World Bulletin / News Desk
The fate of Romania's president hangs in the balance on Monday as the Constitutional Court rules on whether his rivals who run the government can change the rules of a referendum which will decide whether he will be impeached.
The ruling Social Liberal Union (USL) of Prime Minister Victor Ponta suspended President Traian Basescu on Friday saying he had overstepped his powers. An impeachment referendum will take place on July 29.
The government wants to change how many votes are needed to impeach Basescu, from a majority of the whole electorate to a majority of those who actually vote - which could determine the result.
The dispute between Ponta's leftist alliance and his right-wing rival Basescu has raised international concerns about respect for the law and the constitution in the European Union's second-poorest country, which is in recession.
The political chaos has raised doubts over Romania's International Monetary Fund (IMF) aid deal, sent the leu currency plunging and pushed borrowing costs higher.
The leu fell a further 0.5 percent on Monday, again trading close to an all-time low.
The court will also rule on whether Basescu's suspension was legal and on a law to cut some of the court's powers after parliament ruled the court could not block some of its decisions.
"The court will meet today from 2pm (1100 GMT) to discuss the constitutional court law, the presidential suspension (and) the referendum law," said court official Daiana Anton said. "We expect a verdict today."
The government had a long list of reasons for suspending Basescu, including what it said was his attempt to pressure judges and breach the constitution.
Basescu said the charges against him were political and an attempt by Ponta to take control of the judiciary.
Romania's president is in charge of the country's foreign policy and nominates the prime minister.
He was able to influence the previous government's austerity policies because of his close links to the centre-right Democrat-Liberal Party, which led that government.
Analysts say the court will almost certainly back Basescu's suspension because it was done according to protocol. But the referendum rule change - passed just weeks before the impeachment vote - may be rejected.
However, in a further complication, Ponta's government has also passed an emergency decree backing its referendum rule law.
So even if the court rejects the law change, it may not be able to overturn the decree - certain to add to international accusations the government is dispensing with the judiciary.
The Council of Europe has already asked constitutional experts to examine the suspension of the president after Germany and the United States criticised the action, saying it threatened the rule of law.
"The long-term damage to Romania's image as a democracy has been already done. So, the leu will remain under pressure for the rest of the year," said a Bucharest foreign exchange dealer.
Romania's politics - unstable at the best of times - have been in chaos for months and Ponta is the third prime minister this year, after protests against austerity and corruption toppled his predecessors.
Ponta's USL backtracked on a plan to replace Constitutional Court judges after international criticism, but is now issuing emergency decrees that take immediate effect before the court can rule on them.
Impeaching Basescu would mean Romania would have to elect a new president in the autumn as well as holding a parliamentary election, which will stall policies and raise expenditure as it tries to keep the 5 billion euro ($6.15 billion) IMF-led aid deal on track.
The USL is favourite to win a parliamentary election in the autumn, though there have been no opinion polls in the past month. If Basescu is impeached, the party would also probably win the presidency.
The government denies it is endangering the rule of law and says it is sticking to the deal with the IMF, which wants Bucharest to overhaul energy prices and the outdated health system and to sell inefficient state assets. ($1 = 0.8126 euros)
Missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner tracked by radar over the Strait of Malacca, far from where it last made contact with civilian air traffic control off the country's east coast, a military source told Reuters.
The instability is unnerving consumers, with confidence at a 12-year low, and automakers, property firms and hotels in Southeast Asia's second-biggest economy are feeling the pinch
Journalist was shot by unknown gunmen central Kabul on Tuesday morning and died of his wounds in hospital
Islamic Jihad said targeted members of the group in Rafah, a town bordering Egypt.
Since December, around 60,000 families have fled their homes in the violence-wracked Anbar province to neighboring areas, according to government figures
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said 18 children under the age of five had died in January and another 23 in February.
A Kurdistan regional administration official says that a recent Saudi ban would convince 200 Kurds currently fighting alongside the Syrian opposition to return home.
Sanader, sentenced to 10 years' jail in another corruption trial in 2012, was given a new nine-year sentence by the Zagreb county court
Earlier Tuesday, Israeli daily The Jerusalem Post reported that the drone had gone down due to a "technical error."
Taliban spokesperson issues a statement warning Afghan people not to participate in April's presidential polls.
Foreign ministry "urged China to desist from any further interference with the efforts of the Philippines to undertake rotation and resupply operations at the Ayungin Shoal."
Although the disappearence of the passenger plane has not ruled out the possibility of terrorism, it is not believed that two Iranian men who had boarded the flight w,th stolen passports were hijackers.
Yanukovich remained unswayed in his argument that "extremists" had taken power in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. He told journalists that a presidential election set for May 25 would be illegal.
The academics found that UKIP's rise in opinion polls since the 2010 election had come not from widening its reach across society but deepening their core, working class vote.
The move came as several Jewish extremist groups urged followers to storm the holy site, he said.
Dozens of ships and aircraft from 10 countries scoured the seas around Malaysia and south of Vietnam as questions mounted