Unrest in Romania

BY last Sunday, the angry Romanian coal miners that marched on Bucharest two weeks ago had all gone. Miners have been playing a powerful but uncertain role in Romanian politics - a crude and dangerous kind of participatory democracy with pitchforks.In the latest tempest, the miners hit town protesting deplorable working conditions, a lack of food, and the policies of the impoverished Romanian government. They trashed two palaces, left three police officers dead and hundreds wounded, and got Prime Minister Petre Roman to resign. Such actions, by themselves, cannot inspire confidence in the political process. Yet in a twist, the outcome of last month's crisis may prove salutory. Since the overthrow of Nicolae Ceausescu, what the West and the weak Romanian opposition have been most concerned about is the lock on power by the National Salvation Front (FSN), ruled by the old Ceausescu nomenklatura. But by booting out Mr. Roman and bringing on a coalition government led by new Prime Minister Theodor Stolojan, the FSN is being shaken up. Roman is the national leader of FSN, was the prime minister, and has much influence in parliament. He was not a man of the people - something Romania needs. He did not visit the villages, miners, and factories as President Ion Iliescu does. His ouster is a good sign. Romania needs a diffusion of power. It needs time to develop opposition leaders and politicians. Mr. Stolojan has the people's support, and he will need it. Romania is in a shambles economically. Inflation is 200 percent. Exports cover only 65 percent of imports. The shift to a more open and privatized society runs against years of socialist habits. The new coalition government must secure the confidence of the West and of its people. Steps to take include: Settling the question publicly of who was responsible for shooting some 1,000 persons in the December 1989 overthrow of Ceausescu. Continuing economic reform, though there's a price freeze on basic food and transportation. Ensuring that reform is based on the rule of law - which means fighting corruption. Playing ball with the European Community if it asks Romania to stop oil headed for Yugoslavia. Fair local elections, possibly this winter, are important to a multiparty Romania. Finally, the government must find a way to both check and reward the miners.

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