History of Romania since 1989

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After the Communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu was executed in the Romanian Revolution of December 1989, the National Salvation Front (FSN) took power, led by Ion Iliescu. The FSN transformed itself into a political party and overwhelmingly won the general election of May 1990, with Iliescu as president. These first months were marked by violent protests and counter-protests, involving among others the coal miners of the Jiu Valley.


The government undertook a programme of free market economic reforms and privatization, following a gradualist line rather than shock therapy. Economic reforms have continued, although there was little economic growth until the 2000s. Social reforms soon after the revolution included easing of the former restrictions on contraception and abortion. Later governments implemented further social policy changes.

Political reforms have been based on a new democratic constitution adopted in 1991. The FSN split that year, beginning a period of coalition governments that lasted until 2000, when Iliescu's Social Democratic Party (now the Party of Social Democracy in Romania, PDSR), returned to power and Iliescu again became President, with Adrian Năstase as Prime Minister. This government fell in the 2004 elections amid allegations of corruption, and was succeeded by further unstable coalitions which have been subject to similar allegations.

During the period Romania has become more closely integrated with the West, becoming a member of NATO in 2004 [1] and of the European Union in 2007. [2]


Romanian flag with a hole in the center, as used in 1989; photo made during an anti-government demonstration in Bucharest in September 2006 RomanianFlag-withHole.jpg
Romanian flag with a hole in the center, as used in 1989; photo made during an anti-government demonstration in Bucharest in September 2006

1989 marked the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe. A mid-December protest in Timișoara against the eviction of a Hungarian minister (László Tőkés) grew into a country-wide protest against the Ceaușescu régime, sweeping the dictator from power.

On 21 December, President Nicolae Ceaușescu had his apparatus gather a mass-meeting in Bucharest downtown in an attempt to rally popular support for his regime and publicly condemn the mass protests of Timișoara. This meeting mirrored the mass-meeting gathered in 1968 when Ceaușescu had spoken out against the invasion of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact countries. This time, however, the people turned angry and riot broke out. During the events of the following week, marked by confusion and street fighting, it is estimated that 1,051 people lost their lives. To this day, the real number of casualties are unknown and so are the identities of the individuals responsible for them. Those responsible for the casualties are still called "the terrorists". Ceaușescu was arrested in Târgoviște. After a summary trial by a kangaroo court, he and his wife were executed on 25 December.

During the Romanian Revolution, power was taken by a group called the National Salvation Front (FSN), which gathered dissidents, both from within the Communist Party and non-affiliated. The FSN quickly assumed the mission of restoring civil order and immediately took seemingly democratic measures. The Communist Party was thus outlawed, and Ceaușescu's most unpopular measures, such as bans on abortion and contraception, were rolled back.


In the aftermath of the revolution, several parties which claimed to be successors of pre-World War II parties were formed. The most successful were the Christian-Democratic National Peasants' Party, the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Romanian Social Democrat Party (PSDR). Their leadership was made of former political prisoners of the 1950s, repatriated émigrés and people which had not been affiliated with the Communist Party. As a reaction, the FSN declared it would participate in the elections as a political party. The announcement triggered a series of anti-government demonstrations in Bucharest. The already tense situation was aggravated by press campaigns. The newspapers, assuming either a strong pro-government or strong pro-opposition stance, issued attacks and tried to discredit the opposing side. The FSN, having a better organisational structure, and controlling the state administration, used the press still controlled by the state in its own advantage. FSN also organised counter-manifestations, gathering the support of the blue-collar workers in the numerous factories of Bucharest. As the anti-government protesters started to charge the Palace of the Parliament, more groups of workers from around the country poured into Bucharest to protect the fragile government. The most notable among these groups where the coal miners of the Jiu Valley, known in Romania for their 1977 strike against the Ceaușescu regime. The workers attacked the offices of opposition parties, however the government intervened and succeeded in re-establishing the order. These events were to be known as the January 1990 Mineriad, the first of the Mineriads.

On 28 February, less than a month later, another anti-government demonstration in Bucharest ended again with a confrontation between demonstrators and coal miners. This time, despite the demonstrators' pleas for non-violence, several people started throwing stones at the Government building. Riot police and army forces intervened to restore order, and on the same night, 4,000 miners rushed into Bucharest. This incident is known as the Mineriad of February 1990.

Presidential and parliamentary elections were held on 20 May 1990. Iliescu won with almost 90% of the popular vote and thus became the first elected President of Romania. The FSN also secured more than two-thirds of the seats in Parliament. Petre Roman, a professor at the Polytechnic University of Bucharest, son of Valter Roman, a Communist official and veteran of the Spanish Civil War. The new government, which included some former low-key members of the Communist party, promised the implementation of some free market reforms.

