Romanian President Traian Basescu has survived a referendum on his impeachment.

The low turnout fell short of the required level and derailed an effort by his opponents to oust him from office.

Leftist Prime Minister Victor Ponta's efforts to unseat the conservative Mr Basescu have brought a stern dressing-down from the European Union.

The EU has accused Mr Basescu of undermining the rule of law and intimidating judges.

The row over Mr Basescu has delayed policymaking, sent the leu currency plunging to record lows and pushed up borrowing costs.

It also raised concern about the future of Romania's €5bn International Monetary Fund-led aid deal.

The election bureau said the voter turnout was 46%, below the 50% threshold Mr Ponta's leftist Social Liberal Union (USL) needed to make the referendum valid.

Exit polls showed more than 80% of those who went to the ballot box had voted to remove the president.

"The flame of democracy has remained alight. Romanians have rejected the coup d'etat," Mr Basescu said.

Mr Ponta, whose government took office in May, suspended Mr Basescu and held the referendum to seek popular backing for the impeachment for overstepping his powers.

The president is unpopular for backing austerity and for perceptions of cronyism.