Viktor Orbán, László Tőkés, and Transylvania

I rarely touch on the Hungarian minorities in the neighboring countries because I don’t know enough about them. Yes, I read the Hungarian media, but that is not enough for an analysis of the Hungarian minority situation in Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, and Ukraine.

However, I feel compelled to say a few words about Transylvania. Hungarians represent about 7% of the Romanian population. In 1992 they numbered 1,624,959, and in 2002 1,431,807. Their birthrate is low and emigration to Hungary is high. Nonetheless, the Hungarian minority remains significant, with its own political representation. The RMDSZ (Romániai Magyar Demokrata Szövetség, in Romanian Uniunea Democrată Maghiară din România) was established in 1989. Ideologically the party is right of center, currently headed by Béla Markó, a poet. (Its first president, Géza Domokos, was a writer.) The RMDSZ is part of the Romanian government, with four ministers. Markó until recently was also deputy prime minister of Romania.

Then comes László Tőkés, the Calvinist bishop and hero of the Romanian revolution. I admired Tőkés’s role in 1989. After all, his brave stance gave rise to the Romanian "revolution" that toppled Ceausescu’s regime. Since then I have lost my admiration for him. His nationalism and extreme stance on the Hungarian minority are, in my opinion, harmful to the Hungarians of Romania. Among other things, Tőkés has political ambitions of his own and has been working to organize a Hungarian party to the right of the RMDSZ. As a first step, he announced his candidacy as an "independent" candidate for the one of the seats allotted to Romania in the European Union’s parliament. If the Hungarian minority in Romania votes as a bloc, getting 5% of the votes cast, they might have two representatives. However, if there are two candidates–one from the RMDSZ and the other an "independent," the Hungarian votes will be split and most likely neither will be successful. And so the Hungarians of Romania willl be without representation in Brussels.

The RMDSZ conducted lengthy negotiations with Tőkés, to no avail. Tőkés is now campaigning furiously in advance of the May 19, 2008 elections. Viktor Orbán this past weekend traveled to Transylvania to help Tőkés along. (By the way, Orbán likes to visit Romania. He hardly ever goes to Slovakia. In fact, I can’t remember a single occasion, but he goes to Transylvania several times a year. Very often he makes important announcements concerning Hungarian politics there.)

So, Orbán campaigned with great gusto on Tőkés’s behalf without mentioning his name. He simply followed the practice of the Hungarian clergy who in their sermons never explicitly endorse a candidate (but who nonetheless make clear the political road to salvation). From the point of view of the Hungarian minority in Romania the current political situation is grim. According to the latest polls, if the elections were held this Sunday, the RMDSZ would get only 3.9%. That would not be enough to get into either the parliament in Bucharest or the parliament of the European Union.

What does Viktor Orbán say to all this? Don’t blame me if no Hungarian gets into the parliament of the European Union. It is the fault of the Hungarians of Romania. They didn’t vote the right way! Meaning for László Tőkés. One of the RMDSZ leaders, Hunor Kelemen, called Orbán’s attitude "unconscionable cynicism." I really don’t know what Orbán is doing.