BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania’s parliament asked President Traian Basescu to step down on Wednesday after his businessman brother was detained for allegedly taking a bribe to help shorten an underworld boss’s jail sentence.
The vote highlights the split between the ruling coalition and the president four months before a presidential election, and follows an earlier plea from leftist Prime Minister Victor Ponta for the centrist Basescu to step down.
Basescu has made it clear he will not resign and has denied all knowledge of his brother’s dealings and said he was not exempt from the law.
Parliament’s request, which is not binding, was approved with 344 votes in favor and 17 abstentions, while two center-right opposition parties refused to participate.
Romania will vote for a new president on Nov. 2. Ponta is expected to stand, and observers say he is best placed to win, which would cement his leftist Social Democrats’ dominance of Romanian politics as the president nominates the prime minister and appoints judges and prosecutors.
Basescu cannot run again as he has served two consecutive terms since 2005.
“Romania’s President Traian Basescu is no longer rightfully entitled to ensure the prestige, independence and legitimacy of the presidential function, which is why he should immediately resign,” parliament’s declaration read.
Earlier this month, a Romanian court ordered that 60-year-old Mircea Basescu, the president’s younger brother, be detained for 30 days while prosecutors investigate allegations he took a bribe to help shorten the jail term of crime boss Sandu Anghel.
Prosecutors said Mircea Basescu received 250,000 euros ($340,800) through an intermediary from Anghel’s son to obtain a lighter sentence for his father, who is serving eight years and nine months in jail for stabbing his nephew in 2011.
Traian Basescu won his first term as president in late 2004 on an anti-corruption ticket and has been a strong supporter of an independent judiciary.
This week, secret service head George Maior said officials including Basescu have known for years about the danger posed by Anghel’s crime family. But he added that the president had not been notified about his brother’s alleged involvement with Anghel.
Global anti-corruption group Transparency International ranks Romania third in the 28-member EU for graft, behind Greece and Bulgaria.
Editing by Radu Marinas and Hugh Lawson