The Orbán government and the Hungarian minority in Romania

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.

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slovak boy
Guest

Absolutely correctly pointed out that Fidesz and Tokes are putting all their efforts in creating a dissent among ethnic Hungarians in neigbouring countries. They want nationalist fears whipped to the maximum. By using illicit finances to support priviledged Fidesz close groups or religous organisations such as Reformed church of Hungary they want to drive all the sheeps into one fold. Nationalism and religious fevor is a deadly mix. Fidesz will soon cross the line of no return.

magyarESnemSZELSOSEGES
Guest
magyarESnemSZELSOSEGES

Hello Obama. Time to eliminate Orban.
Can we have a new Budapest Spring again?

Member

It still begs the question, why is he doing it? I mean why is Orban doing all of this? He cannot possibly believe that what he is stirring up left and right will create a “better future” for Hungarians. Let say that he is really such a short sighted person, but look at the people who surround him and licking up to him, we cannot say that they are all idiots. What is in for them? Here is Johnny Boy. Ok he supports the Fdesz, because he hates homosexuals, and have been very badly informed about what liberals are (he thinks all of them are communists), what opposition is, and how it is the role of a strong opposition to hold the government accountable. So let say 50% of Fidesz fan club is made up from Johnny Boys, but who are the other 50%? There must be some well informed individuals there… just asking.

John T
Guest

So what we effectively have here is political gerrymandering, albeit outside of Hungary, but using Hungarian taxpayers money. Completely distasteful but not surprising.

Odin's lost eye
Guest
What are these buffoons up to? The kindest interpretation is that the ‘Mighty One’ aka the ‘Beloved Leader’ (OV) want to boost his following by giving those of Hungarian origin who live outside Hungary Hungarian citizenship and the vote, he hopes to boost Fidesz’s share of the vote. The worst scenario is that he wants to encourage extreme nationalism and religious bigotry. The various strands of the plot are coming together, re-introduction of conscription to increase his armed strength and his interference with the political affairs of Hungarian minorities. He wants to provoke a backlash against the various Hungarian minorities. As out hostess writes * “One thing is sure, this is a really dirty game that can only hurt the Hungarian minorities in the neighbouring countries” *. He wants this to happen. We know that he loves ‘playing with fire’, is fascinated by ‘Black Ops’, and from the past reports in this blog he enjoys stirring up hatred. He is not un-aware of the ‘IRA’, Al Qaeda and ‘ETA’. He would doubtless support similar organisations in beyond his borders. This would provoke an even greater backlash on the part of the various majorities against the Hungarian minority. It would give… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest

someone, my proposition is simple but for me OV really believes that there is such a thing as the “true and pure Hungarian” and the most important cause is to restore to this noble creature its place in the world. All other policies appear derived from that. He cannot fight for Great Hungary and at the same time alienate those people who constitute the main proof of “Great Hungary still exists” if he had not some theory of the “true” Hungarian in mind who has to be set free. As I wrote, people who feel Hungarian and do not share this messianic fervour must find a common definition of the Hungarian nation that is able to include more people than Jobbik (Vedero, More Beautiful Future…) and Fidesz party politicians. To me OV can do all that he does because he is in possession of the knock-out argument that who dares to criticise him is not really Hungarian also called idegenszivu. The treatment of the Hungarians in Romania makes this even more evident.

agatokles
Guest

there is no great hungary, never exist this one.some people dream about a hugary takin’ part of some other countries. this dream is too far and too legendary island to have a body today. some people wish to live in a habsburg imperium or, so pathetic, in a medieval hungary when few french kings try to disrupt a native history.
tokes feel some nazy feelings about a fetish speling of history. hungarian gov. try harder to improve this nazy feelings. but no result. the europe, the people, the times are dramaticaly changed.
it’s good, it’s bad. i f****n’ don’t care. but i have a strong feelin’ about stupid wishes to resurect a theoretic history.
good luck for smally miserably idiots who try to spead nationalistic s**t over a people with no god in life.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

someone: “but look at the people who surround him and licking up to him, we cannot say that they are all idiots. What is in for them?”
No, but nationalism is a powerful force. If someone keeps telling you how great you are, you will feel good. Very good. And you will believe it.

Member

Kirsten: “”true and pure Hungarian” That rings a bell… I guess, I am just surprised that someone intelligent would believe in a pure nation anywhere in the 21st Century. It is against any logic, especially when it comes to a nation that is clearly has a Nomadic history, not even mentioning the welcomed arrival of various nationalities (Samuel Aba). King Stephen did everything in his power to create a united, inclusive Hungary in order to bring Hungary closer to Europe. Orban does everything in his power just for the opposite. I would take your opinion a step further and say that he uses the idea of purebred Hungarian to elevate himself to this imaginary pedestal in Hungarian history for all and any price.

Odin's lost eye
Guest
Professor you write ** “No, but nationalism is a powerful force. If someone keeps telling you how great you are, you will feel good, Very good. And you will believe it.” **. Thereby ‘hangs the tail’ as Someone’s comments on Kirsten’s remark. Someone wrote ** “I guess, I am just surprised that someone intelligent would believe in a pure nation anywhere in the 21st Century. It is against any logic.” * Not only is against all logic it is against what you can see physically on the streets of any Hungarian town or village. The real problem is when the people believe how great a people they are and how superior they are to all the rest of world. We all know what happened as a result of the idea of “Ubermensch” as proposed by Nietzsche becomes perverted. The logical conclusion is that if there are “Ubermensch” there must be “Untermench”. If you are a Hungarian you are an “Ubermensch” and all the rest are “Untermench”. It is these philosophies which lead to the total horrors, brutality and death inflicted by the German Armies and their allies in Eastern Europe. This concept allows the “Ubermensch” to regard the “Untermench” as… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest
Odin, someone: I think that most people have some sense of reality, which makes it unlikely that all start to truly and honestly believe in the absolute superiority of their nation, and start to commit crimes of all sorts because of it. The problem is that people with a sense for reality can start to doubt whether their doubts and their sense of reality is correct because so many people appear to believe in “salvation through adherence to the Holy Crown” and the like. Confusion sets in. As a result of it, the opposition to true believers and activists such as JB becomes weak and in the end also complicated. You do not know anymore whether there are other people with “normal senses” and you start to fear that in case of opposition you will not get any support in society (in some way this has already happened in Hungary during the past year, public support for some people has been low and some “show cases” were staged). And probably you may think, certainly not ALL that they say is entirely wrong, why should we not remember our traditions and indeed, Trianon was not fair to us, we should reduce… Read more »