Resignation of army chief
The army chief of staff, General Mircea Chelaru, resigned on Monday. A statement from Defence Minister Sorin Frunzaverde said, "General Mircea Chelaru resigned following statements in the press that are incompatible with the office of the army chief of staff and that are not in line with the fundamental principles of the rule-of-law state and the Constitution." (EvZ, 1 November 2000)
The general had made remarks to journalists about threats to national security, groups attempting to undermine the state and potential violations of the Constitution. As a result of making political comments, Chelaru had no option but to offer his resignation to President Emil Constantinescu. The President subsequently appointed 52-year-old General Mihail Popescu as the new army chief of staff.
Chelaru's resignation took place the day before an announcement of the establishment of the National Association of the Romanian Military (ANMR). This organisation, founded by retired and serving officers in the army, the Ministry of the Interior and the Security Services, nominated Chelaru as its honorary president. The ANMR has been created as a non-governmental organisation (NGO). Its memorandum of association includes, "military personnel cannot and must not indifferently witness the humiliation or ignorance of the national values or the continuous decay of living standards." (Nine o'clock, 2 November 2000)
The ANMR aims to develop public attitudes against corruption, crime and activities against the State. It also intends to become directly involved in dealing with issues which affect the nation.
Criticism of the formation of the ANMR has come from across the political spectrum, with representatives of both Partidul Democraţiei Sociale din România (Party for Social Democracy in Romania, PDSR) and Partidul Naţional Ţărănesc Creştin Democrat (National Christian Democratic Peasant Party, PNŢCD) referring to the organisation as both illegal and undesirable.
Former defence minister Victor Babiuc said, "I hope the Prosecutor's Office ask for the annulment of the decision to authorize the Association. Such an organisation will play the part of a pressure factor, which will affect the normal functioning of the political parties and of the state institutions." (Monitorul, 3 November 2000)
The Defence and Interior Ministries have both said that any serving officers belonging to such an organisation would face disciplinary action.
A motion of no confidence in the government proposed by the PDSR has been described by Prime Minister Mugur Isărescu as an election ploy. The motion demands that the privatisation process be stopped. The PDSR believe that the administration is pushing forward privatisation prior to the election to the detriment of the nation. PDSR leader Ion Iliescu said, "the privatisation contracts to be signed before the elections are actually thievery committed by people desperate to fill their pockets." (Nine o'clock, 30 October 2000)
Iliescu confirmed that the PDSR is not against privatisation. What the party is concerned about is that the State Ownership Fund (FPS) could be undervaluing the country's assets by rushing the privatisation process. "Privatisation is a method of recapitalisation and retooling of companies to bring about an increase of the economic efficiency," said Iliescu. (Rompres, 2 November 2000)
A different view on the privatisation issue came from Fokion Fotiadis, head of the European Commission's delegation to Romania. He believes that privatisation needs to be speeded up if Romania is to achieve a stable economy and then membership in the European Union. Fotiadis emphasised that the Romanian economy still has a considerable number of state-run enterprises, many of which are making losses. He called on the next government of Romania "to continue the policy of macro-economic stability and budgetary rigour." (Reuters, 1 November 2000)
With the parliamentary elections three weeks away, there is much discussion about political alliances. Although the PDSR has a substantial lead in opinion polls, party leaders are indicating that they intend to form a coalition government which will give them a comfortable majority in parliament. Commentators are suggesting that Partidul Naţional Liberal (National Liberal Party, PNL) are favourites to enter government with the PDSR, although there has been no official contact between the two parties.
The PNL was a member of the Convenţia Democrată din România (Democratic Convention of Romania, CDR), the political alliance which forms the present government. Their decision to leave the alliance and seek election as a party in their own right was interpreted as reflecting their ambition to remain in government at a time when the CDR's vote began to collapse in national opinion polls. However, PNL Vice-President Valeriu Stoica said, "PDSR is our real opponent, during the general elections. There is no secret agreement between PNL and PDSR." (Cotidianul, 30 October 2000)
It is also being suggested that Uniunea Democrată Maghiară din România (Democratic Alliance of Hungarians Romania, UDMR) could be invited to join a coalition government. The UDMR represents Romania's Hungarian minority. PDSR seem to be making efforts to encourage the UDMR to join them, the publication of their manifesto in the Hungarian language being one example. A spin-off from the inclusion of the UDMR in government could be an improvement of the image of the PDSR in the West, as they would be seen to be espousing minority rights.
And finally—other election stories
Academia Catavencu, the press monitoring agency, has set up a programme to investigate the media during the election campaign. Statistics they have published show that Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of Partidul România Mare (Greater Romania Party, PRM), is considered by 27.45 per cent of the newspapers and media as being the most aggressive leader of a party; Mugur Isărescu has been referred to 705 times as a candidate and 998 as prime minister during the campaign so far, while Partidul Democrat (Democratic Party, PD) is considered to be the most aggressive party.
Even the presidential contenders have not been able to escape from the interference of computer hackers. People who have called up Theodor Stolojan's Website have found that they arrive at the Romanian presidential site of Emil Constantinescu. However, those visiting Ion Iliescu's Website have found the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) most wanted fugitives page!
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