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Friday, September 10, 2004
Business in Romania blog
(source: The Economist)

The political elite is made up of left and centre-left parties that have their origins in the post-war communist party; the traditional, predominantly right and centre-right, inter-war parties; the nationalist parties; and a party that represents the Hungarian minority. None of the main political groupings has been able to win enough support to form a majority government. The formation of stable, lasting government coalitions has been complicated by deep personal animosities that run through the political scene. Most parties have deep internal divisions, resulting in constant political realignments.

(a) Representatives of national minorities (other than the HDUR) receive one seat each in the Chamber of Deputies. In 2000, 18 seats in the Chamber of Deputies were assigned to minorities.

The return of the PSDR

The PSDR dominated post-communist politics at national and local levels between 1989 and 1996, when it was defeated by the DC, a centre-right coalition. However, the PSDR capitalised on the poor performance of the centre-right government and won the largest number of seats in both parliamentary chambers in the November 2000 election. The PSDR, subsequently re-named the SDP, formed a minority government and has succeeded in avoiding the intra-governmental feuding that bedevilled the centre-right coalition of 1996-2000. Although the SDP is composed largely of former communists, and its support is strongest among older voters and rural workers, its policies have moved towards the social democratic centre under the direction of the prime minister and party chairman, Mr Nastase. This has enabled the party to increase its support among the middle classes, and the absence of a clear alternative on the left has allowed it has retained the support of its core electorate.

Nationalists remain a potentially potent force

The ultra-nationalist GRP won 20% of the popular vote and became the second largest party in both chambers of parliament in the 2000 elections. The GRP has traditionally advocated anti-Hungarian and anti-Semitic policies, the return of former Romanian territories and the renationalisation of industry. The GRP’s flamboyant leader, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, forced Mr Iliescu into a second-round run-off for the presidency in 2000 after winning a stunning 28% of the vote in the first round. With support for his party having fallen in recent years, Mr Tudor has tried to tone down his ultra-nationalist image in a bid to bring the party into the mainstream of Romanian politics. He has apologised to people targeted by his "verbal excesses" and for pamphlets criticising Jews. Although Romania's progress towards membership of the EU may have undermined the appeal of Mr Tudor, the GRP remains a force in Romanian politics, with the support of about 17% of voters in late 2003.

Centrist parties regroup

The Democratic Convention (DC), a group of centre-right parties dominated by the National Peasant-Christian Democratic Party (NP-CDP), was the leading partner in the government coalition of 1996-2000. However, after the National Liberal Party (NLP) decided to contest the election separately, the DC failed to achieve the threshold of 10% of the popular vote required for an electoral coalition to win representation in the 2000-04 parliament. The NLP, which commanded only 7% of the vote at the 2000 election, has improved its standing since the election of Theodor Stolojan as its leader in August 2002, and is now indisputably the leading centre-right party. In September 2003 the NLP and the Democratic Party (DP) formed an alliance to contest the 2004 elections. The DP has been struggling to regain popular support under the leadership of Traian Basescu, the popular mayor of Bucharest, who took over from Petre Roman at the party congress in May 2001. The NLP-DP alliance managed to register itself as a political entity under its preferred name, Justice and Truth, only in January 2004, after various bodies with a similar name had filed court appeals against it. However, judicial delays are only one of the reasons that the alliance has not made headway. The alliance has failed to increase its support levels since its formation and was polling around 27-30% at the end of 2003. The alliance has yet to elaborate a clear political programme and has already been undermined by inter-party wrangling over the allocation of parliamentary seats. It will have to make major inroads into the support of both the SDP and GRP to have a chance of winning the parliamentary election. The Christian democratic bloc has fragmented and is unlikely to gain representation in the next parliament.

HDUR divided

The HDUR represents the interests of more than 1.6m ethnic Hungarians, who are largely concentrated in the north-western Transylvania region. Popular support for the HDUR has held steady at around 6-7%, representing the share of the Hungarian minority in the total population. The HDUR was for many years divided between a more militant faction led by Bishop Laszlo Tokes, which advocated territorial political autonomy—anathema to most Romanians—and a more moderate faction led by Bela Marko, which emphasised cultural and educational rights for the Hungarian minority. As expected, the party split in 2003, with the Tokes faction leaving the HDUR to form the National Council of Transylvanian Hungarians and campaign on the autonomy question. In 2001-03 the HDUR had a formal parliamentary co-operation pact with the SDP, but this has yet to be renewed in 2004.

Posted by Mihai : 9/10/2004 10:39:00 am Romania Political Forecast
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