Romanian presidential impeachment referendum, 2007
The Romanian presidential impeachment
Impeachment is a formal process in which an official is accused of unlawful activity, the outcome of which, depending on the country, may include the removal of that official from office as well as other punishment....

A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

of 2007 was conducted in order to determine whether the president of Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

 Traian Băsescu
Traian Basescu
Traian Băsescu is the current President of Romania. After serving as the mayor of Bucharest from June 2000 until December 2004, he was elected president in the Romanian Presidential Elections of 2004 and inaugurated on December 20, 2004...

 should be forced to step down.

On April 19, 2007 the Romanian parliament
Parliament of Romania
The Parliament of Romania is made up of two chambers:*The Chamber of Deputies*The SenatePrior to the modifications of the Constitution in 2003, the two houses had identical attributes. A text of a law had to be approved by both houses...

 suspended Băsescu. As the Constitutional Court of Romania
Constitutional Court of Romania
The Constitutional Court of Romania is the institution which rules on whether the laws, decrees or other bills enacted by Romanian authorities are in conformity with the Constitution....

 acknowledged the Parliament's vote on the following day, Băsescu remained suspended from the position of president until the referendum would clearify the situation. It took place on May 19, 2007 and confirmed that the impeachment should not stand. 24.75% voted to impeach Băsescu, while 74.48% wanted to keep him in office.

Although not impeached, Băsescu is the first president in the history of Romania who has been officially suspended.

Impeachment Vote by Parliament

In early 2007, Băsescu was proposed for impeachment by the members of the opposition parties for allegedly unconstitutional conduct. One of the major issues in the confrontation was the activity of justice minister Monica Macovei
Monica Macovei
Monica Luisa Macovei is a Romanian politician, lawyer and former prosecutor, currently a Member of the European Parliament from the Democratic Liberal Party. She was the Minister of Justice of Romania in the first cabinet of Prime Minister Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu...

, who forced prosecutors to follow up on cases of corruption, especially those involving politically connected individuals. Among the main reasons given in the proposal to suspend Băsescu were:
  • Infringing upon and "substituting the authority" of the government, the judicial system and the parliament.
  • Committing acts of "political partisanship" with direct reference to the Democratic Party, abuse of power and acting more like a "judge of the other public authorities" than a "collaborator", thus "abandoning his role of impartial mediator required by the Romanian constitution."
  • Manipulating and "instigating public opinion against other state institutions" such as the parliament and the government.

Băsescu and his supporters denied the accusations, stating that his actions and statements were ways of fighting against corruption in the political and judicial systems and against "circles of business interests" with unlawful purposes.

The Constitutional Court of Romania
Constitutional Court of Romania
The Constitutional Court of Romania is the institution which rules on whether the laws, decrees or other bills enacted by Romanian authorities are in conformity with the Constitution....

 found no clear evidence of his breach of the constitution in the sense required by the fundamental law. However, the court ruling was only consultative and the two chambers of the parliament voted in favor of Băsescu's impeachment on April 19, 2007, with 322 votes for the impeachment proposal, 108 against it and 8 abstentions (the minimum number of votes needed was 233). Băsescu contested the decision, but the constitutional court rejected his appeal as inadmissible and upheld the vote.

In the meantime, Macovei and several other reformist ministers were dismissed by prime minister Popescu-Tăriceanu, while the European election
European Parliament election, 2007 (Romania)
Romania elected its members of the European Parliament for the first time on 25 November 2007; the election was initially scheduled for 13 May, but the PM postponed it for domestic political reasons...

 has been postponed until at least the fall of 2007. Some in the media have characterized the anti-Băsescu coalition as the "black alliance," noting that it contained both Social-Democrats favoring heavy-state involvement in the economy and National-Liberals favoring corporate business interests, Hungarian minority MPs and ultra-nationalists.

After the Impeachment Vote

As a result of the impeachment vote by the parliament, Băsescu was suspended from his function as president on April 19, 2007 and a national referendum was held on May 19, 2007 to decide by popular vote whether to dismiss the president. According to the electoral law (article 5(2) of the referendum law), an absolute majority of all Romanians with the right to vote is required for a positive result in a dismissal referendum, which means that almost nine million people would have had to vote against Băsescu. Otherwise he would regain full prerogatives. If Băsescu had been dismissed by the referendum, early presidential elections would have been called.

