Last Updated: Thursday, 14 December 2017, 13:52 GMT

Nations in Transit 2009 - Romania

Publisher Freedom House
Author Alina Mungiu-Pippidi
Publication Date 30 June 2009
Cite as Freedom House, Nations in Transit 2009 - Romania, 30 June 2009, available at: [accessed 14 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

by Alina Mungiu-Pippidi

Capital: Bucharest
Population: 21.5 million
GNI/capita: US$12,350

The data above was provided by The World Bank, World Bank Indicators 2009.

Nations in Transit Ratings and Averaged Scores

Electoral Process2.753.003.002.752.752.752.752.752.752.50
Civil Society3.
Independent Media3.503.503.503.753.754.004.003.753.753.75
National Democratic Governancen/an/an/an/an/a3.503.503.503.753.75
Local Democratic Governancen/an/an/an/an/a3.
Judicial Framework and Independence4.
Democracy Score3.543.673.713.633.583.393.393.293.363.36

* Starting with the 2005 edition, Freedom House introduced separate analysis and ratings for national democratic governance and local democratic governance to provide readers with more detailed and nuanced analysis of these two important subjects.

NOTE: The ratings reflect the consensus of Freedom House, its academic advisers, and the author(s) of this report. The opinions expressed in this report are those of the author(s). The ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of democratic progress and 7 the lowest. The Democracy Score is an average of ratings for the categories tracked in a given year.

Executive Summary

After lagging behind the Central European countries for most of its transition due to a hesitant break with its Communist past, on January 1st, 2007 Romania succeeded in becoming a member of the European Union. Disappointment followed fast as the governing center-right coalition disintegrated in 2007, and ministers who had led the process of EU accession were pushed aside. Since mid-2005 Romania's political life was effectively deadlocked in a conflict between Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu and President Traian Basescu, and ended with Tariceanu losing office in the 2008 legislative elections. For most of 2008, Tariceanu's minority liberal government, with less than a quarter of seats in Parliament, has resisted the party of former President Ion Iliescu (1990-1996, 2000-2004).

In 2008 Romania held key elections with a new and original electoral system replacing proportional, list-based voting. Over the course of the past 18 years, the former electoral system had managed to consolidate the vibrant party system developed after the revolution to only five parties. High levels of foreign investment contributed to the growth of Romania's economy by more than 5 percent

National Democratic Governance. 2008 did not bring spectacular changes to Romania's system of national democratic governance. The minority coalition brought continuous policy instability, with bills involving high spending being proposed and adopted by Parliament. As Romania lacked an alternative political majority, the year was quite stable, and the Tariceanu government was never endangered by the acts of the political opposition. Due to the lack of evolution in the process of policy formulation, which remains erratic and informal, the country's national democratic governance rating stagnates at 3.75.

Electoral Process. A new electoral system was tested in local and legislative elections in 2008. The introduction of single unit constituencies brought about some gerrymandering, but otherwise elections were held without major incidents. Although the results were close, there were no attempts to manipulate the election outcomes, and a new government coalition was formed with relative ease. Due to improvements in Romania's electoral system, and the free and fair conduct of elections in 2008, the electoral process rating improves from 2.75 to 2.50.

Civil Society. Romania's civil society continued to follow the negative trends of the previous year as cooptation and intimidation of the most vocal NGOs continued. Parliament adopted a bill in 2008 to enable the closing down of a few established NGOs. Some grassroots development can be reported in the fields of environment and heritage, where civic participation had been traditionally low. Due to the continuation of the negative trends noted in 2007, and legislation specifically working against the development of civil society, Romania's civil society rating worsens from 2.25 to 2.50.

Independent Media. The interference of business interests hindered the full functioning of free media in Romania for yet another year. Members of Parliament (MPs) tried unsuccessfully to introduce legislation to censor media content. As a result, Romania's rating for independent media stagnates at 3.75.

Local Democratic Governance. There was little improvement in the local governance of Romania in 2008. Local elections, despite a new system of electing county presidents, did not bring a major step forward; the central government returned to discretionary funds allocation practices. The return of discretionary central government transfers persisted, keeping Romania's local democratic governance ratings at 3.00.

Judicial Framework and Independence. Romania received criticism from the European Commission in 2008 for unsatisfactory fulfillment of accession commitments. Criticism was particularly directed at the Supreme Council of Magistracy (SCM) for failing to effectively ensure accountability of the magistrates' body. Although a new Minister of Justice was appointed in 2008, commitment to reform remains doubtful, as the new minister recommended a candidate without any credentials to replace Romania's embattled chief prosecutor, Daniel Morar. The judicial framework and independence rating for Romania remains at 4.00.

Corruption. Romania's anticorruption efforts were seriously hindered in 2008 by Parliament's efforts to reinstate immunity for ministers who also enjoy MP status. Many candidates in local and legislative elections, including some members of the government personally profited from abusing their positions. Several politicians tried to curtail the powers of the anticorruption agency and sack Chief Prosecutor Morar, but the President and Constitutional Court have prevented such efforts thus far. Romania's rating for corruption holds steady at 4.00.

Outlook for 2009. Romania will hold European elections in June 2009, and presidential elections in November. It is likely that the presidential elections will dominate the agenda of the year. While President Traian Basescu continues to be the most popular Romanian politician, as the economic situation worsens, the crisis proves may prove the chief challenger of President Basescu's second term.

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