Romanians Rally on First Anniversary of Revolution
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) _ Romanians rallied on the first anniversary of the revolution that toppled Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, but the marches were tinged by frustrations over increasing economic hardships.
Rallies in Bucharest and Timisoara, the cradle of last year’s revolution, capped a week of protests against Ceausescu’s successors. Romanians are frustrated with the lack of improved living standards since 1989.
About 15,000 people gathered in Bucharest’s University Square, chanting slogans against President Ion Iliescu. Another 15,000 workers rallied in Timisoara, 300 miles northwest of the capital.
The two weeks prior to the revolution’s anniversary have been marked by strikes and protests against the National Salvation Front government.
The Front, which took power during the revolution and won subsequent May elections, faces sliding popularity over its plans to reform the economy that include raising prices on basic goods.
″Illiescu is a liar″ and ″He will fall, down, down, down,″ the Bucharest crowd chanted.
In an address Friday to Parliament, Iliescu said the government must press ahead with reforms, despite growing popular opposition.
″We must prove we are ready for ... democracy,″ Iliescu said, adding that 1991 would be ″a decisive year for all our reforms.″
On University Square, where police shot and killed demonstrators last Dec. 21, crowds knelt and lighted candles in memory of the uprising’s 1,039 dead.
After a minute of silence, the anti-government chants continued.
In Timisoara, protesters also chanted, ″Down with Iliescu″ and ″Down with communism.″
About 75,000 industrial workers in Timisoara, where the uprising began Dec. 16, 1989, have been on strike for a week. They rally daily in the city.
Other strikes have included more than 100,000 students and hundreds of professors. A protest by navigators at the Tarom state airline has paralyzed internal flights and stranded many international travelers.
Many Romanians are disillusioned with the results of the revolution, feeling little has changed in a country plagued by shortages. Critics also charge that Front leaders - many of them former Communists - still harbor authoritarian tendencies.
Echoing the battle cry directed at Ceausescu one year ago, the crowd in Bucharest chanted ″Timisoara, Timisoara.″ The bloody suppression of pro- democracy demonstrators began the popular unrest in Bucharest last year.
″A year ago the army, police and Securitate (secret police) made a pact with the devil to bring Iliescu to power,″ said one speaker at the Bucharest rally.
The square was ringed with blue police vans but no incidents were reported.
The large, open area between Bucharest University and the National Theater was where last year’s revolution took hold of the capital and protesters died challenging police and the army.
The next day, hundreds of thousands rallied in the streets of Bucharest, forcing Ceausescu and his wife Elena to flee. The couple was captured by the army and summarily tried and executed Dec. 25.
The square, which is also the capital’s central intersection, has since been the site of repeated anti-government protests, some ending in violent clashes with police.
Rally organizers said the demonstration would continue through the night until Saturday morning but many were disappointed by Friday’s turnout.
″We are so few because the government lies to people through television,″ said one woman. Others blamed the cold, snowy weather - a sharp contrast to spring-like days that preceded last year’s events.
At one point, the crowd began chanting ″Long live King Michael,″ referring to the Hohenzollern monarch, forced to abdicate by the Communists in 1946. He lives in exile in Switzerland.
His daughter, Princess Margarita, who watched Friday’s rally from a balcony of a luxury hotel overlooking the square, said she thought a restoration of constitutional monarchy in Romania was ″possible.″
″The people need a father, they need a figure, a symbol of unity,″ said Margarita, 40, in Romania on a three-week aid mission to orphanages and other charities.