Ion Diaconescu: Dissident who aided Romania's move to democracy

Ion Diaconescu, the former leader of Romania's National Peasants' Party, survived 17 years' internment as a political prisoner and years of persecution under President Ceausescu's dictatorship. He remained true to his ideological principles to help push his country towards democracy following the 1989 revolution. A consensus seeker, Diaconescu was respected even by his rivals and seen as guided by principles rather than personal interest.

The son of an orthodox Romanian priest, Ion Diaconescu was born in 1917 in Botesti, a village about 100 miles north-west of Bucharest. He had political pedigree: he was the nephew of Ion Mihalache, who founded the Peasant Party after the First World War. With the unification of Romania and Transylvania in 1926, the Peasant Party merged with the Transylvanian National Party to form the National Peasants' Party (NPT), a party that Diaconescu would dedicate his life to.

In 1936 Diaconescu joined the youth wing of the NPT and quickly became a member of the Central Bureau. After graduating in engineering from Bucharest Polytechnic Institute in 1942, he worked in a government department until 1947, when he was dismissed on political grounds. The incoming Soviet-aligned Communist regime under Constantin Parhon had declared the NPT illegal and rounded up Diaconescu and other political activists. A military tribunal sentenced him to 15 years' hard labour.

Altogether Diaconescu spent 17 years in prison, initially working in the lead and copper mines and then surviving some of the regime's most notorious prisons, along with his fellow activist Corneliu Coposu. Unlike tens of thousands of his compatriots, he survived the gulags and was finally released in 1964 as part of an amnesty programme for political prisoners in response to US pressure when Romania was trying to loosen ties with its Eastern puppet-masters.

Diaconescu secured work as an engineer until 1980, with a state-run lift company. Although he was free in name, state police were omnipresent. "All our movements were supervised by the Securitate," he recalled. "Every house had microphones installed. At our workplaces we would have God knows how many informers. Our houses were searched all the time." By 1989, according to the Council for Studies of the Archives of the Former Securitate, one in three Romanians was a Securitate informant, but, Diaconescu remained in contact with Coposu and other former PNT leaders.

With the collapse of Ceausescu's regime in 1989, Diaconescu and Coposu helped re-establish the centre-right Peasants' Party, calling for its legalisation. The PNT quickly merged with the nucleus of another party to form the Christian Democratic National Peasant Party (PNTCD). Between 1990-95, Diaconescu became deputy leader until the death of Coposu, when he took over the leadership until 2000. Diaconescu was also speaker of the Parliament's Chamber of Deputies from 1996 to 2000 and headed the Democratic Convention, a loose governing coalition, but stricken by infighting the party declined in popularity.

As leader, Diaconescu called for the full restitution of property confiscated by the Communists, the removal of former Party activists from all public offices, mass privatisation, membership of the European Union and Nato and the return of the monarchy. Little of this political programme has been achieved; one explanation is perhaps the inability of a society, which has spent almost five decades under dictatorship, to find its way back to normality.

In 2011, Diaconescu criticised his own PNTCD, saying that it should be re-launched under the leadership of the former Prime Minister, Victor Ciorbea. Diaconescu withdrew from politics following the death of his wife. His memoirs came in three volumes: Prison – our generation's destiny (1998), After the Prison (2003) and After the Revolution (2003).

Ion Diaconescu, politician and dissident: born Botesti, Romania 25 August 1917; married Jeni (died 2010); died Bucharest 18 October 2011.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Sport
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk