ROMANIA: A BRIEF POLITICAL CHRONOLOGY

1987 – November: Workers’ protests in Brasov (Brasso), brutally crushed by Securitate.

1989 – 16 December: Secret police attempts to arrest Hungarian pastor László Tőkés draw large crowds of ethnic Hungarians and Romanians, protests spread to other cities, army opens fire, then changes sides. The revolution begins.

22 December: Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and wife Elena flee Bucharest by helicopter, but are caught. National Salvation Front formed by a mixture of reform Communists and anti-Communists. Most of the anti-Communists, including László Tőkés and dissident writer Doina Cornea subsequently leave the Front.

25 December: Ceausescu couple tried and executed by firing squad. Over the two weeks of the revolution, over 1,000 people killed by security forces loyal to regime.

1990 – 19 March: Clashes between Romanians and Hungarians following celebrations of the anniversary of the 1848 Revolution in Marosvásárhely (Tirgu Mures). Roma support Hungarians. 5 dead, 278 injured, 9 imprisoned.

1990 – May: First General and Presidential Elections. National Salvation Front (NSF) leader Ion Iliescu wins 85%. Radu Campeanu (National Liberal Party- PNL) 11%, Ion Ratiu (Christian-Democratic National Peasants Party) 4%. Turnout 14.8 million = 86% of registered electorate.

In the 395 seat Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the new bicameral Parliament, the National Salvation Front wins 263 seats, National Liberal Party 29, Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) 29 (with 992,000 votes), Christian-Democratic National Peasants Party 12, Ecological Movement 12.

In the 117 seat upper house, the Senate, the National Salvation Front wins 91 seats, Hungarians 12, National Liberals 10.

The new NSF government is led by Petre Roman as Prime Minister. The main opposition parties are the National Liberals, the National Peasant-Christian Democrat Party (PNTCD), and the Hungarians (RMDSZ). They accuse the new rulers of being the “second rank” of the old Communist Party. Anti-government protests continue in many cities, especially Bucharest and Timişoara.

1990 – June: Train-loads of miners from the Jiu valley arrive in Bucharest to “make order” at the invitation of President Iliescu, brutally dispersing the remaining protesters and attacking the homes and party headquarters of opposition leaders. Iliescu thanks them for their work.

1991 September: Jiu valley miners attack Bucharest again, demanding wage increases and better working conditions. Fall of Petre Roman government. Théodore Stolojan takes over as PM.

1991 – December: New Romanian Constitution approved by 79% of electorate, 21% against. Hungarians vote against en masse, because of decision of drafters of the Constitution to describe them as “national minority” rather than “constituent people”.

Turnout 67% (11 million).

1992 – March: National Salvation Front splits, with Ion Iliescu leading the Democratic National Salvation Front (DNSF), and Petre Roman the Democratic Party (PD).

1992 – September/October: Ion Iliescu wins second term as leader of the DNSF, with 64% in the second round. His main challenger, Emil Constantinescu of the Romanian Democratic Convention (DC) receives 39%, followed by Georghe Funar (Romanian National Unity Party – PUNR) with 11%.

In the Chamber of Deputies, the DNSF wins 117 seats, the DC 82, the rump NSF 43, the Romanian National Unity Party (PUNR) 30 (840,000 votes), the RMDSZ (Hungarians) 27 (811,000 votes), the Greater Romania Party 16 seats (424,000 votes).

In the Senate, DNSF – 49 seats, DC – 34, NSF – 18, PNUR – 14, RMDSZ – 12, Greater Romania Party 6.

Rural voters strongly support Iliescu, while urban voters rather favour Constantinescu.

The new government is led by the DNSF with PUNR, Greater Romania, and the Party of Socialist Labour, with Nicolae Văcăroiu as Prime Minister. All 3 smaller parties leave the government by the 1996 elections.

1993 – July: Ion Iliescu founds Social Democracy Party of Romania (PDSR), out of the DNSF.

1996 – November: Emil Constantinescu wins Presidential election with 54% (7 million votes) to Ion Iliescu’s 46% (5.9 million). Iliescu led in the first round, with Petre Roman of the Democratic Party coming third with 21% (2.6 million). Also in the first round, a Hungarian candidate, György Frunda took part for the first time, taking fourth place with 6% (760,000 votes), while the two Romanian nationalist candidates, Corneliu Vadim Tudor (4.7%) and Georghe Funar (3.2%) came fifth and sixth, with a total of 1 million votes between them.Constantinescu and the Democratic Convention win the election, promising an end to corruption, and the start of economic reforms – Romania is lagging far behind the rest of the region in terms of privatisation.

