ROMANIA'S new leaders face a tough task establishing their rule. After popular demonstrations shook dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, a group calling itself the National Salvation Front has declared itself in control of the Balkan country.
Ion Iliescu was named president yesterday by the country's provisional government, a day after the execution of Ceausescu and his wife Elena, who were tried secretly. Mr. Iliescu is a former senior Communist official who was demoted for standing up to Ceausescu.
Meanwhile, bitter fighting between Ceausescu loyalists and the Salvation Front loyalists continued yesterday, with the pro-democracy forces seizing control of most of the strategic areas.
In general, the Army and the public seem to back the new regime, while the feared Securitate secret police fight either for the Ceausescu regime or to save themselves from bitter revenge. But analysts caution that some elements of the Army may be fighting against the rebels while elements of the security forces back the new government.
Whatever the exact situation, most analysts such as Vladimir Tismaneanu of the University of Pennsylvania believe the Army ``will emerge as the guarantor of peace and stability once the fighting with Ceausescu loyalists ends.''
The Army, this argument goes, resents the favors that the Ceausescu regime bestowed on the feared security forces. While soldiers were used for farming and construction tasks, security forces were supplied with modern helicopter troop transports, rocket-grenade launchers, and armored personnel carriers. Security forces also enjoyed the best perks in a society short on food and energy.
The Salvation Front represents the forces of change in Romania. It has accepted the principle of free elections. But when they are held, who will contest them, and the future of Communist Party all remain open questions. Many doubt that the Romanian party, even under a reformist like Iliescu, can recover to become a credible political force.
Iliescu, a former Central Committee member, is purportedly a friend of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. The relationship was forged while they were students in Moscow in the 1950s. Three decades later, Iliescu reinforced this tie by writing an article praising glasnost (openness). But he did not sign the March letter and so did not suffer from the ensuing repression.