Romania's constitutional court has struck down a referendum to impeach Traian Basescu, the nation's president.
Tuesday's decision stifles efforts by the Balkan nation's leftist government to oust its most prominent political opponent ahead of a parliamentary election in November.
The government said that it would accept the decision, but Crin Antonescu, Romania's acting president, said Basescu was now an "illegitimate" leader.
"We do respect the court decision and Traian Basescu will again become a president. But he returns as an illegitimate president," Antonescu said.
There was no immediate statement from Basescu.
Victor Ponta, the Romanian prime minister, who was at the forefront of the movement calling for the impeachment of the president, has not yet issued a response to the court's decision on a July 29 referendum.
| Romania's president faced impeachment vote
The court, as expected, said that the referendum called by the government to remove the 60-year-old political veteran Basescu was invalid because turnout fell short of the required 50 per cent of the 18.3 million electorate.
"We stated that the referendum quorum condition was not met," Chief Judge Augustin Zegrean told reporters. He said
Basescu, suspended by parliament before the referendum which was needed to confirm the impeachment, could now return to power.
Basescu has the power to appoint prime ministers and heads of security services, and to temporarily veto legislation.
The political crisis pitting Ponta, Europe's youngest prime minister, against the one-time oil tanker captain, has crippled policymaking, depressed the leu currency to record lows last month and angered the EU, which accused Ponta of undermining democracy and intimidating judges in the country long been criticised for graft and weak justice.
Ponta has accused Basescu of blocking government policies and turning a blind eye to corruption while starting a
witch-hunt against rival politicians.
However, the campaign has also damaged Ponta's own reputation by findings from an academic panel that his doctoral thesis in law was plagiarised.
Officials in Ponta's party have denounced Basescu, saying he orchestrated the June conviction of Ponta's mentor, Adrian Nastase, the former prime minister, on charges of improper party funding.
Bucharest needs to focus on austerity policies to keep a five billion euro IMF stand-by agreement on track.
In the July 29 referendum, 88 per cent of those who cast ballots voted to impeach Basescu - but only 46 per cent of
registered voters took part.