Basescu of "planting" the plagiarism allegations that have been made against him.
Last week, Ponta ignored a decision by an academic panel, which said that he had copied much of his PhD thesis.
Optimism about reform under the new government fades as the new team delays enacting the promised media strategy and takes effective control of the media through the familiar tactics of targeted advertising and hidden ownership.