Basescu, who was first elected in 2004, has seen his ratings drop due to tough austerity measures implemented in 2010 to meet the terms of a 20 billion euro ($24 billion) IMF-led loan. His divisive style of governing has not helped his cause. But the campaign to unseat him has drawn strong criticism from the West.
"I am still very much worried about the state of democracy in Romania and so is the (European) commission," Viviane Reding, vice president of the EU's executive commission, said this week. "We will look at the facts, not at the (government's) promises. We will look at the laws and the implementation of those laws."
If, however, the referendum passes with the necessary turnout of more than 50 percent, Brussels is likely to accept the result.
Ponta's government scored well in June local elections, easily defeating Basescu's Democratic Liberal Party. It seemed poised to win parliamentary elections in the fall. But the abrupt removal of both speakers of parliament, the country's ombudsman and a series of emergency ordinances aimed at facilitating impeachment dented its credibility at home and abroad.
Ponta has also been embroiled in a scandal involving accusations that he plagiarized his doctoral thesis, claims his camp says were driven by Basescu.
Some ordinary Romanians say they the whole political opera has turned them off politics.
"I have stopped even thinking about it. They all steal, some more and some less," said Silvia Geambas, 29, who hand-crafts jewelry. "I have given up voting because they are not worth it. What we need are better roads, not all of this fighting."
AP Writer Slobodan Lekic contributed to this report from Brussels.
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