Romania Approves New Leftist Party

By Alexandru Alexe, Associated Press, Thursday 28 December 2000, 8:20 PM ET

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP)—Romania's parliament on Thursday easily approved a new leftist minority government that has pledged free market reforms and expanded social welfare.

Legislators voted 314-145 to back former Foreign Minister Adrian Nastase, who heads the leftist Party of Social Democracy, as prime minister. Nastase's party won 37 percent support in Nov. 26 parliamentary elections.

He won when three centrist parties backed his candidacy on condition his government proceed with economic and democratic reforms needed to join the European Union (news—web sites) and NATO (news—web sites).

Leftist President Ion Iliescu, who was elected in a Dec. 10 runoff vote, had asked Nastase to try to form a minority government.

He was opposed by some members of the ultranationalist Greater Romania Party led by Corneliu Vadim Tudor, which holds one-fourth of seats in parliament.

Nastase, 50, has promised to boost the economy by offering tax cuts to business, fight corruption, reduce bureaucracy and provide a more stable legal environment.

Romania lags other former Communist countries in implementing social and economic reforms. The average monthly wage is only about $100 and annual inflation reached about 40 percent this year.

Nastase, a law professor, has promised to bring Romania into the European Union and NATO, and to work with international organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation (news—web sites) in Europe to promote human rights and democracy.

Despite differences with the leftists, the centrist Democratic Party, Liberal Party and Democratic Union of Hungarians gave Nastase their support partly in an effort to curb the influence of the extremist Greater Romania Party. The three centrist parties have 27 percent of the seats in parliament.