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The Return of Populism ‐ The 2000 Romanian Elections

  • Alina Mungiu‐Pippidi (a1)
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During The Years Immediately Following The Fall Of The Ceausescu regime in 1989, Romania fulfilled the requirements of an ‘electoral democracy’. Free and reasonably fair elections regularly produced parliaments (1990, 1992) and governments dominated by the communist successor parties run by Ion Iliescu, a member of the old nomenklatura. Once elected, these institutions operated in principle within the framework of procedural democracy, but in practice often broke the rules and norms accepted in the West as characteristic of liberal democracy. When this occurred public opinion was either too weak, or divided, or simply too indifferent to demand more accountability. Further impoverishment of the poorest citizens due to mismanagement of the economy and rampant corruption contributed to the demise of the post-communist regime in 1996, which in turn led to the hope that with electoral democracy established, the development of democratic institutions and government accountability would follow.

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1 The term was coined by Larry Diamond.

2 See for further details my review of Romanian press coverage of the Kosovo war in Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, ‘The War that Never Was’, East European Constitutional Review(Summer 1999).

3 All the surveys quoted were carried out in 2000 by the Centre for Urban Sociology (CURS), the partner polling institute of the Romanian Academic Society. These analyses are based on the electoral forecasts and polls released by the Romanian Academic Society’s Centre for Political Communication run by the present writer. Besides the surveys quoted individually the analysis is based on a two-wave panel survey designed by the Centre for Political Communication and conducted by CURS in the first and last week of the electoral campaign.

4 We built a factor score by principal component analysis from the self-assessed preference for i) majority system with one candidate against proportional with party list; ii) organizing a popular vote on every important policy of the government; iii) governing only in accordance with the public opinion as expressed in the polls. We used the resulting factor as a dependent variable that we tried to explain. The explanatory power of the variables tested as predictors was compared according to the amount of variance when tested separately by adding them to a basic social status model. The database comes from a March 2000 survey.

5 This argument was discussed at length in my book on the Romanian political culture after Communism: Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, Die Rumanen nach ’89, Resita, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Verlag, 1996.

6 Based on a March 2000 Freedom House sponsored survey by the Romanian Academic Society and CURS. We used a probability sample of 1,237 respondents selected from age 18 and a multi-stage random cluster design with administrative units stratified regionally.

7 The exit poll by CURS was commissioned and broadcast by PROTV, a major TV network. The sample was representative for the constituency, consisting of 15,000 adults over 18 years of age and predicted with a low margin of error (1.8%) the results of the counted vote.

8 Poll by SAR-CURS in the Romanian Parliament, May 2000.

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Government and Opposition
  • ISSN: 0017-257X
  • EISSN: 1477-7053
  • URL: /core/journals/government-and-opposition
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