Romanian President Traian Basescu appears to have survived a referendum on his impeachment. As polls closed, preliminary figures indicated turnout was less than the 50% required to make the result invalid. Basescu, who has been suspended by parliament, had asked his supporters to boycott the vote.The center-left government had accused the center-right president of exceeding his authority and of meddling in government affairs. Polling stations closed at 23:00 local time (20:00GMT). First results are expected on Monday. Three hours before the polls were due to close, the election bureau said turnout so far had been 37.7%, the BBC reported. Initial polls put the turnout at about 44%. As voting ended, Basescu said that Romanians had “rejected a coup” by staying away from polling stations.
The row between Basescu and Prime Minister Victor Ponta has caused alarm among Romania’s EU partners. The row has paralysed political decision-making in Romania at a time when it is finalising agreements on an IMF-backed aid package. Basescu’s popularity has slumped since he backed tough austerity measures demanded by Romania’s international lenders.
Basescu had initially urged Romanians to vote “no” to what he called “a coup”, but later asked his supporters to boycott the vote altogether, a stance also adopted by the opposition Liberal Democrats. According to the latest polls, about 65% of the electorate wants to remove Basescu. Some 18 million Romanians were eligible to vote. However, analysts predicted the government would struggle to achieve the required turnout. The referendum is the latest twist in an ongoing power struggle between Mr Basescu and Mr Ponta, who has been the driving force behind efforts to unseat the President.