It was a time when Cluj had all its street trash bins, benches and traffic poles dyed in the national colours – red, yellow and blue – an outburst of patriotic hysteria. Romanian prince statues sprang up like mushrooms after the rain, and Orthodox churches were being built all over the place. Magyar monuments however were left to run down, and provocations were not few. Let’s now imagine the change reversed; Magyar inscription all over, public festivities without any speeches delivered in Romanian, even a Magyar head of the local police, a different tricolour, and, obviously, a Magyar mayor. Nothing could be closer to truth, in that last respect at least. While the aforementioned comparison is circumstantial and satirical rather than a sign of nationalist alarmism, it could nonetheless be a parodic curiosity occasioned by the so called pure uninominal electoral system.
Mayors being chosen by single-ballot election could help former presidential adviser and minister Eckstein-Kovacs get the mayor’s seat. If the nearly 20 per cent of the Magyar residents of Cluj vote for him and a massive absenteeism by a divided Romanian electorate could result in something utterly unimaginable. Eckstein-Kovacs could prove being a more beneficial mayor to Cluj, mainly that he is locked in a muted conflict with a younger president of the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), which could help the former adopt a more independent stance on the official party agenda. He is more open to civism and well inserted in the Romanian political system – as he has held all sorts of responsibilities. He’s also more ‘laidback’, which is no small thing in a landscape full of pseudo-uptight stances. Why shouldn’t he be the Magyar Iohannis of a success story other than the Sibiu-based one? Still, is such eventuality ‘democratic’ indeed? That many Cluj residents are afraid of a potential Magyar mayor is a pity. Yet, truth is, they won’t have one, and this basic contesting would be a big hurdle to such tenure. Aside from the debatable view that politicians don’t stand on their electoral promises, which led to the almost messianic regarded uninominal alternative, the constitutive principle of democracy nowadays is representation. How representative would then be a person elected under a pure uninominal system? President Basescu found its justification in what he saw as the beneficial avoidance of alliances and their burdening implications. Otherwise said, democracy is seen like a system of interlocking straps that could be capitalised on, in either positive or negative way. On one hand, it helps avoid discretionary authority and therefore, dictatorial propensities. On the other, such bloated system is due to often obstruct a surge in action. Yet, this pseudo-personal mindset considering that individuals need to be freed by partisan constraints will not prove fruitful, but a true reform of the party system more than anything else. The introduction of the uninominal system as the only institutionally implemented solution to the crisis of the Romanian politics has already showed its limits. Bringing the ‘non-partisan’ alternatives into play proved being deceitful, to say the least, as it encouraged populism, amateurism and manipulation. While it is true that genuine civism stimulation is necessary, even thru constitutional innovations, the time of the parties is not over yet, which means they’d better responsibly maximize their input. While the politicians adapted to the uninominal are neither better nor worse than before, parties are nonetheless even more adrift than the former, given their lacking minimal true doctrinal identity, not relying on meritocracy and also lacking a stimulating debate area, while they are poisoned by power-exercising vices (corruption, cronyism). Politics is a group matter. The alliance exercise is vital, and has more advantages than disadvantages. It is not normal for a mayor to win by getting 20 pc of the votes, or even less. Unfortunately, newcomer parties appear to emerge from the dark corners of the past, and kitsch-mined as well. What is needed is not only new leaders, but a new generation of parties as well, and not mere metamorphoses.