After World War II, Romania became a
Communist dictatorship, where Nicolae Ceauşescu took
power in 1965. He controlled the community with the
dreaded security service Securitate. But economic
downturn and severe hardship for the people led to
growing discontent, and in 1989 Ceauşescu was driven
from power. The 1990s became rife with strikes, protests
and violence against protesters. Today, Romania is
firmly anchored in the Western world through membership
in the EU and the NATO defense alliance.
At the end of the Second World War, there were not
many communists in Romania, but the communist influence
grew rapidly. A party organization was set up and
through the presence of the Soviet Red Army in the
country, party members got important jobs within the
administration. At the same time, the old bourgeois
parties had difficulty gathering wider support because
they had discredited themselves during the war by
supporting dictator Ion Antonescu (see Older History).
List of most commonly used acronyms containing Romania. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
In a manipulated election in 1946, a communist bloc
supported by the Soviet Union won 89 percent of the
vote. The following year, King Mihai was forced to
abdicate and go into exile.
In 1947, the National Liberal Party (NLP) and the
National Peasant Party were dissolved (see Older
History). The Communists and Social Democrats formed the
Romanian United Workers' Party, which in a new election
in 1948 got almost all the seats in Parliament. Romania
was now declared the People's Republic.
Subsequently, a social transformation in accordance
with the Soviet pattern began. All opposition was
suppressed. Industries, natural resources and mines were
nationalized. A powerful planning ministry detailed the
economy. A collectivization of agriculture began in
Communist police state under Ceauşescu
After a power struggle, the Moscow-friendly were
excluded from the party leadership in 1952 and Romania
began to take a more independent course against the
Soviet Union under Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej. The Soviet
troops left the country in 1958.
The government opposed the division of labor that
Moscow wanted to introduce in the Eastern bloc, which
gave Romania its role as an oil and agricultural
producer. From the end of the 1950s, Romania underwent
rapid industrialization and immigration to the cities
increased. Emphasis was placed on heavy industry, but
the production of consumer goods was also developed.
Industrial production rose at a rate that impressed the
Gheorghiu-Dej passed away in 1965 and was succeeded
by Nicolae Ceauşescu who in 1974 also became president.
The United Workers' Party changed its name to the
In addition to party leaders and president, Ceauşescu
was also commander-in-chief. His family and relatives
were assigned high positions in the community. This
nepotism was combined with constant movements of key
people within the governing bodies, which prevented the
emergence of centers of power that could threaten the
president's position. A large police apparatus and
security service, Securitate, controlled the citizens.
Independent foreign policy was further strengthened
under Ceauşescu. Romania condemned the Soviet-led
invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, and it did not
participate in the joint alliance of the Warsaw Pact,
despite being a member of the Alliance until its
dissolution in 1991.
Food shortage, oppression and personal cult
Towards the end of the 1970s, economic development
reversed. The rigid system of a centralized economy had
led to significant misconduct and mismanagement with
resources in both agriculture and industry. Domestic
production of oil, coal and natural gas fell and Romania
was forced to rely on expensive fuel imports, which led
to energy shortages.
In the early 1970s, Romania became the first country
in the Soviet bloc to become a member of the
International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.
The country took large loans in the West, but the
payments on the loans became increasingly burdensome.
Interest rates rose at the same time as Romania was
getting less and less money to pay: the inflow of
Western currencies decreased as a result of falling
exports outside the Eastern Bloc. Romanian goods did not
meet the quality required to compete in the world
The economic crisis worsened during the 1980s when
Ceauşescu decided to pay off the entire foreign debt
until 1990. Imports were cut and virtually everything
that could be sold abroad was exported. The result was
huge hardships for the Romanians. Some basic foods, oil
and gasoline were rationed.
Ceauşescu's rule became increasingly dictatorial and
the cult of the person gained ever greater proportions.
All dissatisfaction with food shortages and other
hardships was defeated by Securitate, which was given
stronger powers. Oppositionists were persecuted,
imprisoned and tortured. Human rights violations
isolated the country internationally.
Ceauşescu is overthrown and executed
The dissatisfaction sprouted beneath the surface. In
the spring of 1989, the first signs of open opposition
to Ceauşescu came from within the party when some
deposed party officials criticized him, among other
things, for the economic crisis. One of the critics was
Ion Iliescu, educated in Moscow and formerly one of the
president's close associates.
