Romanian president hands over power

Romanian president hands over power

BUCHAREST - Agence France-Presse
Romanian President Traian Basescu handed over power yesterday to a political rival in the latest twist in a crisis that has stoked fears about the state of democracy in the EU state.

Senate Speaker Crin Antonescu has taken over the reins as interim head of state after Romania’s top court on July 9 approved Basescu’s controversial suspension by lawmakers. The move comes ahead of a July 29 referendum to validate last week’s parliamentary vote to impeach the center-right Basescu in a political and constitutional feud that has set off alarm bells among Romania’s EU partners.

The Constitutional Court also approved a law, making it easier to impeach the president, but said any referendum must have at least a minimum turnout to be valid, a ruling which could yet derail a government attempt to remove Traian Basescu.

The EU again voiced its concern about the situation in Romania. European Commission spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen said the EU executive’s president Jose Manuel Barroso would meet Ponta tomorrow in Brussels to discuss the latest developments.

Last week, 256 out of 432 deputies voted to impeach Basescu over claims he improperly assumed the powers of the prime minister when he announced drastic austerity cuts in 2010. Ponta has been feuding with Basescu since his Liberal Social Union (USL) coalition took office in May after wresting power from a government led by the centre-right Liberal Democratic Party (PDL) following a no-confidence motion.