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President Victor Ponta of Romania (right) with EC's José Manuel Barroso

Romania's rulers testing limits of democracy

RobK(Photo: EU Audiovisual Services)

President Traian Basescu of Romania has said that he will challenge parliament's attempts to remove him from power. Acting on the initiative of Prime Minister Victor Ponta, parliament in Bucharest on Friday ordered the president to step back. A referendum will be held, probably on 29 July, in which Romanian voters will have the final say on whether President Basescu should leave office.

The political fight in the Central European republic erupted when the governing socialists and liberals accused President Basescu of interfering in government affairs, being biased, and influencing the legal system.

The president said he wanted the constitutional court to judge whether parliament was abusing its powers when it decided to impeach him. Just one day earlier, however, the centre-left government side-tracked the constitutional court, decreeing that it could no longer block parliamentary decisions about deposing the head of state.

The European Commission expressed its concern over the Romanian government's moves. Democratic checks and balances, and the independence of the judiciary had to be respected, Brussels warned. Prime Minister Ponta said on Friday evening that the European worries were legitimate, but that Romania would "remain a stable country where the rule of law, the constitution as well as European and international norms will be respected".

Romania's constitutional court agreed on Friday that President Basescu had on several occasions exceeded his competence, but stressed that being an actively involved president does not constitute a breach of the law. (Le Monde/Wirtschaftsblatt/BBC)

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