In December 1989, a demonstration was held in
Timişoara in support of the outspoken pastor László
Tőkés who would be forced to relocate to a smaller
pastorate. The protesters were shot by the security
police and dozens of people lost their lives - exactly
how many are disputed. The unrest spread to other
cities, including Bucharest, where Ceauşescu was
evacuated at a mass meeting he called himself. On
December 22, the Ceauşescu couple were forced to flee in
a helicopter from the roof of the Central Committee
building, after protesters in conjunction with a new
mass meeting began storming the house at the same time
as it was stated that army soldiers joined the protests.
On the same day, a provisional government was formed
under the name National Rescue Front. Ion Iliescu was
named president and Petre Roman became prime minister.
Ceauşescu and his wife were captured and executed after
a litigation on Christmas Day. Struggles between mainly
government soldiers and Securitate continued for a few
days in Bucharest. The number of deaths, including many
civilians, has been estimated at over 1,100, but the
official death toll was 689.
Soon after Ceauşescu's fall, enthusiasm was switched
to suspicion towards the National Rescue Front. Many of
its leaders were formerly active Communists, who were
not very willing to deal with the past. The well-known
opposition who joined the front when it was formed
quickly jumped off. Increasingly, what started as a
popular revolution had been exploited by the National
Rescue Front's leaders and circles within the security
police for a palace coup against the dictator.
Economic crisis and political unrest
After Ceauşescu's fall, the Communist Party was
banned. The old parties were resurrected, while a number
of new political movements were founded. Elections were
announced until May 1990. Prior to the election, the
National Rescue Front gained support by taking loans in
the west and filling the stores' shelves with imported
food. Some key groups such as miners also received pay
raises. In the elections, the National Rescue Front won
a majority of seats in Parliament and Ion Iliescu became
president with 85 percent of the vote.
The elections had been preceded by large
anti-communist demonstrations in Bucharest. The unrest
continued afterwards. Students who refused to accept the
result barricaded themselves in Bucharest. When the
police tried to disperse them, there were clashes.
Thousands of miners from Jiudalen then followed an
appeal from Iliescu to Bucharest where they took to the
streets and began to criticize regime critics. Several
people were killed, hundreds injured and over a thousand
The protests continued during the rest of the year in
Bucharest and other cities against, among other things,
the deteriorating standard of living. The government
failed to improve the economy and the turmoil continued
in 1991. In September, the miners in Jiudalen went on
strike, this time in protest of the government's policy
and went back to Bucharest. New casualties were required
as they clashed with the security forces. The riots led
to the government being forced to step down. New head of
government became Theodor Stolojan, who led a coalition
with the National Rescue Front and some smaller parties.
Former Communists lose power
National rescue fronts split in 1992. Former Prime
Minister Petre Roman's more reform-oriented group
retained the old party name, while President Ion
Iliescu's falang took the name Democratic National
Rescue Front. It became the largest party in the autumn
parliamentary elections before the Democratic Convention
and the National Rescue Front. In October, Ion Iliescu
won the presidential election against Emil
Constantinescu of the Democratic Convention.
Iliescu's new minority government implemented
financial austerity that led to continued social unrest.
When Parliament's opposition to the government
intensified, a new coalition government was formed in
1995. It was led by Romania's Social Democratic Party (PDSR),
which was a merger of Iliescu's party and some smaller
groups, but it already broke that fall.
In 1996, PDSR lost some of its support, partly due to
the financial difficulties with fuel shortages and poor
harvesting. More and more revelations about high-level
corruption, including within the government, also came
into play. The November parliamentary and presidential
elections set the point for seven years of rule
dominated by the former Communists. The incumbent
President Ion Iliescu was defeated by opposition
candidate Emil Constantinescu, who advocated economic
The Democratic Convention formed government together
with a Social Democratic Party Alliance and the
Hungarian Democratic Union (UDMR). It was the first time
representatives of the country's Hungarians participated
in a Romanian government. Several leading businessmen
with ties to the former regime were indicted for
corruption. In exchange for a radical reform program,
the government was promised loans from the IMF and the
Refusal of application EU membership
However, price increases, cuts in social benefits and
closures of unprofitable government companies hit the
population hard. In 1997, about 80,000 miners lost their
jobs. The general standard of living continued to
decline. Nor was this government persisted. A crisis
erupted in early 1998 following disagreements over,
among other things, a planned privatization of
A new coalition government was formed with the same
parties, but the economic problems of subsequent strikes
and demonstrations soon grew overhead. After failing to
meet the IMF's requirements for improved state finances,
the Prime Minister was dismissed in December 1999 and
succeeded by Governor of the Central Bank Alexandru
Romania had signed a Stabilization and Association
Agreement with the European Union (EU) in 1993 and two
years later it applied for membership. The
disappointment was great in Bucharest in 1997 when it
became clear that Romania was not among the eastern
countries that were in turn first to join NATO and the
EU respectively. A rising EU membership had been the
government's main argument for getting the population to
accept the economic austerity.
