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Romanian Parliament Votes To Impeach President

Romanian President Traian Basescu delivers a speech at the Cotroceni Palace in Bucharest on July 3.
The Romanian parliament has voted to impeach President Traian Basescu.

A total of 258 lawmakers out of 432 voted in favor of the move. However, the impeachment will only take effect if approved in a referendum within 30 days.

Senate Speaker Crin Antonescu will serve as interim president now that Basescu has been effectively suspended from the role. He said the referendum will take place on July 29.

Analysts say the impeachment vote is part of a power struggle between Basescu and Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who heads the left-leaning Social Democratic Party.

Basescu's opponents accuse him of overstepping his authority by interfering with the prime minister's office and trying to influence judicial affairs.

Basescu says the campaign against him has violated the rule of law and put at risk "the stability and reputation of the country."

Reacting to the vote, Basescu said he would use "all constitutional resources" to stay in power to the end of his term in 2014.

Both the European Union and United States have expressed concerns over the government's actions in recent days, including a decree by Ponta barring the Constitutional Court from ruling on parliamentary decisions.

Earlier this week, lawmakers voted to remove the speakers of both houses of parliament, the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. Both were allies of the president.

Basescu was impeached in 2007 but survived a referendum.

However, the Ponta-led government this week passed a law making it easier to oust Basescu from office.

Now, a simple majority of votes cast is needed to push Basescu out. Before, a majority of all voters in Romania was required.

Unlike many European countries, Romania's president is not merely ceremonial.

Basescu is in charge of foreign policy, the powerful intelligence services, and the country's defense policies.

With reporting by dpa and AFP
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