Romanian premier takes over as interim justice minister
(BUCHAREST) - Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta took over Tuesday as interim justice minister following a cabinet reshuffle prompted by a controversial bid to impeach the country's president.
The Constitutional Court will rule on August 31 on the validity of last month's impeachment vote that saw President Traian Basescu maintain his job after it failed to meet the 50-percent turnout threshold needed to be valid.
But Ponta's centre-left coalition, which has been mired in a bitter feud with Basescu, has since contested the accuracy of the electoral registers.
The row prompted interior minister Ioan Rus to resign on Monday, leading Ponta to announce a cabinet reshuffle in which justice minister Titus Corlatean was moved to head the foreign ministry.
But the judge slated to succeed him, Mona Pivniceru, has yet to be confirmed to the post as she must first give up her membership in the Super Council of Magistracy (CSM).
Ponta said he expected Pivniceru to proceed with the resignation and be sworn in as justice minister "in a few days."
The European Union has been keeping a close eye on Romania's justice system, which the EU's most recent member must overhaul after decades of dictatorship if it hopes to join the visa-free Schengen area.
On Tuesday an expert panel of the pan-European rights body the Council of Europe called on Romanian officials to respect the independence of the Constitional Court.
"I'm calling on all the public authorities and all the political parties in Romania to fully respect the independence of the Constitutional Court and refrain from exercising any pressure on it," the Venice Commission's chief Gianni Buquicchio said.
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