Romanian court leaves impeachment on knife edge

Romania’s Constitutional Court gave President Traian Basescu a fighting chance of beating a referendum aimed at ousting him, ruling on Tuesday that at least half the electorate must turn out for the vote to be valid.

But the ruling Social Liberal Union (USL) said it considered a decree passed last week, stating there was no turnout threshold, still applied – setting up a further constitutional battle and likely condemnation from Europe and the markets.

The attempt by leftist Prime Minister Victor Ponta to unseat right-wing President Basescu has raised international concerns over rule of law in the European Union’s second-poorest country.

Parliament last week approved a measure by Ponta’s USL to suspend Basescu, saying he had overstepped his powers. An impeachment referendum will take place on July 29.

The Constitutional Court had been asked by the opposition to rule on the legality of a new law which would have made it easier to vote Basescu out – requiring only a majority of those voting in a referendum to impeach the president, rather than a majority of the whole electorate as was the case previously.

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