Sun, Jul 15, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Romanian PM faces tougher referendum

Reuters, BUCHAREST and BRUSSELS

A lone protester holds the Romanian flag on Thursday outside the campaign headquarters of suspended Romanian President Traian Basescu in Bucharest.

Photo: Reuters

Romania’s ruling party plans to extend voting in a referendum on whether to impeach Romanian President Traian Basescu from one day to two, a senior politician said on Friday, seeking to boost voter turnout and minimize the risk of failure in its efforts to drive him out.

Leftist Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta’s campaign against his long-time political rival has drawn criticism from the EU which sees a threat to democratic rule of law in the Balkan state.

The change in voting time would increase the chances that voter turnout at the July 29 referendum will exceed 50 percent.

Ponta has scrapped this threshold to validate referendums and is under pressure from the EU to reintroduce it, but has baulked at giving a clear signal of whether he will.

The proposal came just a day after EU leaders met with Ponta in Brussels and rebuked him for undermining constitutional checks and balances in his campaign to dislodge Basescu.

The Romanian parliament, which is dominated by Ponta’s Social Liberal Union, will decide on the proposed change at extraordinary sessions to be held on Tuesday and Wednesday, lawmakers said.

Ponta says he wants Basescu out because the president has opposed the government’s efforts to reform the economy and for abusing his post to assist his allies.

Basescu was suspended by a vote in parliament last week, a move the referendum could make permanent.

The turmoil has spooked markets and may endanger an IMF loan that helps prop up the recession-hit economy of the EU’s second poorest and third most corrupt country.

The European Commission’s list of demands calls on Ponta to retract a decree abolishing the 50 percent turnout rule for referendums and to use decrees only in emergencies.

In an interview late on Friday on private Antena 3 TV, Ponta said he had sent a letter addressing the EU’s concerns, but that he could not force parliament — even though it is controlled by his party — to change laws.

Constitutional experts say that failure to resolve the situation could trigger a crisis.

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