Romanian parliament suspends president
THE ROMANIAN parliament has voted to suspend President Traian Basescu, escalating a political crisis which has led the European Commission to express anxiety about the rule of law in the country.
The government of prime minister Victor Ponta was reported last night to have secured a majority of 258 votes to 166 in favour of a motion to remove Mr Basescu. The matter now goes to a referendum, a procedure the president survived five years ago.
Mr Ponta has attacked Mr Basescu for allegedly interfering in the judiciary and introducing contentious austerity measures tied to an international bailout. He is the third premier to hold the office this year: his predecessors lost power following protests against austerity, cronyism and corruption. After international criticism led the government to stand down a plan to remove constitutional judges, the Ponta administration passed an emergency decree this week to prevent the court from reversing a parliamentary vote.
Mr Ponta’s Social Liberal Union controls parliament. In the past week, he also replaced the speakers of both houses of parliament with his allies.
These manoeuvres were crucial as they came in advance of parliamentary votes last night to impeach Mr Basescu. “I think that what you are doing is wrong and the measure will have long-term consequences,” the president told parliament before the vote. “What has happened today will make it harder for Romania to attract foreign investors and create jobs.”
The commission declared its concern yesterday, underlining actions which appeared to curtail the effective powers of independent institutions like the constitutional court. “The rule of law, the democratic checks and balances and the independence of the judiciary are cornerstones of European democracy and indispensable for mutual trust within the EU,” the commission said.
A spokesman in Brussels would not elaborate, saying only that the EU’s executive branch was concerned about the sequence of recent legal decisions. Commission president José Manuel Barroso spoke yesterday with Mr Ponta to relay these concerns. Mr Ponta is due in Brussels next Thursday for talks.
Mr Basescu has claimed the government is trying to reverse his efforts to reform the judiciary and distract attention from plagiarism charges he levelled against Mr Ponta. A panel found the prime minister had copied large parts of his doctoral thesis but he quashed the panel’s powers before its conclusion was formally declared.