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Politics of Romania

Romania's 1991 constitution, amended in 2003 proclaims Romania a democracy and market economy in which human dignity, civic rights and freedoms, the unhindered development of human personality, justice, and political pluralism are supreme and guaranteed values. The constitution directs the state to implement free trade, protect the principle of competition, and provide a favorable framework for production. The constitution provides for a President, a Parliament, a Constitutional Court and a separate system of lower courts that includes a Supreme Court.

The national legislature is a bicameral or two chamber parliament, consisting of the House of Deputies and the Senate. Deputies and senators are elected for 4-year terms by universal suffrage under party list proportional representation electoral systems.

The president is elected by popular vote for a maximum of two 5-year terms (4-year terms until 2004). He is the Chief of State, charged with safeguarding the constitution, foreign affairs, and the proper functioning of public authorities. He is supreme commander of the armed forces and chairman of the Supreme Defense Council. According to the constitution, he acts as mediator among the power centers within the state, as well as between the state and society. The president nominates the prime minister, who in turn appoints the government, which must be confirmed by a vote of confidence from Parliament.

The Constitutional Court adjudicates the constitutionality of challenged laws, and decides on appeals from the regular court system concerning the unconstitutionality of laws and decrees. The court consists of nine judges, appointed for a term of 9 years. Three judges are appointed by the House of Deputies, three by the Senate, and three by the president of Romania.

The Romanian legal system is based on the Napoleonic Code. The judiciary is to be independent, and judges appointed by the president are not removable. The president and other judges of the Supreme Court are appointed for a term of 6 years and may serve consecutive terms. Proceedings are public, except in special circumstances provided for by law.

The Ministry of Justice represents "the general interests of society" and defends the legal order as well as citizens' rights and freedoms. The ministry is to discharge its powers through independent, impartial public prosecutors.

For territorial and administrative purposes, Romania is divided into 41 counties and the city of Bucharest. Each county is governed by an elected county council. Local councils and elected mayors are the public administration authorities in villages and towns. The county council is the public administration authority that coordinates the activities of all village and town councils in a county.

The central government appoints a prefect for each county and Bucharest municipality. The prefect is the representative of the government at the local level and directs any public services of the ministries and other central agencies at the county level. A prefect may block the action of a local authority if he deems it unlawful or unconstitutional. The matter is then decided by an administrative court.

Under new legislation in force since January 1999, local councils have control over spending of their allocations from the central government budget as well as authority to raise additional revenue locally. Central government-appointed prefects formerly significant authority over the budget is limited to a review of expenditures to ascertain their constitutionality.

Romania has made great progress in institutionalizing democratic principles, civil liberties, and respect for human rights since the revolution. Nevertheless, the legacy of 44 years of Communist rule cannot quickly be eliminated. Membership in the Romanian Communist Party was usually the prerequisite for higher education, foreign travel, or a good job, while the extensive internal security apparatus subverted normal social and political relations. To the few active dissidents, who suffered gravely under Ceausescu, most of those who came forward as politicians after the revolution seemed tainted by cooperation with the previous regime.

Over 200 new political parties sprang up after 1989, gravitating around personalities rather than programs. All major parties espoused democracy and market reforms, but the governing National Salvation Front proposed slower, more cautious economic reforms and a social safety net. In contrast, the opposition's main parties, the National Liberal Party (PNL), and the Christian Democrat National Peasants' Party (PNTCD) favored quick, sweeping reforms, immediate privatization, and reducing the role of the ex-communist elite. There is no law banning communist parties (the Communist Party ceased to exist).

In the 1990 general elections, the FSN and its candidate for presidency, Ion Iliescu, have won with a large majority of the votes (66.31% and, respectively 85.07%). The strongest parties in opposition were the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), with 7.23%, and the PNL, with 6.41%.

Following the FSN Prime Minister Petre Roman's brutal sacking (due to the miners' descent on Bucharest late 1991), few months before the 1992 general elections, the FSN broke in two. President Iliescu's followers have formed a new party called the Democratic Front of National Salvation (FDSN), while Roman's supporters have kept the party's original title, FSN.

The 1992 local and national elections revealed a political cleavage between major urban centers and the countryside. Rural voters, who were grateful for the restoration of most agricultural land to farmers but fearful of change, strongly favored President Ion Iliescu and the FDSN, while the urban electorate favored the CDR (a coalition made up by several parties -- among which the PNTCD and the PNL were the strongest -- and civic organizations) and quicker reform. Iliescu easily won reelection over a field of five other candidates. The FDSN won a plurality in both chambers of Parliament. With the CDR, the second-largest parliamentary group, reluctant to take part in a national unity coalition, the FDSN (now PDSR) formed a government under Prime Minister Nicolae Văcăroiu, an economist, with parliamentary support from the PUNR, PRM, and PSM. In January 1994, the stability of the governing coalition became problematic when the PUNR threatened to withdraw its support unless given cabinet portfolios. In August 1994, two members of the nationalist PUNR received cabinet portfolios in the Văcăroiu government. In September, the incumbent justice minister announced that he had become a PUNR member. PRM and PSM left the government in October and December 1995, respectively.

