Romanians are voting in a referendum on whether to impeach President Traian Basescu.
Traian Basescu has already been suspended by parliament in a series of moves that have caused alarm among Romania’s EU partners because of the speed of the process.
The government accuses Traian Basescu of exceeding his authority and of meddling in government affairs.
Traian Basescu denies the accusations and has urged a boycott of Sunday’s referendum.
Under a new Romanian law backed by Traian Basescu’s Liberal Democrat Party (PDL), more than half of the electorate will have to vote to make the result valid.
The referendum is one of the fiercest political clashes in Romania since the return of democracy in 1990.
The result is hard to predict but will have long-term repercussions for Romania’s political and economic stability.
The row has paralyzed political decision-making in Romania at a time when it is finalizing agreements on an IMF-backed aid package.
Traian Basescu’s popularity has slumped since he backed tough austerity measures demanded by Romania’s international lenders and also because he backed corrupted members of PDL.
According to the latest polls, about 65% of the electorate wants to remove Traian Basescu. However, analysts say the government will struggle to achieve the required turnout.
Traian Basescu had initially urged Romanians to come to referendum and vote “no” to what he called “a coup”, but later asked his supporters to boycott the vote altogether, a stance also adopted by the new opposition (PDL). However, Traian Basescu will vote today even he urged people to boycott the referendum.
If he is impeached, a presidential election must be held within three months.
Earlier this month, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy voiced “deep concerns” about the political crisis in Romania “with regard to the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary”.
Romania and neighboring Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, but Brussels has put both countries under special monitoring because of concerns about judicial independence, corruption and political influence in state institutions.