A time to reflect on the future

So UDMR is finally in the opposition. Of the last 15 years, only one it spent far from the bigger or smaller responsibility of the power. And it is by no means excluded that it will be in this new position for longer. The political context with the new USL alliance capable of taking advantage of the months when it will rule to maximise its already predictable electoral victory, as well as the change of the electoral system by adopting the plurality voting will reduce UDMR’s chances of continuing to be the ‘control minority’ in the next Parliament. USL can obtain a sufficient majority to rule on its own. Speaking the truth, UDMR needed ‘fresh air’. Meaning to undergo significant refreshment, not just by bringing in new leaders. ‘New’ taken literally, for its still the same old Marko Bela line, with its successes and limitations. The main success is the successful demonstration of its capacity of integration in Romanian politics.

The first half of the first democratic decade in Romanian politics was more an exercise of separation as far as UDMR was concerned. Hungarians were learning how to say ‘No’, as they actually did with the new post-communist Constitution. Nonetheless, UDMR’s entry to government in 1996 drove a major shift of philosophy. In its successive embodiments, the power has had to put on its various agendas objectives specific to the Hungarian minority. Romanian political partners have learnt, even in a hypocritical way, to nuance their rhetoric regarding the Hungarians. They have come to negotiating with them and settle for things once deemed unacceptable. Hungarians, on their part, have developed a taste for power, naming their people to positions once unconceivable for reasons of ethnic origin. They have had prefects, secretaries of state, ministers and even a deputy prime minister. Plus many heads of public agencies and institutions. And these are only the named officials, not including the mayors or local and county councillors who are directly elected by the public. UDMR has become a Romanian party like any other from many points of view, including vulnerability to corruption. But limitations are not to be forgotten. From its position as ‘a control minority’, UDMR has perfected the art of blackmail, while neglecting the area of political convergences. Always pragmatic, the group has lost some of its potential of political innovation and has not really practiced the virtues of consistency with a more pronounced ideological identity. This is why its political solutions in the act of government have often been improvised, lacking an assumed vision beyond the special interest in regionalisation. Meanwhile, the political competition within the Hungarian community in Romania has actually acted as an inhibitor, because it restricted its rhetoric to the matter of autonomy – administrative or cultural – turned into a panacea. UDMR ceased using its critical vocation a long time ago, except for those initiatives of the partners threatening to hurt its own ‘vital interests’. Nor has it ever faced the ‘competition’ without the gap between parties with a distinct status, with or without the benefits of the power. It is time for UDMR to start considering a refreshment of its programme. To choose between going back to an ethnically-driven politics, with objectives seeking to preserve its identity as a minority, and plunging into daring innovative programmes incumbent on the entire society. Between obtaining benefits for Hungarians only as Hungarians and obtaining something for the citizens of this country period. Romania however has a generous system of rights for the Hungarian minority, but, of course, it can be further completed and amended. On the other hand, the stake of social evolutions cannot be contained to an identity issue. Unless it wants to turn into a replica of autonomists of Tokes’ kind, UDMR will need to find the courage to produce its own visions like any other Romanian party. Meaning to assume a more accentuated, even ideologically recognised identity. The epoch of pragmatism could be followed by the epoch of visionary alternatives. All the more so as Romanian parties have managed to dilute their ideologies to the maximum. It would not be a fantasy to imagine a time when a Romanian national can vote with trust and hope for a Hungarian ethnic standing for election to a public office. In the hope that he will pursue more effective policies than a Romanian competitor, but also trusting that he will work for the broader community, without discriminating in favour of Hungarians. This is a possible new face of UDMR, possible after demonstrating and exercise of power beneficial not just for Hungarians. For that to happen, UDMR will need to convince Romanians to accept, let’s say, a Hungarian PM as they would have gladly accepted – according to polls – a German ethnic, Klaus Iohannis. However, it will also need to convince Hungarians to choose their options over Laszlo Tokes’, who sees Hungarians’ future only in a greater closeness to the kind state Hungary and in the context of extensive forms of autonomy. The status as an opposition party will be a good opportunity for UDMR to reflect upon its future.

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