The common facets to all this week's opinion polls is that the leftist Partidul Democraţiei Sociale din România (Party for Social Democracy in Romania, PDSR) retains a comfortable lead in the campaign for election to parliament, while its leader Ion Iliescu maintains his position as front runner in the presidential race.
The discrepancies in the polls are related to who will get second place. Mugur Isărescu (the Prime Minister, standing as an independent candidate), Theodor Stolojan of Partidul Naţional Liberal (National Liberal Party, PNL) and Corneliu Vadim Tudor of Partidul România Mare (Greater Romania Party, PRM) have all been named as second best in different polls.
A significant finding from all of the polls is that there has been a steady increase in the number of people who say that they intend to use their vote. The highest rate has been shown in an IMAS poll carried out for Antena 1 TV. This poll revealed that 80 per cent of the population would vote in the parliamentary elections while a massive 85 per cent said they would vote in the presidential contest.
The news has been full of political and personal criticisms of candidates and parties, exemplified by the "words" exchanged between the PDSR and PD. PSDR leader Iliescu said of PD leader Roman, "He is a buffoon and vain." (Agence France Presse, 16 November 2000) PD Mayor of Bucharest Trăian Băsescu responded, "PDSR is like a pack of dogs wanting to rob everything that remains." (Nine o'clock, 17 November 2000)
These exchanges and those between other parties together with assertions and denials of proposed political alliances and the threat of law suits between political opponents promise an interesting and controversial last stage to the 2000 election campaign.
Intellectuals rally together
Romanian intellectuals, including former culture minister Andrei Plesu, philosopher Horia Roman Patapievici and author Stefan Augustin Doinas have called on the democratic parties to work together in a document entitled "Intellectuals Supporting a Single Candidate." The intellectuals believe that Romania's integration into the Euro-Atlantic institutions will be put at risk if PDSR leader Ion Iliescu is elected president.
They have also warned of the dangers posed if Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of PRM, gains enough votes to take part in the second ballot. If so, electors will be faced with an extreme right wing party as the only alternative to left wing PDSR—the credibility of the extreme right will also be complete. The intellectual group has called on the centre-right parties to decide on a single candidate to take part in the first ballot and to consolidate the centrist vote.
The candidates called on by the appeal, György Frunda of Uniunea Democrată Maghiară din România (Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, UDMR), Mugur Isărescu (the Prime Minister standing as an independent), Petre Roman of Partidul Democrat (Democratic Party, PD) and Theodor Stolojan of Partidul National Liberal (National Liberal Party, PNL), have all rejected the proposal...unless the one candidate is themselves.
Protest action by students...
"We are determined to resort to any form of protest to get our rights," (Nine o'clock, 16 November 2000) said Gabriel Ispaş, President of the Students Association of Bucharest University (ASUB). Ispaş was speaking about possible further action on the day that university students went on strike by refusing to attend classes. The students are demanding better maintenance allowances, health care arrangements and subsidised transport costs. The strike that began on Wednesday is set to continue indefinitely.
Investors who lost money after the collapse of Fondul Naţional de Investiţii (National Investment Fund, FNI) clashed with riot police in Bucharest during a protest march. Following an unsuccessful meeting with leader of the Senate Mircea Ionescu Quintus, the protestors left their authorised route to try to block traffic in University Square. The demonstration was marked by the shouting of slogans against the Government, and in support of the PRM leader and presidential candidate Corneliu Vadim Tudor.
Petre Roman, the foreign minister and a presidential candidate, addressed the demonstrators later in the day. Roman told them that he had presented a draft resolution to the cabinet, which would allow compensation to be paid to investors from the profits made by the State Savings Bank (CEC). The statement of a government spokesperson saying that the matter had not been discussed and the lack of further comment in the media suggests that mention of the resolution was nothing more than election propaganda.
The Prime Minister noted this week that foreign investments in Romania over the past ten months had matched the total of all foreign investments made during the previous 30 years. USD 1.5 billion has been invested in the country: "All this money has been obtained thanks to Romania's credibility abroad in the past ten months. This year we have been rewarded for our success in achieving economic growth, a rise in exports and a cut in unemployment rate," Isărescu stated (EvZ, 16 November 2000)
...and privatisation problems
The Senate voted this week to suspend all activities of the State Ownership Fund (SOF) until after the elections. The PDSR proposal was supported by PRM, Partidul Unităţii Naţionale Românilor (Party of Romanian National Unity, PUNR) and PD. The only party to vote against the motion was the senior member of the ruling coalition Partidul Naţional Ţărănesc Creştin (National Christian Democratic Peasant Party, PNŢCD).
The President of FPS, Radu Sarbu, said, "The adoption of this motion will affect Romania's long-term interests and lead the country's relations with the IMF(International Monetary Fund), the EU (European Union) and the World Bank to a new impasse," (Nine o'clock, 15 November) An alternative point of view, stated by several financial analysts, suggests that as the position of all parties is to increase the speed of privatisation there is no reason for concern.
The FPS still has 1600 companies on its register, for privatisation or to put into liquidation, out of an initial list of 9000 companies. The PDSR motion comes as the party believes that FPS has sold companies at less that market value in a manner that lacks transparency of action.
Prime Minister Mugur Isărescu said that the motion would not, however, be carried through. He was not prepared to sign any order suspending the privatisation process as there was no law in place to allow this to happen. Isărescu called the motion and vote a political act carried out as an electoral ploy.
Government turns up the heat
The Government has decided that it will cancel heat supply companies' debts to the state providing that those companies cancel the debts owed to them by families who cannot afford to pay their bills. Regulations will be prepared, prior to an emergency meeting of the cabinet early next week, which will enable this measure to proceed.
The National Solidarity Fund will finance the procedure that should benefit 1.3 million families and state institutions that cannot pay their bills. The Government plans have been presented as being budget neutral.
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