Romania far right gets taste of power

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EXTREME nationalists and hardline former Communists moved closer yesterday to gaining a share of power in Romania after the minority left-wing government bowed to months of pressure to form a coalition administration.

The ruling Party of Social Democracy of Romania (PSDR) said the coalition, to be formed by 1 March, would contain representatives of two ultra-nationalist and two pro-Communist parties with roots in the Ceausescu period.

The inclusion of these parties in Romania's government would underline the growing political influence of nationalists and former Communists in large parts of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. The rise of Romania's nationalists seems certain to increase tensions with Hungary, since the two countries have quarrelled repeatedly over the status of Romania's ethnic Hungarian minority since the 1989 anti-Communist revolutions.

The two nationalist parties expected to enter Romania's government are the Party of Romanian National Unity (PRNU) and the Greater Romania Party (GRP). The PRNU's leader is Gheorghe Funar, who as mayor of the Transylvanian capital of Cluj has pursued a policy of overt discrimination against the city's Hungarian population.

The GRP's leader, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, is a former 'court poet' to the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and makes no secret of his virulent anti-Semitic obsessions. Last April, in an open letter to President Ion Iliescu, Mr Tudor wrote: 'Jews give you orders. Jews brought you to power and keep you at the top, at the price of ruining Romania.'

The other two parties on the verge of government are the Socialist Labour Party and the Democratic Agrarian Party, both of which are dominated by former Communists. In fact, an element of nationalism and nostalgia for the Ceausescu period is common to the programmes of all four parties poised to enter the new PSDR-led coalition.

The government crisis has coincided with rising labour unrest over unemployment, officially projected at 12-14 per cent this year, and inflation, which is running at 300 per cent a year and is the highest in the ex-Communist world outside the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. About one million workers held a one-hour strike last week, and trade unions have threatened to hold an indefinite general strike later this month.