NEWS ANALYSIS : Romania Party’s Monopoly on Power May Irritate Emotional, Social Wounds : Democratization: The National Salvation Front’s commanding position feeds fears of a rebirth of communism.
The National Salvation Front’s control of the presidency and both houses of Parliament gives the party spawned by last December’s revolution a virtual monopoly on power that may irritate Romania’s emotional and social wounds.
The front’s commanding position after an election marred by domination, deceit and excess feeds the fear of those who see the loosely organized political force as a haven for ex-Communists seeking to re-impose one-party rule.
Romanians had 88 parties to choose from when they cast their ballots Sunday, yet all but the front polled far less than 10%.
Newly elected President Ion Iliescu, at a press conference with foreign journalists, gave little indication that the victorious front is in the mood for modesty and conciliation.
“It’s very sad when someone doesn’t know how to lose,” Iliescu responded when asked about widespread allegations that the front stacked the election deck in its own favor. “The opposition doesn’t want to accept the result only because it is not in its favor.”
With no effective opposition to give voice to their concerns, Romanians who are worried that too much of the old regime has sur vived the bloody revolution that toppled Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu may again resort to violence to express their dissent.
However, the front has cast its resounding victory as an indication of popular desire for order and tranquillity after 50 years of tyranny and a campaign that served more to instigate than to inform.
Iliescu’s opponents tried to delay the election, a strategy that backfired in a nation weary of provisional government and the political uncertainties delaying foreign investment and economic recovery.
The 60-year-old Iliescu, who served as interim head of state after the revolution, said he is open to negotiation with defeated rivals who would like to play a role in a coalition government. But he berated his presidential challengers, the Liberals’ Radu Campeanu and millionaire emigre Ion Ratiu of the National Peasants Party, for running campaigns based on “attacks and instigation to violence.”
Silviu Brucan, a Communist diplomat-turned-dissident under Ceausescu and now the ideological conscience of the front, said he is “very seriously concerned about the magnitude of the electoral victory of the front.” In a two-hour interview, he expressed grave worry about the front’s tendency to be more enchanted by its preordained landslide than sobered by the threat it poses for Romania’s fragile political health.
Quoting Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, Brucan said he fears the front risks succumbing to “dizziness after success.” It would be better served to develop internal factions within the party and to encourage outside pressure groups as checks on its authority, he said.
“I think my friend Iliescu should now avoid being surrounded by yes-men and sycophants who are trying to force their way to the center of power,” he warned.
Iliescu and the front are burdened with having to build a government that will carry out policies it has not yet clearly defined. Because the front initially said it would not seek elected offices, its members decided during a national gathering in January against setting up a formal party structure and forging an ideological identity.
But the front proved relatively effective in restoring the machinery of government after the revolution, procuring food for the shops and electricity to run factories and heat homes, which bodes well for its ability to overcome the lack of political organization.
The Parliament is required by the constitution to convene within 20 days of the election, at which time Iliescu will name a prime minister and Cabinet. Iliescu said at the press conference that interim Prime Minister Petre Roman, a charismatic 40-year-old technocrat, will be his choice for this post.
In the meantime, the front must mend fences with the opposition parties it so roundly defeated, which foreign observers and domestic rivals contend was the result of front control of the mass media and state resources during the first multi-party campaign in half a century.
The Peasants Party has categorically rejected any role in a coalition, but front officials such as Brucan have said the leadership would gain from Liberal membership in the Cabinet, possibly a ministerial seat for Campeanu. The front has also indicated interest in working with representatives of the Hungarian minority of 2 million, with environmentalists and with independent groups that would strengthen the front’s links with professionals and specialists who will be the essential players in reshaping Romania’s economy.
The front’s attitude toward dissent will likely be the first test of its commitment to democratic ideals. Iliescu was asked Wednesday whether he stands by a promise made last week that he would not use violence against the student demonstrators who have occupied University Square since April 22.
He said no force will be used against the demonstrators, then added, “I hope.”
A further check on the front’s dominance of Romanian politics could come from abroad if Western governments attempt to tie financial aid for recovery to progress in developing pluralism.
The new government wants joint-venture investments and most-favored-nation trade status from Washington, as well as stronger trade ties with other nations.