Romanian Officials Resign Over Referendum

Romania’s Interior Minister and his deputy have resigned following controversy over the referendum to impeach the country’s President.“There were unacceptable political pressures on me. I have submitted my resignation to protect my honour,” Interior Minister Ioan Rus said on Monday.

“I cannot accept that the ministry be part of not respecting the law in Romania,” he added.

Rus, a leading member of the centre-left ruling coalition, the Social Liberal Union, USL, condemned “criticism and pressure” from political figures, including both suspended President Basescu and the interim president Crin Antonescu.Antonescu is also the leader of the Liberal Party, member of the ruling USL.

Victor Dobre, the junior Interior Minister tasked with organising the referendum, also resigned on Monday.

The resignations of two Interior Ministry officials come at a moment of harsh political disputes following a referendum on impeachment of President Traian Basescu.

Although the majority of the voters in the referendum held on July 29 were in favour of impeaching the president, the turnout at around 46 per cent was below the 50 per cent threshold needed for the result to be validated by the Constitutional Court.

The leftist ruling coalition challenged the results, arguing that the lists of eligible voters had not been updated.

Interior Minister Ioan Rus announced plans to organize a so-called “mini-census” in order to demonstrate that the number of eligible voters is lower than the official data suggests, a statement which has been criticized by opposition parties and many independent analysts.

The Constitutional Court is to decide on August 31 whether the referendum was valid or not.

Traian Basescu was Romania’s most popular politician for a decade, but lost support over widely disliked health reforms and austerity measures that were introduced by his government.

His impeachment has divided the country, with supporters and opponents spending hours engaged in bitter verbal battles in public spaces, on the internet and on television.

The ruling coalition have 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 the former prime minister, Adrian Nastase, a senior member of governing coalition. He accused the government of attempting a “coup d’etat” not just against him but also against the judiciary.

Traian Basescu was previously suspended in 2007 for one month, but returned to power following a popular referendum.

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