Romania seeks to probe ex-minister in referendum row

BUCHAREST Fri Aug 10, 2012 12:56pm EDT

Romania's suspended President Traian Basescu addresses the media in Bucharest August 9, 2012. REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel

Romania's suspended President Traian Basescu addresses the media in Bucharest August 9, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Bogdan Cristel

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BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romanian prosecutors asked parliament on Friday to approve an investigation against a former junior minister for suspected abuses in organizing a controversial July 29 referendum to impeach President Traian Basescu.

The request compounds political uncertainty in Romania where the dispute over Basescu has stalled policymaking, raised concern over Romania's aid deal led by the International Monetary Fund and plunged the leu currency to a record low.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta's drive to oust Basescu, who he accuses of improperly blocking government policies, has been condemned by the European Union and Washington, which say his cabinet has been eroding the rule of law in the EU member state.

Prosecutors said Victor Dobre, who oversaw public administration in the interior ministry and who quit earlier this week, used his post to influence a pending August 31 Constitutional Court ruling on the validity of the plebiscite.

Dobre, a parliamentary member of Ponta's leftist Social Liberal Union (USL) is accused of having an aide write to the court saying the interior ministry could not vouch for the accuracy of the electoral rolls.

The July 29 referendum yielded an 88 percent majority in favor of removing Basescu - who is unpopular for backing austerity and for perceptions of cronyism - but the turnout did not reach a threshold of 50 percent of all registered voters required by the Constitutional Court.

After the letter from Dobre's aide, and assertions by USL officials after the referendum that the actual numbers were much smaller than shown in the register, the Court put off a ruling on the referendum until August 31 saying it had received conflicting information about the size of the electorate.

The letter muddied the waters - "causing a significant disruption in the activity of institutions", as the prosecutors put it in a statement - because, before the referendum, the interior ministry had declared the electoral rolls up to date.

"The prosecutor general has asked the lower house to trigger procedures for the request to start a criminal investigation against Victor Dobre ... under charges of abuse of the public interest," prosecutors said in a statement.

Under Romanian law, only the president and parliament can request an investigation of a minister.

The interior ministry was in charge of revising voter lists before the referendum. Dobre, along Interior Minister Ioan Rus, resigned earlier this week citing political pressure in connection with the court's work on the referendum.

The USL is keen to see the overall number of voters lowered, so that the 50 percent turnout target is satisfied and the impeachment referendum validated.

Parliament is dominated by Ponta's USL, raising doubts USL parliamentarians would approve the prosecutors' request.

(Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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Comments (5)
suceveanul wrote:
You are missedinformed.and so arethe European officials.the real problem of Romania is Basescu.in the last years,he and the former rulling party changed the laws of Romania in favor of him and the corrupt ex-goverment.Basescu put in function his obedient people in key institutions.this means prosecutors,judges in the Constitutional Court.anyone who is not with him and his mob is threatened with jail.I have a message for the European and American politicians:would You,please,not stir in the internal affairs of an European country that is sovereign and is respecting all internanional laws at this time?would You,please,don`t defend Basescu no more becuase he was a dictator when he was in power.the ex-rulling party,the PDL is a gathering of mobsters.before You say anything about Romania,please,get real informations.please don`t use the lies that the people of Basescu are telling You.get in Romania and get the truth.if Basescu comes in power again it will be another revolution,blood will flow again.don`t play with the destiny of Romania.I hope this message will be read by the right people.thank You.

Aug 10, 2012 4:01pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
copy-paste wrote:
No, you Mr. suceveanul are trying to mislead the readers. The fact is that for the first time after the Romanian Revolution the Romanian Justice System attempted to do its job and the current Romanian Government is really scared that it might reach its important supporters (such as Voiculescu, Nastase, Vantu, etc).
If Basescu comes back to power there will be no blood, just people doing their job (such as judges, doctors, workers, etc).
The European Comission is well informed, the Government did not succeed in winning the impeachment referendum and is currently trying to adjust the voters list so that to validate the referendum, changing the rules after the match has ended.
After two months of socialist government (with a plagiatorist prime minister and a hysterical interim president) the country lost its international credibility, the local currency lost 5% against Euro and the government was not able to find funds to bring the salaries back to the amoungt promised. Thank you!

Aug 10, 2012 6:04pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
TheAdvisor wrote:
From a neutral bystander – fed up with misinformation & disinformation emanating from all sides.

Basescu claims an electorate of 18+ million from a population of 19,042,936 (2011 Census) of which 3.4 million are under voting age.

It is transparent that the size of the electorate is wildly misrepresented & from the official register of votes it would seem that well over 50% of the population voted in the recent referendum.

Aug 11, 2012 3:40am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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