Interim President Ion Iliescu told thousands of anti-Communist demonstrators Friday that Romania's Communist Party has been outlawed.
"Victory! Victory!" shouted the crowd of 5,000 after Iliescu's announcement. "The Front is with us!" they yelled, referring to the National Salvation Front, the country's interim leadership.
Iliescu's announcement was broadcast live on state radio and television.
The announcement came hours after the crowd had shouted down Iliescu and other leaders who tried to speak. Demonstrators yelled, "Down with Communism! Kill the Communists!" They burned a Romanian Communist flag and Communist identification papers.
Friday was a national day of mourning, with religious ceremonies held across the country in memory of the victims of the violent revolution that toppled Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu last month.
Iliescu, himself a former Communist, made the announcement from the window of the building where the interim government has its headquarters on the Victoria Square.
"The Romanian Communist Party is outlawed, considering that it is against the national spirit and our ancestor's law," he said.
Iliescu did not say what the decision would mean for current members of the party. Much of Romania's new leadership is composed of Communists.
Before the Communists took power in 1948, Romania was ruled by a constitutional monarchy.
Romania's newly appointed general prosecutor, Gheorghe Robu, told Romanian TV Friday that all leading members of the Romanian Communist Party were under arrest and their role in the Ceausescu regime was under investigation. He said the trials would begin within 10 days.
He said Ceausescu's children and brothers, who were arrested in the first days of the revolt, would be brought to trial soon.
Iliescu also told the crowd that a national referendum would be held Jan. 28 on whether the death sentence should be reinstated for members of Ceausescu's hated security police.
The feared Securitate continued to battle the army even after Ceausescu was overthrown Dec. 22 by popular revolt.
Ceausescu was executed with his wife, Elena, considered No. 2 in the party, on Dec. 25. The Front then abolished the death penalty and said members of the security forces convicted by military tribunals would be sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
"Death to the Securitate!" and "Death for death!" the crowd chanted, referring to the estimated 10,000 who died in the clashes between security forces and the army during the revolution.
Iliescu said the referendum on the death penalty was necessary "for the adequate punishment of those guilty of crimes against the people."
Earlier, in an effort to appease the crowd, Iliescu said security officials would be tried and sentenced "according to the laws." He said the trials would be public and even shown on television.
The daily Romania Libera carried an appeal Friday from Communist Party members calling on "all the honest members" to burn their party cards "at places where martyrs of the revolution died, as a public condemnation of any idea of recreating a new Communist Party."
Iliescu was repeatedly confronted by angry people in the crowd who grabbed the microphone to question him.
"Do you agree with me that the Front should represent all the parties and that they should all have at least three members," asked painter Augustin Pora, who said he was a leader of an anti-Communist alliance.
"I agree, I agree," Iliescu responded. "The front is the representative of all the democratic forces in the country," he said at another point.
An unidentified woman screamed into the microphone, "Who is Mr. Iliescu and what has he been doing in the last five years?"
"I have been head of the National Council for water," Iliescu said. I am the son of a worker. I have been in prison. In 1971 I was fired from the leadership of the party. I have spoken out against Communism."
Iliescu was demoted after criticizing Ceausescu's autocratic rule.
Friday's demonstration was the largest anti-Communist protest since Ceausescu was ousted. Under his iron-fisted 24-year rule, any form of protest or criticism of the leadership or Communist Party was nipped in the bud.
The Front comprises former Communist Party members, former dissidents and intellectuals. It says its main purpose is to lead the country until the elections, promised as early as April.
Premier Petre Roman, addressing the crowd Friday, said, "It is still a question if the . . . Front will participate in the elections."
Iliescu declared Friday the day of national mourning for "all those who gave their lives in the fight against the dictatorial regime." However, most stores remained open.
Iliescu and other leaders went out to speak with the protesters after attending a solemn service at the Patriarhie Orthodox Cathedral in downtown Bucharest for the victims.
The service was conducted by Patriarch Teoctist, spiritual leader of the Romanian Orthodox Church. Under Ceausescu, religious practices were greatly suppressed.