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March 23, 2023

The art of blackmail

UDMR, perforce, has been in the government for 15 years through blackmail. In softer words, the Hungarians successfully apply the tactic of periodical renegotiations. An indispensable partner in more or less fragile coalitions, UDMR always seems to be holding the weapon that could break up a certain parliamentary majority.  Of course that in political practice the Hungarian party has also acquired other virtues worthy of its partners’ interest: always unsure about their minority position they have adopted a more predictable attitude without confusing pirouettes, the so-called Hungarian ‘reliability’ (real, although relative). When coalitions dismantled for whatever reasons (elections, differences, ambitions), they generally conformed to the requirements of the moment. But, for the rest, they have never moved to action on their own free will when it came to the threats of rupture.But this latter tactic has, however, successfully worked in a number of situations, UDMR’s terms being considered as successful from the point of view of their objectives in Romanian politics. When they had obtained almost everything coming from minority rights (with three notable exceptions: a public university teaching in Hungarian, territorial autonomy and a minorities’ law providing cultural autonomy), they fell into a kind of programme crisis, because, for the rest, they generally had their hands tied by the lad actors in the various governments they were in. This is how a rhetoric competition started among the Hungarian parties (emerging in the last few years) exactly on those suspended topics. Instead of engaging in a polemic on economic policy themes, the competition was between the pragmatism of leading elite (from ministries and central agencies to prefectures and municipalities) on the one hand and the advocates of more radically autonomous solutions. ‘Blackmailed’ by the radical, the Hungarian members of the administration ‘blackmail’ their partners, in turn. For example, they want to obtain a Hungarian line at the University of Medicine and Pharmacy of Targu-Mures (a Szekely city where half of the population are Hungarian ethnics). So far, UDMR has won the confidence of the Hungarian electorate by displaying its symbolic achievements. In 2004, for example, the statue of the 1848 Revolution generals in Arad was standing straight in its electoral posters as a proof of UDMR’s effective political line of cooperation and alliances. But the situation has somewhat changed. If the Civic Hungarian Union has not succeeded in establishing itself more than locally, without seriously threatening UDMR’s hegemony, the new People’s Party of Hungarians in Transylvania has two competitive advantages: Tokes and Orban. Lazlo Tokes, the Vice-President of the European Parliament, has kept his influence among the Transylvanian Hungarian community. He is seen as a less versatile politician, pursuing a maximal programme and with prime relations with Hungary. From the point of view of this latter attribute, he benefits not just from the endorsement of the Hungarian prime-minister, buts mostly from the financial assistance of a party discretionarily ruling the neighbouring country. PPMT is, in fact, an extension of FIDESZ in Transylvania. Over the years, UDMR has managed to have a complex relationship with Budapest, far from being a servile consonance. PPMT is designed as an ideological replica of the success model in Budapest, the beneficiary of an enviable and more than comfortable majority in parliament. Going back to UDMR, although it wants a new symbolic trophy with which it can start a new electoral competition, the chance is slim that it will obtain anything notable in the short while remaining. The chance is also small that it will exit the government, for that would bring it no gain (such as a political delimitation from specific loosing options). On the contrary, a possible improvement of PDL’s image as a coming from a more positively perceived performance of the Ungureanu Government compared to the previous cabinet can only be refined in the context of favourable premises. Political blackmail cannot be used under just about any conditions. Gyorgy Frunda is right: the current political season is not good for pulling out from government. One that would also bring benefits, of course.

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