The European Commission justified the rejection that
Romania did not meet the requirements of legal certainty
and that the development towards market economy did not
go far enough. The EU also pointed to deficiencies in
border controls, the fight against organized crime and,
not least, the conditions in the many orphanages (see
Social conditions). Only during the December 1999
government crisis did Romania receive the sign of
membership negotiations, despite the shortcomings.
Agreement on social peace
The new Prime Minister Mugur Isărescu tried to
breathe life into the failed reforms of the economy and
the judiciary. The state was in desperate need of loans
from the IMF, which in exchange demanded tougher
austerity measures: raising electricity and gas prices
and layoffs of another 20,000 government employees. The
government found itself forced to agree to this in the
early 2000s, but Romanians' anger towards politicians
The dissatisfaction was reflected in the presidential
and parliamentary elections at the end of 2000. The
government parties suffered a severe defeat while the
Social Democratic PDSR received 37 percent of the vote.
The right-wing Nationalist Great Romanian Party (PRM),
led by Corneliu Vadim Tudor, won almost 20 percent. In
the presidential election, former President Ion Iliescu
of PDSR triumphed over Tudor, despite corruption
allegations and suspicions about past activities within
Iliescu had a former foreign minister, party
colleague Adrian Năstase, form a minority government.
There was no alternative as no parties wanted to
cooperate with Tudor's party. The government's main
support party became the Hungarian Democratic Union. In
early 2002, the government signed an agreement with the
unions and employers on social peace. It would give a
deadline for the implementation of reform plans. The
union promised to abstain from strikes for one year in
exchange for the government's promise of reducing
inflation, raising wages and increasing the fight
Some years after the election, contradictions between
the prime minister and the president were revealed.
Năstase, who now also led the party that changed its
name to the Social Democratic Party (PSD), made it clear
that he wanted to renew and modernize the party and
replace the generation around the former Communist
Iliescu with younger forces.
Combating corruption is counteracted
To counter criticism of widespread corruption,
Năstase dismissed four ministers. A special corruption
prosecutor opened an investigation in August 2004
against 80 former ministers and senior government
officials, most from the opposition, for alleged
bribery. However, the attempts to convict high-ranking
politicians for corruption were thwarted by, among
others, Parliament and the Constitutional Court. Both
former MPs and ministers had been protected by the court
from prosecution. Therefore, Năstase was also far from
trying to prosecute him.
After four years in power, the PSD's minority
government was challenged in 2004 by the National
Liberal Party (PNL) and the Democratic Party (PD), which
had formed the Alliance for Justice and Truth. The
presidential election was between Prime Minister Năstase
and PD leader Traian Băsescu. Năstase got the most votes
in the first round, but the decision in December gave
Băsescu the victory with just over 51 percent of the
In the parliamentary elections, however, the Left
Alliance - PSD and the Conservative Romania's Humanist
Party (PUR) - received almost 37 percent of the vote,
compared to 31 percent for the Center-Right Alliance.
The right-wing nationalist PRM, which no other party
wanted to cooperate with, took 13 percent of the vote.
The new President Băsescu gave PNL leader Călin
Popescu-Tăriceanu the government assignment and he could
gather a majority by offering ministerial posts to both
PD and UDMR and PUR, which therefore broke his
cooperation with the Social Democrats.
Official distancing from the Communist era
The government's first measure was to introduce a tax
reform, which from 2005 provided Romania with a uniform
income and corporate tax - a so-called flat tax. The
purpose was to stimulate foreign investment and to make
activities in the extensive informal sector less
At the same time, the country concluded negotiations
with the EU for membership in 2007. However, the EU
Commission was still critical on some points:
unauthorized government subsidies, including to the
steel industry, a lack of border guard and widespread
corruption. The EU countries therefore warned that
membership could be postponed for one year unless the
deficiencies were removed before 2007.
