“Original democracy”: A rhetorical analysis of Romanian post-revolutionary political discourse and the University Square protests of June 1990
(University of Southern California, USA)
ABSTRACT: In the aftermath of the contested Romanian anti-communist revolution of December 1989, the National Salvation Front (NSF), led by Ion Iliescu, emerged as the country’s provisional government. Amidst increasing suspicions of the revolution having been a strategic coup d’état orchestrated by the neo-communist NSF, in June 1990, protesters gathered in Bucharest’s University Square demanding the removal of the NSF government. To maintain the narrative rationality of the story of an authentic revolution, and to thus legitimize his claim to power, Iliescu employed a set of rhetorical tactics meant to reaffirm his commitment to democracy and to antagonize the emergent sphere of civic activism, while simultaneously reigniting deeply-entrenched class struggles. Through his political discourse, Iliescu managed to shift public perceptions of democracy, legality, and moral purity, by reframing unconstitutional measures, employing the redemptive rhetoric of revolutionary heroism, and strategically using the familiarity of communist rhetoric to ensure the public’s continued allegiance.