Sunday, November 28, 2004

Romania - another Orange Revolution to watch 

While the world's attention remains firmly fixed on Ukraine and journalists and pundits are facing difficult challenge of not confusing Yushchenko and Yanukovich, not to mention brushing up on obscure Eastern European politico-geography, another very similar contest is about to take place to the south-west, in Romania.

Just as in Ukraine, a long-serving post-communist president is retiring and the contest pits a charismatic pro-Western reformer against another bland red establishment apparatchik. Even the color association of orange with the opposition and blue with the government rings familiar. As does the fear of another election tainted by fraud.
"The 53-year-old challenger is Traian Basescu, mayor of Bucharest, the capital. He is a former ship's captain with tremendous personal magnetism. He dresses casual and has a big laugh and a straightforward manner. Married for 29 years, he acknowledges he visited brothels as a sailor in the communist era.

"The ruling Social Democratic Party candidate is the prime minister, Adrian Nastase. He seems the embodiment of the old-guard communist apparatus that reinvented itself as democracy's champion after the collapse of communism and 1989 execution of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu."
Romania's is another unfinished revolution. Here, of all the Eastern European states, the overthrow of the communist government fifteen years ago turned bloody, culminating in the extrajudicial execution of the mad dictator Ceaucescu and his wife. Alas, what started as a genuine popular revolution was quickly hijacked by factions of the establishment, which meant the "reformers" who took power were merely those communists who managed to cut their losses the fastest. And while the story of the last decade and a half is not one of complete failure - Romania has, after all, joined NATO, is on the road to enter the EU, and the economy is not doing too badly - too many opportunities have been wasted under the "post-communist" government.

Romania's elections will not send the same aftershocks through the world polity as Ukraine's - after all, no great powers are involved, and the country is not sitting on any volatile geo-strategic faultline, marking it for international indifference and neglect. Be that as it may, the Romanians themselves surely deserve a fresh start and the chance for a closure on the revolution watered with blood of hundreds in Timisoara and Bucharest fifteen years ago.


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