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Romanian President wins referendum

Romania's President Traian Basescu survived a referendum on his impeachment Saturday, official results showed Sunday. Romania faces a new political landscape.

Basescu scored a resounding victory with 74.34% of votes cast in Saturday's referendum, the commission said. The president had on Saturday evening referred to the vote as a "referendum of trust." Basescu said he had received up to a million votes more than during his election in 2004. "Romanians want justice," he said, adding that it was now clear that a majority of the country's citizens stood behind his efforts towards a reform of the electoral system with the aim of stamping out corruption. The referendum architects, five parties from the government and opposition including the National Liberal Party (PNL) of Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, admitted defeat in the vote. The alliance had accused Basescu of causing political instability by interfering in the country's internal affairs, and of lacking impartiality. Basescu - who is backed by a constitutional court decision that said he was not interfering - has accused his opponents of stopping him from acting against corruption endemic in Romanian institutions in order to protect vested economic interests. Over 18 million people were eligible to vote in the referendum, for which 322 MPs and senators - three-quarters of parliament - voted.

 

Basescu now returns to the office he had to leave during the referendum campaign with a strengthened mandate after three quarters of the public voted not to impeach him. The five parties from the government and opposition that had pushed for Basescu's impeachment are now considering the consequences of their defeat. Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu must pay the price for the very unsatisfactory plan by parliament to try and shut out Basescu. Leading politicians from Tariceanu's National Liberal Party (PNL) demanded Sunday that he resign. Tariceanu and his allies accused Basescu of violating the constitution by interfering in the running of the government. The Constitutional Court rejected these claims. The voters were not convinced by the moves either and saw Basescu as a kind of knight in shining armour battling against corruption.

 

Tariceanu and parliament were against Basescu because the industrial mafia wanted it, the president had said. Basescu said that he was for effective judicial reforms to combat the mafia. Basescu also benefited from his victim status, which cast him in a good light compared to the traditionally unpopular parliament. A very large majority of the 322 members of parliament had voted for the referendum to impeach the president. The result was that it looked like a conspiracy against gifted populist Basescu, who knew exactly how to exploit its emotional message with the people. Heads could also roll at the opposition Socialist Party (PSD): one faction within the PSD, the so-called Group from (the Transylvania city of) Cluj, had been against any impeachment of Basescu from the start, but they had been unable to push past the ex-communist faction of former PSD chairman Ion Iliescu. Iliescu, who was president from 1990 to 1996 and again from 2000 to 2004, forced current PSD head Mircea Geoana to initiate the impeachment proceedings against Basescu in parliament.

 

Speculation in Bucharest is mounting over whether Basescu will align himself with the Group from Cluj within the PSD to launch a no- confidence campaign to topple Tariceanu. Basescu can also rely on the middle-class Democratic Party (PD) which had been a part of the government until Easter when Tariceanu threw them out of the ruling coalition as part of his long-standing fight with Basescu. It was still unclear how the other smaller parties that had joined the campaign against Basescu would react as massive numbers of grass- roots supporters of the ultra-nationalist Romania Mare (Greater Romania) Party, the Conservative Party (CP) and the Hungary Party (UDMR) voted for Basescu in the referendum, as did many supporters of Tariceanu's PNL and the Socialists. All of these parties' supporters registered protest votes during the referendum, and even before the vote, opinion polls showed a massive drop in support for them. Basescu's PD, meanwhile, climbed by 18 percentage points in the opinion polls over six week to reach 51.9% in the most recent ones. The trend and the resounding referendum victory suggest that Basescu could reconfigure not only the government, but also the opposition. (dw-world.de, eux.tv)