In the Chamber of Deputies, the DC emerge as the largest party with 122 seats, the Social Democracy Party of Romania (PDSR) win 91 seats, the Social Democratic Union (an alliance of the Democratic Party and the Social Democratic Party) 53, PNUR 18, RMDSZ 25, Greater Romania 19. Turnout was 13 million, 76%.

In the Senate, the DC won 53 seats, PDSR 41, SDU 23, RMDSZ 11, Greater Romania 8, PUNR 7.

The new government is a coalition of the Democratic Convention and the RMDSZ, with Victor Ciorbea of the Christian Democrats – PNTCD as Prime Minister. This marks the first time that the Hungarians join the Coalition Government.

1998 – April: Victor Ciorbea resigns as PM, replaced by Radu Vasile.

2000 – November/December: Ion Iliescu wins back the presidency with 67% to 33% for Corneliu Vadim Tudor (Greater Romania Party) in the second round. Emil Constantinescu decides not to run at all. Théodore Stolojan from the National Liberal Party (PNL) is the centre-right candidate, reduced to third place with 12%. Mugur Isărescu, an independent economist, comes 4th with 9.5%, the Hungarian György Frunda is fifth with 6.2%.

In the Chamber of Deputies, the Social Democracy Party of Romania (PDSR) win 155 seats, Greater Romania 84, Democratic Party 31, National Liberals 30, RMDSZ 27, and the Democratic Convention zero.

In the Senate, the PDSR win 65, Greater Romania 37, Democratic Party 13, National Liberals 13, Hungarians 12.

This election marks the zenith of political support for the far-right, with Corneliu Vadim Tudor’s 33% score the highest post-1990 electoral score for any far-right politician in Europe. The Democratic Convention government fell apart as a result of internal rivalries, and a falling standard of living.

The new government is formed as a coalition of the PDSR and RMDSZ, with Adrian Nastase as Prime Minister. The PDSR subsequently renames itself the PSD – Social Democracy Party. This is the second consecutive government in which the Hungarians share power.

2003 – Constitution amended to lengthen Presidential term to 5 years, to avoid simultaneous Parliamentary and Presidential vote, from 2008 onwards.

2004 – November/December: Traian Băsescu wins the second round of the Presidential election with 145,000 more votes than his rival, Adrian Nastase of the PDSR (51.23% to 48.77%). Corneliu Vadim Tudor sees his vote nose-dive to 12%. Béla Markó runs as the Hungarian candidate in the first round, receiving 5.2% (533,000 votes).

In the Chamber of Deputies, the leftist National Union, an alliance of Social Democrats and Humanists, wins 132 seats, followed by the Justice and Truth Alliance (PNL-PD. National Liberals and Democratic Party) with 112, Greater Romania 48, Hungarians (RMDSZ) 22.

In the Senate, the Leftists win 57 seats, Justice and Truth 49, Greater Romania 21, Hungarians 10.

One controversial feature of this election is the widespread allegations of fraud committed by the leftist block, with supporters taken by bus to vote several times on so-called “supplementary lists”. A subsequent investigation shows that wherever supplementary votes are used, the leftists do much better.

The new centre right government is formed by the PNL, PD, and RMDSZ, with

Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu as Prime Minister.

2007 – January: Romania and Bulgaria become the 26th and 27th members of the European Union.

2007 – May: Referendum held at initiative of opposition Social Democrats to impeach President Băsescu, on the basis of “abuse of power”, fails due to low turnout – 44.5%. Of the 8.1 million who vote, 25% (2 million) support Băsescu’s removal, 75% (6 million) against.

2007 – November: Referendum at the initiative of President Băsescu, to change the electoral system to two rounds, with a single winner. Referendum fails due to low turnout (26.5%). A compromise is subsequently found, with a complex mix of proportional represesentation and first-past-the-post.

2008 – Autumn: Global economic crisis hits Romania hard, ending 4 year construction and investment boom.

2008 – November: Parliamentary election. In the Chamber of Deputies, the centre-left alliance led by the Social Democratic Party (PSD) wins 33.16% (114 seats) to 32.4% (115 seats) for the Democratic Liberal Party, with the National Liberals third with 18.6% (65 seats) and the Hungarians (RMDSZ) fourth with 6.2% (22 seats). A grand coalition is formed of Democratic Liberals, Social Democrats and Hungarians. After Théodore Stolojan unexpectedly rejects the post of Prime Minister, President Băsescu offers this to Emil Boc, the Democratic Liberal Party mayor of Cluj (Kolozsvár) instead. In the Senate the PSD win 49 seats, the Democratic Liberals 51, National Liberals 28, Hungarians 9. The Greater Romania party fails to cross the 5% threshold – making this election the nadir for Romanian nationalists.

