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2004 Parliamentary Election

On November 28, 2004, Romania held parliamentary and the first round of presidential elections. In terms of political parties, PSD appeared as the clear winner, with a total 160 seats. But in terms of political alliances, the DA-Alliance won the most: a total of 161 mandates. In the December 12 presidential run-off election, former Bucharest Mayor Traian Basescu, representing the center-right PNL-PD alliance, delivered a surprise defeat to PSD candidate Nastase. Basescu's upset presidential victory against former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase on 12 December 2004 surprised even his closest political advisors and ushered in a new era of center-right government. Upon the initial release of results on election night, youthful supporters clad in orange flooded the streets of central Bucharest in a scene reminiscent of events in neighboring Ukraine the week before.

Traian Basescu totally changed the balance of power in Romania. After long negotiations, Calin Popescu Tariceanu (president of the National Liberal Party) became Prime Minister of Romania, in a Government formed by members of the Justice and Truth Alliance (D.A.), of the Democratic Union of Magyars in Romania (UDMR) and of the Romanian Humanist Party supported by the representatives of the national minorities. The Social Democrat Party (PSD) (even though they had obtained the biggest percentage of votes during the 2004 Parliament elections) became the opposition after four years of government.

In subsequent weeks he appointed center-right co-leader Calin Popescu-Tariceanu as prime minister, whose government was approved by the Parliament on December 28, 2004. Basescu rebuffed attempts by the then ruling Social Democratic Party (PSD) to maintain a hold on the government and parliament. Basescu and Tariceanu asserted that they were committed to leadership untainted by corruption or communist pasts. As a result, the new cabinet they formed is the youngest in Romania's post-communist history, with an average age in the late 30's. It also included many members with solid experience in the private sector and NGO community.

In its slightly more than two months in office, the new government implemented bold measures such as introducing a 16 percent flat tax on incomes and corporate profits and declaring the fight against high-level corruption as a national security priority. On the latter issue, there was movement on several large-scale corruption cases, including a scandal involving the erasure of massive tax arrears owed by a politically connected oil refining company. In an attempt to redress some of the wrongs committed under communist rule, Basescu has vowed to open up additional files of the notorious former secret police for public inspection. He has also promised to reform Romania's inefficient and often corrupt judiciary.

The Justice and Truth Alliance (D.A.) came apart and the Democrat Party got out of the government. This coalition unraveled due to enmity between the President and Prime Minister by April 2007. Tariceanu, the PNL leader, fired all ministers belonging to Basescus former party, the Democrats (PD), and formed a minority government with the ethnic Hungarian UDMR party. The public opinion, even though used to a bipolar system towards which the entire political class headed at the end of 2004, had to face a different reality, namely the coexistence of more than two important political bodies at the Parliament level.

Traian Basescu took seriously the promise he made in his inaugural speech. He promised he would cooperate with the parliament and the government in the fight against corruption, and against the destructive effects of endemic corruption on the state institutions' credibility. From this point of view, Traian Basescu kept his promise. There is a risk in Romania now that decision making may be left to unelected people, Basescu said, while politicians turn into monkeys who act on orders from some very rich people.

Basescu's First Impeachment - 19 May 2007

Romanias President Traian Basescu faced an impeachment referendum on 19 May 2007 following his suspension by parliament on charges of power abuse. Basescu was suspended by parliament on 20 April 2007 with a large majority of 322-108 on grounds that the president violated the constitution. The move came despite a Constitutional Court ruling that the charges against Basescu were groundless. The charges included fomenting political instability, putting pressure on the judiciary, and interfering in favor of interest groups. The impasse was a result of a fundamental collision between Basescus modernizing vision and a retro vision represented by the political forces which pushed for Basescus suspension. The political crisis sparked concerns in the European Union, which Romania joined in January 2007, about the future of judicial reforms and the fight against corruption in the country. Basescu survived the referendum.



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