Romania impeachment vote ruled invalid by court
by Daniel Mason
Romania's suspended President Traian Basescu will be allowed to return to the post after the country's constitutional court ruled that a referendum on his impeachment was invalid.
In July's referendum 87.6 per cent of voters said they were in favour of removing the president from office – but the legal requirement for turnout to be above 50 per cent was not met. Just 46 per cent of eligible Romanians took part and today the country's top court confirmed that the result would not stand.
The ruling was passed by judges by six votes to three, meaning Basescu will be free to complete his second five-year term, which began in 2009. The vote was called by the government of centre-left Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who has been locked in a bitter political dispute with the president that has given rise to serious concerns in Brussels and sent the country's currency, the leu, to record lows in early August as policy-making stalled.
Ponta claimed the president over-stepped his authority in imposing austerity measures between 2009 and 2011. Meanwhile centre-right leader Basescu, president since 2004, accused Ponta of attempting to take political control of state institutions. They have argued over who should represent Romania at European Union summits.
On the day of the referendum, when it became clear that turnout was low, Basescu claimed Romanians had "rejected a coup d'état". The 50 per cent threshold was among the measures demanded by the EU to restore credibility to the political system. Along with Bulgaria, which also joined the EU in 2007, Romania's progress in tackling corruption and ensuring judicial independence is regularly monitored by Brussels.
Hannes Swoboda, leader of the European Parliament's Socialists and Democrats group – politically aligned with Ponta – said today's ruling should "put an end to a debt that has hurt Romania". He added: "All sides need to set differences aside and get back to work. The parliamentary elections in November will be the appropriate opportunity to send a clear and strong signal about the future Romanians want for their country."
Centre-right European People's Party chairman Joseph Daul said the ruling should be "respected". "The time has come now for the government coalition to continue to implement, without delay or deviation, the commitments made to Romania's international partners, including the International Monetary Fund," he added.
Although the row has distracted attention from the economy, last week the IMF concluded a review of the country's progress towards fiscal targets and said agreement had been reached to make available the next installment of a €5bn precautionary loan. Romania is yet to draw on any of the money. The Washington-based IMF predicted that the economy would grow 0.9 per cent in 2012, down from an earlier estimate of 1.5 per cent.
Referendum result 'the worst' for Romania
There were no winners or losers in Romania's referendum – and the country has more important things to do than paralyse itself with domestic in-fighting, writes Hannes Swoboda
Minimum turnout was imposed from outside.
I know and many people knows that in the UK, the US and other important western democracies - there is no minimum turnout rule, Especially 50 per cent.
The British parliament's constitutional matters representative ruled out this kind of proposal in 2011, because of the undemocratic nature of the possibility that a minority could rally behind the absents and militate for a boycott. This happened with the Romanian referendum. Was this democratic? Is that what democracy is all about? Winning by calling for abstentism?
I robot - Leva
In one of the previous responses, from August 5, the constitutional court of Romania said that 'a blocking majority' can be formed out of the absents plus the boycotting minority - to win the referendum by absenteeism. Is that democratic? I think not. Why is it that the EU or other old democracies doesn't say anything about that?
I robot - Leva
Romania has approximately 18 million voters. In the 2009 presidential elections 10 million people voted, 54 per cent of all voters. Basecu won by receiving 50.33 per cent of the vote, approximately five million. He won by only 70,000 votes.
In the 2012 referendum vote, 8.5 million people voted, 46 per cent of all voters, and 7.5 million voted against the president.
So in 2009 5 million voted for Basescu, and in 2012 7.5 million voted against Basescu.
The fact that the referendum required at least 50 per cent of registered voters for the act to be valid is totally undemocratic.
When the voting percentage in the previous presidential election was only 54 per cent, the 50 per cent voter requirement for the referendum is automatically in favour of Basescu because he also got the support of those who would not have gone voting anyway - roughly 45 per cent if you use the 2009 presidential election as a reference.
In addition to the non-voters who did not care either way, all Basescu needed was to stop an addtional 5 per cent of the voters to boycott the referendum and it would be invalid.
In a democracy, how can the president tell people not to vote? In a democracy, how can something be decided by not voting? In a democracy, how can the other side be given a 45 per cent lead in a vote?
There has never been a vote where there is 100 per cent voter participation. People do not go to vote mostly because they do not care. Then there are those who do not go to vote because the really want to boycott. But the actual result is decided by those who vote. I cannot understand why the foreign leaders and press ignore this fact. What happened was not democratic.