Romania awoke on Monday morning to the news that, as expected, Ion Iliescu and the Party for Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) headed the polls following Sunday's vote in the presidential and parliamentary elections. The unexpected news that extreme right-wing candidate Corneliu Vadim Tudor and the Greater Romania Party (PRM) gained a strong second place in both ballots caused consternation in Romania and throughout the world.
The low turnout of Romania's discontented electors, around 60 per cent—20 per cent lower than in 1996—led to the success of the extremists. Of particular significance is the closeness of the result of the poll for President. Iliescu gained only 36.35 per cent of the vote with Tudor closing to 28.34 per cent. The rapid rise in the right-wing vote raised many questions in advance of the second ballot for the presidency, which is to take place on 10 December.
In the parliamentary elections, for both the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, the PRM finished in a strong second place and left the PDSR short of an overall majority. The PDSR are now in the process of setting out their policies and consulting with the other parties so as to determine their options for forming a government.
The polarisation of the poll between left and right has had the effect of squeezing out the centrist parties who have been governing the country since 1996. The senior member of the present ruling coalition, the National Christian Democratic Peasant Party (PNŢCD), received such a low number of votes that the party will no longer be represented in Parliament. The PNŢCD leadership immediately resigned.
Rompres reported that the preliminary findings of the leader of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) election observers show that the elections were conducted in a satisfactory manner and were an indication that democracy is "firmly rooted in Romania."
"This election showed Romania is ready to be carried out on a stretcher. Investors will not come to Romania anymore, they will go to Hungary, Bulgaria or even Yugoslavia." (Analyst Silviu Brucan, Reuters, 27 November 2000)
"The result of the elections is a direct, brutal but also sincere message for the political class. Freedom is complicated. People were ignored so they have voted in consequence." (Analyst Dorel Sandor, Monitorul, 27 November 2000)
"This is the vote of empty stomachs." (Mayor of Bucharest Traian Basescu, Agence France Presse, 28 November 2000)
"The Hungarians in Romania have the fundamental interest to work for preventing CV Tudor from being elected president." (Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania leader Béla Markó, Nine o'clock, 30 November 2000)
The second ballot
PDSR leader Ion Iliescu began his campaign for the second ballot in a speech on Sunday night after the polls had closed. He launched his attack on PRM leader Tudor saying, "Those who believe that we can find solutions to our problems in the totalitarian past or through extremist, xenophobic slogans are wrong." (EvZ, 27 November 2000) He continued by calling on all Romanians to begin a national effort to "step up genuine reforms, including privatisation, and to reconstruct the economy and Romanian society." (Reuters, 27 November 2000)
Press reports indicate that PRM leader Corneliu Vadim Tudor has decided on his strategy for the second round of the presidential campaign. His focus appears to be to alienate Ion Iliescu from the rank and file of his party and at the same time indicate to Romanians in general that the PDSR leader would not be acceptable to Western institutions. Tudor has drawn attention to Iliescu's past links to the Communist Party.
At the same time, he has suggested that the PDSR leadership should not be trying to make alliances with the PNL, PD and the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR). "Do the ordinary members of the PDSR want to ally themselves after the elections with PNL, PD and UDMR, who have already shown their inability to rule the country?" said PRM Vice-President Corneliu Ciontu. (Nine o'clock, 30 November)
The PNL and PD have called on their supporters to vote for PDSR leader Ion Iliescu in the second presidential ballot, which will be held on 10 December. UDMR leaders, however, have suggested that their members should not vote.
Thoughts of government
The PDSR leadership have presented a document to the PNL, PD and UDMR that clearly sets out both their policies for government and proposals for co-operation between the parties. The PD and PNL have considered the memorandum, but at this stage they have decided that they will establish a "constructive opposition" if PDSR make up the government.
The UDMR have also responded to the PDSR memorandum by commenting that it was useful as a statement of intent from a potential government but did not provide a foundation for co-operation. UDMR leader Béla Markó said that consultations about the document with the Hungarian community would take place. However, he did suggest that The UDMR would be prepared to be part of a constructive opposition to a PDSR government.
The press has been filled with comment about how the next government will be formed. Two key options have emerged. Firstly, if Iliescu is elected president, the PDSR will create a minority government, which will hopefully be aided by a supportive opposition of the PNL, PD and UDMR. The PRM appears to have been sidelined by all the parties, hence there will effectively be two oppositions to the government. Secondly, if Tudor is elected president, the PDSR have stated that they will enter opposition with the PNL, PD and UDMR. This will inevitably cause a Constitutional crisis as the opposition will hold at least 70 per cent of every vote in Parliament.
The PRM leadership have called for the party to be included in a PDSR government. A statement said, "The PRM draws to the attention of the PDSR that it can no longer ignore a political partner supported by a large part of the Romanian people." (Reuters, 30 November 2000) The PDSR have consistently said that they would not be prepared to enter into coalition with PRM. This has been questioned by some analysts, as the PDSR included the PRM in their ruling coalition prior to 1996.
Ben Atkins, press officer of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) suggested that there would be no change in the relationship with any new Romanian government—provided that certain principles were maintained. He said, "our mandate requires that we cooperate with states committed to the principles of democracy and market economy, and if these terms are met, we envisage no major change in our relations with Romania." (Mediafax, 29 November 2000)
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) representative in Bucharest said that the IMF board will postpone any decision on the release of the third element of the stand-by loan to Romania until the 2001 budget has been finalised. He added that the IMF would be particularly looking at continued progress in economic reforms and the overall fiscal policy of the new government.
"If Mr Tudor's party were to enter government, it would legitimize hatred, while Romania's status within the Council of Europe would be strongly called into question," read a statement from the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. (Agence France Presse, 29 November 2000) This organisation, which was created to fight anti-Semitism, has called on Ion Iliescu to publicly condemn the PRM and its leadership.
Threats and promises
PRM General Secretary Gheorghe Funar said that if his party gained power it would outlaw the UDMR. PRM deputy Anghel Stanciu talked of creating forced labour camps for journalists who he believes have supported the West at the expense of Romania's integrity. He said, "We will have to finish the Danube-Bucharest canal one day and other building projects started before 1989. The PRM will thereby give journalists some work." (Agence France Presse, 30 November 2000)
The PDSR has clearly set out its proposals for government. Its priorities are to bring poverty and recession to an end and create a climate of confidence throughout the country that will lead to an economic revival. The PDSR are also determined to continue with integration into the Euro-Atlantic institutions.
The PDSR promised on Thursday that it would implement measures when in government to ensure that visa requirements for EU travel are removed to enable free movement for Romanian citizens.
The final word...
.... goes to a young worker, Maraian D, who said, "I voted for Vadim. Maybe only a loony will be able to put us back on track. I do not know whether it is good or not, but that is how I feel." (EvZ, 27 November 2000)
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