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Ion Iliescu

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Ion Iliescu

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Office: President of Romania
Term of Office:

22 December, 198929 November, 1996
20 December, 200020 December, 2004

Predecessor: Nicolae Ceauşescu (1st time)
Emil Constantinescu (2nd time)
Successor:

Emil Constantinescu (1st time)
Traian Băsescu (2nd time)

Date of Birth: Monday, 3 March, 1930
Place of Birth: Olteniţa
Marriage: Elena (Nina) Şerbănescu
Profession: Hydrologist
Political Party: Social Democrat

Ion Ilici Iliescu (born March 3, 1930) is a Romanian politician. He was the President of Romania for eleven years, from 1990 to 1996, and 2000 to 2004. His final term ended in December 2004, and his successor is Democrat leader Traian Băsescu. Currently, Ion Iliescu is a Senator from PSD party.

Contents

Family background

His paternal grandfather, Vassili Ivanovich, was a Bolshevik Russian that was wanted by the Tsarist police. He settled in Olteniţa and changed his name to Iliescu.

His father, Alexandru Iliescu, was a railroad worker with Communist views back in the days when in Romania, the Communist Party was rather unpopular and declared illegal. In 1931, he went to the Soviet Union to participate to the Communist Party Congress of Gorikovo, near Moscow. He stayed in the Soviet Union for four years and after returning he was arrested and died in prison in 1945. His father divorced from his mother and remarried with Mariţa, a chambermaid.

Early life

Born in Olteniţa, he studied electrical engineering at the Bucharest Polytechnic Institute and then as a foreign student at the Moscow University. He joined the Uniunea Tineretului Comunist - "UTC" (Union of Communist Youth) in 1944 and made a career in the Communist nomenklatura, becoming a secretary of the Central Committee of the Union of Communist Youth in 1956 and a member of the Comitetul Central (Central Committee) of the Romanian Communist Party in 1965. He served as Minister of the Youth Problems in 1967.

However, in 1971, he was marginalized by Nicolae Ceauşescu and he was sacked from all his political functions and assigned as a party secretary in Timişoara (in 1971) and then in Iaşi (in 1974). Between 1984 and 1989 he was the director of the Editura Tehnică (Technical Publishing House).

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Iliescu during the revolution
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Iliescu and George W. Bush

After the 1989 revolution

Iliescu was the main political profiteer of the revolution that overthrew Nicolae Ceauşescu in December 1989, as he assumed leadership.

Being the leader of the provisional government, Iliescu declared that he wishes that Romanian adopts an "original democracy", as opposed to the communist system and the western-style democracy.

The National Salvation Front (FSN: Frontul Salvării Naţionale) was originally meant to be organizing the free legislative elections on 20 May 1990 and afterward be disbanded, but eventually run in the elections it organized and won with over 85% of the votes.

He was a founding member of the National Salvation Front and followed it in its vagaries: FDSN (Frontul Democrat al Salvării Naţionale), then the Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR), then the Social Democratic Party (PSD) (see Social Democratic Party of Romania).

Under the pressure of the events that led to the mineriads, his political convictions have superficially changed with the times, from a staunch proponent of communism to that of a neophyte social democrat.

The new Constitution was adopted in 1991 and in 1992 he won a second term when he obtained 61% of the votes. He ran for a third time in 1996 but lost to Emil Constantinescu.

In the 2000 presidential election Iliescu ran again and won in the run-off against the nationalist Corneliu Vadim Tudor and began his third term on December 20 of that year, which ended on 20 December 2004.

At the elections of PSD of 21 April 2005, Iliescu lost the presidency of PSD to Mircea Geoană.

Controversies

Mineriads

He was responsible for calling the miners of Jiu Valley to Bucharest on 28 January and June 14, 1990 to end the protests against the ex-communist leaders of Romania (the Golaniad). This ended in violence, as the miners armed with clubs attack the protesters and trashed the headquarters of the opposition parties.

He later thanked them: "I thank you [miners] for all you've done these past few days, in general for your attitude of high civic conscience".

According to his lawyer and the military prosecutor Voinea, Ion Iliescu has been recently placed under criminal law investigation with regard to the events that occurred in June, 1990 in Bucharest.

Constitution violations

Held three terms in office (four, if we count the one between December 1989 and June 1990), although the Constitution does not allow this -- he argued that his first term was before the constitution was adopted.

In the 2004 electoral campaign he actively supported the PSD and its candidate Adrian Năstase, although that is a violation of the Romanian Constitution, which requires the President of Romania to be apolitical. He replied to these accusation that he is "the president of Romania, not Switzerland to be neutral".

