Tuesday

3rd May 2016

Romanians prepare for divisive referendum

  • Banner urging Romanians to oust President Traian Basescu from office because he 'stole' their wages (Photo: Valentina Pop)

The Romanian government's political campaign ahead of a referendum on Sunday (29 July) on removing the president from office resembles a personal vendetta, amid EU worries about democracy eroding rapidly in the country.

Romanians are being asked whether they agree that President Traian Basescu overstepped his powers - as the Parliament voted earlier this month.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But billboards asking Romanians to vote in favour of Basescu being ousted have nothing to do with the constitutional debate. Pictures of old people saying "He stole my pension," a young mother with a baby behind bars claiming "He destroyed my health", a teacher deploring his wage being cut, litter the countryside.

The centre-right government led by Emil Boc, Basescu's close ally, resigned in February after weeks of protests sparked by the resignation of a respected health care official who publicly disagreed with Basescu and his planned health care reform. The official was re-hired and the reform put on hold, but public anger at other austerity measures, persistent corruption and Basescu's own abrasive style spilled over.

"Romanians, let's go to the referendum. Basescu, good bye" banners are seen in most villages and towns. The ruling Social-Liberal Union in June won close to 50 percent of the vote and made Basescu's removal their top priority - he would normally have two more years in office.

The Constitutional Court gave a non-binding opinion saying there were no serious grounds to impeach him. The parliament, with its newly formed Social-Liberal majority amid mass defections from the Democratic-Liberal Party supporting Basescu, voted for the impeachment anyway.

"Basescu is on his knees, let's give him the lethal blow," Daniel Constantin, leader of a minor party within the Social-Liberal alliance said earlier this week.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta - who has admitted not having time for anything else until the referendum is over - invited journalists for a tour of a state-owned villa he claims Basescu was refurbishing for himself for live in from 2014. Basescu called him a "liar."

On Sunday, despite a ban on campaigning, the villa will be open for public from 10.00-20.00 local time.

Basescu's strategy is to ask people not to go vote, as at least half of registered voters need to turn up in order for the referendum to be valid.

The centre-right PDL party also is campaigning on the boycott idea and claims that Ponta's government will rig the vote after it initially issued a decree abolishing the minimum turnout, despite a constitutional court ruling.

After unprecedented warnings from EU leaders and the European Commission, Ponta changed course and the Parliament last week restored the minimum turnout. But it also extended the voting time by four hours and reserved its right to "decide on the steps to follow" in case the referendum is invalid.

The EU commission earlier this week again warned the Ponta government that it expects an 11-point to do list to be implemented and that it will look at "facts", not promises.

But an agreement signed by Ponta with a trade union of fired military officials agrees "in principle" with the "dismantling of Stalinist political police structures" such as the Constitutional Court, the integrity agency, the anti-corruption directorate and a body revealing if public officials had collaborated with the Securitate, the former Communist secret police.

The interim president, Liberal leader Crin Antonescu, said Friday he was part of the talks that led to this agreement, but said there was room for negotiation and no institution would be dismantled.

The political turmoil means that no matter what the result of Sunday's referendum is, infighting is likely to continue until general elections in November.

European experts to probe Polish police law

The Council of Europe is sending a team to Poland to investigate fears that a new law will give police too much power, as the supreme court weighs into a row over legal reform.

News in Brief

  1. Delays as Brussels airport reopens terminal
  2. MEPs urge extra sanctions on Russian officials
  3. Poland's right-wing leader wants constitutional overhaul
  4. Don't silence media, Council of Europe tells countries
  5. Eurostat: 88,300 lone minors among refugees
  6. EU unemployment lowest in seven years
  7. Nord Stream II will undermine EU security, EPP leader says
  8. Brussels Airport reopens departure hall after attack

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Music CouncilRegister Now for the 6th European Forum on Music in Wroclaw, European Capital of Culture 2016
  2. Belgrade Security ForumJoin Our Team for the 6th Belgrade Security Forum. Apply Now! Deadline May 20
  3. European Roundtable of IndustrialistsCompanies Make Progress on Number of Women in Leadership Roles
  4. Counter BalanceParliament Gets Tough on Control EU Bank's Funds
  5. ICRCSyria: Aleppo on the Brink of Humanitarian Disaster
  6. CESIWorld Day For Health and Safety at Work: Public Sector Workers in The Focus
  7. EFABasque Peace Process-Arnaldo Otegi Visits the European Parliament
  8. EscardioChina Pays Price of Western Lifestyle With Soaring Childhood Obesity
  9. Centre Maurits CoppetiersThe Existence of a State is a Question of Fact, Not a Question of Law
  10. Martens CentreJoin Us at The Event: Prospects For EU Enlargement After 2019
  11. ICRCSyria: Aid for Over 120,000 People Arrives in Besieged Town Near Homs
  12. Counter BalanceHighway to Hell: European Money Fuelling Controversial Infrastructure Projects

Latest News

  1. EU refutes Greenpeace's 'storm in teacup' on US trade
  2. Empty Gazpromises
  3. Russia wary as Nordic states mull closer Nato ties
  4. EU advances Turkey visa deal amid migration fears
  5. German populist party adopts anti-Islam manifesto
  6. TTIP leaks: US undermining EU standards, says Greenpeace
  7. Visas, economy and Charlemagne Prize This WEEK
  8. EU roaming charge cut enters UK referendum campaign