(Bucharest City Hall Web site, Wikipedia.org, BBC, RFE/RL)
Traian Basescu, the leader of the centrist Democratic Party (PD), was elected president of Romania on 12 December 2004, defeating Prime Minister Nastase of the Social Democratic Party (PSD) in a runoff. He succeeded Ion Iliescu as the latter's second consecutive term came to an end. At the time of the vote, Basescu was several months into his second term as mayor of Bucharest.
Basescu was born on 4 November 1951 in the town of Basarabi in Constanta County. He graduated from the commercial section of the Constanta-based Navy Institute in 1976 and then served as a ship captain for 11 years. In 1987, he became head of the Navrom agency in Antwerp, Belgium. Two years later, he was appointed general manager of the transportation ministry's civil navigation inspectorate, subsequently becoming undersecretary of its naval transportation department.
Following the overthrow of communism in Romania, Basescu entered politics, joining the National Salvation Front. After its split in 1992, he became a member of the PD.
Basescu served twice as minister of transport, from 1991 to 1992, and again from 1996 to 2000.
He was elected a member of parliament in 1992, and headed the Chamber of Deputies' Industry and Services Committee. He resigned voluntarily in 1996, giving up his immunity to facilitate an investigation against him in connection with a privatisation deal. The inquiry failed to produce evidence confirming his alleged involvement.
Running as the PD candidate, Basescu won his first term as Bucharest mayor in a runoff in July 2000. He was re-elected to the post in June 2004, when he defeated the PSD candidate, Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana, in the first round of the vote.
Basescu was elected leader of the PD in 2001, replacing Petre Roman at the party helm. In September 2003, the PD and Theordor Stolojan's National Liberal Party (PNL) formed the opposition Justice and Development alliance.
Stolojan was nominated as the alliance's candidate for the 28 November 2004 presidential election. In a surprise move less than two months before the vote, the PNL leader announced his withdrawal from the race, citing poor health. Basescu then became the alliance's new candidate.