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Monday, 19 June, 2000, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Romanian leftists appear to make gains
Romanians queueing
Romanians have seemingly rejected the current government
By Nick Thorpe in Bucharest

Preliminary results in the Romanian local elections suggest that the leftist opposition Party of Social Democracy has made sweeping gains across the country, defeating candidates of the ruling centrist Democratic Convention in many key towns.

One important consequence of the result will be its impact on laws to return land and property to hundreds of thousands of Romanians dispossessed under the Communist system.

The government is now trying to push through another law, on housing and property, and begin putting it into practice before the Autumn.

The local election result will make that more difficult, as the Party of Social Democracy opposes important clauses of both laws.

The Party of Social Democracy is the main successor to the Communist party, which ruled Romania from 1947 until its violent overthrow in 1989.

It held power from 1990 to 1996, when it lost local, parliamentary and presidential elections to centrist and centre-right parties.

Defeats avenged

The local election results show the party has already begun to avenge those defeats, a process it hopes to continue in the parliamentary and presidential elections due this Autumn.

Despite its good showing, the party narrowly failed to win the post of mayor in Bucharest, where its candidate, surgeon Sorin Oprescu, appears to have lost by a hair's-breadth to the current transport minister, Traian Basescu.

The local election results will affect the implementation of two crucial laws affecting rural and urban property.

A law passed last December allows the partial return of arable and forest land to owners dispossessed by the Communists.

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See also:

22 Dec 99 | Europe
Romanians' snub to history
22 Dec 99 | Europe
Romania's bloody revolution
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