By Marian Chiriac
Romania’s Constitutional Court has decided by six votes to three that the result of an impeachment referendum against President Traian Basescu was invalid.
By a majority of six votes to three, the judges of the court decided that the July 29 referendum on the President’s future was not valid because turnout did not meet the required threshold of 50 per cent, chief judge Augustin Zegrean announced on Tuesday.
The decision opens the way for President Traian Basescu to return to his duties.
The Constitutional Court revealed its decision after weeks of study of all the relevant data related to the referendum on the President’s impeachment.
Although most voters in the referendum on July 29 backed impeaching the President, the turnout was only around 46 per cent.
Of approximately 8.3 million people who voted, around 87 per cent were in favour of impeaching the President.
While Basescu has argued that the low turnout invalidated the result, Victor Ponta’s leftist ruling coalition argued that the lists of eligible voters was out of date.
According to the last official data, based on the census in 2001, around 18 million people were entitled to vote. But complete data from the 2011 census has yet to be published.
Basescu was Romania’s most popular politician for a decade, but lost support over widely disliked health reforms and austerity measures.
His impeachment divided the country, with supporters and opponents spending hours engaged in bitter verbal battles in public spaces, on the internet and on television.
Prime Minister Ponta accused Basescu of blocking government reforms, of abusing his position to grant favours to his allies and of interfering in the judicial system.
Basescu said his adversaries were taking revenge for the corruption conviction this year of the former prime minister, Adrian Nastase, a senior member of Ponta’s coalition.
He also accused the government of attempting a “coup d’etat” not just against him but also against the judiciary.
Basescu was previously suspended in 2007 for one month, but returned to power following a popular referendum.
European Union officials have expressed considerable disquiet over recent events in Romania, questioning the Ponta government’s commitment to the rule of law and democracy.