139727 2/1/2008 16:36 08BUCHAREST90 Embassy Bucharest UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY VZCZCXRO7493 RR RUEHAG RUEHAST RUEHDA RUEHDF RUEHFL RUEHIK RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHLN RUEHLZ RUEHPOD RUEHROV RUEHSR RUEHVK RUEHYG DE RUEHBM #0090/01 0321636 ZNR UUUUU ZZH R 011636Z FEB 08 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7848 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 BUCHAREST 000090
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E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, SOCI, KDEM, SCUL, RO SUBJECT: SPLITTING THE ETHNIC HUNGARIAN VOTE: COURT GREENLIGHTS UDMR RIVAL PARTY
1. (SBU) Summary. On January 29, after four years of delays, the Bucharest Court registered a new political party representing ethnic Hungarians, the Hungarian Civic Party (PCM). The new party aims to provide an alternative to Romania's Democratic Alliance of Ethnic Hungarians (UDMR), seen by some as a corrupt party whose leaders have abandoned the Hungarian community's interests in favor of their own. Until now, the UDMR has been the only significant party representing Romania's approximately 1.5 million ethnic Hungarians. The organization has supported or participated in every government, regardless of orientation, since the fall of communism. Since its establishment in 2004, the PCM has been a proponent of the territorial autonomy of the so-called "Szeklerland." The new party, overtly backed by President Basescu, will run candidates in upcoming local elections and may seek to negotiate joint slates with the UDMR in the general elections. Although the PCM,s emergence is a matter of serious concern for the UDMR, UDMR sources disagree on whether their party would cooperate with the PCM for the general elections. If the two ethnic Hungarian parties run separately in the parliamentary elections, the split of the ethnic Hungarian vote, amounting to about six percent, may bar the ethnic group's representation in Parliament. End Summary.
2. (U) On January 29, the Bucharest Court finally approved the registration of the PCM, a new party for ethnic Hungarians, which hopes to provide an alternative to the UDMR. Jeno Szasz, the PCM's leader and mayor of Odorheiul Secuiesc, holds radical views and fiercely supports the autonomy of ethnic Hungarians. The PCM,s avowed goal is to secure the autonomy of the "Szeklerland," a primarily ethnic Hungarian region including Harghita, Covasna, and Mures Counties. The PCM eagerly awaits their share of the funds that the Romanian government normally gives to the UDMR. In 2004, the UDMR allegedly tried to prevent PCM's registration and the party has faced declining support and charges of corruption among its leaders. Ethnic Hungarian opposition leaders accuse the UDMR of sacrificing party values and hopping into bed with any ruling party or coalition. For the first time since the fall of communism, UDMR's monopoly over ethnic Hungarian voters is genuinely challenged.
3. (SBU) Basescu has openly supported the PCM, evidenced by the president's repeated visits to Szasz' fiefdom last spring. After last November's European Parliament elections, Basescu promised support for independent ethnic Hungarian Europarliamentarian Laszlo Tokes, who entered the European Parliament with the support of the PCM and other ethnic Hungarian groups allied against UDMR. UDMR leaders allege that Basescu is intent on splitting the ethnic Hungarian population, thus removing UMDR's hold on Parliamentary representation and gaining revenge against the UDMR for supporting his suspension last May. After the PCM's registration, UDMR Executive President Hunaor Kelemen declared that, besides the Liberal Democratic Party (PD-L), President Basescu now "has an ethnic Hungarian party as well."
4. (U) Last year, the PCM supported an unofficial National Szekler Council-sponsored referendum on the autonomy of the Szeklerland in areas with a majority ethnic Hungarian population. Proponents of Szeklerland autonomy have repeatedly drawn parallels between their situation and Kosovo's, calling for the adoption of a law of Szeklerland autonomy. Presumably feeling the pressure of PCM competition in the upcoming local elections, UDMR deputy Antal Arpad Andras recently stated that ethnic Hungarians "should use efficiently the manner in which the situation of Kosovo is resolved." Independent Europarliamentarian Laszlo Tokes spoke in favor of the Szeklerland autonomy; however, tempering his statement with the clarification that he did not mean independence, "even if Kosovo might create a precedent in this regard."
4. (SBU) The PCM plans to put forth its own candidates in the local elections, although Szasz would not rule out cooperation with the UDMR in some localities. The UDMR, dismissing PCM's attempts to be viewed as an equal partner for years, predicted that the PCM would not stand a chance in either the local or general elections because the party lacks "charismatic personalities." The UDMR plans to take advantage of developing cracks in PCM leadership to attract defections from the new party's ranks.
5. (SBU) Comment: The upcoming local elections, likely in June, will test PCM's mettle. If the party wins a significant percentage of the ethnic Hungarian vote, the UDMR would likely be forced to accept the PCM as a partner for the
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general elections. The vote percentage garnered by PCM would determine its hand in negotiations with the UDMR. If the parties win fairly equal percentages and refuse to run joint slates, intramural competition could shut both out of Parliament. End Comment. TAUBMAN