Some 12,000 Romanian workers in Spain showed up at two demonstrations of support for Romania’s suspended President Traian Basescu in Madrid and Castellon on Saturday as Basescu launched his campaign for a “no” vote in the May 19 referendum, where Romanians are invited to have their say whether to remove him from office or not.

Some 10,000 people attended the demonstration on a corrida stadium in Castellon, with another 2,000 in Madrid. A separate meeting organized by Basescu’s Social-Democratic opponents drew 200 people in Castellon, also on Saturday.

A clip from a reader in Spain:

“On May 19, you can take Romania back from the hands of the oligarchs”, Basescu told crowds in Castellon, referring to his repeated accusations that his political opponents are controlled by oligarchs with cross-party interests.

Thongs of Romanians on the Castellon corrida stadium

He was accompanied by ex-Justice minister Monica Macovei and ex-EU Integration minister Anca Boagiu on his trip to Spain. The two ministers were removed from the government in a major reshuffle that saw all of Basescu’s Democratic Party supporters removed from the government alliance with PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu’s Liberals this spring.

Romanians at pro-Basescu meeting in Madrid

“You should call your families back home and tell them to participate in the referendum”, Basescu told the crowds. “And if you want to deal with people like me, vote for the European Popular Party”, he urged them.

The vote of the Romanian community in Spain is seen as key in the upcoming referendum as unofficial statistics put the number of Romanian workers there at over one million.