Romanian Progress

July 08, 1991

The former Communists who rule Romania in the name of anti-communism have taken good-faith steps toward a post-Communist economy. Reforms presented to a special session of parliament by the economy and finance minister, Eugen Dimarescu, have the ring of the real thing. They include a floating exchange rate, a writing-off of inter-business debt, price liberalization and provisions for bankruptcy -- all part of the wrenching dismantlement of a disastrous command economy.

The active diplomacy of President Ion Iliescu and Prime Minister Petre Roman seems to be overcoming world reluctance to believe that Romania genuinely overthrew communism in 1989 when President Nicolae Ceausescu fell. NATO Secretary-General Manfred Woerner paid a two-day visit to Bucharest with a promise that the West would not abandon Romania. Hints are being thrown out that Washington will soon end its objections to a $1 billion rescue package by Group of Seven industrial nations.

Yet many Romanians have not dropped their own suspicions about the revolution of 1989 and the National Salvation Front government. It appeared that the parts of the army and Communist Party that were alienated from the Ceausescus took advantage of popular unrest to stage a palace coup, and called it a revolution. The National Salvation Front elected by a landslide in May 1990 in a free election, before the opposition could get its act together, is pretty much the surviving part of the old Communist Party.

Fortunately, the Civic Alliance, formed by intellectuals and trade unionists last November, is turning itself into a political party that will not, like the pre-existing non-Communist parties, be burdened by half-century-old ideological baggage or collaboration with Communist fronts.

This opposition needs to organize for the next elections. Romania is a halfway house. The former Communists cannot be blamed for trying to use the new rules to hang onto public approval. It is the responsibility of the opposition to offer a credible alternative and then to go out and win.

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