Romania - Political background

The Ottoman Empire ruled the territory of modern Romania from the early sixteenth century until the late nineteenth century. Romania became an independent kingdom in 1881. During the 1930s, a fascist dictatorship allied the country with Nazi Germany, but in late 1944 Romania sided with the Allies against Germany. Soviet forces installed a communist government in 1945. The Paris peace treaty of 1947 forced Romania to cede territory to the Soviet Union and Bulgaria. It also granted Romania northern Transylvania. Romania's King Michael was forced to abdicate in 1947 and Romania became a Socialist Republic. Nicolae Ceausescu became Communist Party General Secretary in 1965. During the Ceausescu era, FSN Romania was known for its repressive leadership, highly centralized government, maverick foreign policy, and unpredictable behavior within the Soviet East Bloc. Among the "old guard" of Communist Party leaders, Ceausescu was seen as one of the most resistant to change. Romania's overthrow of communism in late 1989 was the only bloody revolution to occur in Eastern Europe as the regimes of communist countries throughout the region fell. Demonstrations in December 1989, sparked by ethnic Hungarians, turned violent and quickly spread to other cities. A group calling itself the National Salvation Front (FSN) formed a provisional government. The Romanian armed forces joined the demonstrators and fought against Ceausescu's secret police, the Securitate. Ceausescu and his wife Elena were captured as they tried to escape the capital. They were executed on 25 December 1989.

FSN leader Ion Iliescu became provisional president, and Petre Roman became prime minister. Elections held in May 1990 resulted in an overwhelming victory for Iliescu and the FSN, but opposition continued to grow. Iliescu called in miners from the countryside to forcibly quell student demonstrators in Bucharest who were demanding his resignation. The miners returned to Bucharest in 1991 to join protesters in opposition to Iliescu. More violence ensued, and Roman was forced to resign. Iliescu broke away from FSN and formed the Democratic National Salvation Front (FDSN), which later became the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR).

In the 1992 elections, the Democratic National Salvation Front-Social Democracy Party won a plurality of the vote but lacked a parliamentary majority. Independent Nicolae Vacaroiu became prime minister, but his government was supported by less than a majority in Parliament. Vacaroiu had to rely on the support of three small extremist parties, two right-wing nationalist parties, and the leftist Socialist Labor Party. The opposition Democratic Convention (CDR), which included over a dozen parties and organizations, came in second with about 20% of the vote.

In 1996 the CDR won a plurality of the vote (30%) in both the Senate and House of Representatives, beating the PDSR. Victor Ciorbea of the Democratic Convention became prime minister of a coalition government that included the Social Democratic Union (USD) and the ethnic Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR). Together the coalition had the support of a majority in Parliament. In presidential elections, Emil Constantinescu of the CDR defeated Iliescu in the second round. The Constantinescu government, however, failed to deliver on many of its promises. The Romanian electorate grew weary from years of promised reforms while the country's economy stagnated and Romania's standard of living fell further and further behind that of neighboring post-communist Hungary and most of the rest of Europe. In the 2000 election, Iliescu was returned to the presidency by a wide margin.

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic: