Thursday

21st Feb 2019

Romania referendum decision put off to September

The political crisis in Romania is to drag on until 12 September at least after judges on Thursday (2 August) postponed their decision on the validity of last weekend's referendum.

President Traian Basescu on Sunday announced he had survived a "coup" when turnout in the poll came in at 46.2 percent - just under the 50 percent threshold.

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  • Constitutional judges said they needed more time to study all relevant data (Photo: wikiepdia)

Eighty seven percent of those who did vote said they want him to go, however.

The referendum was orchestrated by Basescu's political nemesis, Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who alleges the President abused his official powers by installing personal allies in public institutions, such as the Constitutional Court itself.

Ponta-linked polticians filed multiple complaints to judges saying the Romanian population has shrunk since the last official census.

If their claims are backed up by the interior ministry and the National Statistics Institute, the turnout could rise to over 50 percent, pushing out Basescu.

The judges on Thursday said they need more time to examine official papers, according to Romanian news agencies Mediafax and Agerpress.

In the interim, Basescu remains suspended, while a Ponta loyalist, Crin Antonescu, carries out presidential duties.

The affair is being closely watched by Brussels, amid fears that Romania is sliding backwards in terms of democracy and rule of law.

Ponta, following Sunday's results, said he would respect the court's decision, which requires a two-thirds majority of judges on the panel.

Analysis

Something is rotten in the state of Romania

The view of ruling politicians that public institutions - be they cultural institutes, media, or, more worryingly, the judiciary - need to obey the ruling party has never been completely eradicated since Communism fell.

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EU probes into Hungary and Poland on rule of law and democracy are back on the agenda of EU affairs ministers - but with little guidance from the Romanian presidency, without a clear idea where the procedures are headed.

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Italy will keep blinking in 2019

Italy's 'marriage of convenience' coalition government likes picking battles with Brussels. But with the economy now in recession, and deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini needing to keep the business lobby on board, expect Rome to blink first.

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