Low voter turnout for Sunday's referendum saves Romanian President Traian Basescu from impeachment.
By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Bucharest -- 30/07/12
Romanian President Traian Basescu talks to reporters after Sunday’s referendum. [Victor Barbu/SETimes]
Romania President Traian Basescu survived a second referendum impeachment on Sunday (July 29th), after less than 50% of registered voters, the constitutional threshold for the plebiscite to be validated, came to the polls.
"The flame of democracy remains lit," Basescu said a few minutes after the polls closed Sunday night. "My main objective now is reconciliation of the society. The values of the two big families, EU and NATO, are also our values and they have to be reconfirmed. Romanians just did it tonight."
Voters were asked to approve Basescu’s July 6th impeachment by the Romanian parliament, which is dominated by the lawmakers of the ruling social-liberal union (USL), Basescu's political rival. But the Central Electoral Bureau determined that only 46% of registered voters went to the polls, making the vote invalid and insuring that Basescu remained in office.
About 87% of those who voted approved Basescu's impeachment, but the president's supporters followed his call to boycott the plebiscite. The Magyar electorate seems to have tipped the balance; the two counties where the Hungarians ethnics form a majority registered the lowest turnout.
One day before the referendum, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban urged the Magyar community "not to take any decision" concerning the impeachment referendum, a call which drew the ire of the central authorities in Bucharest, which accused Orban of interfering in Romania's internal affairs.
Despite losing the referendum, USL asked for Basescu's resignation, noting that a large majority of voters who cast ballots sought his removal.
"Basescu is impeached from a political point of view, he ceased to exist. There is a total fracture between him and the Romanians," Prime Minister Victor Ponta, co-president of USL, said Monday. He rejected any possibility of a second referendum in the near future.
Analysts try to discern the results.
"To me this is more of a mutual defeat, a lose-lose situation," Cristian Ghinea, director of the Romanian Centre for European Policies, told SETimes. "Basescu came out more victorious in the end because the stake of all this political game was his removal from the post, but despite his vehement speech last night he is not back riding the high horses."
In the street, many see the referendum as a fresh start. "There is no point in looking back now, but forward. This month of political wrangle has done a lot of harm to this country so the most important question now is what we do from now on to fix that," Gabriel Stamate, a 48-year-old manager, told SETimes.
Others resigned themselves. "I am not happy with the result, but this is the law. What I want to see is how the two sides will cohabitate from now on, but I have the feeling the show is not over yet," Alecu Dragomir, a 37-year-old accountant, told SETimes.