The 1996 local elections realized a major shift in the political orientation of the Romanian electorate. Opposition parties swept Bucharest and most of the larger cities in Transylvania and Dobruja. This trend continued in the national elections, where the opposition dominated the cities and made steep inroads into rural areas theretofore dominated by President Iliescu and the PDSR, which have lost many voters in their traditional stronghold constituency outside Transylvania. The campaign of the opposition hammered away on the twin themes of the need to squelch corruption and to launch economic reform. The message resonated with the electorate, which swept Constantinescu and parties allied to him to power in free and fair elections. The coalition government formed in December 1996 took the historic step of inviting the UDMR and its Hungarian ethnic backers into government. Since its victory, the coalition has had three prime ministers. Despite these leadership changes, and constant internal frictions, the governing parties have managed to preserve their coalition.

Romania has made great progress in consolidating democratic institutions. The press is free and outspoken. Independent radio networks have proliferated, and a private television network now operates nationwide. The reorganized and security services have a much reduced role in civil society, but still maintain sole control over the secret police files of the former Communist regime.

Country name:
conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Romania
local long form: none
local short form: Romānia

Data code: RO

Government type: republic

Capital: Bucharest

Administrative divisions: 41 counties (judeţe, singular - judeţ) and 1 municipality* (municipiu). See also Counties of Romania.

Independence: 1877 (from Turkey; proclaimed Kingdom on March 26, 1881; proclaimed republic on December 30, 1947)

National holiday: National Day of Romania, December 1 (1990)

Constitution: December 8, 1991 (Revised October 19, 2003)

Legal system: former mixture of civil law system and communist legal theory; is now based on the constitution of France's Fifth Republic

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Ion ILIESCU (December 10, 2000)
head of government: Prime Minister Adrian NĂSTASE (December 28, 2000)
cabinet: Council of Ministers appointed by the prime minister
elections: president elected by popular vote for a four-year term; election last held December 2000; prime minister appointed by the president

Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament or Parlament consists of the Senate or Senat (143 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote on a proportional representation basis to serve four-year terms) and the House of Deputies or Camera Deputaţilor (343 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote on a proportional representation basis to serve four-year terms)
elections: Senate - last held December 2000 (next to be held fall 2004); House of Deputies - last held December 2000 (next to be held fall 2004)
election results: Senat - seats or percent of vote by party - PDSR 65 seats or 46,43%; PRM 37 seats or 26,43%; PD 13 seats or 9,29%; PNL 13 seats or 9,29%; UDMR 12 seats or 8,57%;
House of Deputies - seats or percent of vote by party - PDSR, 155 seats or 44,93%; PRM 84 seats or 24,35%; PD 31 seats or 8,99%; PNL 30 seats or 8,70%; UDMR 27 seats or 7,83%; ethnic minorities 18 seats or 5,22%

Judicial branch: Supreme Court of Justice, judges are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the Superior Council of Magistrates

Political pressure groups and leaders: various human rights and professional associations

International organization participation: ACCT, BIS, BSEC, CCC, CE, CEI, EAPC, EBRD, ECE, EU (applicant), FAO, G- 9, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, LAIA (observer), MONUC, NAM (guest), NSG, OAS (observer), OPCW, OSCE, PCA, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNIKOM, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UPU, WCL, WEU (associate partner), WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, Zangger Committee

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Sorin Ducaru
chancery: 1607 23rd Street NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 332-4846, 4848, 4851
FAX: [1] (202) 232-4748
consulate(s) general: Los Angeles and New York

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Michael GUEST
embassy: Strada Tudor Arghezi 7-9, Bucharest
mailing address: American Embassy Bucharest, Department of State, Washington, DC 20521-5260 (pouch)
telephone: [40] (21) 210 01 49, 210 40 42
FAX: [40] (21) 210 03 95
branch office: Cluj-Napoca

Flag description: three equal vertical bands of blue (hoist side), yellow, and red; the national coat of arms that used to be centered in the yellow band has been removed; now similar to the flag of Chad, also resembles the flags of Andorra and Republic of Moldova.

External links

Romanian Embassies List

See also : Romania, Ion Iliescu, Hildegard Puwak, European Union, List of political parties in Romania