Romania votes on fate of its 'meddling' president
ROMANIA is facing its biggest political test since the fall of communism as the country voted yesterday on whether to impeach its president for meddling in government affairs.
The referendum's result will determine the fate of President Traian Basescu, who has been waging a political war with Victor Ponta, the country's prime minister.
Mr Ponta, who came into office in May, has accused Mr Basescu (60) of corruption and violating the constitution.
Earlier this month, parliament voted to suspend the president.
Mr Basescu has denied the charges and accused the government of a political vendetta.
His supporters have urged people not to vote in the referendum.
This is the second time that Mr Basescu has gone through an impeachment referendum. In 2007 he survived a vote, but this time the odds were stacked against him.
His popularity has plummeted owing to his support for stringent austerity measures. Opinion polls showed as many as 70pc favoured his impeachment, and that a majority would vote in the referendum.
Mr Basescu's suspension was one of a number of steps taken by the government that have led to allegations that it is eroding democratic institutions. The government has replaced both speakers of the houses of parliament, trimmed the powers of the constitutional court and sacked the ombudsman.
Since the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, Romania has travelled a rocky road to democracy.
Its political institutions have been plagued by corruption and nepotism, which EU accession in 2007 failed to fix.
This month Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, expressed "serious concerns" about recent political events in Romania and underlined the need to guarantee the "necessary checks and balances in a democratic system".
The government has said all the measures it has taken conformed to the constitution. But the political feuding has inflicted damage on Romania's reputation at a time when its economy has become heavily dependent on external emergency funding.
The crisis has already prompted the International Monetary Fund to delay a review of a €4.7bn aid package by a week. (© Daily Telegraph, London)