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Struggling Romanians yearn for communism
Nostalgia rises for Ceausescu regime
Question of the Day
BUCHAREST, ROMANIA — An ongoing battle between the prime minister and the president amid a tanking economy has left many Romanians longing for a return to communism because they think the democratic and free-market reforms of the past two decades have failed.
They view communism as a system that guaranteed stability and safety, said Lucian Boia, author of the book “History and Myth in the Romanian Consciousness.”
“Today, Romania has become unpredictable. Those who care more about safety than about freedom end up looking back nostalgically,” he said.
More than 53 percent of Romanians last month told the Public Affairs polling agency that they would prefer to live once again under the regime of Nicolae Ceausescu. The dictator, who terrorized Romanians for 24 years, was toppled and executed with his wife, Elena, on Christmas Day in 1989.
Two years ago, the polling firm found that 44 percent of Romanians favored a restoration of the communist regime.
The increasing disenchantment with democracy and market capitalism follows years of economic and political turmoil.
After Ceausescu’s demise, a democratic government led by Ion Iliescu of the Social Democratic Party took control in the 1990s. But Mr. Iliescu tarnished his image as a reformer after imposing heavy-handed policies, such as summoning miners from the countryside to crush opposition protests.
From 2000 to 2004, the government of Adrian Nastase, Mr. Iliescu’s socialist disciple, ushered in a period of suffocating political corruption. Nastase was sentenced to two years in prison on corruption charges this summer.
President Traian Basescu, elected in 2004 and also known for his authoritarian manner, was nearly ousted in 2007 and again in July after Prime Minister Victor Ponta made a power grab that involved removing both speakers of parliament, weakening the power of the judiciary and impeaching the president.
Mr. Basescu survived an impeachment referendum July 29 because of a quirky election law that required an absolute majority of all eligible voters to cast ballots to remove a president. Although 87.5 percent of Romanians who voted in the referendum wanted Mr. Basescu impeached, the percentage of those who voted fell short of the threshold required for removing him.
In the four decades prior to the 1989 revolution that toppled Ceausescu, the communist regime guaranteed citizens a job and a home.
But the centrally planned economy with its industrial plants geared for export to the Eastern bloc and its collectivized farms spread all over the country defied economic logic. Many of them were crWeated to employ as many people as possible rather than to create competitive products.
Once capitalism was ushered in at the end of 1989, the industrial mammoths of Ceausescu’s era collapsed quickly, leaving more than 1 million people jobless.
After recovering slightly, Romania underwent several years of steady growth in the mid-2000s before its economy collapsed in 2009.
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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