In December 2006, a few weeks before Romania became
an EU member, President Băsescu officially renounced the
Communist era and condemned the abuses that have taken
place over the past 40 years. The statement was made
following pressure from, among others, the Council of
Europe and was based on a historical investigation
commissioned by the President. Former President Iliescu
criticized the inquiry for "demonizing the left".
For a long time, the cooperation had crackled between
President Băsescu and Prime Minister Popescu-Tăriceanu
and it developed into a political duel. In October 2006,
Băsescu had dismissed the Defense Minister, who belonged
to the Prime Minister's PNL, and the conflicts affected
the entire government's work. In December, PUR, which
changed its name to the Conservative Party (PC),
resigned from the government, and in April 2007,
Popescu-Tăriceanu dissolved the alliance with PD.
Together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the PNL
formed a minority government which received some support
in Parliament by the Social Democrats.
Romania becomes an EU member
The president, who still had great support from the
people, criticized the government for curbing reform
efforts after the EU's entry into force on January 1,
2007, and several politicians were disturbed by his
high-level corruption allegations. After a vote in
Parliament in April, Băsescu was suspended from office
for the time being. Parliamentarians from both the left
and the right accused him of abusing power. In
accordance with the constitution, a referendum was held
a month later to possibly put the president before the
national court. Three-quarters of voters supported
Băsescu, who moved back to the presidential palace.
However, turnout was only about 44 percent.
The power struggle between the president and the
prime minister contributed to a political deadlock, and
the minority government was not heard of a number of
important decisions during the rest of the term of
office. Before the parliamentary elections in autumn
2008, Romania was affected by the international
financial crisis, and the country's large dependence on
financing based on increased concerns about the future.
The November 2008 parliamentary elections were
deadlocked between President Traian Băsescu's backing
Democratic Liberal Party (PD-L) and the Social
Democratic Party / Conservative Alliance (PSD / PC)
alliance. They formed a broad coalition led by Emil Boc,
chairman of PD-L.
The coalition took over an economy that was hard
pressed by the global financial crisis. The government
was forced to apply for external aid and in March 2009
reached agreements with, among other things, the IMF and
the EU on crisis loans of almost EUR 20 billion. The
support was given with strict requirements to reduce the
state's budget deficit. It created political
contradictions, even within the government, and led to
growing popular dissatisfaction.
Cuts and protests
The severe pressure shattered the government, which
fell into a vote of no confidence in the plans for
raising retirement age. Liviu Negoiţă, Bucharest
municipal politician, was led by a transitional
government that lacked the power to push through a
budget with the cuts the IMF required. This meant that
the next loan payment was postponed.
The crisis was exacerbated by suspicions of cheating
in the December 2009 presidential election, when Băsescu
beat Social Democrat Mircea Geoană by a slight margin.
In the midst of this conflict, Prime Minister Negoiţă
resigned after only a month, and Boc had to try again to
form a coalition, which could start the interrupted loan
negotiations with the IMF.
His new government consisted of PD-L, UDMR and
several independent allies. In May 2010, it presented a
savings package, where public salaries would be reduced
by 25 percent and pensions by 15 percent. The
demonstrations were extensive. PSD leader Victor Ponta
appealed the cuts to the Constitutional Court, which
rejected lower pensions but gave a clear sign of the pay
cut. Instead of raising VAT, the government got the
IMF's yes to a loan payment.
The increase in VAT led to new protests, and during
the autumn the demonstrations also continued against
wage cuts and the fact that around 70,000 public
servants were laid off for a couple of years. The
government had to endure several distrustful votes in
In 2012, former Prime Minister Năstase was sentenced
to two years in prison for using state funds to fund his
presidential campaign in 2004. Two years later, he was
sentenced to another four years in prison for bribery
and three years for extortion.
Victor Ponta forms government
New tough budget austerity was followed by such
violent public protests that the government resigned in
February 2012. A new government fell after only a few
months in a vote of confidence in proposed budget
Now the government mission went to Social Democrats
leader Victor Ponta, who also led the newly formed
mid-left Alliance Social-Liberal Union (USL) between
Social Democrats, Liberals and Conservatives. Ponta
formed a government with USL ministers and promised to
address the social injustices caused by the budget cuts.
In May 2012, the IMF agreed that the salaries of civil
servants were raised to the level before the cuts in
2010 and that a medical tax was repaid to the
After great success for USL in the local elections in
June 2012, Emil Boc resigned as leader of PD-L and was
succeeded by Vasile Blaga. The newly formed populist
People's Party - Dan Diaconescu (PP-DD) made strong
headway in local elections.
