[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Romania [official website, in Romanian] stated on Tuesday that at least 50 percent of the electorate must turn out for the July 29 national referendum to decide whether President Traian Basescu [official website, in Romania] should be ousted from the presidency. If less than 50 percent of the electorate turns out for the referendum, then the vote to remove the president will not be valid. This decision is seen as a boon to Basescu’s supporters because having 50 percent of Romanian voters turn out for the referendum is not guaranteed [AP report]. The Romanian Parliament [official website] voted to impeach [JURIST report] Basescu on Friday, and the Constitutional Court of Romania approved [JURIST report] the suspension on Monday. There has been a continuing power struggle between Basescu’s supporters and the supporters of Prime Minister Victor Ponta [BBC profile] since Ponta came to power. European Union [official website] officials have expressed concern [press release] with the speed with which the Constitutional Court confirmed Basescu’s suspension of, stating that it may threaten democratic checks and balances and the independence of the judiciary. Ponta is expected to meet with Jose Manuel Barroso [official website], President of the European Commission [official website], to discuss the matter on Thursday.
Last week, the Constitutional Court also accused Ponta of overstepping his authority [JURIST report] by attempting to seize control over the judiciary system. The court announced that it has alerted the European authorities [Reuters report] of the situation. Also last week Ponta ignored a decision by the court finding Basescu should be the representative of the country at the European Council [official website] meeting in Brussels. In 2009 the Constitutional Court declared incumbent president Basescu winner of the country’s disputed presidential election [JURIST report]. Basescu, who has been president of Romania since 2004, has survived impeachment once before. In 2007 Basescu was reinstated after the high court certified the results of a referendum in which 74 percent of voters rejected Basescu’s impeachment [JURIST report].