The second ballot in Romania's local elections took place on Sunday and were, once again, marked by a low turnout of voters. The results for General Mayor of Bucharest brought a surprise when Traian Băsescu of the Democratic Party defeated Sorin Oprescu of the Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) by 9815 votes - Oprescu had been a clear leader after the first ballot on 4 June.
All six district mayors elected were candidates representing the PDSR. Across the country, about a quarter the mayors elected were representing the PDSR with this being reflected in the elections for county councils. The PD have the second largest number elected while the ruling Romanian Democratic Convention (CDR) have fared badly across the country.
Bucharest was not the only place to have unexpected results. In Cluj, Gheorghe Funar of the Greater Romania Party (PRM) was re-elected despite an anti-Funar alliance in which the PDSR supported the CDR candidate. In Sibiu Klaus Johannis of the German Democratic Forum of Romania defeated the PDSR candidate while in Iaşi Constantin Simirad, founder of the Moldovan's Party, was elected. Independent candidates were elected in Satu Mare and in Constanţa.
Political activity has followed the elections with retribution, resignations and the offer of resignation. Of particular significance is the developing rift between the PDSR and the PD. Traian Băsescu of the PD rejected out of hand the offer of co-operation from another member of the social democratic family.
"Ion Iliescu's party is a formation of Gorbachev's perestroika type, which practices a disguised Communism," said Băsescu, "PD is the party of the future, while PDSR has obtained a vote for the past."(Nine o'clock - 21 June 2000) Responding for the PDSR, Adrian Nastase referred to Băsescu's role as Minister of Transport: "Bucharest is not a railway station where Băsescu can walk around and whistle in keeping with his own wishes." (Nine o'clock - 21 June 2000)
Conflict was not confined to the left-wing parties. The National Christian Democratic Peasants Party (PNŢCD) and the National Liberal Party met on Thursday to discuss the future of the CDR. Deputy Chairman of the PNL, Valeriu Stoica, suggested before the meeting that his party will provide the strongest opposition to the left whereas PNŢCD appear to be in disarray following calls for their octogenarian leader, Ion Diaconescu, to stand down.
The investigation into the Adrian Costea case continued to make the headlines throughout the week. Monday saw Ion Iliescu, former president and leader of the Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), refusing to attend the hearing of French magistrates as a witness for the second time. PDSR Spokesperson Ioan Mircea Pascu said that Iliescu had a full agenda until the beginning of July and prior to his attending as a witness he wanted to carry out his own investigation into the case in France.
It was thought Iliescu would fail to answer the summons for a third time on Thursday. Monitorul commented, "Profiting by his parliamentary immunity Iliescu preferred to leave for Macedonia instead of offering the Romanians a long-expected clarification." (Monitorul - 23 June 2000) However, EvZ reported that he responded to the summons and gave evidence to the investigating magistrates for several hours on Thursday.
Investors in the collapsed Fondul Naţional de Investiţii (FNI) have agreed to create a national association which will co-ordinate efforts to recover their investments. Protest meetings, marches and court action have all been highlighted as forms of action.
Representatives of the European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank agreed that the FNI collapse had not damaged the relationship between themselves and Romania. However, the head of the World Bank delegation to Romania, Ziad Alahdad, said, "We are paying close attention to this case and we shall make sure that there will be a proper solution to such events in the future, but we have to be more careful about the non-banking financial institutions and include them in the banking supervision system." (Nine o'clock - 19 June 2000)
European Commission Director General on Economic and Financial Affairs Giovanni Ravasio went on to say that the European Commission (EC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank support the Romanian government's medium term economic plan. He said that the international finance groups would help with monitoring the programme but warned against the unacceptability of any substantial changes to the plan. "This is the right track for Romania and for a healthy economic policy," said Ravasio, reflecting that Romania's European Union (EU) accession bid would be enhanced by its successful implementation. (Nine o'clock - 19 June 2000)
PDSR Prime vice-president of Adrian Nastase labelled the action of Prime Minister Mugur Isărescu's government as "aberrant and against any rule of pluralist democracy." (Mediafax - 20 June 2000) This outburst occurred when Nastase suggested that the medium term economic plan which was sent to Brussels was not the same as that which was negotiated by the parliamentary parties. He also criticised the fact that even though the government only had six months of office remaining, it had, through the medium term economic strategy, set in place details of policy from 2001 until 2004.
A general strike by employees in the national electricity supply industry began on Monday. Thousands of workers were involved in the protest against the decision of the government to freeze the wages and limit bonuses of employees of the loss-making national utilities. Trade unions representing the workers said that the electricity producer would work at about a third of its normal capacity to protect the supply to hospitals and other social institutions.
Industry Minister Radu Berceanu criticised the action as a means to maintain special privileges. He said, "There are 30 to 40 thousand trade unionists in the electricity sector who showed they do not care about the other trade unions, but only about their own wages." (EvZ - 19 June 2000) Only 24 hours later, following talks with Prime Minister Isărescu, unions decided to suspend the strike.
Hospitals faced their own crisis this week when the Association of Drug Suppliers in Romania (ADMR) suspended deliveries of drugs and medicines to hospitals. Supplies will only be re-instated when debts from the last 16 months, totalling about USD 100 million, are paid to ADMR members. Health care units in four counties together with six university medical centres are said to owe money.
As Bucharest hospitals began to use their emergency supplies of drugs which will only last for a few days bickering began amongst the protagonists. The head of the ADMR, Ovidiu Buluc, said, "We are not paid to look after the patients... it is the Health Ministry's concern." (EvZ - 21 June 2000) In response Alexandru Ciocalteu, head of the National Health Insurance Fund (CAS), gave notice that drug suppliers who failed to make deliveries would be removed from the health service approved list.
In early June it was suggested in one English newspaper that, "The members of the Romanian team are more
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