Traian Băsescu (born 4 November 1951) is the president of Romania, serving since 2004 but currently suspended. Mayor of Bucharest from 2000 to 2004, he was elected president in 2004, suspended from office in 2007 but reconfirmed a month later in a plebiscite. He was re-elected president for a second 5-year term in 2009, amidst allegations of electoral fraud that were ultimately dismissed by the Constitutional Court of Romania. On 6 July 2012 he was again suspended from office and currently awaits the popular vote on his dismissal on 29 July.
Birth and early lifeBăsescu was born in Basarabi, (renamed Murfatlar in 2007), near the port city of Constanţa, the largest Romanian port on the Black Sea. Băsescu's father, Dumitru (d. 2002), was an army officer; his mother's first name is Elena (d. 2010). He has a brother, Mircea (b. 1953). Traian Băsescu and his wife Maria have two daughters: Ioana (b.1977), a notary, and Elena (b.1980), a Romanian MEP.
Professional careerBăsescu graduated from the Naval Institute of Constanţa in 1976 and became a merchant marine deck officer at Navrom, the Romanian state-owned shipping company. Between 1981 and 1987 he served as Captain on Romanian commercial ships. Throughout his career, questions have been raised about Basescu's links to the Securitate, the security services of the communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. But Basescu has said his links with the former Securitate were minimal, though some contact was obligatory at the time for somebody working abroad in a senior position. In 1984 he was promoted to Captain of the oil tanker Biruinţa, the largest ship of the then Romanian commercial fleet. In 1989, Băsescu moved to Belgium to head the Navrom Agency in Antwerp.
Mayor of BucharestIn 2000, Băsescu was elected Mayor of Bucharest, winning the run-off against PDSR candidate Sorin Oprescu by a slim margin (50.69% to 49.31%), despite trailing 24% behind him in the first round.
As Mayor, he was credited with a reduction in the number of stray dogs roaming freely through the streets of the city from approximately 300,000 in 2000 to 25,000 in 2004, and thus in the number of dog bite injuries from 1,500 a month to under 200 a month. This campaign was controversial, as many opposed large-scale dog euthanasia. On the other hand, there were also numerous cases of people asking the authorities to take the stray dogs away, but after this was done, neighbors, who had been feeding the dogs, would show up at the shelter to take them back to their neighborhoods. The campaign resulted in nearly 48,000 dogs being put down just in 2001, with fewer numbers in the following years. In 2004, Băsescu presented the situation as a success.
Băsescu also claimed success in improvements to the water and lighting systems of the city, which prior to that were in a very bad state; as well as in modernisation of the public transportation system in the city.
His tenure was however marked by constant conflicts with the governing PSD-controlled institutions. Citing the need for decentralisation, the central government led by Adrian Năstase passed several ordinances transferring powers from the city Mayor to Mayors of the city's six sectors and to the city council. Băsescu accused council members of corruption and obstruction; he also successfully challenged several council resolutions in Administrative Courts. As a consequence, on 10 January 2002, the central government decided to dissolve the council, yet it annulled that decision later on. These conflicts led to the blocking or delay of several infrastructure loans, financed by BEI, for municipal heating and road networks, and to blocking city's ability to borrow and finance reconstruction.
In February 2003, Băsescu bought from the state a 369 m² apartment in a nationalised house downtown Bucharest for the equivalent of US$19,000. A scandal broke, as the request to buy the house was approved by the Mayor's Office, at a time when Băsescu was mayor. He explained that he had filed in October 2002 an application to the specialized state agency (not to the Mayor's office, which was not the owner of the building) for the apartment to be sold to him on the basis of the Romanian Law 10 of 2001, which he claimed "gives priority to existing tenants to buy previously nationalized houses, no matter whether they already owned other houses", and that only the price was calculated based on a 1995 law. However, the press noted that, according to the contract, the sale was based on Law 112 of 1995, and that Law 10/2001 had no provisions about selling anything. The 1995 law prevents, with the provisions of Art. 9, sale to tenants that already owned or sold a house after January 1, 1990, Băsescu already having bought a villa near Bucharest in October 2002, donated to his daughter shortly after. Furthermore, the same law gave the right to buy the nationalised houses only to those who were tenants at the time of its coming into force (i.e. second half of 1996), while Băsescu had only lived in that house since August 2002. According to the press, these facts made it impossible for Băsescu to legally buy the apartment. When the scandal broke again in early 2005, Băsescu first stated that he would give up the apartment, but changed his mind later, announcing that he would renounce it only if the Prosecutor's Office decided he had broken the law. The prosecutors investigating the matter concluded that, according to the provisions of the law, Băsescu did not breach it when he bought the apartment.
