BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's parliament passed legislation on Tuesday that will make it easier to impeach the president, setting up another round in a fight between the government and head of state.
Leftist Prime Minister Victor Ponta and centre-right President Traian Basescu are arguing over who will represent Romania at this week's European Union summit. Ponta has also accused Basescu of planting plagiarism allegations against him.
The new rules, proposed by members of Ponta's Social Liberal Union (USL), will mean the president can be impeached by a simple majority of voters in a referendum.
Previously, an impeachment required a majority of all 18.3 million Romanian voters regardless of how many voted. The presidential role is theoretically ceremonial but carries a lot of influence and removing him would entrench the USL's position.
The opposition Democrat Liberal Party (PDL), which has close links with Basescu, plans to challenge the law at the Constitutional Court, said Cristian Radulescu, head of the party in the Senate.
Ponta came to power last month after austerity measures felled two previous PDL-led governments. His party is favorite to win a November parliamentary election.
If the law is upheld by the top court, Basescu could refuse to endorse it and send it back to parliament. He cannot veto it a second time.
The process will take too long for any impeachment before the November election, said political commentator Mircea Marian.
(Reporting by Ioana Patran; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)