An ongoing battle between the prime minister and the president amid a tanking economy has left many Romanians longing for a return to communism because they think the democratic and free-market reforms of the past two decades have failed. They view communism as a system that guaranteed stability and safety, said Lucian Boia, author of the book “History and Myth in the Romanian Consciousness.”
“Today, Romania has become unpredictable. Those who care more about safety than about freedom end up looking back nostalgically,” he said. More than 53 percent of Romanians last month told the Public Affairs polling agency that they would prefer to live once again under the regime of Nicolae Ceausescu [...]
With the fall of communism, a free-market economy offered opportunities to create wealth, but it also spawned a culture of capitalist corruption. “Everyone tried to recover the lost time, to fend for themselves and make a fortune at the expense of others, who remained in poverty,” said Mr. Boia, whose book deals with how Romanians view the history of the 19th and 20th centuries.
Analysts say that across the former Soviet bloc, corruption of a new order took hold. It was not the petty exchange of gifts and bribes to access goods and services that were not freely available under the communist regime. The new graft began with newly formed political parties doling out public contracts in exchange for campaign funding.
“People feel that economic growth and transformation benefited only a few — those who are close to the decision-making circles,” said Miklos Marschall, deputy director of Transparency International.
“The elites – with a few exceptions – were too short-sighted, were busy in power struggles, and some key reforms have not been introduced. Some privatizations [of state-owned enterprises] have been done in a corrupt manner, not openly and not based on competition.”
The corruption has contributed to a sharp divide between rich and poor, visible everywhere, especially on the country roads where luxury cars encounter old horse-drawn carriages. New glass buildings rise next to half-collapsed houses. The capital, Bucharest, boasts dozens of high-end designer stores, although the country’s gross domestic product per capita is $12,600 annually.