2004 Presidential campaignFollowing Theodor Stolojan's surprise withdrawal from the 2004 presidential elections, Băsescu entered the presidential race on behalf of the Justice and Truth Alliance. His main opponent was then Prime Minister and PSD president Adrian Năstase. Like Băsescu, Năstase was a former Communist Party member. Although Năstase came out ahead in the first round by 7%, Băsescu achieved a surprise comeback and won the December 12 run-off election by a 2.46% margin, receiving 51.23% of the vote. Băsescu won the Presidential election by using an anti-communist and anti-corruption rhetoric. In the live TV debate with Adrian Năstase before the 2004 run-off presidential election, Băsescu caught his opponent off-guard with a rhetorical remark: "You know what Romania's greatest curse is right now? It's that Romanians have to choose between two former Communist Party members."
During the 2004 presidential campaign, before a TV interview with PSD counter-candidate Adrian Năstase, Băsescu gave the latter a paper and told him: “Put it in your pocket and read it when you are away!” Similarly, in June 2006, at the oath-taking ceremony of Radu Stroe as the new secretary general of the Government, Băsescu gave him a sheet of paper as a "gift". After seeing it, Stroe went pale and refused to make its content public. When asked, Băsescu said its content was not classified. Both Adrian Năstase and Radu Stroe were previously involved in corruption scandals.
2009 Presidential campaignBăsescu ran for a second term in the 2009 presidential elections. Incumbent Băsescu and his Social-Democrat opponent Mircea Geoană offered different ways to tackle the economic crisis. Băsescu pledged to cut public spending and promised "more equity" to people living in the countryside.
Băsescu tried to portray himself as the champion of the people against what he called the "corrupt political elite". A widely-used election poster carried the text: "They cannot avoid what they are afraid of". Băsescu's opponents countered that he is part of that elite, simply with different backers. In a Cluj-Napoca meeting with his supporters he claimed that he "was the one to stop doubtful privatisations," implicitly accusing rival Social-Democrats of underhand practices while in power. He vowed to fight against the Parliament, which blocked his bid to install the Croitoru cabinet, and the "media moguls". In the campaign for the first round, his favourite campaign theme was reducing the number of lawmakers. This theme proved popular, with the majority of the electorate voting for the reduction of the number of lawmakers from current 471 to a maximum of 300, and in favour of a transition from the current bicameral Parliament to an a unicameral one in a referendum held simultaneously with the first round of elections.
In the first round held on November 22, Băsescu came first with 32.44% of the votes, and Geoană second with 31.15%. Although Băsescu claimed the results of the first round as "a significant vote for the right" because he and Crin Antonescu together received over 50% of the vote, the next day Antonescu refused to back Băsescu in the runoff, and shortly thereafter announced an alliance with Geoană. Subsequently Băsescu reproached Antonescu to "have thrown himself in the arms of the Social-Democrat party, a party opposed to reforms", and added "This alliance will bring us back to 20 years ago when the PSD was controlling all state institutions". Antonescu in turn called Băsescu "a demagogue and a populist", and vowed to support Geoană as "the lesser of two evils".On November 26, 2009, footage from the 2004 election campaign showing Băsescu apparently hitting or pushing a 10-year-old boy at a campaign rally was broadcast. The press unfavourable to Băsescu interpreted the footage as "hitting with his fist", whereas the press favorable to Băsescu either interpreted it as a push, or called the footage fake. Asked in a talk show about the incident, the President stated that he does not recall it, but did not outright deny it either, saying that perhaps the child uttered profanity. Later, he made a public declaration that "never in his life has he hit a child", but he refused to comment on whether the footage was video manipulated or not. PDL member Roberta Anastase, who had accompanied Băsescu during the rally, declared the child uttered profanity and that Băsescu pushed the child aside. The footage was released within 24 hours of a declaration of Dinu Patriciu, also present at the rally, who claimed that he saw Băsescu hitting a child in 2004. The boy has been identified, and was interviewed later in the night. He acknowledged that Băsescu had hit him after he chanted a slogan favourable to Ion Iliescu and Adrian Năstase, but said he was not physically hurt. He also said that on the moment he was happy that Băsescu had paid attention to him, and they smiled at each other, but later he felt disappointed. He added "it was a hit as if he wanted to say: go away!" On November 27, Băsescu told a Mediafax journalist that he saw the footage "de-mounted on computer", suggesting it was manipulated. Cecilia Gheorghe, the boy's aunt, declared that the child now refuses to give further details because he is now "afraid for his life and that of his mother".
In the second round of the presidential election Basescu won against Geoana by 50.3% to 49.7%. Opposition legal objections to their narrow defeat were dismissed.
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