Power struggle between Ponta and the president
During the year, a fierce power struggle developed
between Ponta and President Băsescu, in which Ponta
resorted to methods that caused dismay within the EU.
The Prime Minister accused Băsescu of abusing power in
connection with the previous austerity measures. In July
2012, Ponta received parliamentary support for his
attempts to oust the president when they voted to put
Băsescu before the national court. The decision would be
approved in a referendum and Băsescu was suspended until
further notice. Senate President Crin Antonescu became
In the referendum that month, 87 percent of the
participants voted to put the president before the
national court, but turnout was too low for the result
to be valid.
The power struggle was also about who would represent
Romania at the EU summits. When the Constitutional Court
ruled that it was the president's job, Ponta deprived
the court of its right to oppose Parliament's decision.
He threatened to set aside all the judges, and in July
2012 replaced the Ombudsman, who has the right to sue
the government before the Constitutional Court, against
a government loyal person.
The Ponta government also took control of the
official state publication Monitorul Oficial, where
court rulings and new laws are announced. This meant
that the government could delay publication of decisions
in the Constitutional Court which the government
The government wins the election
Ponte's attempt to break the Constitution and gather
power with himself led to such strong criticism from,
among other things, the EU that he was forced to back
down on several points. Romania risked losing voting
rights in the EU, losing financial support and being
excluded from the Schengen passport union. Therefore,
the government was forced to accept that Băsescu resumed
the post after the referendum.
In Romania, Ponta retained its popularity through
promises to ease economic austerity. When parliamentary
elections were held in December 2012, the USL prevailed
over the newly formed bourgeois Alliance ARD and
populist PP-DD. President Băsescu was forced against his
will to allow Ponta to form a new PSD-led government.
Eventually, however, a rumor began to emerge among
Romanians about signs that Ponta's leadership style was
becoming increasingly authoritarian. A first clear
signal that Ponte's popularity began to decline came
when PNL's candidate Klaus Iohannis triumphed over the
Prime Minister in the November 2014 presidential
election. Iohannis had gone to elections with profile
issues that intensified the fight against corruption and
strengthened independence for the judiciary. The
election result was considered one of the biggest
political upheavals in Romania since the fall of
communism, not least because the prospective president
was one of the country's small German-speaking minority.
Ponta acknowledged being defeated but did not intend
to resign as prime minister. After that message,
thousands of people in Bucharest demonstrated demanding
that Ponta leave her post.
The Ponta government is falling
A severe blow to Ponta also came in December 2014
when he was forced to resign the doctorate in law he was
awarded in 2003. For a couple of years, Ponta had been
accused of plagiarizing much of his dissertation. Ponta
refused to cheat but needed to get the accusations out
of the world to build confidence in the government.
Since the Romanian president may not belong to any
political party, Iohannis resigned as PNL leader and was
replaced in December by Alina Gorghiu, who thus became
the first female leader of a larger Romanian party.
In June 2015, a criminal investigation was initiated
against Ponta for suspected fraud, money laundering and
tax evasion assistance in 2007–2011, when he was a
member of parliament and worked as a lawyer. As a
result, Ponta resigned the same month as PSD leader and
was succeeded by Liviu Dragnea, who recently received a
conditional verdict for election fraud. In September, a
lawsuit was brought against Ponta, who thus became the
first Romanian prime minister to be brought to trial
while he was still in power. (Ponta was released from
the charges in 2018.)
In 2015 came the drop that caused the goblet to run
over for Ponta. After more than 20,000 protesters
demanded his resignation, he filed the government's
resignation application. The demonstration was prompted
by a fire in a Bucharest nightclub that had claimed 64
lives and injured nearly 200. The protesters held the
government ultimately responsible for the weak
regulations that made the fire possible.
President Iohannis commissioned former EU
Commissioner Dacian Cioloș to form a new government that
would sit until the next election in December 2016.
Cioloș appointed a government made up of trade experts,
diplomats, people with experience of work in the EU and
representatives of civil society organizations.
During its rough year in power, the transitional
government failed to arouse new enthusiasm among
Romanians for the political system. It suffered a series
of drop-outs and scandals, and when the Romanians went
to elections in December 2016, participation was among
the lowest since the fall of communism, just over 39
percent. Despite all the allegations of corruption and
powerlessness, the Social Democratic PSD received strong
support and became clearly the largest party. In second
place came the National Liberal Party (PNL) followed by
the Union Save Romania (USR) (read more about the
parties in the Political system).