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Exit Polls Show Romanian President Wins Referendum

President Traian Basescu (AFP) May 19, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Exit polls show that Romanians have voted massively against the impeachment of President Traian Basescu.

Romania's parliament on April 20 voted to suspend Basescu accusing him of violating the constitution. But after the exit polls were released, Basescu vowed to push forward with efforts to reform the judiciary, fight corruption, and promote a lustration law.

High Approval, Low Turnout

Two separate exit polls released after voting ended at 2000 (1900 Prague time) showed between 75 and 78 percent voted "no" to plans to impeach Basescu.

Basescu, however, said that the result gives him the popular support necessary to push forward with reforms.

The turnout was relatively low, with some 34 percent of Romania's 18 million voters showing up at the polling stations.

Basescu welcomed the result in a statement shortly after voting ended.

"This time we are faced with the reality of the Romanian people's vote," he said. "Politics has one measure: the capacity to obtain votes, the capacity to be credible, the capacity to generate trust, the capacity to mobilize Romanians around [political] objectives."

Romania's parliament suspended Basescu on April 20, with a large majority of 322-108 accusing him of violating the constitution, despite a constitutional court ruling that the charges were groundless.

New Constitution?

Basescu has said his opponents initiated the impeachment process to stop his pro-reform and anticorruption drive.

He said today that the result of the referendum shows Romania needs a new constitution which would eliminate ambiguities.

Basescu also said that the vote showed the public's support for his agenda, including a lustration law against those who served the former communist regime at high level.

"The time has come to have a constitution for Romanians, not for politicians," he said. "I would say that this vote also proves that Romanians want a lustration law. Seventy-five percent of those who voted were in favor of those [ideas] promoted by me, and only 25 percent were in favor of those 322 [legislators who voted for the suspension]."

Basescu has been locked in a long-running, bitter power struggle with liberal Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, a former ally.

Basescu has accused Tariceanu of shielding corrupt politicians, and the new business elites that enriched themselves during transition from communism to a market economy.

Tariceanu, in turn, has said Basescu has an autocratic style and insatiable "thirst for power."

However, Tariceanu said after the referendum that the result shows Romanians have given Basescu "a second chance," and expressed his readiness to work with the president.

Victory Without Glory

"I consider that the result of this referendum shows one thing -- that Romanians are giving Traian Basescu a second chance," he said. "I respect the voters' decision and I will cooperate with the presidency for Romania's benefit."

Tariceanu's ruling Liberal Party (PNL) and the ex-Communist opposition grouped around the Social-Democrat Party (PSD) have been allies in their drive to impeach Basescu.

PSD leader Mircea Geoana today called Basescu's triumph a "victory without glory" and said the high approval by voters is irrelevant because of the low participation.

"The low turnout does not give Traian Basescu the right to claim that he enjoys the people's support," he said. "From this point of view, Traian Basescu's victory is a victory without glory."

Basescu, however, said that the result gives him the popular support necessary to push forward with reforms.

He said he would initiate immediate consultations with the parliamentary parties on reforming Romania's political class.

First official results of the referendum are expected on May 20.