Timisoara: Crucible of the Revolution Maps New Strategies

IN the face of the defeat that left opposition parties with almost no say in politics, members of the opposition Timisoara Society are rethinking their future strategy. ``We have to stop talking about politics and start making it - at the local levels. The village, the commune are where our efforts must start,'' says Doru Mihit, member of the Timisoara Society and editor of Timisoara, the most widely read opposition paper in the city.

The problem of how to reach the villages and communes has vexed the opposition throughout its campaign.

``We have to allow local institutions to become autonomous decisionmakers. Then people will follow,'' says Vasile Popvici, president of the Society of Timisoara and a City Council member.

``I think a great lesson learned from the electoral defeat is that we underestimated the fact that people for 45 years have not been thinking on their own. That explains partly why [Ion] Iliescu won 85 percent of the votes for the presidency. People must know they can think and act differently,'' says Mr. Mihit.

Timisoara dissidents say Romanians must come to understand that opposition is crucial to a well-balanced democracy.

Local elections must be scheduled by the new government. Many expect them to take place this fall.

``I am not that discouraged,'' says George Serban of the Timisoara Society. ``In six months, people will wake up because of the economic difficulties in the country. Our task right now is to give them enough of a sense of independence from Bucharest so that they can start thinking for themselves.''

It was last Dec. 16 that Timisoarans did just that.

Following the example set by their Eastern European neighbors, they took to the streets and started Romania's revolution.

The Timisoara Proclamation, written by members of the Timisoara Society and signed in March by prominent intellectuals across the country, later became the manifesto of the opposition during the electoral campaign.

The proclamation rallied demonstrators who besieged Bucharest University Square five weeks ago. They had promised themselves they wouldn't go home until at least one point became a reality - a ban on former nomenklatura members running for public office for 10 years.

But today, confrontation is no longer the plat du jour.

``We have to stop having people shout `down with communism,' and become active on issues such as justice and human rights,'' says Mr. Serban, one of the authors of the proclamation.

The Timisoara City Council has proposed a series of new projects to the central government in Bucharest: an income tax to help subsidize city transports for the elderly and the young, a tax-free zone for starting small enterprises, a local foreign trade institute, and a commercial bank independent of the capital's Ministry of Finance.

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