Romania's top court throws out decree limiting its powers
(BUCHAREST) - Romania's constitutional court ruled Wednesday that a government decree limiting its powers was in breach of the country's constitution, the latest development in a months-long political saga.
"The Court unanimously decided that the emergency decree related to the activities of the court is unconstitutional," the judges said in a statement.
Prime Minister Victor Ponta's centre-left government had barred the court in July from ruling on parliament decisions including those concerning elections and the dismissal of the presidents of the two houses of parliament.
Its decree allowed the Social-Liberal Union (USL) alliance which currently forms the parliamentary majority and the government to sack the presidents of the two chambers on July 3 and to name new ones.
In a power struggle between Ponta and centre-right President Traian Basescu, parliament voted three days later to impeach the head of state, raising fears among EU partners and other Western powers that the government, which took office only in May, was eroding democratic checks and balances in its anti-Basescu campaign.
Lawmakers tried to impeach Basescu over claims he improperly assumed the powers of the prime minister when he announced drastic austerity cuts in 2010.
Ponta's coalition also fired the ombudsman and threatened to sack judges of the Constitutional Court.
Basescu was reinstated after a decision by the Constitutional Court on August 21, following a referendum in which 87 percent of those voting wanted him removed. But he survived the vote as turnout failed to cross the required threshold.