Romanian President Suspended

By: CNN Posted By: Stephanie Schultz
By: CNN Posted By: Stephanie Schultz

Romania is facing its forth consecutive day of anti-government protests. On Sunday, January 15, 2012 hundreds of people gathered again in the capital's University Square, asking for president Basescu's resignation and early elections. Riots occurred in 18 other cities around the country, becoming the most serious public demonstrations since President Traian Basescu was elected in 2004.

BUCHAREST, Romania (CNN) -- Romania's parliament approved suspending the country's president in an impeachment vote Friday, after the ruling coalition accused him of violating the constitution and overstepping his authority.

Romania's leftist government started impeachment proceedings Wednesday against President Traian Basescu amid souring relations with Prime Minister Victor Ponta.

Friday's vote means Basescu will be suspended for a month and the country will hold a referendum within 30 days on whether he should remain in office.

During the suspension, National Liberal Party leader Crin Antonescu, who is also the president of the Senate, will assume the interim presidency.

The ruling alliance of Social Democrats and Liberals this week passed a law making it easier for the coalition to impeach Basescu.

In addition, the prime minister accused some Constitutional Court judges of political bias and incompatibility, and suggested that they be replaced.

The ruling coalition this week sacked the heads of both chambers of parliament, who were Basescu allies, and replaced them with politicians close to the prime minister.

It also dismissed the country's ombudsman, whom it accused of political bias. The newly appointed ombudsman, Valer Dorneanu, is a former Social Democrat member of parliament.

Basescu told reporters Tuesday that the current situation can be compared to riots that occurred in June 1990 by miners who staged violent demonstrations in the streets of Bucharest with the goal of bringing about political change.

"I warn the politicians that by breaking the country's laws and constitution, the country and its 22 million people are put in an extremely difficult situation," Basescu said.

The political developments have raised concern from some observers about the state of democracy in Romania. U.S. Ambassador to Romania Mark Gitenstein said he was "deeply concerned" that the independence of the country's democratic institutions was under threat.

Romania's government became the object of international criticism after the prime minister was accused of plagiarizing his doctoral thesis. Ponta dismissed the accusation as a political attack from Basescu.

The two men also argued over who was entitled to represent Romania at last month's meeting of the European Council in Brussels. Ponta received parliament's vote to go to Brussels on behalf of the country, but the Constitutional Court ruled that the president had the right to attend the event. In the end, the prime minister ignored the court's ruling and traveled to Brussels.

The coalition government has come under criticism for ordering that Romania's Cultural Institute report not to the president, as it had been doing, but to the Senate. The institute is known for promoting cultural values and projects abroad as well as for supporting its artists, writers and cultural movements.

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