Romanian voters will decide on Sunday (29 July) whether to remove President Traian Basescu from office. The referendum was triggered on 6 July, when the parliament’s centre-left majority suspended the centre-right Basescu, who has been in office since 2004. The leader of the centre-left ruling coalition, Victor Ponta, has been trying to impeach Basescu since June. He took over as interim prime minister in May, ahead of a general election in November.
Ponta had sought to change the rules on the referendum through emergency legislation, but was forced to back down after the European Union demanded that the decree be repealed. Last week, after Ponta had been summoned to Brussels, Crin Antonescu, the interim president and a political ally of Ponta’s, reinstated a requirement for a 50% turnout for the referendum to be valid.
While opinion polls suggest that a majority of Romanians would like to see Basescu removed, it appears unlikely that the turnout threshold will be met. On Tuesday (24 July), Ba?sescu’s old party, the opposition Democratic Liberal Party (PDL), called on its supporters not to vote on Sunday. On Tuesday, Romania’s constitutional court ruled that a bid by Ponta to boost turnout by keeping polling stations open longer than normal, from 7am to 11pm, was legal.
The European Commission last week extended its post-accession monitoring of Romania, which was supposed to end this summer.
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