Romania's ruling 'dynasty' expands

The Ceausescu family "dynasty" has taken a further step in consolidating its power with the announcement that Elena Ceausescu, wife of the Romanian President , had been appointed a first deputy prime minister.

At the same time the Ceausescus' 27-year-old son Nicolae (Nicu), was named a secretary of the Romanian parliament. He was once a Communist youth leader and was elected a candidate member of the party's Central Committee last November.

Politically, the whole Ceausescu family has been in the ascendant for some years. The President's brother-in-law, Vasile Barbulescu, became a full member of the Central Committee at the November congress.

His brother Ion -- a deputy minister of agriculture -- was elected to one of the main party commissions. Another brother, Maj. Gen. Ilie Ceausescu, has a senior post in the political council of the Army.

Mrs. Ceausescu's brother, Gheorghe Petrescu, is a member of both the Central Committee and the government.

At the start of the 1970s Mrs. Ceausescu was unknown nationally except as the President's wife. She was a surprise election to the party committee in 1972, but has climbed so rapidly that she now holds a key post in the permanent organization: She heads the commission that screens all state and party appointments of any significance.

On the eve of the November congress, it was widely and credibly reported that she was to be formally acknowledged as standing next in party ranking only to her husband.

But this did not transpire, presumably because of the totally unexpected and unprecedented attack on the "Ceausescu cult" by Constantin Pirvulescu, one of the oldest vetran members of the party and its former leadership.

The setback -- if it was a setback -- was brief. Mrs. Ceausescu's new appointment March 29 gives her a power base in government comparable to the one she already held in the party.

Her influence in all Romanian affairs was underlined by the celebration of her birthday in January. There were numerous flattering tributes -- in sculptures, portraits in oil and tapestry, and lyrical verse -- as adulatory as those showered on her husband after he was re-elected party leader a few weeks earlier.

Mrs. Ceausescu is now one of three first deputy premiers. But her position is so powerful that she appears destined to be the most influential. It seems likely that in due course she will become prime minister.

Many ordinary Romanian citizens as well as party members and officials are beginning to find the growth of a Ceausescu cult distasteful.

Of course, such criticism is not heard publicly. It cannot be. But many believe the lone critical voice of Mr. Pirvulescu at the November congress was only the tip of a big iceberg.

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