Romanian lawmakers vote to suspend Basescu

The Romanian Parliament on Thursday (April 19th) voted to suspend President Traian Basescu, despite an earlier constitutional court ruling that found he had not breached the constitution. In all, 322 lawmakers voted to suspend Basescu, while 108 lawmakers opposed the move. There were ten abstentions.

The procedure was launched in January by the opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD) and supported by the ultranationalists from Greater Romania Party and the Conservative Party. On Thursday, many lawmakers of the ruling Liberal Party-Hungarian Union coalition joined with the opposition. MPs from Basescu’s Democratic Party (DP) and former Prime Minister Theodor Stolojan’s Liberal Democratic Party backed the president.

PSD leader Mircea Geoana said Thursday’s vote is “a good and healthy decision for our democracy” and urged political leaders to be “refrained and sober”. He asked the president and his DP not to support street protests.

Basescu has said he would not wait one month for a referendum on impeachment, but instead would resign and call for early presidential elections. He said he wants to confront before the Romanian people “those who generated an abuse of the Constitution”.

If Basescu resigns, elections will have to be held within three months. During this period, either Senate Speaker Nicolae Vacaroiu or the speaker of the Deputies’ Chamber, Bogdan Oltean, will become temporary head of state.

In its quest to impeach Basescu, the opposition was able to take advantage of a protracted quarrel between the president and Prime Minister Calin Popescu Taricieanu. Two weeks ago, Tariceanu formed a new minority government, ousting the ministers affiliated with Basescu and relying on the PSD for parliamentary support.

Despite his suspension, Basescu remains the most popular politician in the country and his Democratic Party leads in the opinion polls. His approach to the presidency has been radically different from that of his predecessors, who kept a relatively low profile.

During his 2004 campaign, Basescu pledged to be a key player. Since assuming office, he has engaged in frequent criticism of the government, chaired more cabinet meetings than his predecessors, levelled charges of corruption, and sought the resignations of senior officials

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