Romania parliament clears president's return to office

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 27, 2012 10:43 AM
Romania parliament clears president's return to office

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's parliament recognized on Monday a court decision that country's suspended president should return to office, drawing a line under a political row that has brought criticism from the European Union and punishment from financial markets.

The EU and the United States said the attempt by Prime Minister Victor Ponta's leftist alliance to remove his rightist rival Traian Basescu - which also placed doubts over Romania's IMF deal - failed to respect the rule of law and the judiciary.

The Constitutional Court ruled that a referendum to oust President Basescu was invalid because turnout was less than half the electorate, even though 88 percent of those who voted wanted the president removed from office.

The government had threatened to remove court judges or limit its powers, before backing down under pressure from Brussels, and also tried to prove the electorate was smaller, in an attempt to show the turnout requirement had been met.

"We only have a moral obligation to listen while the court's decision is being read," leftist lower house speaker Valeriu Zgonea told reporters. "We cannot interfere, block or ... alter Constitutional Court decisions."

The court's ruling must now be published in Romania's official record before Basescu can return to office, possibly as soon as Monday evening.

(Reporting by Sam Cage and Luiza Ilie; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)