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D.A. Alliance facing Magyar hardliners

Arthur SUCIU

Relationships between the D.A. Alliance and UDMR might get complicated in the ensuing period. President of the Union Marko Bela has been often emphasising, as of recently, the substantial contribution made by his party to the good functioning of the Government, the positive part the party has played so far. By claiming that UDMR is a necessary partner, the party leader actually means to illustrate its loyalty to the coalition. A loyalty which the Alliance is no longer very confident in, or which it is willing to ignore, for political reasons.



The Alliance's requirements for governance partners (the Conservative Party and the Democratic Union of Magyars in Romania) are based on the electorate's preferences, as a key criterion. PC is the "immoral solution" not only because it has preserved its relationship with PSD even after joining the ruling coalition. PC is "immoral" insofar as it entered the Parliament at the back door. Today, this is a self-evident truth: PC has no electorate, it does not represent anyone. Things are obviously different with UDMR, yet the "moral" judgement can be extended to this party as well. Precisely in what manner?

It is a known fact that the electorate had rejected the cooperation protocol forged by PSD and UDMR between the two ballots in the 2004 elections. After having won the parliamentary elections, PSD thus lost the presidential ones. A major part of the Greater Romania Party electorate voted for Traian Băsescu. It is quite evident that Romanian voters do not see cooperation with UDMR as an effective solution, but rather as a political compromise. Voters believe an alliance with UDMR to be only justified by the absence of alternative solutions.

UDMR's cancelling the protocol with PSD and crossing over to the Alliance was indeed seen as such a compromise. The share of "immorality" involved in the similar decision made by PUR (today's PC) is by no means trivial. After all, for four years UDMR had backed the PSD governmental action, in Parliament. Just like PC, the Union- had had close relations with the former ruling party. But beyond this rationale, there are further arguments to claim that UDMR is just as "immoral" a partner as PC is. For reasons very likely related to the Alliance's crisis-shattered governance, but also to the urgency of some of Romania's older problems left unsolved, opinion polls have recently pointed to a rise of PRM. Naturally, the rise is not spectacular, but the very fact that after an internal crisis that split the party PRM gained two-three per cent, instead of falling as one would have expected, deserves further attention. On the other hand, Magyar hardliners once again bring up the issue of the County- autonomy. Head of the National Szeckler Council (CNS) Csapo Jozsef has recently stated that the organisation would not give up its intentions to achieve County- autonomy and that it would table the respective bill in Parliament even 100 times if necessary.

Experience has proved that Romanian voters do not view the UDMR agenda with a friendly eye. A government that concedes more than the political compromise requires is seen as weak. In the UDMR case, things are rather complicated. Its leaders' message and even initiatives have generally been moderate and have never come against the principles of the Constitution and the rule of law. Nonetheless, overlapping them has been the message of Magyar hardliners. This is what happened for instance during the CDR mandate (1997-2000), when Reformed Parson Laszlo Tokes' outbursts managed to induce the idea that UDMR pursued other political goals than the ones it made public. The perception was thus born, that the difference between the UDMR hardcore and the moderates only comes down to methods, or even that there is no difference between them, but rather a good cooperation: hardliners demand the whole cake, so that the moderates are able to get at least a piece of it. It is not so much the UDMR itself, but the Magyar radicals that affected the credibility of the governments the Union- was part of. This is where the second "moral" issue comes up.

   

Ever since 1996, Romanian parties disavowed PRM and Corneliu Vadim Tudor, prototypes of extremist nationalism. This disavowal enabled UDMR to be part of governmental structures. But this has never happened with UDMR: the Union- has never publicly drawn the line between hardliners and moderates. Moreover, there are Magyar MPs elected from the radicals. UDMR and Marko Bela have always avoided confrontation with Laszlo Tokes, Toro Tibor or Csapo Jozsef. This strategy benefited the Magyar community, as no major rifts were generated between its representatives, and UDMR was thus able to preserve its presence in Parliament. Furthermore, while Romanians reject too radical Magyar positions, Magyars generally want their representatives to act with as much determination as possible in view of achieving goals such as ethnic autonomy. Engaging in a conflict with the hardliners would therefore mean, for UDMR, turning against its own electorate.

The aforesaid suggests that inter-ethnic relationship issues and the Magyar issue in particular have not yet been settled. There are Magyar demands that Romanians will simply never accept (such as the ethnic autonomy question). And these issues reflect on political relations. The political spectrum is "double-decked." At one level, we have the D.A. Alliance and PSD engaged in a doctrine competition, not clearly settled as yet. And at another level there are PRM and UDMR, essentially ethnic parties. Their very presence in Parliament suggests that we have a problem.

If the relationship with UDMR is the expression of a compromise, the question is how could the problem be truly solved? Can UDMR be asked to openly disavow its hardcore? The Union- is highly unlikely to undertake such risks. It would rather leave the Government. Which would mean early elections. The Alliance could call snap elections, on the assumption that UDMR is an "immoral" partner. This idea alone could secure the Alliance full-fledged success in the elections, and maybe even get PRM out of Parliament. But it wouldn't take UDMR out of Parliament, as the Union-'s message would become radical. In a future parliament, the Liberals and Democrats would probably face Laszlo Tokes instead of Marko Bela. Hardline political options would reflect in the Magyars' state of mind, and, consequently, in the relationships between Romanians and Magyars. Early elections are not a solution.

Clearly, neither perpetuation and escalation of Magyar discontent, nor an upturn of PRM and Vadim are welcome. What can be done?

Political circumstances call for a strengthening of the nationalist message. The fight against corruption may easily be completed with "patriotic ideas." And in Romania, to be a patriot is to be against Magyars. Such an attitude is particularly expected from President Traian Băsescu. The Alliance could thus preserve its position in polls. The votes naturally carried by Vadim will be re-channelled towards Traian Băsescu and the Alliance. PRM's rise would be stopped, and Magyar hardliners would achieve nothing from their actions.

 

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