Romania profile

President: Traian Basescu

Romanian President Traian Basescu President Basescu is a former sea captain

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

He gained a second endorsement from the electorate in a May 2007 referendum when they rejected an attempt by parliament to impeach him. MPs had decided by a large majority to remove him from office, accusing him of exceeding his constitutional powers.

The attempt to impeach the president followed tension between him and the government of then Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu over the pace of reforms.

Mr Basescu won the December 2009 presidential election 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.

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 - in 2007 and July 2012.

In 2005 Mr Basescu started the process of opening the files of the feared communist-era secret police - the Securitate. Researchers cleared him of accusations that he collaborated with the Securitate.

Mr Basescu was 53 at the time of his election. He was transport minister between 1996 and 2000.

His 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 premier Victor Ponta 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.

The USL won nearly 60% of the vote, against 17% for the coalition of parties backed by President Basescu, who had threatened to use his power as president to nominate the prime minister to block Mr Ponta's return to office.

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 in the midst of the economic crisis, having already ousted the heads of both houses of parliament and the ombudsman. Senior European politicians and officials have criticised these steps, which threaten to isolate Romania within the European Union.

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

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 further 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.

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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