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Rules Of Romania Impeachment Referendum Still Unclear

  • Eugen Tomiuc

President Traian Basescu in Parliament on July 6

President Traian Basescu in Parliament on July 6

Romania's Constitutional Court on July 10 ruled that a majority of the eligible voters must turn out for a referendum on ousting President Traian Basescu to be valid.
Basescu was suspended on July 6 by the ruling leftist majority which toppled the president's center-right allies in a no-confidence vote in April.
The government claims Basescu improperly assumed the powers of prime minister when he announced drastic austerity cuts in 2010.
A referendum must confirm his suspension.

Conflicting Statements
Leftist Prime Minister Victor Ponta said after the July 10 ruling that his government would "abide by all court decisions."
"The government," said Ponta, "will implement all decisions and will organize the popular referendum legally, impartially, in the same manner as [last month's] local elections."
The court ruling came after an opposition objection to a government-backed amendment to the referendum law, which would have allowed ousting the president with only a majority of those voting in the referendum.
However, Victor Paul Dobre, the government official tasked with organizing the plebiscite, said a separate emergency order issued by the government last week is still valid.
The order, similar to the amendment, says Basescu can be dismissed with a majority of voters.

Unconvincing Assurances

The European Commission, Germany and the United States in the last few days have urged the Romanian government to respect the democratic institutions and especially the Constitutional Court.
Romania's Senate speaker and acting president Crin Antonescu, today sought to appease international criticism.
"The President of Romania has been suspended, and this has happened within a perfectly constitutional framework, as proven by the Constitutional Court's decisions," said Antonescu. "Romania is not in a crisis situation, or in an exceptional situation. It is a normal situation," Antonescu said, "in which Romania, as a democratic state governed by the rule of law, will prove its maturity and functionality."
However, the European Union, of which Romania has been a member since 2007, said it was "concerned" over the speed with which the leftist alliance was moving to take over all state institutions.
EU Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, speaking in Brussels, said, "I can tell you that we remain preoccupied as we already mentioned it by the speed and the consequences of the decisions that have been taken during the previous week. We have a lot of questions still when it comes to respect of the independence of the constitutional court and the judicial power under the constitution," concluded Ahrenkilde Hansen.
The Commission's reaction comes a day after an unusually blunt warning sent to Ponta by German Chancellor Angela Merkel for persistently breaking EU democratic norms since it came to power in April.
Ponta is due in Brusselson July 11 and 12 to give an explanation on controversial measures taken by his coalition.
With additional reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters

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