The question printed on the ballots was, "Do you agree with the removal of the President of Romania, Mr. Traian Băsescu, from office?". The question was modified to include the name of the president even though article 9 in the law of referendum already established the content of the question without names of presidents.


After the impeachment vote by the parliament, several public rallies to support Băsescu in the referendum and protest against his suspension were organized by PD and PLD both in Romania (Bucharest, Iaşi
Iași is the second most populous city and a municipality in Romania. Located in the historical Moldavia region, Iași has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Romanian social, cultural, academic and artistic life...

 etc.) as well as abroad (e.g. in Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...


On April 17, Băsescu stated that if Parliament voted for his impeachment, he would resign "five minutes" after the vote, avoiding a referendum for dismissal and triggering early presidential elections. However, on April 20 he decided not to resign, claiming he wished to limit the period of political instability.

Băsescu and his supporters in the Democratic Party also suggested that his political opponents would try to modify the electoral law in order to obstruct a previously suspended president to run in the elections again, following a Rolandas Paksas
Rolandas Paksas
Rolandas Paksas is a Lithuanian politician who was President of Lithuania from 2003 to 2004. He was previously Prime Minister of Lithuania in 1999 and again from 2000 to 2001, and he also served as Mayor of Vilnius from 1997 to 1999 and again from 2000 to 2001...


On April 25, the constitutional court approved the modifications brought by parliament to the referendum law. The new article 10 (regarding the presidential impeachment process) considers that the impeachment process "will be approved through the majority of votes for the participants at the referendum and article 5(2) does not apply to this type of referendum." Therefore, the 19 May referendum remained valid, despite the participation of less than 40% of eligible Romanians. However, since only a 25% minority of voters voted in the affirmative, Băsescu regained full prerogatives on May 24, after the referendum results were confirmed.

Validity in Case of Low Voter Turnout

On April 24, the parliament
Parliament of Romania
The Parliament of Romania is made up of two chambers:*The Chamber of Deputies*The SenatePrior to the modifications of the Constitution in 2003, the two houses had identical attributes. A text of a law had to be approved by both houses...

 voted to organize the referendum on May 19 and included an amendment of the opposition which stipulated that in case the constitutional court
Constitutional Court of Romania
The Constitutional Court of Romania is the institution which rules on whether the laws, decrees or other bills enacted by Romanian authorities are in conformity with the Constitution....

 found the referendum invalid, parliament would decide on further procedures.

The decision started a new debate on the referendum issue generated by the law not providing for the hypothesis that the referendum to dismiss the president would be considered formally not valid by the constitutional Law on account of low turnout. According to paragraph (2) of article 5 in the law no. 3/2000, a referendum is valid only if the majority of citizens registered in the electoral lists participates in the referendum, regardless of their votes or the validity of their votes once they have participated. This condition applies to all referendums and only if met, the referendum will be held as formally valid by the constitutional court. But neither the constitution nor the law on referenda give any solution to the invalidity issue as to what would happen afterwards with the legal effects of the suspension vote or the re-instatement of the president with full prerogatives.

Supporters of the idea that the referendum will have to be repeated - with the president suspended in the meantime - base their claim on article 95 in the constitution which does not provide a limit in time as to the effects of a suspension vote by the parliament. Ad absurdum, this argument may deny re-instatement even in case the referendum is valid and the people voted in favor of the president since the constitution and the law on referendum keep silent about this hypothesis as well.

Another difficulty that arose from this argument is that a suspension vote would actually become a dismissal vote in case of low voter turnout since several referenda would have to be held with the president suspended while article 95 says that only "a referendum" will be held and this will be done only "in 30 days" from the day of suspension. In addition, it was claimed that it cannot be reasonably inferred that low voter turnout equals a will to dismiss the president by the people and parliament does not have the power to make this decision either.

