Tens of thousands of people took part in two separate demonstrations in the NE Romania city of Iasi on Sunday as part of the campaign for the May 19 referendum when Romanians will decide whether to remove suspended President Traian Basescu from office.

Between 20-28,000 people, according to various sources, attended the pro-Basescu demonstration in downtown Iasi, while some 10,000 gathered for a simultaneous anti-Basescu protest organized by the opposition Social Democrats, who have called the referendum.

The suspended head of state, who was suspended by the vote of 322 MPs on grounds that he breached the Constitution - despite the Constitutional Court saying he did not do so - addressed his supporters in Iasi. He accused links between the “oligarchy” which he says is running the country and the MPs who voted for his suspension.

He spoke of the need to change the Romanian Constitution to serve the interests of the citizens. His camp has been insisting that the current Constitution of the country is packed with imprecise provisions that allow for many abuses.

For their part, Social Democratic Party (PSD) leader Mircea Geoana and other top officials of the group urged some 10,000 protesters in Iasi to vote Basescu out of office. The demonstration was joined by many supporters of the far-right Greater Romania Party (PRM).

The PSD demonstration concluded about an hour before Basescu’s began in the Unirii Square in Iasi. No incidents were reported as some 700 gendarmes were deployed to maintain order.

Protests in Pitesti, Craiova on Saturday

On Saturday, Basescu’s camp managed to draw some 30,000 people to another demonstration in the city of Craiova in south Romania, while the PSD gathered some 6,000 people for an anti-presidential protest in the city of Pitesti.

People from across seven counties gathered for the pro-presidential demonstration in Craiova, attended by Craiova mayor Antonie Solomon and Basescu’s Liberal-Democratic (PLD) ally Teodor Stolojan.

The main speakers at the PSD meeting in Pitesti were party leader Mircea Geoana and ex-President Ion Iliescu. The latter accused Basescu of not having the moral authority “to teach me ethics” - referring to Basescu’s repeated attacks on Iliescu’s run of the country between 1990-1996 and 2000-2004.