Romania to hold referendum on electoral reform

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BUCHAREST, Oct 23 (Reuters) Romania's President Traian Basescu called today a national referendum on electoral reform to be held together with elections for the European Parliament scheduled for November 25.

The reform is aimed at making politicians more accountable to voters and changing the current system based on party lists, which pro-democracy groups say fuels corruption.

If approved, the new voting scheme would allow voters to cast ballots directly for individuals instead of party lists.

''The new electoral system I propose, strengthens the relationship of Romanian deputies with voters,'' Basescu told reporters.

In August, Romania's main political parties agreed to reform the current electoral system, but talks in parliament have been repeatedly delayed.

Romania's minority government said yesterday it will drive the electoral reform through parliament by forcing a confidence vote.

Such a decision was expected tomorrow.

But Basescu, caught in a battle of wills with Prime Minister Calin Tariceanu, said he does not trust the government and will call the referendum without waiting for its decision.

Under Romanian law, the government can ask for a confidence vote to be attached to a bill to speed up its approval and bypass lengthy parliamentary debates.

To defeat the bill, its opponents must then file a censure motion. If the government survives the vote, or if none is filed, the bill is automatically approved.

Opinion polls show around 80 per cent of Romanians want to vote directly for individual candidates in the 462-seat two-chamber parliament.

REUTERS GL PM2354

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