Thin political programme

Marko Bela preferred to step back of his own free will. Continuing his career as a party president with a total of 17 years behind would have entailed a major risk of subtle contestation in a predictable crisis context.

Apart from any circumstantial aspect, UDMR is on the verge of a crisis. It is not a party that has lost its credibility towards its own electorate, as his most determined opponent, Laszlo Tokes, claims. On the contrary, despite the versatility of electoral choices, a majority of Magyar ethnics think of UDMR as ‘a success story’. Its political achievements are remarkable and have exceeded even most daring expectations. The functionality of the party is also good, perhaps with one exception – a rather stiff shift of generations in the leadership.

It was not by accident that PCM was a political failure, as both the Hungarian electorate and Hungarian political class preferred UDMR.

Even the more charismatic Tokes has limited chance of starting a viable alternative party. UDMR’s weakness is not its too big openness to any kind of alliances either, because any small art’ has to successively adjust to the pace of major parties. In addition, UDMR is a federation of several groups with distinct doctrines, but such doctrines do not play a crucial role in the determination of political choices. One cannot therefore clearly classify Marko’s team into a precise ideological slot. UDMR’s problem is its political programme. Once a majority of aims pertaining to ethnic minority rights sorted, too few new objectives made their way onto the party’s agenda, so the party now continues to live on political action belonging to the past. The new draft education law brings quite few changes of substance and, yet, the Hungarians’ party is willing to endorse the priorities imposed by the biggest ruling coalition party just to have it adopted. UDMR’s extra-minority identity is not very well defined, meaning that it is unable to subordinate its political action to a set of objectives that it would not give up on irrespective of alliances. Its credibility in front of its own voters has its limits, though. The risk incurred is not to see some of its votes being stolen by another ethnic party, but rather to lose them to a more convincing Romanian party even temporarily. PCM or a party possibly set up by Tokes would only exacerbate the issue of a reductionist programme. But, since no Romanian party has the courage and wisdom to create a balanced political offer for the Hungarian minority, the crisis can start from within UDMR itself. The obsession of autonomy can only be overcome by actual economic strategies with a national impact even in a new direction compared to the regular centralist approach. Noting the versatility of Romanian parties that only keep their options as to UDMR if constrained by circumstances, its leaders preferred to keep those looking for majorities at all cost in suspense. It counts less who will replace Marko Bela as president of UDMR. The priority is to create a minimal identity around a set of general principles of substance to give consistency to political action, as well as a more thorough negotiation with those Romanian political forces that are willing to engage in a long-standing partnership that should be less tied to circumstances.

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