Romanian Opposition to Boycott Presidential Referendum

Supporters of Traian Basescu are being urged to abstain from the vote at end of July, in order to invalidate the result of the referendum on impeaching the President.Romania’s opposition Democratic Liberal Party, PDL, on Tuesday urged its followers not to vote in a July 29 referendum on whether to impeach the country’s suspended President, Traian Basescu.

The idea is to keep the turnout below 50 per cent and thus invalidate the result of the vote.“We don’t want to legitimize the masquerade staged by the ruling coalition. There are many reasons to be worried about fraud in the referendum, so we are urging people to boycott it,” PDL president Vasile Blaga said.

However, PDL members will not withdraw from polling stations, where they will still attend the vote as observers.

Basescu has not endorsed the PDL’s decision, saying he will continue to tell voters to take part in the referendum and vote against his impeachement.

The PDL, which is Basescu’s main political ally, is meanwhile trying to counter a sharp decline in the President’s popularity.

Some polls say that support for Basescu has plummeted from a high water mark of around 65 per cent seven years ago to only around 15 per cent now.

By law, if at least 50 per cent-plus-one of all eligible voters do not take part in the referendum, the vote will be invalid and Basescu will return to his presidential post.

“The planned referendum boycott shows mainly that the PDL has no other option in its attempt to reverse Basescu’s impeachment,” journalist Iulia Anghel commented.

“Their move is not illegal, but is not supporting the basic principle that the people should publicly express their will in a democratic way.”Prime Minister Victor Ponta, leader of the ruling centre-left coalition, has meanwhile described the planned boycott as “illegal”, saying that the PDL should be subject to a criminal investigation for proposing the idea.

In a related development, the Constitutional Court on Tuesday rejected a PDL claim that a government plan to extend the voting time by four hours to boost turnout was illegal.

Polling stations will now open between 7am. and 11pm.

Parliament voted on July 6 to suspend Basescu as President for 30 days and established July 29 as the day of a referendum in the next stage of a campaign to impeach him.

Prime Minister Ponta has accused Basescu of blocking government reforms, of abusing his position to grant favours to his allies and of interfering in the judicial system.

Basescu says his adversaries are taking revenge for the corruption conviction this year of former prime minister Adrian Nastase, a senior member of Ponta’s governing coalition.

Basescu accused the government of attempting a “coup d’etat” not just against him but also against the judiciary.

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