During the spring 1990 electoral campaign, the opposition parties organised a massive sit-in protest in down-town Bucharest, later known as the Golaniad . After the FSN won an overwhelming majority, most of the Bucharest protesters dispersed, however less than a hundred chose to remain in the square. The police efforts to evict them and re-establish traffic in central Bucharest two weeks after the elections was met with violence, and several state institutions were attacked (among them the Bucharest Police and the Interior Ministry). The freshly elected president, Ion Iliescu, issued a call to Romania's population to come and defend the government from further attacks. The main group to answer the call were the coal miners of Jiu Valley, leading to the June 1990 Mineriad. The miners and other groups physically confronted the demonstrators and forcibly cleared University Square. After the situation calmed down, president Iliescu publicly thanked the miners for their help in restoring order in Bucharest, and requested their return to the Jiu Valley. The general national and international media portrayal of the miners involvement in these events have been disputed by the miners, who claimed that most of the violence was perpetrated by government agents that were agitating the crowds; these claims, and a growing public suspicion of the sequence and orchestration of events, led to Parliamentary and other inquiries. [3] [4] Parliamentary inquiries showed that members of the government intelligence services were involved in the instigation and manipulation of both the protesters and the miners, [4] and later, in June 1994, a Bucharest court found two former Securitate officers guilty of ransacking and stealing $100,000 from the house of a leading opposition politician. [3]

Romania in 2008 Romania in 2008.PNG
Romania in 2008

In December 1991, a new constitution was drafted and subsequently adopted, after a popular referendum. March 1992 marked the split of the FSN into two groups: the Democratic National Salvation Front (FDSN), led by Ion Iliescu and the Democrat Party (PD), led by Petre Roman. Iliescu won the presidential elections in September 1992 by a clear margin, and his FDSN won the general elections held at the same time. With parliamentary support from the nationalist Romanian National Unity Party (PUNR), Greater Romania Party (PRM), and the ex-communist Socialist Workers' Party (PSM), a new government was formed in November 1992 under Prime Minister Nicolae Văcăroiu, an economist and former bureaucrat during the Ceaușescu administration. The government took some limited steps towards the liberalisation of the market, started a privatisation program through management employee buyouts and sought to further relations with the Euro-Atlantic structures (the EEC/EU and NATO). The FDSN changed its name to Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR) in July 1993 after the merger with several smaller parties. This coalition dissolved before the November 1996 elections. This coincided with the bankruptcy of the Caritas pyramid scheme, a major scandal at the time in Romania.


Emil Constantinescu of the Democrat Convention of Romania (CDR) won the second round of the 1996 presidential elections by a comfortable margin of 9% and thus replaced Iliescu as chief of state. (see: 1996 Romanian election)

PDSR won the largest number of seats in Parliament, but was unable to form a viable coalition. Constituent parties of the CDR joined the Democratic Party (PD), the National Liberal Party (PNL) and the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR) to form a centrist coalition government, holding 60% of the seats in Parliament. This coalition of sorts frequently struggled for survival, as decisions were often delayed by long periods of negotiations among the involved parties. Nevertheless, this coalition was able to implement some reforms. The new coalition government, under prime minister Victor Ciorbea remained in office until March 1998, when Radu Vasile (PNȚCD) took over as prime minister. The period was marked by frequent quarrels inside the coalition, dubious bankruptcy of several major banks, and a general economic downturn. Deteriorating living conditions provoked a new mineriad in 1999. After several battles with the police on the road towards Bucharest, Radu Vasile succeeded in convincing miners' leader Miron Cozma to back down, and send the miners home. A political independent, Mugur Isărescu, the governor of the National Bank, eventually replaced Radu Vasile as head of the government, helping stabilise the Romanian economy significantly affected by the previous governments.


Iliescu's Social Democratic Party, now renamed the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), returned to power in the 2000 elections, and Iliescu won a second constitutional term as the country's president. Adrian Năstase became the Prime Minister of the newly formed government. The opposition frequently accused the government of corruption and attempts to control the press. The government was also accused of allowing local elected leaders of the PSD to gain significant influence over the administration of their region, which allegedly used the newly found power for personal interests. Nevertheless, the Romanian economy witnessed the first years of growth after the 1989 revolution. The government also started several projects for social housing, restarted the construction of the motorway connecting Bucharest to Romania's main port, Constanţa, and began the construction of a motorway across the western region of Transylvania. These projects however only had limited success.

