BUCHAREST (AFP) - Romanians voted Sunday in a presidential impeachment referendum after weeks of political feuding that cast doubt on the democratic credentials of one of the EU’s newest members. Opinion polls show two-thirds of Romanians are expected to vote in favour of impeaching 60-year-old Traian Basescu, once one of the country’s most popular politicians whose ratings plummeted amid austerity cuts in 2010. In case turnout is lower than 50 percent, Basescu, suspended by parliament earlier this month, will be reinstated and continue his mandate, which ends in 2014. “I came to vote to say ‘down with Basescu’,” said Dumitru Cristea, a retired 61-year-old, outside a polling centre in central Bucharest.

“He’s done nothing but harm to the country, cutting wages, raising taxes on retirement income. He’s attacked little people like us instead of taking on the rich,” he said. Another voter, who gave her name only as Maria, said she would not vote for impeachment, “even if Basescu isn’t perfect. Because I’m very worried to see what the ruling centre-left are doing. They have broken many rules for this impeachment, they’ve reshuffled the entire administration to put in their cronies; it’s worrying.” The referendum comes after weeks of contentious moves by the government to manipulate Romania’s political institutions, which led to sharp warnings from Brussels and the United States that democracy was being eroded. Around 18.3 million people are eligible to vote, including large diasporas in Spain and Italy.