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09 December 2012 Parliamentary Election

After weeks of public protests against austerity measures, in February 2012 Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc resigned, saying he wants to "ease the social situation" in the country after weeks of protests against austerity measures. Boc, who became prime minister in 2008, defended his record, saying he had taken "difficult decisions thinking about the future of Romania." Boc told a news conference in Bucharest on 06 February 2012 that the unpopular measures his government had to take to avoid a Greece-like economic collapse are now bearing fruit.

Romania's center-right government was toppled 27 April 2012 by a no-confidence motion that was proposed by the left-leaning opposition in a protest against austerity reforms. The toppling of the government of Prime Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu came just two months after he took office. The no-confidence motion was backed by 235 lawmakers, four votes more than needed to topple the government. The ex-communist Social Democratic Party (PSD) came to power after bringing down President Traian Basescu's center-right party in this no-confidence vote. The 39-year-old Victor Ponta was a change of guard for his Social Democrat party, founded chiefly by former communists and now the dominant force in the opposition Social Liberal Union. Basescu had been at odds with Ponta's coalition since it took office.

In June 2012 Ponta faced calls to resign over accusations of plagiarism. The British science magazine "Nature" and German daily "Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung" have reported they had seen documents proving that more than half of Ponta's thesis on the International Criminal Court for his 2003 Ph.D. consisted of duplicated text from Romanian and foreign authors. This came amid previous plagiarism scandals in the EU such as those which forced German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor Guttenberg and Hungarian President Pal Schmitt out of office recently, domestic and international pressure has been mounting on Ponta to resign. Two education ministers from his government have already been forced out in succession since May after proof emerged that they had plagiarized their scientific papers and lied about their academic qualifications.

On June 20, 2012 Romania's Supreme Court confirmed that former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase will serve a two-year prison sentence for corruption, in a landmark ruling for antigraft efforts in the new EU member. Nastase, a leftist prime minister from 2000 to 2004, becomes the highest figure to be jailed since the fall of communism. Prosecutors said $2 million was missing from the 2004 budget when profits from an event organized by a state construction watchdog were diverted to Nastase's presidential campaign. Nastase lost the election to the current president, Traian Basescu.

On July 04, 2012 Romania's Constitutional Court accused leftist Prime Minister Victor Ponta of trying to dismantle it and said it has notified EU authorities of threats to its independence. Ponta's ex-communist Social Democratic Party (PSD) has since threatened to replace some judges, accusing them of political bias. Ponta ignored a court ruling that his political opponent center-right President Traian Basescu could represent Romania at a European Council meeting and traveled to Brussels regardless.

Basescu's Second Impeachment - 06 July 2012

On 06 July 2012 the Romanian parliament voted to impeach President Traian Basescu. A total of 258 lawmakers out of 432 voted in favor of the move. However, the impeachment would only take effect if approved in a referendum within 30 days. Senate Speaker Crin Antonescu will serve as interim president now that Basescu has been effectively suspended from the role. He said the referendum will take place on 29 July 2012. The impeachment vote was part of a power struggle between Basescu and Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who heads the left-leaning Social Democratic Party. Basescu's opponents accused him of overstepping his authority by interfering with the prime minister's office and trying to influence judicial affairs. A simple majority of votes cast is needed to push Basescu out. Before, a majority of all voters in Romania was required. U.S. Ambassador to Bucharest Mark Gitenstein said he was deeply concerned" by threats to the independence of Romania's democratic institutions.

On July 29th, 2012 Romanian President Traian Basescu survived a referendum on his impeachment, after an insufficient number of voters turned out to cast ballots. Election officials said the voter turnout was close to 46 percent, but did not reach the required 50 percent. Basescu said Romanians invalidated the referendum by not participating, and that the impeachment process was a political vendetta. He is set to be reinstated and continue his term until it ends in 2014.

In the 09 December 2012 elections, voters elected 315 members of the lower house of the parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, and 137 members of the upper house, the Senate, for four-year terms. The legal framework had not been significantly amended since the last elections. The campaign has been ongoing for several months and has been dominated by issues related to the 29 July referendum on President Traian Basescus impeachment. A diverse media landscape provides for a vibrant coverage of electoral issues, however the media is politically polarized. Broadcast media, both private and public, are subject to strict and detailed regulations of campaign coverage. The practice of vote-buying is widespread among certain national minority groups, with the more economically deprived regions of the country being more susceptible to such practices.

Exit polls from Romania's parliamentary election gave the ruling center-left ruling alliance a clear victory in Sunday 09 December 2012 vote. Two polls indicate Prime Minister Victor Ponta's ruling Social-Liberal Union was expected to take about 57 percent of the vote. President Traian Basescu's Right Romania Alliance was trailing at a distant second with close to 19 percent. The two candidates had been locked in a personal feud since Ponta tried and failed to impeach Basescu in July. Basescu has hinted that he might refuse to re-appoint Ponta, regardless of who won the election.

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