In the aftermath of the 2001 September 11 attacks, Romania backed the US on its "war on terrorism", giving overflight rights to the USAF during the US invasion of Afghanistan. The country's military also actively participated both in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force and the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom. In 2004, Romania was finally accepted as a full member of NATO. [5] The Năstase government also took steps towards European integration. The government successfully finalised negotiations with the European Union on most subjects, and 2007 was set as a tentative date for admission into the Union.


Presidential and parliamentary elections took place again on 28 November 2004. No political party was able to secure a viable parliamentary majority. There was no winner in the first round of the presidential elections. Finally, the joint PNL-PD candidate, Traian Băsescu, won the second round on 12 December 2004 with 51% of the vote and thus became the third post-revolutionary president of Romania.

The PNL leader, Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu, was assigned the difficult task of building a coalition government excluding the PSD. In December 2004, the new coalition government (PD, PNL, PUR and UDMR) under prime minister Tăriceanu was sworn in. Soon disputes appeared between the parties of the coalition. Prime minister Tăriceanu, leader of the PNL, and president Băsescu, constitutionally independent but generally regarded as de facto leader of the PD, accused each other of supporting illegitimate business interests. The PUR left the coalition after Băsescu declared that the party's participation in the coalition was an "immoral solution", leaving the government with limited support in the Parliament. The frequent disputes between the prime-minister and the president also caused a faction of the PNL supportive of Băsescu to split and form the Liberal Democratic Party (Romania).

Romania joined the European Union, alongside Bulgaria, on 1 January 2007. [6]

After 2007

The disputes between the PNL prime minister and the president ultimately led to the expulsion of the PD ministers from the government. The PNL and UDMR formed a minority government, with intermittent support in Parliament from the PSD. As the conflict between the president and parliamentary parties continued, in May 2007, the PNL, PSD, PC (former PUR) and UDMR voted to impeach Băsescu for alleged violations of the constitutions. Nicolae Văcăroiu, the president of the Senate became interim president, however Băsescu was reinstated as a national referendum turned down the proposal to depose him. The relations between the president and the parliamentary parties other than PDL (formed after PD and PLD united) remained tense for the following 2 years. EU membership and the reduced government powers favoured foreign investment, and the Romanian economy continued on the upward trend set during the Năstase government.

In late 2008 the government lost the legislative elections, while PSD and PLD won roughly the same number of seats. An uneasy coalition was set up between the two parties, with the PDL president, Emil Boc, as prime-minister. Scandals soon erupted, with the PSD Interior minister changing several times amid allegations of corruption. The PDL youth minister was forced to resign after a Parliamentary commission accused her of siphoning government money towards the European Parliament campaign of Elena Băsescu, the president's daughter. Accusation of funds mismanagement were also made against the PDL minister of tourism, Elena Udrea, a close ally of the president. In autumn 2008, during the electoral campaign for the November Presidential elections, the PSD accused coalition party PDL of planning to rig the elections in favour of Traian Băsescu. As a result, Emil Boc expelled the PSD minister of interior from the government, and PSD left the coalition in protest. Soon after, the Parliament approved a motion of no confidence, dismissing the PDL government. The Parliament also voted down two PDL government proposed by Traian Băsescu, and insisted on the creation of a PSD-PNL-UDMR government headed by FDGR-member Klaus Iohannis, a proposition turned down by Băsescu. Traian Băsescu succeeded to narrowly win the second round of the presidential election, against PSD candidate Mircea Geoană. Emil Boc was reinstated as prime-minister in a PDL-UDMR government, with the help of splinter groups of PSD and PNL. In late 2009 and 2010 Romania was heavily hit by the worldwide economic crisis, causing several massive protests organised by trade unions. The opposition and the press frequently accused the government of preferential allocation of funds to its members, as well as generalised corruption.

In 2009, President Traian Basescu was re-elected for a second five-year term as the President of Romania. [7]

In January 2014, Romania's supreme court sentenced former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, who held office between 2000 and 2004, to four years in prison for taking bribe. [8]

In 2014, Klaus Iohannis was elected as the President of Romania, [9] and he was re-elected with a landslide victory in 2019. [10]

In December 2020, parliamentary election was won by opposition Social Democrats (PSD). Prime minister Ludovic Orban resigned because of the defeat of his National Liberal Party (PNL). [11] However, Florin Cîțu, a member of the National Liberal Party (PNL), became the new Prime Minister, forming a three party, center-right coalition of the PNL, the USR-PLUS and the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) [12]

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See also