Romania's Basescu wins referendum: official

BUCHAREST Sun May 20, 2007 5:11am EDT

Romania's President Traian Basescu gestures to his supporters after the first exit polls during an impeachment referendum in Univercity square in Bucharest May 19, 2007. Romanians rejected an attempt by parliament to impeach reformist President Traian Basescu in the Saturday referendum, official results showed on Sunday, giving fresh support to his anti-sleaze campaign. REUTERS/Mihai Barbu

Romania's President Traian Basescu gestures to his supporters after the first exit polls during an impeachment referendum in Univercity square in Bucharest May 19, 2007. Romanians rejected an attempt by parliament to impeach reformist President Traian Basescu in the Saturday referendum, official results showed on Sunday, giving fresh support to his anti-sleaze campaign.

Credit: Reuters/Mihai Barbu

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BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romanians rejected an attempt by parliament to impeach reformist President Traian Basescu in the Saturday referendum, official results showed on Sunday, giving fresh support to his anti-sleaze campaign.

Data collected from 92 percent of the polling stations showed 74 percent of Romanians voted against impeaching Basescu on charges that he overstepped his authority.

Basescu, the country's most popular politician, got 5.6 million votes in the referendum, half a million more than in the 2004 elections when he defeated ex-prime minister Adrian Nastase on an anti-graft ticket.

Preliminary results showed turnout was 44 percent, slightly lower than in 2004.

Parliament suspended Basescu as president last month and called the referendum on the grounds he had exceeded his authority and pushed the European Union newcomer into a political deadlock.

His opponents have also accused Basescu of using the secret services to discredit them.

No proof of this has emerged, while many Romanians see the ex-sea captain as an anti-corruption crusader and a symbol of their long-frustrated goal of rejoining the European mainstream.

Analysts say Basescu's victory will help him implement his anti-sleaze drive.

"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 has said he wanted parliament, dominated by the leftist opposition, to back his anti-sleaze drive and seek a reform of the electoral system 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 on Sunday.

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