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The National Salvation Front (Romanian: Frontul Salvării Naţionale, FSN; perhaps better translated National Rescue Front) was the governing body of Romania in the first weeks after the Romanian Revolution of 1989, subsequently turned into a political party. FSN is the common root of two of the three largest political parties in Romania today: the Social Democratic Party (PSD) and the Democratic Liberal Party (PD-L).

Contents

History

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Creation and rise to power

In March 1989 six prominent members of the Communist Party wrote an open letter to Romanian Communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu that criticised his abuses of power and his economic policies. The so-called "letter of the six" was circulated in the Western media and read on Radio Free Europe, where it was described as the manifesto of an underground organisation called the National Salvation Front (FSN).

The creation of the FSN was officially announced to the public by Ion Iliescu in radio and TV addresses on December 22, 1989, after the overthrow of Ceauşescu, and took the power from the Communist authorities. Within four days, the FSN formed an interim government, Ion Iliescu being the president and Petre Roman as the interim Prime Minister.[1] The initial membership of FSN came from diverse backgrounds: intellectuals, students, army officers, but the leaders were mostly former communist officials (see List of members of the National Salvation Front Council).[2]

Interim government

On December 27, FSN decreed the abolishment of the one-party system and the convocation of elections.[3] Shortly after, the two most important pre-Communist Romanian parties, the National Peasants' Party (PNŢCD) and the National Liberal Party (PNL), were registered.

At first, the FSN announced that it is not a party and it would not nominate candidates in the upcoming elections.[4] Silviu Brucan launched the concept of the big party and supported the transformation of FSN into a political party.[5] Some members of FSN, like Dumitru Mazilu, Mircea Dinescu, Ion Caramitru, Andrei Pleşu, Dan Hăulică, Gabriel Liiceanu, Doina Cornea resigned before FSN became a political party.[6][7]

On February 6, 1990, the FSN, transformed itself into a political party, in order to be able to run in the upcoming elections. Except for a few newspapers, FSN had extensive control over the Romanian mass-media, particularly the state owned television company.[8]

Anti-FSN demonstrations were mounted by the opposition parties PNŢCD and PNL in late January and late February 1990, that degenerated into violence against state authorities. In turn, Iliescu called on the 'working class' to support the FSN against what he called "fascist forces, trying to destabilise the country". This has resulted in what were named the first and second Mineriads.

However FSN agreed to allow other parties to participate in the provisional government. The new governing body, the Provisional National Unity Council (Consiliul Provizoriu de Uniune Naţională, CPUN), still dominated by FSN, would run the country from early February 1990 until the elections.[9]

Another, much larger, demonstration (the Golaniad) against FSN's participation in the elections was organised in April 1990 and lasted 52 days, until June 13–15, when it was violently repressed by the third Mineriad.[10]

First elected government

According to Steven Roper, the FSN had strong support among the peasants and the urban industrial workers, while the PNL and PNŢCD had strong support among the intellectuals.[11]

Since the opposition had no access to the state-owned media, the FSN needed no specific program in order to win the elections, being a catch-all party.[12]

FSN and its candidate Ion Iliescu comfortably won the legislative and presidential elections on May 20, 1990, obtaining a majority in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. Petre Roman remained Prime Minister, and its government started cautious economic reforms.

Breakup

After growing tensions between Iliescu and Roman, on April 7, 1992, Iliescu and many other members left the FSN and created the Democratic National Salvation Front (Frontul Democrat al Salvării Nationale, FDSN), which eventually developed to the current Social Democratic Party (Partidul Social Democrat, PSD).

Petre Roman remained leader of the FSN. On May 28, 1993, the party was renamed Democratic Party - National Salvation Front (Partidul Democrat - Frontul Salvării Naţionale, PD-FSN), before shortening its name to Democratic Party (PD).

Legacy

In one way or another, the National Salvation Front had and still has a major impact on the post-1989 Romanian politics. The parties that emerged from the National Salvation Front (the Social Democratic Party and the Democratic Party) governed or participated in government coalitions from 1990 until today. Also the current Romanian President Traian Băsescu entered politics as an FSN member and served as Minister of Transportation in several FSN governments. It is worth quoting what Băsescu (from the Democratic Party) remarked rhetorically in a live TV debate with Adrian Năstase (from the Social Democratic Party) before the 2004 run-off presidential election:

"You know what Romania's greatest curse is right now? It's that Romanians have to choose between two former Communist Party members."

Election results

Chamber of deputies

Year Votes Percentage Seats Percentage of seats
1990 9,089,659 66.31% 263 66.41%
1992 1,108,500 10.19% 43 13.11%

Senate

Year Votes Percentage Seats Percentage of seats
1990 9,353,006 67.02% 91 76.47%
1992 1,139,033 10.38% 18 12.58%

Notes

  1. ^ Roper, p.65-66
  2. ^ Roper, p.66
  3. ^ Roper, p.66
  4. ^ Roper, p.66
  5. ^ Vladimir Tismăneanu, Dubioasa convertire a lui Silviu Brucan ("The Dubious Conversion of Silviu Brucan"), in Revista 22, September 29, 2006
  6. ^ Pamfletarul Dinescu agită apele din Alianţă, Evenimentul Zilei, May 8, 2006
  7. ^ "Doina Cornea s-a retras din Consiliul Naţional al F.S.N." ("Doina Cornea has resigned from the National Council of the F.S.N."), România Liberă, 24 January 1990
  8. ^ Roper, p.66
  9. ^ Roper, p.66
  10. ^ Roper, p.68
  11. ^ Roper, p.67
  12. ^ Roper, p.68

References

  • Steven D. Roper, Romania: The Unfinished Revolution, Routledge, 2000, ISBN 9058230279

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