World Bulletin/News Desk
Romania's suspended president Traian Basescu urged Romanians on Friday to boycott a July 29 referendum that polls show will remove him from office.
Basescu had initially urged Romanians to vote to defeat what he called a coup d'etat, but his stance gradually shifted this week when he and his Democrat Liberal allies said they were increasingly concerned about the possibility of electoral fraud.
"I am asking Romanians not to participate in this referendum behind which some irresponsible politicians are trying to hide a coup," Basescu told reporters at his headquarters on the last day of the campaign.
He said he had reasons to suspect the ruling leftist Social Liberal Union (USL) of Prime Minister Victor Ponta would try to rig the vote, citing a longer voting period, unclear voter lists that would make multiple votes easier and a government move to set up extra voting polls in restaurants, bars and hotels.
Ponta's USL suspended Basescu this month, saying the rightist president had overstepped his powers. Basescu, in turn, accused the USL of trying to stage a coup and take control of independent institutions.
Basescu and anti-graft experts say Ponta's rush to oust him may be linked to a string of corruption investigations, including the conviction of Adrian Nastase, a former prime minister and mentor to Ponta.
Polls indicate Sunday's vote will be in favour of impeaching Basescu, who is deeply unpopular after of backing austerity measures and accusations of cronyism, but turnout of at least half the electorate is required to make the result valid.
The turnout requirement - set by a Constitutional Court ruling which the USL initially tried to ignore - gives Basescu a fighting chance, after the opposition Democrat Liberals also asked their supporters not to vote.
That and timing - during what is traditionally a holiday month - could cut turnout, which was 56 percent in local June elections, below half.
Interim president Crin Antonescu, who co-runs the USL with Ponta, said referendum preparations have been above board, and asked Romanians to vote.
"The right to vote is citizens' fundamental way of participating," he told reporters.
The USL and Ponta have had a dressing down from Brussels on concerns about undermining the rule of law, intimidating judges and removing officials in their bid to oust Basescu.
The government accuses Basescu of having undue influence over the judiciary. Prosecutors have notched up a series of convictions and the EU has demanded that it prosecute and jail senior figures to prove it is serious about corruption.
The USL tried to change laws to its advantage and threatened to replace Constitutional Court judges and limit the Court's powers before backing down. It also defied a court decision.
"I will not vote because the USL have tried to change everything so that they could win," said Adrian Oanta, a 21-year-old student after a rally in support of Basescu.
"Since they came to power they have done nothing to get Romania out of the (economic) crisis," he said.
Romania, hit hard by the debt crisis in the euro zone - eastern Europe's main trade and banking partner - remains the European Union's second-poorest member.
The four armed settlers entered the village of Qusra, sparking a confrontation with residents, municipality head Abdul Azeem al-Wadi said
West African delegation is in Banjul in final attempt to negotiate safe exit for Jammeh
Created in 1975, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) focuses mainly on resolving regional conflicts.
The two heads of state are long-term allies of Jammeh, who has had more prickly relations with other west African leaders during the post-election crisis these last weeks.
Locals and community leaders claim death toll is higher, putting the figure at 170, according to MSF
At least 25 people, including several children, were feared dead after a barrage of snow hit the Hotel Rigopiano on Wednesday afternoon, ripping the three-storey building from its foundations and moving it ten metres (11 yards).
What's at stake for the two countries, and the global economy as a whole? And who stands to lose more?
Following operational tests, the Army expects soldiers to begin fielding the new handgun later this year.
On Friday, Trump will cap an extraordinary and improbable run for the White House when he takes the reins from President Barack Obama at mid-day, launching the nation into uncharted waters.
The Tauheedul Muslim girls’ and boys’ schools in Blackburn, Lancashire, run by the Tauheedul Education Trust, beat off competition from London grammars
The meeting will be held on January 24th, for normalization of relations between Belgrade and Prishtina.
Rights groups say government is complicit in 'pushbacks' of refugees to Macedonia and Bulgaria, including families dumped in forests with Belgrade, Serbia as well as hundreds of refugees are now living in miserable conditions in makeshift camps
With the political upheaval of the last year that investors are trying to make sense of, the religion of the global elite — free trade and open markets — is under attack
Elections on January 29 show Socialist heavyweights hinting support at Macron as their party's nominee
With Brexit around the corner, time is ticking for the Scottish referendum as the Brexit creates new fears
Predicting that Donald Trump will fail as President, George soros ha said that has predicted the loss of the US' "positive influence in the world in favour of an open society", which would have "a very far reaching effect in Europe and other parts of the world".