Alleged KGB connections

In 1995, the Ziua newspaper published an interview with an ex-KGB officer in which he declared that Ion Iliescu was a member of the KGB. Iliescu denied any involvement and Ziua journalists began to investigate this in detail. However, a few days later, some journalists of the Ziua discovered they were being watched by the Romanian Intelligence Service -- the official explanation was that the secret service was in fact watching a spy that lived nearby.

The scandal on his alleged connections continued in 2003, when Russian dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, who was granted access to the Soviet archives declared that Iliescu and most of the FSN members were KGB agents, that he knew Mikhail Gorbachev since the time he studied in Moscow and that the Romanian revolution of 1989 was a plot organized by the KGB in order to gain control of the country that distanced itself from the Soviet Union during Ceauşescu's rule.

Pardons

On 15 December, few days before the end of Office, he pardoned Miron Cozma, the leader of the miners during the Mineriads of the early 1990s, who was sentenced in 1999 to 18 years in prison in conjunction with the 1991 mineriad. This has attracted harsh criticism from all Romanian media. The US ambassador has called it a "surprising and worrying act".

For the pardon to be legal, it had to be countersigned by Adrian Nastase, the incumbent Prime Minster, however, when asked by the press, he first said that he didn't know anything about the pardon, then said he didn't agree with it and that his signature was just a formality. Upon returning from Brussels, he and Iliescu said that he wasn't aware of what he was signing and that he trusted the President enough to sign the papers without reading them.

Iliescu's party, the Social Democrat Party, said they cannot be associated with the President's decision, neither constitutionally, nor politically. Furthermore, they do not support the decision and ask for its revocation, a position also adopted by Adrian Nastase. Finance Minister and Social Democrat Party vice-president, Mihai Tănăsescu said he will resign from the party if Iliescu returns as president of the party early next year, after finishing his last term as President of Romania.

Also pardoned other 46 convicted criminals, most controversial being:

On 17 December, Iliescu and Adrian Nastase, while still in Brussels, 'signed' a revocation of the pardon. Due to the fact that in order for it to be legal it had to be the original, handwritten document, press speculated it was signed even before the two left for Brussels. According to legal experts, however, the revocation was not legal, as an individual act can be revoked as long as it did not take effect, in this case, as long as the convicts were not released. This would equate with a person being convicted twice. This legal opinion prevailed in courts as on June 2005, Miron Cozma was freed from prison on the basis of Ion Iliescu's pardon.

Miron Cosma was detained minutes after the presidential spokeswoman announced the President's intention, first because he wasn't carrying an ID and then sent to Bucharest because "there are documents there regarding his detention". Finally, the official statement is that he was being detained in connection to crimes he committed while in prison, along with the same person that picked him up when he was first released, Fane Spoitoru.

The EU Delegation's head in Bucharest, Jonathan Scheele, said "I'm as surprised of the President's last decision too!". Internally, the pardon may have had far worse consequences, as the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania condemned the pardon and stopped talks with the Social Democrat Party for forming a parliamentary majority.

In 2002, Iliescu signed a pardon for George Tănase, former Financial Guard head commissary for Ialomiţa convicted for corruption, only to revoke it days later due to the media outcry.

Another controversial pardon was that of Dan Tartagă a businessman from Braşov that, while drunk, ran over and killed two people on a zebra crossing. He was sentenced to three years and a half but was pardoned after only a couple of months. He is currently executing a two year sentence for fraud.

On account of revoking pardons, one has to notice that it is not legally possible to issue a new presidential edict that would revoke the previous one as the Constitution of Romania and criminal laws for that matter do not allow it.

Others

In the last days of his President mandate, he awarded the National Order "Steaua Romāniei" (knighthood) to the nationalist politician Corneliu Vadim Tudor, which drew lots of criticism in the press and prompted Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, 15 Radio Free Europe journalists, Timişoara mayor Gheorghe Ciuhandu, song writer Alexandru Andries and historian Randolph Braham to return their awards in protest. Leader of Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, Marko Bela didn't show up to claim his award.

Quotes

  • "You, animal !" Iliescu shouting at a press journalist in Constanta
  • "The lawyer is the devil's judge. Lawyers' profession is one of private interests not of morality. He is paid, he pleads for his clients. Such is the logic and morality of a lawyer." Ion Iliescu, trying to defend his own lawyer on June 9, 2005. [1] (http://www.ziua.net/display.php?id=14698&data=2005-06-10) - in Romanian

See also

External links

Further reading

Template:Presidents of Romaniade:Ion Iliescu es:Ion Iliescu fr:Ion Iliescu nl:Ion Iliescu no:Ion Iliescu pl:Ion Iliescu ro:Ion Iliescu

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