First official estimates: Low turnout invalidates Romania’s presidential impeachment referendum

The referendum to impeach Romania’s president Traian Basescu ended at 23:00 on Sunday, with first official estimates pointing to a  turnout slightly below the necessary level to validate the vote.

Less than half of the Romanians with voting rights attended the vote on Sunday- 45.92 – according to an estimation from the Central Electoral Bureau. Attendance was higher in rural areas – 51.6 percent.  Olt county had the highest attendance, of 74.71 percent, followed by Mehedinti and Teleorman, with over 70 percent. The lowest attendance was in Harghita county, some 11.5 percent.  Attendance in Bucharest was of 40 percent.  The BEC data has an error margin of plus/minus 3 percent and was made on 2,800 polling stations out of over 18,000 stations.

According to various exit polls ordered by parties, the majority said ‘Yes’ to impeaching the president- over 85 percent.  Official results will be announced on Monday (July 30 ).

Parralel counting data from the Social Liberal Union pointed to a higher referendum attendance. However, the invalidated referendum means that president Traian Basescu will return to the helm of the country, after being suspended earlier this year.

The suspended president himself did not vote, after asking his supporters to withdraw from voting and boycott the referendum, saying the USL would defraud the vote. Basescu gave his victory speech after the end of the vote, based on the exit polls and parallel count by his party, the Democrat Liberal Party (PDL).

“Romanians have rejected the coup d’état of the 256 MPs led by Victor Ponta and Crin Antonescu. I want to thank those who, getting over their anger at measures taken during crisis, understood that today was not a referendum about Traian Basescu,” said the president after the vote ended.

“It is a great victory for Romanians to have around 9 million voters in the referendum. It is their victory and any politicians who say they will ignore the voice of 9 million is disconnected from reality,” said Prime Minister Victor Ponta. He reminded of the upcoming meetings with international financial institutions and the need to implement economic measures.

The referendum followed a heated campaign, with politicians on both sides leveling accusations of breaches in personal integrity and outright criminality, while the international community expressed deep concern over democracy and the rule of law in Romania.

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