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The Centre on Social Movement Studies

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From the Coup to the Escalation of Violence: The transition to democracy in Romania

Federico Matías Rossi

Type: Working Paper
Year: 2012

Romania was the only example of violent regime change in the central and south eastern European milieu, with massive mobilizations both in favour and against change and the execution of the dictator. In other words, there seems to have been an attempted coup d’état in Romania, one that was successful thanks to the unplanned escalation of violence organized from below without any links to the intra-elite disputes. This process started locally in a community linked with the outside world able to draw on supportive networks. Contention quickly scaled up to the capital city and produced a vacuum of power as a result of the anti-Ceaușescu communists’ decision to immediately topple and execute the dictator. This opened the way to a chaotic moment of violence that was not organized by supporters or opponents of the regime, but rather produced by the vacuum of power in a collapsed sultanistic totalitarian regime. The lack of international support for democratization, weak local civil society and unorganized violence allowed the neo-communists to settle in power. However, a revolution was already ongoing, notwithstanding the neo-communist elites’ wish to merely modify the previous regime. This led to the emergence of a democratic setting.

EUI SPS - Cosmos Working Paper 2012/13.

2012WP13COSMOS

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This contribution enhances our understanding of the contemporary far right by focusing on the neglected links between movements and elections within the broader context of contention.

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Exploring the case of the cocaleros of the Chapare, this article argues that more emphasis should be placed on mechanisms that are internal to the movements, such as: (a) the resonance of other political experiences at home and abroad, (b) internal struggles for ideological hegemony, and (c) the political formation of their grassroots.