Romanian MPs have voted to impeach President Traian Basescu, initiating a process that could oust the unpopular leader in a national referendum.
Some 256 of the bicameral parliament’s 372 deputies voted to impeach Basescu, 114 voted against the motion, and two votes were canceled, the final count showed.
Senate Speaker Crin Antonescu, who will serve as interim president now that Basescu has been effectively suspended from the role, announced that a popular referendum on Basescu’s fate will be held on July 29.
Ever since he was sworn in as prime minister in May, Victor Ponta and his coalition government have been embroiled in a bitter power struggle with Basescu that has thrown the Eastern European country of 19 million into a political crisis.
Parliament finally voted to impeach Basescu, who first took office in 2004, on the charge that he assumed the powers of the prime minister in 2010 to announce severe austerity cuts when the country was hit by recession. Basescu’s government agreed to adopt austerity measures to secure a multi-billion-dollar bailout package from the European Union and the IMF.
The 60-year-old Basescu was also impeached in 2007, but survived in a referendum. However this time, with his approval ratings dramatically lower than five years ago, the Romanian president is in serious danger of being forced out of office.
Hundreds of Romanians poured into the streets of downtown Bucharest to celebrate the news of Basescu’s impeachment, while a smaller crowd staged a rally in support of the beleaguered president.