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March 28, 2023

UDMR, the winner

UDMR is, strictly speaking, the big winner of the recent local elections. Coming after a decade and a half of almost uninterrupted (except for a single year of opposition) governing or presence around governing circles (being in this sense the most successful Romanian party), addressing an almost limited electorate (affected by emigration too) and facing two aggressive competitors, one of which has a historic leader of high reputation (Laszlo Tokes) that was massively backed from Hungary (by discretionary Premier Orban), and being led by a young president after the experienced and versatile Marko Bela stepped down. In these conditions, UDMR surprisingly registered better results than it did in previous elections. The Civic Magyar Party (PCM) collapsed, while the People Party of Magyars in Transylvania (PPMT) was hardly visible. Here are some examples. UDMR Senator Bokor Tibor dethroned former PCM Mayor Racz Karoly in Targu Secuiesc. In Covasna, Lorincz Zsigmond was reelected with approximately 80 per cent of the votes, while his PCM opponent scored just above 2 per cent. A similar situation was registered in Sfantu Gheorghe, where Mayor Antal Arpad was reelected with the same percentage, while the PCM representative scored approximately 5.5 per cent. In the municipal local council the PCM representatives dropped from 9 seats to a single seat, UDMR representatives winning 6 seats and PPMT representatives 2. It has to be pointed out that four years ago Antal Arpad won the elections but only in the second round and close to the limit (55 per cent), the voter turnout being lower than it was this time.In Harghita County UDMR grew from 42 mayoralties in 2008 to 51 mayoralties now. Harghita County Council President Borboly Csaba was reelected with almost 65 per cent of the votes, while the number of UDMR council members is five times higher (20) than that of PCM and PPMT members. Incumbent Miercurea-Ciuc Mayor Raduly Robert was reelected (65 per cent of the votes) just like incumbent Odorheiu Secuiesc Mayor Bunta Levente was (53 per cent of the votes). In Mures County the situation remained generally the same (38 UDMR mayors), but the dispersion of votes counted in the defeat of Lokodi Edita Emoke, the latter being County Council President for 2 terms. PCM won less than 3 per cent and PPMT less than 2 per cent in the county council. Satu-Mare County Council President Csehi Arpad (UDMR) lost his office, a Liberal candidate scoring approximately 4 per cent more than he did. What does this kind of success, observable especially in the Szekler Land where its Hungarian opponents were staking on better results, explain? First of all the fear of the dispersion of Hungarian votes, a fear propagandistically speculated for many years, worked. The Szeklers (and the Magyars in general) voted based on the saying “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” UDMR has undeniable accomplishments when it comes to electoral promises and it is obvious that a different party would have obtained less by more populistically harassing its Romanian partners. For the time being that proved to be the winning tactic for so many years. Secondly, the competitors’ offer not only failed to persuade, but was also a disappointment to the extent in which PCM’s results are inferior to those it registered 4 years ago. Used for a long time, the rhetoric of autonomy did not bring any kind of benefits bar the symbolic ones. Could it be that the Magyar electorate has become less vulnerable to the rhetorical bombardment of the autonomists? The latter being massively propagandistically backed by the media in Hungary, which is fairly loyal to the new cultural policy of the nationalist and conservative Orban government. How is it that Laszlo Tokes, at one time registering such a good result as an independent candidate in the EP elections, this time failed to pull its party higher? Maybe the not very successful experiment of PCM administrations that did not stand out and at any rate lacked an ampler political outlook mattered too. In any case, UDMR’s strategic autonomy in relation to the transient Orban government was considered to be safer than rash and risky experiments. After all, the measures taken by the right-wing governments in Budapest decisively contributed to the demographic recoil of Transylvanian Magyars. UDMR has proven throughout time the ability to obtain benefits for its own community, benefits that were otherwise difficult to foresee. And Marko Bela knew how to step down in time in order to prevent an internal discontent that would have generated significant scissions (motivated by an inevitable change in generations, otherwise the party long being free of dissidents). Now when UDMR is most likely heading towards an extended opposition, it’s safer to be able to rely on as many local political pillars as possible, since you no longer have governmental support. And the result of local elections could become the prelude of a concentrated vote for UDMR in parliamentary elections.

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