09/11/2020

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Retaking Lost Ground - on the historic victory of Hungarian communities at the local elections in Transylvania

The RMDSZ (Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania) is the oldest and largest minority party in the country, since its democratic chapter was established after the fall of Communism, and aside from minor gains from smaller challengers, mostly in the homogeneously Hungarian Székelyföld or Szeklerland, it was able to consolidate its power among most Hungarian-speaking voters across Transylvania. Of course, this was never enough to ensure healthy political representation for these communities, because in ethnically mixed counties the key positions would normally go to Romanian politicians.

Romanian local elections are rarely cheerful events for the Hungarian communities living in Transylvania. The number of Hungarians is dropping at a slow but steady rate (from 1.6 million in 1992 to 1.2 million in 2011) and in consequence their chances for political representation in key positions are also declining. Traditionally, Hungarian parties stand a chance only in constituencies where Hungarians are the majority, so in the past thirty years they have largely lost the diverse urban centres, as soon as the Romanian population there surpassed 50 per cent. Yet despite this trend, this year’s election showed us that Transylvanian politics can be much more than just ethnic headcounts, and that communities can move forward to heal their wounds together.

The RMDSZ (Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania) is the oldest and largest minority party in the country, since its democratic chapter was established after the fall of Communism, and aside from minor gains from smaller challengers, mostly in the homogeneously Hungarian Székelyföld or Szeklerland, it was able to consolidate its power among most Hungarian-speaking voters across Transylvania. Of course, this was never enough to ensure healthy political representation for these communities, because in ethnically mixed counties the key positions would normally go to Romanian politicians, to whom the interests of their Hungarian citizens make little to no difference in the long term. Romanians tend to have a hard time understanding the everyday problems minorities face in the country, and are usually ready to compromise only when it is vital to defeat other parties. This time it was different. After years and decades of losing ground in diverse urban centres, the RMDSZ was finally able to mobilize its voters in unprecedented numbers and score a historic victory in September that changed the outlook of Transylvanian politics. Specifically, it has won the election in 199 constituencies and four counties, but most importantly it was able to claim the mayor’s seat in three cities that have not been majority Hungarian for a long time now.

The original, full article is available here.

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