Saturday 7th of December 2019, 15:44 CET
Romanians approve constitution, three ministers resign
October 20, 2003
RFE/RL South Eastern Europe

Posted by HW on December 7, 2019

90% pro votes
Preliminary results of the 18-19 October constitutional referendum released by the Central Electoral Bureau on 20 October show that 55.7 percent of eligible voters participated in the referendum and some 90 percent of them voted in favor of the new constitution, Romanian Radio reported. Only 8.8 percent of the votes were cast against, and 1.5 percent were not valid.

Illiescu: ignore the ignorant
All votes have been counted, but the bureau still has to validate the ballot. Commenting on the low turnout at the referendum, President Ion Iliescu said the authorities should ignore the views of those who do not want to cast their votes. He added that new regulations should be adopted so that referendums and elections would be valid regardless of the participation rate. Currently, Romanian laws require a majority turnout at referendums and in the first round of elections.

Three ministers resign
Premier Adrian Nastase on 20 October announced that European Integration Minister Hildegard Puwak, Health Minister Mircea Beuran, and Serban Mihailescu, the minister in charge of coordinating the cabinet's secretariat, resigned earlier that day, Romanian media reported.

Accusations
Puwak announced she has personal problems to be solved and does not want these problems to endanger Romania's negotiations with the EU. She has been accused of mishandling EU funds (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 and 5 September 2003).
Nastase said that Beuran, who has been accused of plagiarism (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2, 6 and 14 October 2003), wanted to clear the cabinet from explaining "collateral problems."
Lastly, Mihailescu, who has been accused of corruption several times, has been involved in the so-called "Busteni case," with one of his advisors accused of receiving bribes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 and 17 October 2003). Nastase said Mihailescu didn't want charges against subordinates to affect the cabinet's credibility.

"Good opportunity"
On 20 October, Nastase said his Social Democratic Party (PSD) decided to accept the resignation of the three ministers as this was a good "opportunity" to improve the cabinet's image, re-launch its activities, and successfully close negotiations with the EU, Mediafax reported. The same day Nastase presented to President Ion Iliescu his proposals for replacing the three. Iliescu accepted those proposals.

Replacements
EU chief negotiator Vasile Puscas is to temporarily take over the EU integration ministry, Minister of Control Ionel Blanculescu is to temporarily take over the health ministry. Former State Protocol Authority Director Eugen Bejenariu was named minister tasked with coordinating the cabinet's secretariat. Blanculescu said he has declared war on the mafia and corruption in the health system. Opposition parties called for the resignation of Nastase's entire cabinet, arguing it is incapable of combating corruption and that the resignation of the three ministers came too late.
 
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Iliescu, Ion (M) Politician Romania
Nastase, Adrian (M) Politician Romania
 
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