Romanian president to return to office


BUCHAREST – Romania’s parliament yesterday accepted a court ruling to return the country’s suspended president to office, drawing a line under a political row that has brought international criticism and punishment from financial markets.

The ruling left-wing alliance, led by Romanian prime minister Victor Ponta, had fought a long and often bitter campaign to oust its main political opponent, right-wing Romanian president Traian Basescu, provoking condemnation from Brussels and Washington.

Parliament voted to suspend Mr Basescu last month and an overwhelming majority of voters chose to impeach him in a referendum.

But Romania’s constitutional court last week struck down the referendum because turnout was less than the required half the electorate.

Parliamentary speaker Valeriu Zgonea told reporters yesterday the leftist-dominated lower house recognised the ruling. “We cannot interfere [with], block or . . . alter constitutional court decisions,” he said.

The end of the political battle over Mr Basescu’s immediate political future will please international critics, who had accused the government of failing to respect the rule of law during its campaign.

But it sets the stage for a power struggle between the still bitterly opposed rightist president and leftist government in the countdown to a parliamentary election later this year.

Once Mr Basescu returns to office he will reclaim his ability to delay, but not block, legislation.

The president also has the job of appointing prime ministers after an election. That could put him in a powerful position if Mr Ponta’s Social Liberal Union fails to win an outright parliamentary majority.

Mr Basescu, who has been in office since 2004, is unpopular because of his association with austerity measures such as salary cuts and raising sales tax. – (Reuters)