It has been brewing for a long time but lately it has really come to a head. The Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania or, in Hungarian, the Romániai Magyar Demokrata Szövetség (RMDSZ) was for many years the only Hungarian party in Romania. It is a moderate, right of center party which hasn't lived up to the expectations of Fidesz and Viktor Orbán. Although several attempts were made to establish a strong ethnic Hungarian party whose ideology would be closer to the ideals of Fidesz, these efforts failed. They could not establish a worthy rival to RMDSZ, which on several occasions has formed alliances with other Romanian parties as a member of governing coalitions.
Up until now the leadership of RMDSZ has had good relations with all Hungarian governments, including the socialist-liberal governments. After all, it is to RMDSZ's advantage to be on good terms with Budapest because the Hungarian government sends a fair amount of money to the party to spend on cultural projects that serve the needs of the Hungarian minority in Romania. Unfortunately, the era of good relations seems to be over.
The man who represents Fidesz's interests in Transylvania is László Tőkés, "the hero of the Romanian revolution." As it turned out, Tőkés is a man of powerful nationalist impulses and a devoted follower of Viktor Orbán. He's the leader of a fledgling party that will try to unseat RMDSZ. One Fidesz-created party already lost badly at the last elections, but now Fidesz is really turning up the heat on RMDSZ and throwing its weight (and money) behind the new effort.
Hungarian politicians who were present at the congress of RMDSZ in February didn't mince words. Zsolt Semjén (KDNP), deputy prime minister in charge of Hungarian minorities in the neighboring countries, warned the leaders of RMDSZ that "on their decisions depends the relationship between Hungary and the Hungarians in Romania." In plain language, if you don't play ball, the good relations between Budapest and RMDSZ will suffer. After Semjén came Mrs. Pelcz, née Ildikó Gáll, one of the deputy chairmen of Fidesz. She said that she was the bearer of a message from Fidesz, a party that received two-thirds of the parliamentary seats. Change occurred in Hungary and "it is time to have a similar change in RMDSZ." She even warned her audience to think hard when they vote for a new party chairman. "If a serious change occurs we will extend a helping hand to you…. Small mistakes committed out of carelessness last forever." Well, at that point the audience loudly expressed its displeasure.
The delegates ignored Mrs. Pelcz's warning and elected Hunor Kelemen, a close associate of Béla Markó who was leaving his position as party chairman. Out of 538 votes Fidesz's candidate received only 47. Kelemen initially looked as if he were willing to negotiate with Fidesz and even sit down and talk with László Tőkés, who had just become the chairman of the Transylvania Hungarian National Council (Erdélyi Magyar Nemzeti Tanács).
Two weeks after the congress Zsolt Semjén told RMDSZ leaders that the "party's attitude toward the Hungarian parties must change." They cannot keep an equal distance between right and left. László Tőkés went even further. He announced in early April that what I call "the political retribution" (elszámoltatás) led by Gyula Budai, the commissioner who is looking into alleged corruption cases in the former government, must be extended to RMDSZ as well. Tőkés is surely confused. Budai has no jurisdiction outside of Hungary. However, such a suggestion says a lot about the atmosphere in Hungarian political circles in Romania.
By now the RMDSZ leaders have had enough. Hunor Kelemen in an interview on May 16 revealed that he asked for an interview with Viktor Orbán but received no answer from the Hungarian prime minister. The Hungarian leaders in Romania can imagine a relationship with the Hungarian government only on the basis of equal partnership. Béla Markó, the former chairman, gave an interview to a Hungarian-language television station in Romania in which he complained that Viktor Orbán's government is financially supporting the newly established Transylvanian Hungarian People's Party (Erdélyi Magyar Néppárt) led by Tőkés. He also mentioned another sore point. Until now Hungarian educational subsidies were channeled through so-called "status offices" run by a foundation under the supervision of RMDSZ. The Hungarian government is now handing over the privilege of distributing money for educational purposes to an organization closer to Fidesz.
Fidesz-RMDSZ relations are at their lowest, admitted Hunor Kelemen. He complained that although at the time of his election he was optimistic about RMDSZ's relations with the Hungarian government and with László Tőkés since then he came to realize that he was mistaken.
It is clear that Fidesz wants to split the Hungarian minorities in the neighboring countries. To achieve the same sharp political division they managed to create in Hungary. Hoping, of course, that their favored far-right parties will get the upper hand. But up to now they have met only setbacks. Their favored party in Slovakia (MKP, Magyar Koalíció Pártja) didn't manage to get into parliament while Most/Híd, a Slovak-Hungarian party, became part of the ruling coalition. In Romania there was already one attempt to create a party right of RMDSZ but it was also a failure. Now comes Tőkés and his Transylvanian Hungarian People's Party. Since Fidesz has total control over the purse strings, soon enough RMDSZ will get nothing and Tőkés's party will get all the money set aside for financial assistance of the Hungarian minority in Romania. Perhaps this generous financial support will bring political gains. One thing is sure, this is a really dirty game that can only hurt the Hungarian minorities in the neighboring countries.