Source AP ©

Romania's President Traian Basescu resigns in order to force new elections

Romania's President Traian Basescu suggested he would resign in order to force new elections if parliament votes to suspend him after a high court found that he violated the constitution.

The court said, however, that the offenses were not serious enough to warrant removal from office, which also requires approval by a majority of all voting-age Romanians.

"Only my resignation would put us all in front of the electorate," Basescu said in an interview on Realitatea television. "I will show up again for this new political competition."

Basescu said he wanted to avoid a referendum where people would be forced to choose between him and parliament.

"I think parliament needs to be protected from such a confrontation," he said, suggesting that if Romanians voted to keep him in office, parliament would be discredited.

In its findings last week, the court did not elaborate on the violations that Basescu committed, with the detailed ruling to be published later. A parliamentary committee accused him of usurping the Cabinet's powers and fueling political disputes instead of resolving them as required by the constitution.

Basescu is at odds with most lawmakers and with Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu, and parliament is to meet next week to decide whether to suspend him for 30 days and organize the impeachment referendum.

The president has accused the prime minister of being influenced by lobby groups, while Tariceanu has been trying to assume more power, including over foreign policy, where he wants to withdraw Romania's 600 troops from Iraq. Basescu opposes withdrawal, saying that Romania would be betraying its allies if it pulled its troops out too early.

Lawmakers can ignore the court's finding that the offenses were not serious enough, and several parties have still not decided how they would vote.

The popularity of Basescu, a former sailor who is known for his unconventional style, has been declining in the polls but he is still Romania's most trusted politician.

Since Romania joined the European Union in January, Basescu and Tariceanu escalated their conflict and even argued publically on national television.

On April 1, Tariceanu split the governing coalition by removing a party close to Basescu from his Cabinet.

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