Romania profile

President: Traian Basescu

Romanian President Traian Basescu speaks to reporters after visiting the destroyer USS Donald Cook in the Black Sea port of Constanta on 14 April 2014 President Basescu has weathered repeated attempts to unseat him by political rivals

Traian Basescu, a former sea captain and mayor of Bucharest, first became president following elections in 2004.

Mr Basescu was re-elected in the December 2009 election, winning by a very narrow majority over the opposition Social Democrats' Mircea Geoana.

Since he came to power, Mr Basescu has drawn international praise for his anti-corruption efforts and for preparing Romania to join the EU.

But he has faced frequent challenges to his authority from his opponents in government, and has been suspended from office twice pending efforts to impeach him.

The first time, voters in a May 2007 referendum rejected a motion to impeach him passed by a large majority in parliament, amid tension between the president and then Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu over the pace of reforms.

In 2012, another attempt to unseat Mr Basescu via referendum - mounted by Social Democrat Prime Minister Victor Ponta, a bitter rival of the president's - was approved by a huge majority, but failed only because turnout was below the minimum necessary 50%.

The president came under renewed pressure in 2014, when his brother and his son-in-law where arrested in bribery and fraud investigations respectively, potentially casting a pall over Mr Basescu's reputation as a trenchant foe of corruption.

Mr Basescu's predecessor, Ion Iliescu, had dominated Romanian politics since the fall of communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989. Under his Social Democrats, Romania entered Nato and moved towards EU membership.

Prime minister: Victor Ponta

Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta addresses an election rally in the city of Craiova on 7 December 2012 Victor Ponta has been accused of undermining the rule of law

Victor Ponta became Romania's third prime minister in less than six months when his left wing-dominated Social Liberal Union (USL) alliance took charge in May 2012 after toppling its predecessor in a confidence vote.

Mr Ponta's party, which came to power by capitalising on mounting discontent over austerity policies, won a landslide victory at parliamentary elections in December 2012.

Mr Ponta has proved popular with Romanians, but he has faced criticism from some abroad who accuse him of disregard for democratic norms and the rule of law.

In his very first months in office, he courted controversy by launching a campaign to impeach President Basescu, having already ousted the heads of both houses of parliament and the ombudsman. The move were widely criticised by senior European politicians and officials.

The impeachment motion was approved by 86% of voters at a 2012 referendum, but was ruled invalid after turnout fell below the minimum of 50%.

On coming to power, Mr Ponta promised to stick to a deal with international lenders while seeking to "correct social imbalances". Romania obtained a 20-billion-euro ($26-billion) rescue package from the IMF, the EU and the World Bank in 2009, in exchange for steps to cut public spending, which helped it emerge from recession.

In October 2013 his government faced scandal when his deputy, Liviu Dragnea, was charged along with 74 other people with trying to rig the 2012 referendum that failed to oust President Basescu.

The Social Liberal Union partnership fell apart in 2014 when the National Liberal Party left because of a row over a cabinet reshuffle, prompting Mr Ponta to formed a new coalition with a party representing ethnic Hungarians.

Mr Ponta has also faced accusations - which he denies - that he plagiarised part of his doctoral thesis.

Mr Ponta replaced Mihai-Razvan Ungureanu, who in February 2012 succeeded Emil Boc, who in turn had resigned amid violent protests at his government's drastic public-spending cuts.

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