The present paper examines the institution of presidential impeachment in countries
displaying a semi-presidential institutional design. More specifically, it addresses the question whether the functioning of impeachment can be attributed to the particular institutional arrangement mirrored in the specific interactions between the state actors involved – the president, parliament and PM – or by non-institutional factors such as the president’s actions throughout his/her tenure which can be considered as having violated the constitutional text.
The methodology used is the case study of the 2007 Romanian presidential impeachment against Traian Basescu. The principal finding is that it is difficult to point to a clear, monocausal relationship between the tensions caused by semi-presidentialism and the practice of impeachment since the impeachment of the head of state is not a common practice in countries that display semi-presidential features. The Romanian case represents a situation where the ambiguity of the constitutional text permitted the parliamentary majority to sanction the President, whose self-proclaimed active role in the political system was supported by the Romanian Constitutional Court and by the citizens who participated in the referendum on his dismissal.