Marko Bela might endorse Culture Minister for top UDMR position

Ethnic Hungarian party leaders are determined to leave majority if Education law isn’t adopted soon.

A new name appeared in the race for the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania’s (UDMR) presidency after presidential aide Eckstein Kovacs Peter (photo) officially announced his candidacy for the job on Saturday. Eckstein, who leads a liberal platform within UDMR, was endorsed by the party’s Cluj branch and his candidacy must also be approved by the party’s top representatives in a December 17 meeting.

The congress in charge of electing new leaders is scheduled to be held early next year, with a deadline for filing candidacies set to expire on January 26. Until then, the party’s Union Representatives of the Council will meet soon to discuss the upcoming elections. Current party leader Marko Bela is expected to make clear whether he seeks re-election or not. Sources told daily ‘Gandul’ that Marko doesn’t plan to run for the president position again and that he will support Culture Minister Kelemen Hunor, his ‘right hand man’, for the job. Another top contender might be Environment Minister Laszlo Borbely, who has not yet officially announced his intentions, according to the same sources.

Eckstein meanwhile said on Saturday, quoted by Mediafax, that he wants to be an “alternative” to the current leadership and that he wouldn’t run for the position if he didn’t have good chances to win. “My message is clear, I am the alternative, I am the change. There is a wish for change within the Hungarian community because UDMR’s current trend is not an ascending one,” he said. He added that if the Union’s presence in the majority leads to a drop in credibility, the party will have to very seriously consider leaving the government.

A similar stance was voiced by Marko at a meeting of UDMR county branch leaders in Targu Mures. All leaders said that the immediate adoption of the education law remains a priority for them and that without it, they will not be able to continue with the ruling coalition, Marko said. The education law, which includes several provisions to the benefit of national minorities, has been deadlocked by a dispute between government and Parliament after the cabinet decided to evade general debates in the assembly and take responsibility for the bill. Following a Constitutional Court ruling last week, Parliament will have to allow the government to continue procedure and debate a no-confidence vote tabled by the opposition after the cabinet took responsibility for the law. An exact calendar is likely to be established by a meeting of Parliament’s standing bureaus today.

While in Targu Mures, Marko voiced criticism of the opposition’s stance on the education law, in particularly slamming the Speaker of the Senate the Social Democrat Mircea Geoana who is against the government’s plan to move ahead with the bill, and Liberal leader Crin Antonescu. Saying that some opposition politicians have become “great patriots and anti-Hungarians lately,” Marko underlined that Social Democrats and Liberals don’t have a ‘smart’ attitude, as their stance rather makes the UDMR want to stay on the current coalition instead of joining the opposition.

Geoana stated that at this moment UDMR is playing with fire and thus risks becoming an unfrequented party, according to Realitatea TV.

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