chapter  9
23 Pages

The “waiting room”: Romanian parliament after 1989

ByLAURENŢIU ŞTEFAN, RĂZVAN GRECU

Introduction Parliamentary democracy was brought back to life by the Romanian Revolution of December 1989. New and old parties (re)emerged in the wake of the upheaval that put an end to the communist regime. The first free post-communist elections of May 1990 offered these fledgling parties a raison d’être: more than 500 seats of a bicameral parliament have been put up for grabs. It was not for the first time in its modern history that the Romanian people entrusted its political will to representative institutions. Parliament was not a new institution to Romanians, and even the communist regime boasted a Great National Assembly featuring workers, peasants, and women in incredibly high proportions. From many points of view, however, the legislative elections of May 1990 marked an entirely new beginning in Romanian parliamentary life. Parliament is not one of the most popular Romanian institutions. Unfortunately, nor has it been a subject of great scholarly interest. Besides a handful of studies (Dogan 1953; Crowther and Roper 1996, 1998; Ştefan 2004; Ionescu 2008; Chiru and Ciobanu 2009), neither the background of MPs nor their activities have been under much scrutiny. This study relies on the first ever comprehensive individual-level data set of all the members of the Romanian post-communist parliaments. This data set contains information on the sociodemographic, occupational and political background of 2,193 Members of the Parliament (MPs) since the first democratic elections of May 1990 to the 2008 elections. In this chapter, however, only the elected members of the Chamber of Deputies are considered, unless specified otherwise. Beyond this, the authors used data from a parliamentary survey among the members of the lower chamber of the Romanian parliament, carried out in 2003.1 The survey focused on the recruitment of MPs, their political careers in parties and public institutions before and after 1989, and their career preferences. The response rate was 52 percent: 177 MPs out of 344 active at that moment have answered a questionnaire with 70 questions.