Romanian President Basescu's impeachment vote expected

Romanian President Traian Basescu Image copyright AFP
Image caption President Basescu will face a national poll if the assembly votes for impeachment

Romania's MPs are preparing to vote on whether to impeach the country's president, Traian Basescu.

Mr Basescu faces allegations of encroaching on the prime minister's role and violating citizens' rights.

If parliament approves the move, he will face suspension and a national poll on his impeachment.

The president is in conflict with Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who heads the Social Liberal Union (USL), which has a majority in parliament.

The European Commission voiced concern about the political turmoil on Friday. Romania joined the EU in 2007 but Brussels has demanded more reforms to stamp out official corruption.

Mr Ponta, who came to power in May, says Mr Basescu has too much influence over Romania's Constitutional Court, which is due to consider new impeachment legislation.

The leftist USL party asked parliament to hold an extraordinary meeting to suspend Mr Basescu.

Mr Ponta himself is currently under pressure to resign over allegations of plagiarism regarding a doctoral thesis he wrote.

President Basescu has accused him of trying to impeach him as a way of taking control of state institutions.

The president has suffered a slump in his popularity since pushing through tough austerity measures demanded by international lenders in 2010.

Dispute worries EU

The political rivalry has stalled decision-making processes in Romania at a time when it is finalising agreements on an IMF-backed aid package for its economy.

The European Commission says it is "concerned about current developments in Romania, especially regarding actions that appear to reduce the effective powers of independent institutions like the Constitutional Court".

"The rule of law, the democratic checks and balances and the independence of the judiciary are cornerstones of European democracy... Government policy and political action must respect these principles and values."

The statement said recent developments in Romania "may be putting at risk the progress made over the years".

Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told Mr Ponta of the Commission's concerns on Friday. They are due to have talks in Brussels next Thursday.

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