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Romanians Vote Against Removal of President

Romanians have voted against the dismissal of their president, Traian Basescu, on charges of abuse of power. Official results show that about 75 percent of those participating in Saturday's referendum backed Mr. Basescu, who has pledged to stamp out corruption among politicians and other high-ranking officials. Stefan Bos reports for VOA from Budapest.

A crowd of supporters cheered as it became clear that three-fourths of the Romanians participating in the referendum voted against removing President Traian Basescu.

Parliament suspended the 55-year-old former oil-tanker captain from his presidential duties in April on charges he violated the constitution by abusing his power. Mr. Basescu allegedly ordered the secret services to spy on opposition politicians as part of his efforts to stamp out corruption.

Among his loudest critics was former President Ion Illiescu, an ex-communist who was investigated for his controversial role in calling in miners to crush a demonstration against his rule in 1990. The confrontation killed at least six people.

Speaking to supporters in Bucharest, Mr. Basescu, who won the presidency in 2004, said the outcome of Saturday's referendum showed that most people support his efforts to free his country from corrupt officials.

"I draw a single conclusion from this vote," he says, "and that is that Romanians want to change the political class." Mr. Basescu adds that Saturday's vote was "a referendum of trust" and shows that "most Romanians" support his attempts "to stamp out corruption" and that "Romanians want justice." Mr. Basescu says he wants to hit out at those who got rich at the fall of communism and allegedly frustrated his anti-corruption drive.

Mr. Basescu also told his enthusiastic supporters that he seeks "a new constitution" clarifying the balance of power between institutions, to reform the electoral system, and to clean up the administration. In addition the president pledged to fight for "a healthy education system" that gives opportunities to everyone.

But political opponents, such as Prime Minister Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, expressed doubts that many people support Mr. Basescu's initiatives because only about half of Romania's roughly 18 million voters participated in the referendum.

He says he believes the low voter turnout is very significant. It shows that the priorities of the Romanian people are very different to those of Basescu. And he adds, from tomorrow we must all concentrate on one thing, and that is on what the Romanian people want. I assure you my government will do that.

The outcome is seen as welcome news for Washington and the European Union.

Mr. Basescu is a staunch U.S. ally who Western diplomats have credited with helping implement reforms that were crucial for Romania to join the European Union on January 1, this year.