President faces impeachment
The left wing government of Prime Minister Victor Ponta filed a motion yesterday accusing the president, Traian Băsescu, of violating the constitution and exceeding his authority and began impeachment proceedings against him.
The vote will take place tomorrow (Friday) and it is expected that the coalition government, the Social Liberal Union (USL) made up of Mr. Ponta’s Social Democratic Party (PSD), the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Conservative Party (PC) will comfortably win the motion.
If that is the case, then the president would be suspended for 30 days whilst a referendum is held on whether he should retain his office. During that period the president of the Senate, the upper house, will assume the interim presidency.
On 7th February Emil Boc, the leader of the Democratic Liberal Party (PDL) resigned as prime minister after protests against his government’s austerity programme. After one failed attempt to appoint a new prime minister, Victor Ponta was asked to be prime minister on 7th May. Although an independent as required by law today, the president was a member of the PDL prior to his election in 2004. There has been an uneasy relationship between him and the prime minister since the appointment in May.
In local elections held on 10th June the USL won a landslide victory, something they are expected to repeat in elections later this year.
On Tuesday this week the USL sacked the presidents of both chambers of the parliament who were allies of Băsescu and replaced them with allies of the prime minister, one of them will act as interim president if the impeachment vote is passed.
The coalition government also sacked the country’s ombudsman and replaced him with a former Social Democratic Party politician. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ponta has accused some Constitutional Court judges of political bias and has threatened to replace them.
In other news, Prime Minister Ponta has been accused of plagiarism. Romania’s National Council for Certification of Titles, Diplomas and University Certificates (CNATDCU) said 85 of 307 pages of Ponta’s doctorate thesis had been ‘copied and pasted’ without any attribution to the original author. Ponta has accused the council of political motivation, something they deny.
In an even more quirky end to this story, the person who oversaw Ponta’s thesis was Romanian legal academic and former prime minister Adrian Năstase. He is serving a two year prison sentence for corruption; he attempted to commit suicide by shooting himself in the neck on hearing the news.
The current political uncertainty in the country is likely to be of great concern to investors, especially since the new government does not appear to be meeting the requirements of an IMF loan which necessitate the introduction of austerity measures.