Romanian parliament votes to suspend President Basescu

image source, AFP
image captionPresident Traian Basescu is widely associated with unpopular austerity measures

The Romanian parliament has voted to suspend the country's president, government officials have said.

Traian Basescu has been suspended for 30 days. A referendum on whether to remove him from office will follow.

He was suspended on the grounds that he had overstepped his authority by interfering in government business and legal affairs.

Mr Basescu, who has been president since 2004, has recently clashed with his rival Prime Minister Victor Ponta.

The political conflict between the president and prime minister has stalled decision-making processes in Romania at a time when it is finalising agreements on an IMF-backed aid package for its economy.

Mr Basescu has accused Mr Ponta of trying to interfere with Romania's legal and state institutions.

Mr Ponta, who heads the Social Liberal Union (USL), is himself under pressure to resign over allegations of plagiarism.

A total of 256 members of parliament of 432 voted in favour of the move against the centre-right Mr Basescu, according to an official count.

The impeachment will only take effect if approved in the referendum.

The vote came as the European Union expressed concern about rule of law in the country.

"The rule of law, the democratic checks and balances and the independence of the judiciary are cornerstones of the European democracy and indispensable for mutual trust within the European Union," the Commission warned.

Earlier this week, the USL coalition sacked the speakers of both houses of parliament as well as the ombudsman and also threatened to sack judges of the Constitutional Court.

Senate speaker Crin Antonescu of the USL has been appointed as interim president.

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