Romania king's speech highlights historical split

Tue Oct 25, 2011 9:36am EDT
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By Ioana Patran and Sam Cage

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Romania's aged former King Michael delivered his first speech to parliament Tuesday since Soviet-backed communists forced him to abdicate more than 60 years ago, highlighting deep divisions over the country's past.

While opinion polls show most Romanians do not want the monarchy back, post-communist leaders have tried to limit Michael's influence, fearing he could erode their own power if given a platform.

"We cannot have a future without respecting the past," Michael, 90 and looking sprightly in a suit and striped tie, told a packed parliament on his birthday.

"The royal crown is not a symbol of the past but a unique representation of our independence, sovereignty and unity," said Michael, Europe's oldest former monarch and one of the last surviving World War Two-era heads of state.

Parliamentarians from across the political spectrum gave the king, who was forced to quit the throne in 1947, a standing ovation before and after his speech and some even took pictures on mobile phones.

Michael's speech was proposed by the opposition Liberals but opposed by the ruling Democrat-Liberals (PDL).

"Once he was anointed king of Romania by God through the church, he is our king for life, no matter what happens in political life," said Andrei Dinca, 31, a monarchist who took the day off work to watch the speech and mark the occasion.

"I don't think that the return of the monarchy will happen, but that does not stop me from hoping. It's in our nature to keep hoping even against all odds."   Continued...

<p>Romania's former King Michael poses next to newly unveiled bronze sculpture of King Carol I, the founder of Romania's royal dynasty, after addressing address parliament in Bucharest October 25, 2011, on his 90th birthday, first time since Soviet-backed communists forced him to abdicate more than 60 years ago. REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel</p>