Romania’s Parliament Suspends President Ahead of Referendum

Ruling parties push through motion suspending Traian Basescu from his position while setting date for referendum on removing him from his post.Romania’s parliament late on Friday voted to suspend Traian Basescu as the country’s President for 30 days and announced the date of a referendum as next stage of a campaign to impeach him. The suspension was passed with 256 votes in favour and 114 against.

The newly appointed speaker of the Senate, Crin Antonescu, takes over as interim president.Parliament decided that the referendum that will ask people whether or not Basescu should be stripped of his post for good will take place on July 29.

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”.

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.

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 government will then have to organize presidential elections within three months.

For weeks, Romania has been moving towards a showdown 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.

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