Supporters of the president rebut the argument, stating that article 95 calls for a referendum to be held in 30 days to dismiss the president by popular vote and that article 8 in the law on referenda states that the referendum is mandatory. Since the referendum is the expression of national sovereignty that belongs to the Romanian people, only a positive result to dismiss the president will preclude Băsescu from regaining full prerogatives once the referendum is held at the date established. Save for a positive result to dismiss him, Băsescu will regain full prerogatives the next day after the vote, regardless of participation rates or the validity of the referendum. This argument does not address the issue of the time limit for the suspension or that a valid referendum will have to legitimize again the reinstatement as president once he was suspended because only a valid referendum is the expression of national sovereignty not an invalid one.

Should the referendum be invalid on account of low voter turnout, a possible solution to this constitutional crisis
Constitutional crisis
A constitutional crisis is a situation that the legal system's constitution or other basic principles of operation appear unable to resolve; it often results in a breakdown in the orderly operation of government...

 would be a bolder decision of the constitutional court that would have to address the debate directly and issue a decision on reinstatement as well. A second possible solution is for the government to repeal the text of article 5 (2) on participation requirements through an emergency ordinance. Finally, resignation of the president would end his mandate and the issue by triggering presidential elections.

Support Rallies for Băsescu

After he was suspended, Băsescu took part in several support rallies in which he continued to criticize the 322 MPs who had voted against him and made reference to an alleged conspiracy of corrupt political leaders and a "business oligarchy" that led to his impeachment. He also stated that he would not "negotiate" with his adversaries in order to maintain his office and that he would continue to fight against corruption once reinstated by the referendum.

Băsescu's political opponents replied by accusing him of always "seeking conflict" and "inventing enemies" in order to maintain a favourable public image of "fighter for justice." Mircea Geoană
Mircea Geoana
Dan Mircea Geoană is a Romanian politician, who served as president of the upper chamber of the Romanian Parliament, the Senate from December 20, 2008 until he was revoked by the senators on November 23, 2011. From 21 April 2005 until 21 February 2010 he was the head of the Partidul Social...

, leader of the opposition Social Democratic Party
Social Democratic Party (Romania)
The Social Democratic Party is the major social-democratic political party in Romania. It was formed in 1992, after the post-communist National Salvation Front broke apart. It adopted its present name after a merger with a minor social-democratic party in 2001. Since its formation, it has always...

 stated that Băsescu's participation in the rallies was illegal because "it took place before the official start of the electoral campaign for the referendum."


Option Votes %
No 6,059,315 74.48%
Yes 2,013,099 24.75%
Invalid 62,858 0.77%
Total 8,135,272 100.00%
Eligible (turnout 44.45%) 18,301,309
Source: Romanian Electoral Commission

Early exit polls indicated a win for the president. Voter turnout had been low, a fact emphasized by both sides. [2](romanian news) Although the president was still suspended pending official results, both he and the opposing political coalition made statements acknowledging his imminent return as active president.

Two exit polls were conducted among the participants in the referendum. An Insomar/Metro Media poll showed 75 percent of voters saying "No" to ousting Băsescu. A CURS Institute poll put the figure at 78.1 percent.

A common statement by the European Popular Party leaders Joseph Daul
Joseph Daul
Joseph Daul is a French politician and Member of the European Parliament for the East of France. He is a member of the Union for a Popular Movement , a member-party of the European People's Party...

 and Wilfried Martens
Wilfried Martens
Wilfried Martens is a Belgian politician. He was born in Sleidinge . Martens was the 44th Prime Minister of Belgium from 3 April 1979 to 6 April 1981 and 17 December 1981 to 7 March 1992....

, published one hour after the result of the vote "welcomes the decision of the Romanian people in today’s referendum to reject a call to remove president Traian Basescu from office". BBC News
BBC News
BBC News is the department of the British Broadcasting Corporation responsible for the gathering and broadcasting of news and current affairs. The department is the world's largest broadcast news organisation and generates about 120 hours of radio and television output each day, as well as online...

reported on the population's attitude by citing the answer from a teacher's interview "I've got sick of living in a country run by thieves. Only Băsescu can help us get rid of them"

Over 50% presence was registered only in Bucharest (where the votes of Romanians living abroad were added to the local votes), Sibiu, Braşov and Constanţa counties. The highest percentage favouring impeachment was registered at Botoşani (39,69%), Teleorman (37,27%), Vaslui (35,34%) and Olt (35,53%)
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