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Romania: New President Sworn In

Bucharest, 29 November 1996 (RFE/RL) - Emil Constantinescu was sworn in as Romania's president today, pledging to speed up democratic reforms.

Constantinescu defeated incumbent president Ion Iliescu, a former communist, in a run-off ballot on November 17. He took the oath of office before the two-house Parliament dominated by his centrist followers who triumphed in a separate general election this month.

The new president, reading out the oath, promised to devote all of his strength and abilities "to the prosperity of the Romanian people, to defend the constitution, democracy and civic rights and freedoms."

Constantinescu said in his inaugural speech that "the transfer of power is the toughest test of a democracy." He said "Romania has passed this test successfully, and has joined for good the fold of democratic states." He said people voted for him because they "opted for change for a better and more just life."

But he warned that "the road ahead is hard." Romanian state television broadcast the ceremony live, held in a huge Bucharest palace erected by former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Ceausescu was shot after a 1989 upheaval toppled him from power.

Constantinescu, 57, was elected for a four-year term. He said that the Prime Minister-designate, Bucharest mayor Victor Ciorbea, would soon announce a new coalition government.