2009 – June: Elections for European Parliament. PSD and Conservative Party alliance win 11 seats, Democratic Liberal Party 10, National Liberals 5, Hungarians 3, Greater Romania 3, Elena Băsescu (daughter of President) 1.

2009 – November: Referendum to streamline Parliament from two chambers to a single chamber system with 300 seats passes narrowly, with 50.95% turnout, and 78% to 22% in favour.

2009 – November/December: Traian Băsescu narrowly wins second term in Presidential office, with a margin of just 70,000 more votes than his challenger Mircea Geoană, leader of the Social Democrats (50.33% to 49.66%), with a turnout of 58% in the second round run-off. Băsescu in his campaign warns of the need for big public spending cuts, and presents himself as a “man of the people” against the “corrupt governing elite”. Crin Antonescu of the National Liberals comes third with 20%. Antonescu backs Mircea Geoană in the second round, prompting accusations of betrayal by Băsescu. The Social Democrats allege widespread fraud by Băsescu supporters to win the second round. The Hungarian Presidential candidate Hunor Kelemen comes a distant 5th with 3.83% (373,000 votes). The RMDSZ leadership calls on Hungarians to back Mircea Geoană in the second round run-off. The votes of 200,000 Moldovans with Romanian citizenship help Traian Băsescu stay in office.

The Constitutional Court rejects the opposition challenge to the result, and Traian Băsescu is declared the winner.

2009 – December: PSD leaves government, new government formed of PDL and Hungarians.

2011 – Minority PDL/RMDSZ government narrowly clings to power, thanks to defectors from Social Democrats.

2011 December – 2012 February: Street protests against austerity measures and proposed health reform of Emil Boc government.

2012 – February: Boc government falls, replaced by Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu, also from the Democratic Liberal Party as Prime Minister.

2012 – April: Ungureanu government falls, after losing a vote of no- confidence.

2012 – May: Defection of Democratic Liberal deputies in Parliament creates new opposition majority – the Social-Liberal Union (USL). President Băsescu reluctantly offers USL leader Victor Ponta the Premiership. New centre-left government formed under Ponta. Government loses no time to replace Băsescu appointees, including heads of Senate and Chamber of Deputies, Ombudsman, Tax Office, and Media leaders.

2012 – June: Significant victory for Victor Ponta’s leftist USL alliance in local elections, with 50% to 22% for PDL. This allows him to claim that he now has a “democratic mandate” to remove President Băsescu from office.

2012 – June: Former Socialist Prime Minister Adrian Nastase sentenced to two years in prison for corruption. Allegedly attempts suicide, but only lightly injured. Begins to serve sentence.

2012 – July: Government uses its majority in Parliament to suspend Traian Băsescu and calls a referendum on his fate. Crin Antonescu, leader of the National Liberals, replaces him as Interim President.

Referendum narrowly fails to remove Băsescu, due to low turnout (46.24%). Băsescu initially calls for a “no” vote, then for a boycott instead. Of those who vote 88.7% (7.4 million) support his removal, 11.3% (740,000) want him to stay in office.

The referendum result is bitterly contested. The government side appeals to the Constitutional Court to decide what the real size of the electorate is – suggesting that the 18.3 million figure is far from the truth, due to high migration, and that the electorate is now 2 million less. The June local elections were however held according to the old lists. President Băsescu accuses the government side of fraud to increase turnout. Crin Antonescu remains as Interim President, pending the decision of the Constitutional Court.

2012 – August: Constitutional Court rules that Referendum was invalid, due to low voter turnout. PM Victor Ponta says he will abide by the Court’s ruling, but interim president Crin Antonescu said that Băsescu will return to office as an “illegitimate president” against the wishes of 7.5 million Romanians.

2012 – November: Parliamentary elections due.

2014 – Presidential elections due.

Since spring 2010, Romania has been governed on the basis of a makeshift majority formed by political migrants, as President Băsescu’s party has never had more than 31% of total seats, to which they could add only the Hungarian party’s 7%. During the past four years, about 20% of the members of the Romanian Parliament (MPs) have in fact changed their party affiliation. The phenomenon of political migration has affected a total of 80 MPs (52 deputies and 28 senators). Throughout the latest term of the Parliament (2008–2012) there have been two intense waves of political migration. The first occurred in the spring of 2010. The second started in March 2012, as the support predicted by opinion polls of the party then holding the majority in the Parliament – the Democratic-Liberal Party (PDL) – dropped dramatically. While during the first wave, MPs migrated from the Social Democratic and National Liberal parties, towards the Democratic Liberal Party, in the second wave the trend was reversed.

(Romanian Academic Society (SAR) Policy Brief, July 2012)

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