Voting the Communists out Bulgaria and Romania: Pendulum swings again in Eastern Europe.

November 07, 1996

AFTER THE FALL of communism throughout Eastern Europe, Bulgaria and Romania went on as though little had happened. The Communists, saying they were Democratic Socialists, continued ruling. People voted for them by choice or from fear. All that ended last Sunday.

In Bulgaria's election, the anti-Communist Petar Stoyanov won a landslide victory for the ceremonial presidency, defeating a former Communist. The Socialists (former Communists) still rule under Prime Minister Zhan Videnov, as a result of 1994 parliamentary elections. But the currency is sinking and gangsterism growing. As a result of the Stoyanov victory, the need for a new governing coalition in the parliament is overwhelming.

In Romania, the Communist Ion Iliescu, who picked up the pieces after the fall of Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu in 1989, eked out a marginal plurality Sunday over the opposition leader, Emil Constantinescu, and a third candidate. Mr. Constantinescu may well win the presidential run-off in two weeks, setting the stage for a reformist coalition government replacing the crypto-Communists.

This swing completes the anti-Communist revolution of 1989-90. But Poland, Hungary, Lithuania and Slovakia have swung the other way. Thus, the trend is to throw the rulers out, whatever their ideology.

One country remained stoutly neo-Communist Sunday. In federal Yugoslavia, consisting of the Serb Republic and Montenegro, Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic was the real winner of an election in which he was not running. The parliamentary election went to a coalition of his Socialist Party of Serbia and the Yugoslav United Left (JUL) of his wife Mirjana Marcovic, HTC Communist ideologue. The stage is set for a leftist parliament to institutionalize his permanent rule. Or theirs, as the pair increasing look like the Ceausescus of rump-Yugoslavia.

Eastern Europe's transition to democracy and capitalism remains rocky. Where governments fall and results are honest, the free-swinging pendulum is more important than the direction in which it swings.

Pub Date: 11/07/96

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