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Constitutional court approves suspension of Romania president

The constitutional court in Bucharest Friday has suspended President Traian Basescu, making official the results of a vote in the Romanian parliament Thursday to hold a referendum on the president's impeachment.

The court's decision means that the president has been officially "suspended" and frees the way for a referendum to decide on his impeachment. The referendum must be held within 30 days. President of the Senate, Nicolae Vacaroiu, a member of the opposition socialists (PSD), is due to to take over Basescu's role when the suspension takes effect Monday. The constitutional court has dismissed an official appeal by Basescu against the parliament's vote. It is still not clear whether Basescu will step down. Such a move would alleviate the need for a referendum and would mean that presidential elections would be held.

Leading politicians form the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Democratic Party (PD), which is close to Basescu, have advised him against stepping down. They suspect his opponents of trying to find ways of obstructing his candidacy in any upcoming presidential elections. In Thursday's vote, 322 of parliamentary members and senators were in favor of the referendum, and 108 opposed to the move, which was backed by opposition Socialists (PSD), the far-right Romania Mare (Greater Romania Party) and the Conservative Party (PC). There were 10 abstentions. A minority cabinet consisting of the PNL and the UDMR has been ruling Romania with parliamentary support from the Socialists since Easter.

The opposition has accused Basescu of causing political instability by interfering in the country's internal affairs and charge that he lacks impartiality. The governing coalition between Tariceanu's PNL and the Democratic Party (PD) was dissolved on April 1 when Tariceanu announced that the Democratic Party would no longer be represented in the cabinet. Differences between the PNL and PD have been simmering for months in Romania and are largely based on the rivalry between the prime minister and the president. The two men accuse each other of incompetence and of being too close to Romania's private industry. (