Traian Băsescu





President of Romania

Born November 4, 1951, in Basarabi, Romania; married Maria. Education: Graduated from the Navy Institute of Constan[H6031]a, 1976.

Addresses: Office —Palatul Cotroceni, Strada Geniului nr. 1-3, Sector 5—Bucuresti, Romania 060116.

Career

Merchant marine officer, Navrom, 1976-81; oil tanker captain, Navrom, 1981-87; headed the Navrom office in Antwerp, Belgium, 1987-89; general manager of the State Inspectorate for the Civil Navigation within the Romanian Ministry of Transportation, 1989-90; Undersecretary of State, Chief of the Shipping Department within the Ministry of Transportation, 1990-91; elected to Romanian parliament on the Democratic Party ticket, 1992; transportation minister, 1991-92, and 1996-2000; elected mayor of Bucharest, 2000; elected president of Romania on the Alian[H6031]a DA slate, December, 2004.

Sidelights

In a surprising turn of political events, Traian BaȈsescu became president of Romania in December of 2004. Romanians and international observers alike declared his victory a sign of the genuine end of Romania's communist era some 15 years after what turned out to be its merely symbolic finish back in 1989. While the Eastern European nation's human-rights record had improved considerably in the interim, the political life in this nation of 23 million continued to be dominated by the former Communists,

munists, who led new political parties. BaȈsescu rose to prominence as an opponent of the corruption and cronyism of that post-Communist aftermath.

Born in November of 1951, BaȈsescu spent his earliest years in a village called Basarabi, not far from Constan[H6031]a, Romania's Black Sea port. He graduated from the Navy Institute of Constan[H6031]a in 1976, and joined Navrom, the state-owned shipping company, as a merchant marine officer. Romania during the first four decades of BaȈsescu's life was a tightly controlled socialist state under longtime president Nicolae Ceauşescu, in power since 1965. The Romanian Communist Party (PCR) dominated life in the country, which enjoyed a relatively high standard of living until the 1980s, when Ceauşescu's grandiose building projects resulted in drastic food rationing rules and fuel shortages.

BaȈsescu joined the PCR, a move essential for any career advancement in Romania during the Ceauş-escu era. He spent five years as an officer, and in 1981 was made captain of an oil tanker, the Birun [H6031] a , that was the largest vessel in the Romanian fleet. In 1987, he was posted to Antwerp, Belgium, to run Navrom's foreign office in this North Sea-linked port city. He remained there until year that the Ceauşescu regime came to a violent 1989, the same year that the Ceausescu regime came to a violent but relatively swift end: in December of that year, the army fired on protesters in Timişoara, and Ceauşescu condemned the uprising as the work of foreign agents. A planned pro-Ceauşescu demonstration in Bucharest quickly erupted into an anti-government one; the military and Securitate (secret police) abandoned Ceauşescu, who was executed with his wife after a sham trial on Christmas Day.

A new political organization, the Frontul SalvaȈrii Na[H6031]ionale (National Salvation Front, or FSN), arose to fill the power vacuum, and BaȈsescu soon joined it. During that first year, he held a management position in the Romanian Ministry of Transportation, and in 1990 was named undersecretary of state in the Ministry's shipping department. In 1992, the FSN split in two, and one of the parties that came out of its ashes was the Social Democratic Party (PSD) of Romania. The PSD was led by Ion Iliescu, a high-ranking Communist official who had fallen out with the Ceauşescu regime some years earlier. BaȈsescu joined the other party that emerged from the split, the Democratic Party (PD) of Romania. In 1991 he became the country's Minister of Transportation, but it was a time when Romania was busy selling off its merchant fleet, and there were charges that BaȈsescu may have personally benefited from the sales he helped to arrange. He served in the cabinet until 1992, but was elected to Romania's parliament that same year.

The Dosarul Flota (Fleet Affair) became an increasingly prominent story in Romania's press in the mid-1990s, and an official investigation began. BaȈsescu took the unusual step of formally renouncing his parliamentary immunity in 1996. This meant that he could be fully investigated for his former role as Minister of Transportation, and was a clear effort to vindicate his name before the public. He was the first member of Romania's parliament ever to renounce his immunity. Re-elected that same year, he was named Minister for Transportation once again, a cabinet post he held for the next four years. In 2000, he entered the Bucharest mayor's race, and won by a narrow margin. He went on to achieve a number of notable reforms within the capital city, and improve the standard of living for its two million residents over the next four years. One of the city's more bizarre problems was a large stray-dog population that was estimated to be at least 150, 000 and perhaps as high as 300, 000 when he took office; some 1, 500 dog bites were reported daily. BaȈsescu enacted strong measures to reduce the population, but animal-rights activists, including 1950s French film star Brigitte Bardot, objected; he dismissed their complaints with the retort, "I am elected by the people of Bucharest, not the dogs, " according to Times correspondent Adam LeBor.

BaȈsescu was elected his party's president in 2001, and two years later was instrumental in forming the Alian [H6031] aDA (Justice and Truth Alliance) with another of Romania's political parties to oppose the PSD, which had been in power for much of the post-Communist era but was largely made up of former Communist elites. In 2004, he became the presidential candidate on the Alian[H6031]a DA ticket, and ran a campaign that urged voters to oust the former Communists. In the run-up to the election, BaȈsescu lagged in opinion polls, and his opponent Adrian NaȈstase—PSD leader as well as incumbent prime minister—took the first round of balloting. International observers, however, found multiple instances of vote fraud. A second round of voting was held on December 12 and judged by the monitors to have been more fairly conducted, and BaȈsescu won the presidency.

With his victory at the polls, BaȈsescu became the leader of the country's first genuinely truly non-Communist government since the World War II era. During his first months in office, he enacted a new flat tax in an attempt to curb Romania's thriving black-market economy, and met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush. With Romania scheduled to become a member of the European Union (EU) in 2007, there were several drastic reforms—some in the realm of justice and human rights, others economic—that the country would have to enact before formal entry into the EU, but BaȈsescu reassured Romanians and the rest of the world that he was ready to lead. "I've been the sea captain of large oil tankers, " a Newsweek International report from Andrei Postelnicu and Michael Meyer quoted him as saying, "and I always reach my destination."

Sources

Periodicals

BusinessWeek , December 17, 2001, p. 4.

Guardian (London, England), December 14, 2004, p. 13; December 15, 2004, p. 16.

New Statesman , January 31, 2005, p. 11.

Newsweek International , March 21, 2005, p. 20.

Times (London, England), December 14, 2004, p. 26.

Online

"Biography: Traian BaȈsescu, " President of Romania, http://www.presidency.ro/?_RID=htm…id= 4…lang=en (October 12, 2005).

Carol Brennan



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