Romanian newspapers on Monday discuss the weekend-long battle between suspended President Traian Basescu and his political rival in the campaign for the May 19 referendum when the fate of the head of state will be decided. Basescu’s chances of success are also thoroughly analyzed.

Newspapers would not overlook what amounts to signs that the new Justice minister is prone to abuse in office, the role of the intelligence services in the political game in Romania as well as the country’s plans to buy used Gripen planes from Sweden.

Cotidianul reports that suspended President Basescu defeated his Social Democratic (PSD) rivals in the duel of protests the two camps held in the city of Iasi on Sunday, prior to the May 19 referendum on the dismissal of the head of state.

According to the newspaper, Basescu managed to draw five times more supporters than PSD leader Mircea Geoana at Iasi events.

Romania libera notes that the two protests in Iasi were separated by no more than 600 m, forcing a massive police presence, in what the newspapers call the result of abuses committed by the Iasi City Hall in collaboration with PSD leaders and the media outlets controlled by Dan Voiculescu, another of Basescu’s opponents.

Jurnalul reports that with one week to go until the May 19 referendum, a CURS-CCSB poll ordered by the newspaper shows some 70% of Romanians who plan to vote in the referendum disagree with the dismissal of suspended President Basescu.

Basescu’s main political backers, the Democratic Party, tops the voter preferences with 38%, followed by the opposition PSD with 21%, and PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu’s Liberals (PNL) with 10%.

Evenimentul Zilei recounts the 848 days that Traian Basescu spent as President of the country and notes four scandals that he was involved in - but mainly his attempts to stave off corruption and reform the political life of the country, his condemnation of Romanian communism and his efforts to bring Romania closer to the US and farther from Moscow.

Back to the political battle these days, Romania libera interviews a former head of the Romanian Intelligence Service (SRI), Virgil Magureanu, who believes factions of the country’s several intelligence bodies are involved in the political crisis these days.

Magureanu says that “in any political crisis, in any part of the Globe and in whatever country, there has to be foreign meddling” with internal politics.

Cotidianul, meanwhile, reports that at least nine of the men that new Justice minister Tudor Chiuariu has teamed with since named in office match almost perfectly Chiuariu’s face: they’re all Liberals, all from the city of Iasi, and all lawyers.

That is enough for Cotidianul to conclude that “the Iasi Group is taking over Chiuariu’s ministry”.

The paper also quotes Liberal party vice-president Dan Radu Rusanu who has said that the head of the National Anti-corruption Department (DNA) Daniel Morar should resign. Cotidianul understands that the next step for Chiuariu’s team is have Morar’s head fall, after one of his deputies was removed from office already.

Evenimentul Zilei also digs into Chiuariu’s activities and reports that the head of the Control Body of the Justice Ministry Paul Dumitriu was ousted last week after meddling with the activity of people seen as cronies of Chiuariu’s “mentor” Relu Fenechiu, the head of the Liberal Party branch in Iasi.

Elsewhere in the papers, Romania libera quotes a Liberal MP of a parliamentary commission investigating illegal phone tapping by the intelligence services.

Deputy Mihai Calimente believes more than one million Romanians might have had their phones tapped by investigators in 2006, most of them at the request of the National Anticorruption Department (DNA).

Gandul also deals with the issue of phone tapping and reports that one person whose phone calls were intercepted by the Romanian Intelligence Service at DNA request is Dorina Mihailescu, wife of Ovidiu Musetescu, a top government official in the 2000-2004 government run by Adrian Nastase.

According to the newspaper, she was recorded when saying that AN [Adrian Nastase] let loose the reins of widespread theft.

Mihailescu and many other former officials including Adrian Nastase are under DNA scrutiny in a case related to the trafficking of alcohol, sources quoted by Gandul say.

Also in the newspapers today:

Evenimentul Zilei reports that Education minister Cristian Adomnitei was humiliated by fifth-graders on Saturday. During a meeting with pupils of a Braila school, he told them that the EU flag has 15 stars and when they pointed out that the correct number is 12, he insisted that no, the number is 15.

Gandul quotes Daily Mail in reporting that a large group of Gypsy people from Tandarei, Romania are ruining the small English town of Sleugh. Most of the 190 or so people of the group are underaged and the local council has to pay for their shelters, food and school.

Gandul reports that Romania may buy used Gripen figher planes from the Swedish Air Force. The paper writes that Romania wants to buy a total of 48 figher planes to replace its Mig 21 Lancers.

In a separate reports, Gandul writes that Gripen is accused in Sweden of offering “huge, secret commissions” to sell its planes.