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February 9, 2023

Revenge of the outcast

Based on Victor Ponta’s fantasist scenarios, President Traian Basescu’s only notable friend in European politics is Viktor Orban. As a sign of gratitude, the Romanian president supports the emergence of a new Hungarian party the mentor of which is another major political enemy of the Hungarian PM, namely Laszlo Tokes.

This is not a stand-alone lucubration released into the market of ‘uncovered mysteries’ of Romanian politics by an assumingly ‘informed’ leader. The good old weapon of calumny mystifying semi-truths, becoming common place during C. V. Tudor’s time, has been imported by a majority of party leaders, all immune to the demands of a rhetoric grounded on verity.

As far as Romanian Hungarians are concerned, the situation is made even more complicated by the old angst of trans-national conspiracy which survives in an unusual version, catching in its fantasist game President Traian Basescu himself, otherwise not always ‘polite’ with the neighbouring country’s officials. Ponta’s ‘scenario’ starts from a number of truths the assembling of which generates a manipulating confusion. Such words thrown for the purpose of associating opponents in a calumnious way, just to enhance people’s antipathy (Basescu, Orban, Tokes) would not even deserve to be noted if they were not representative for the distorted manner in which a phenomenon such as the development of a new political party is perceived.

The reality is simpler: the ambition of a frustrated politician, the frustrations of autonomist circles, the electoral erosion of a ‘unique party’. For twenty years, UDMR has supported its electoral rhetoric by the advantages of being the ‘unique party’, the only one capable of obtaining parliamentary representation and concretising political energies worthy of various formulas of association in the government. And, despite anything else, Romanian political practice has always found it right. For the time being, UDMR has managed to keep its role also after the emergence of a competing party that has never succeeded in overcoming its marginal state.

But everything starts from the ‘mentor’ Tokes. Once UDMR’s honorary president with the aura of a relentless fighter for maximal community rights, with an often aggressive discourse, Laszlo Tokes was first marginalised in an UDMR that chose to go down the road of active cooperation with Romanian parties, and, later on, was openly denounced. He understood that his only option was to find his own way. He set up a civic entity – the National Council of Hungarians in Transylvania – the pendant of which was the Szekler National Council – quite active on autonomist projects at a certain time. Initially, Tokes looked at PCM with interest, but his tensed relations with its president Szasz Jeno eventually limited their cooperation. His big chance was the European Parliament election where he won a seat as an independent candidate, marking a great performance in terms of the number of votes he was able to gather.

In order to mitigate the damage of PCM’s competition, UDMR counted on cooperation with Tokes and his CNMT to the detriment of the former. By that, it strengthened its legitimacy in domestic politics. An apparently spectacular rise in the European Parliament followed, where he became Vice-President. Traian Basescu and mostly Viktor Orban’s support was crucial. The former helped him, via his loyal PDL, be welcome into the People’s Party group and the latter de facto gave him his place vacated when he became prime-minister again. Laszlo Tokes has been dreaming about a prime political role for a long time, but he never quite managed to. He would have liked to become the leader of UDMR, perhaps he hoped PCM could have a more reliable future and now, his capacity as a member of the European Parliament prevents him from formally becoming the leader of the Hungarian People’s Party in Transylvania.

But who are the ‘people’ of this new party? Some are the unhappy members of UDMR, who have been marginalised over time or who have excluded themselves from the formation’s political developments. Another category consists of autonomist circles who have been unable to find their true political representation so far, as well as contingents of ambitious youth either restricted in their political self-assertion by the rigidity of far too sedimented power structures in UDMR or eager to have a fresh political agenda. Anyway, autonomy will continue to be the ensign of the new party, able to attract political energies in the yet ambivalent context of a Europe of nations/regions.

But, while the Basescu-Orban association is fantasist, the two are by no means foreign to the emergence of PPMT. Tokes’ privileged relationship to the sitting Hungarian PM is well-known. It is more than friendship, it is a convergence of political views. Orban’s party fundamentally dwells on the care of the kin-state for the entire Hungarian nation and UDMR has always been a rather restive partner for Budapest, cooperating better with the Socialist administration, more pragmatic regarding the consequences of migration to the kin-state. Orban would like to have a more convergent cooperation in the region which is home to the most numerous Hungarian community, an important ingredient in the success of his nationalistic policy. The other thing that needs to be considered is the fact that, under the new double-citizenship act, Hungarian ethnics from Transylvania can always turn into an electoral mass for FIDESZ.

As for Traian Basescu, the suspicion that he tries to break UDMR’s electoral monopoly has been going on for a while now. Even the man who became his adviser, Peter Kovacs Ekstein, a few years before, according to American diplomatic documents, was thinking that the president had supported PCM in order to ‘revenge’ UDMR’s governmental cooperation with PNL. It is true that Traian Basescu has tried to create a special aura in the Szekely community, for electoral purposes. And the assumption that he may be trying to weaken UDMR – a profiteer of the acerb competition of Romanian parliamentary parties – is not that far fetched. However, his connection to Orban in a supra-national cabala is a meaningless speculation. Even if they both belong to the same European political family. PPMT is being born on the lane of a specific nationalist-autonomist current that has always existed in UDMR, but that eventually lost terrain to the pragmatic-integrationist school.

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