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Tuesday, 28 November, 2000, 00:54 GMT
Romania's far-right contender
Corneliu Vadim Tudor
Nationalist Corneliu Vadim Tudor has made big gains
By Nick Thorpe in Bucharest

Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the leader of the extreme nationalist Greater Romania Party, which came second in Sunday's elections has cause to regret a speech he made on 28 August 1998.

"In the present circumstances, when the police and judiciary are against the citizens instead of defending them, it is clear that Romania is an ungovernable country," he said.

Yes, I am a be a nationalist means to love your country

Corneliu Vadim Tudor
Greater Romania Party

"The disaster is so awful," he concluded, "we are afraid that the only way to rule Romania is with an automatic rifle."

But in the last days of the election campaign, he toned down his rhetoric and even denied uttering such words.

This backfired when the popular tabloid Evenimentul Zilei reprinted the speech in full on its front page, under a banner headline Corneliu Vadim Tudor lies like automatic fire.

'Yes, I am a nationalist'

In another speech, Mr Tudor called for "the dictatorship of the law".

Corneliu Vadim Tudor
Corneliu Tudor: 'harmless clown' or extremist threat ?
He told the BBC: "Yes, I am a nationalist. I'm a Romanian be a nationalist means to love your fatherland."

Such sentiments have done much to establish his reputation and his popularity among part of the population as a man who will re-establish law and order.

Assessments of Mr Tudor, 50 years old and an accomplished poet, vary from "harmless clown" to "the man who could single-handedly create ethnic strife in Romania".

He now stands an outside chance of becoming the next president, in a run-off with former Communist Ion Iliescu on 10 December.

All political parties in Romania now have an obligation to isolate (Mr Tudor) and his party

Gyorgy Frunda
Democratic Alliance of Hungarians
Even if he does not win that race, his Greater Romania Party will be the second largest in the new Parliament.

On Sunday he polled 29% in the first round of the presidential election compared with 4% in 1996.

Perhaps most surprisingly, the greater part of those who voted for him are young.

One third of the 18-to-34 age group voted for him in this election, according to a study carried out among voters by the Insomar public opinion research agency.

He also won a clear majority in the province of Transylvania, which is home to Romania's large Hungarian minority, whom he frequently attacks for their alleged "disloyalty" to Romania.

Minorities worried

"I am worried by the high score Mr Vadim Tudor achieved," said Gyorgy Frunda, presidential candidate of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians.

Ion Iliescu
Ion Iliescu's Socialist Party has a chequered track record in office
"All political parties in Romania now have an obligation to isolate him and his party," he added.

One unexpected result of the strong showing of the nationalists, may be to push the other winners of the election, the leftist Party of Social Democracy, led by Ion Iliescu, towards the political centre.

They too have had a serious image problem in the West, after failing to make much progress with privatisation when they last ruled the country from 1990 - 1996.

Their leaders are now desperate to show that theirs is the human face of capitalism in Romania, while Mr Tudor is its mask.

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27 Nov 00 | Europe
Election polarises Romania
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