Romanian president survives referendum

Romanian President Traian Basescu survives a referendum on his impeachment.

Romanian President Traian Basescu asked the electorate to boycott the referendum
Romanian President Traian Basescu asked the electorate to boycott the referendum

Romanian President Traian Basescu appears to have survived an impeachment vote due to low turnout, according to provisional figures released by the polling panel.

The central electoral bureau said the provisional figures showed that turnout stood at 45.92%, short of the 50% threshold needed for the result to be validated by the constitutional court.
Monday's announcement came just hours after the suspended leader claimed that voters had "rejected a coup" by not turning out in high enough numbers to validate an impeachment vote.

Basescu, who has been suspended by parliament, had asked his supporters to boycott the vote.

The centre-left government had accused the centre-right president of exceeding his authority and of meddling in government affairs.

As voting ended, Basescu said that Romanians had "rejected a coup" by staying away from polling stations.

"Romanians have invalidated the referendum by not participating," he said.

The row between Basescu and Prime Minister Victor Ponta has caused alarm among Romania's EU partners.

The row has paralysed political decision-making in Romania at a time when it is finalising agreements on an IMF-backed aid package.

Basescu's popularity has slumped since he backed tough austerity measures demanded by Romania's international lenders.

He had initially urged Romanians to vote "no" to what he called "a coup", but later asked his supporters to boycott the vote altogether, a stance also adopted by the opposition Liberal Democrats.

According to the latest polls, about 65% of the electorate wants to remove Basescu.

Some 18 million Romanians were eligible to vote. However, analysts predicted the government would struggle to achieve the required turnout.

The referendum is the latest twist in an ongoing power struggle between Basescu and Ponta, who has been the driving force behind efforts to unseat the President.

Ponta, who is himself embroiled in a scandal over plagiarism, challenged Romania's Constitutional Court and has been accused of threatening judges whom are aligned to the President.

The prime minister's actions have provoked harsh criticism from the EU.

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy voiced "deep concerns" about the political crisis in Romania "with regard to the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary".

Despite Romania's promises to respect EU institutions, Brussels has said it has yet to see any proof this is the case.

Romania and neighbouring Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, but Brussels has put both countries under special monitoring because of concerns about judicial independence, corruption and political influence in state institutions.

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