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Interior minister quits amid impeachment row

3 min

Romanian Interior Minister Ioan Rus resigned on Monday citing "unacceptable" levels of "criticism and pressure" from various political figures over his ministry's handling of an impeachment referendum on President Traian Basescu.


AFP - Romanian Interior Minister Ioan Rus resigned Monday, citing "unacceptable" pressures amid controversy over his ministry's organisation of an impeachment referendum against President Traian Basescu.

"I have submitted my resignation for my own honour," said Rus, a member of Prime Minister Victor Ponta's centre-left coalition, the Social Liberal Union (USL).

Condemning "criticism and pressure" from political figures, including both suspended centre-right Basescu and interim president Crin Antonescu, Rus also announced the resignation of Victor Dobre, the junior interior minister tasked with organising the vote.

"We have been subjected to multiple forms of pressure, discussions, and criticism, coming from Romanian political figures from Traian Basescu to Crin Antonescu," he said.

"From my point of view and from (Dobre's) point of view, these things are unacceptable.

"We think we organised this referendum sufficiently well."

After Rus's resignation, Ponta announced a cabinet reshuffle, replacing Rus by Mircea Dusa, whose post as minister for parliamentary relations will be taken over by Dan Sova, a senator with the ruling USL coalition and former spokesman for Ponta.

Justice Minister Titus Corlatean was moved to head the foreign ministry, replacing Andrei Marga, and Corlatean's job given to a judge, Mona Pivniceru.

Ponta said he regretted having to make the changes.

"I would have liked the government I appointed in May to have remained in place until the legislative elections planned for November," he said.

"But the exceptional situation caused by the actions of suspended president Traian Basescu has forced us to adapt."

Romanian politics have been thrown into turmoil by the July 29 impeachment referendum organised by Ponta's government to remove Basescu, which has been sharply criticised by the European Union and the United States.

Antonescu, who took over as interim president after Basescu was suspended last month, is a leading figure in the USL, which contested the accuracy of electoral registers after the referendum failed to meet the 50-percent turnout threshold required to oust arch-rival Basescu.

Romania's Constitutional Court last week delayed giving a ruling on the validity of the referendum.

The court asked for the updated lists of eligible voters used in the balloting, saying "contradictory data from state institutions" had forced it to delay its decision to August 31.

But the court on Monday contradicted the prime minister, who had told local authorities last week that they needed to update their election lists by the end of August to comply with the court's request.

The court has "asked the government for the permanent updated electoral lists that served as the basis for the July 29 referendum," it said in a letter to Ponta posted on its website.

The letter said the clarification needed to be made "after divergent interpretations appeared in the media and at a government press conference" -- a reference to Ponta's statements on Friday.

Official results showed that 86 percent of those who cast ballots in the referendum voted to impeach Basescu. But voter turnout was only 46.24 percent, shy of the 50 percent required by the Constitutional Court to validate the result.

The USL claimed after the referendum that the voter lists had not been updated and that some registered voters should not have been on the rolls -- despite Rus having said five days before the referendum that the lists were up to date as of July 10.

Rus said again Monday that the lists had been purged of deceased and ineligible voters before the referendum, putting the number of deleted names at more than 21,000.

"I'm an honest politician," he said.

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