"The best solution for Romania is for me to take part in the referendum,"  Basescu said.

 

Members of parliament on Thursday voted 322-108 to suspend Basescu for 30 days, paving the way for the legislature to organise the referendum.

 

Pro-Basescu rally

 

After parliament's vote, thousands of Basescu supporters gathered in the business district of Bucharest to protest.

   

The suspension has sparked concern in Brussels about the future of Romania's EU-driven justice reforms and the fight against widespread corruption.

   

It also increased worries that the country's deepening political crisis will damage preparations to absorb billions of euros in EU aid and could scare away foreign investors.

 

Basescu's suspension on charges of abuse of his powers, which the constitutional court has said were groundless, follows months of jostling for influence among the ruling centrists who include him as well as Vacariou's leftist opposition PSD party.

   

Observers said the PSD-proposed suspension was its attempt to regain power and popularity lost amid sleaze scandals.

   

Interim president

 

Vacaroiu, an economist, served as prime minister for four years between 1992 and 1996, and has been the president of the Romanian senate since 2000.

   

His government was criticised by Western observers for slow reforms and delays in restructuring communist-era industries.

   

Romania's leftist governments, which ruled the country since the overthrow of communism in 1989 until 1996, and then from 2000 to 2004, have also been blamed by observers for allowing rampant corruption to fester.