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EU urges Romania to resume anti-graft reforms
BUCHAREST | Sunday, May 20 2007 16:43:08 IST
 
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The European Commission urged Romania today to resume anti-graft reforms after official results confirmed President Traian Basescu easily repelled parliament's attempt to impeach him in a referendum.

Returns from 92 per cent of the polling stations showed 74 per cent of Romanians voted yesterday against impeaching Basescu on charges that he overstepped his authority.

His victory comes after a bruising battle with parliament and the government of Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu, whom Basescu has accused of slowing reforms Romania committed to when it joined the European Union in January. The European Commission has been alarmed at the reform deadlock and today its president Jose Manuel Barroso welcomed the referendum's outcome. ''I want to congratulate President Basescu for the result in the referendum yesterday,'' he said in a statement. ''I hope that this outcome will help Romania ... to move forward with the reforms that are needed, especially in the areas of judicial reform and the fight against corruption.'' Basescu, a former sea captain and the country's most popular politician, got 5.6 million votes in the referendum, half a million more than in the 2004 election.

Preliminary results showed turnout was 44 per cent, slightly lower than in 2004. Exit polls yesterday saw Basescu support at up to 78 per cent. EXCEEDED AUTHORITY Parliament suspended Basescu as president last month and called the referendum on the grounds he had exceeded his authority. His opponents have also accused Basescu of using the secret services to discredit them.

No proof of this has emerged. Many Romanians regard the president as an anti-corruption crusader and a symbol of their long-frustrated goal to rejoin the European mainstream.

Analysts say Basescu's victory gives credence to his anti-sleaze drive and could backfire on his opponents. ''This landslide will boost his force (to implement reforms) as it gives him more legitimacy from people,'' political analyst and writer Stelian Tanase told Reuters. ''His victory may trigger some internal crises in the parties that have opposed him.'' Basescu urged parliament, dominated by the Liberals and their Social Democrat allies, to back his electoral reform to make politicians more directly accountable to their voters.

''My whole project hinges on parliament's backing. Otherwise it cannot be done,'' Basescu told reporters today.

Basescu, who had to vacate his presidential palace when he was suspended, will return there in the next few days once the referendum's result is rubber-stamped by the constitutional court, his aides said.

-- (Reuters) -- 20FN43.XML

 

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