Romania’s parliament voted Thursday to suspend the popular president who ushered in economic and social reforms to help the country join the European Union, accusing him of abusing his constitutional powers.
President Traian Basescu had earlier vowed to resign “within five minutes” if lawmakers voted to suspend him. His resignation would prompt a new election within three months, and he has said he would run again for office.
Under the law, parliament can suspend the president for 30 days and organize a referendum to remove him from office. More than half of voting-age Romanians would have to approve a referendum for it to pass, which would be virtually impossible, given Basescu’s popularity and the usually low turnout in Romanian ballots.
Lawmakers have accused Basescu of 19 counts of constitutional abuses such as usurping the Cabinet from the prime minister, criticizing judges and ordering the tapping of minister’s telephone calls. The Constitutional Court, however, ruled there was no evidence to back the charges and dismissed the lawmakers’ accusations.
“It’s a bad solution for a bad situation,” said Deputies’ Chamber speaker Bogdan Olteanu, adding that Basescu should be impeached because he fueled political conflicts that threatened Romania’s development.
Country's most popular politician
Basescu, who has denied any wrongdoing, is Romania’s most popular politician and polls indicate he would win a new term in office in a new election.
He is credited with helping to implement reforms after he came to office in 2004 which helped Romania join the EU on Jan. 1. However, he has been at odds with both the left wing opposition and with Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, with whom he recently clashed in a public argument on national television.
Dozens of Basescu supporters gathered in the capital for a rally, and the president was expected to join them later in the day.
On Wednesday, the president warned that a vote to suspend him could have serious consequences for Romania, including a decrease in the country’s rating by credit agencies and weakening its position in the EU because of political instability.
According to the law, the chairman of the Senate, Nicolae Vacaroiu, is to assume the president’s duties during his suspension, or until a new election can be held if Basescu resigns or is impeached in a referendum.