Attempts At Democracy

The National Salvation Front (FSN) took immediate control of the country. In May 1990, it won the country's first democratic elections since 1946, placing Ion Iliescu, a Communist Party member since the age of 14 at the helm as president. Protests ensued, but Iliescu graciously sent in 20,000 coal miners to violently squash them. Iliescu was nonetheless re-elected in 1992 as the head of a coalition government under the banner of the Party of Social Democracy. New name, same policies. Market reforms remained nowhere in sight. In 1993 subsidies on food, transportation and energy were scrapped, prompting prices to spiral sky-high and employment to plummet to an all-time low. Iliescu, meanwhile, personally benefitted from shady deal-making (pl45).

Iliescu was finally ousted in the 1996 presidential elections by an even more embittered, impoverished and desperate populace who ushered in Emil Constantinescu, leader of the right-of-centre election alliance Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), as president.

Constantinescu's reform-minded government made entry into NATO and the European Union (EU) its top priorities, together with fast-paced structural economic reform, the fight against corruption and improved relations with Romania's neighbours, especially Hungary.

Scandal and corruption surrounded the November 2000 electoral race. In May of that year, the National Fund for Investment (NFI) collapsed. Thousands of investors - mainly pensioners who'd deposited their life savings into the government fund - took to the streets to demand their cash back (US$47.4 million, long squandered by the NFI). Police used tear gas to dispel rioters in Bucharest.

After Contantinescu refused to run in the 2000 'Mafia-style' elections, 70 year-old Iliescu re-took the helm as the country's president. His Social Democrat Party today forms a minority government. The notoriously nationalist, xenophobic Greater Romania Party led by Corneliu Vadim Tudor is the country's second party, having won 21% of the votes. Adrian Nastase is head of government as prime minister.

Romania's 1991 constitution provides for a parliamentary system of government. Its two-chamber parliament - comprising the Chamber of

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Romania Is the first country to sign up for NATO's Partnership for Peace program In the hopes of eventually joining the organisation.

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The number of stray dogs in Bucharest reaches between 150,000 | and 200,000.

I deputies (lower house) and Senate (upper house) - is elected every four years. The next general elections are scheduled for December 2004.

The government's main goals, aside from domestic issues, is integration with the EU and other international bodies. In 2002, Romania was invited to join NATO. During the American war against Iraq in 2003, Romania was one of the first countries to guarantee access to airfields and allowed Americans to set up military bases on their soil.

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