238135 12/4/2009 12:49 09BUCHAREST807 Embassy Bucharest UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY 09BUCHAREST799 VZCZCXRO7778 PP RUEHIK DE RUEHBM #0807 3381249 ZNR UUUUU ZZH P 041249Z DEC 09 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0134 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY UNCLAS BUCHAREST 000807
STATE EUR/CE FOR ASCHEIBE
E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: PGOV, PHUM, SOCI, RO SUBJECT: ROMANIA ELECTIONS: ETHNIC HUNGARIANS TILT TOWARD GEOANA BUT AVOID OUTRIGHT ENDORSEMENT
REF: BUCHAREST 799 AND PREVIOUS
1. (SBU) Summary. The ethnic Hungarian party UDMR announced between rounds of the Romanian presidential race that it would support the PNL-PSD nomination of Sibiu Mayor Klaus Iohannis as Prime Minister, but stopped short of joining PNL in endorsing PSD candidate Mircea Geoana for the December 6 presidential runoff. The move is a compromise solution for UDMR party leaders who lean toward the front-runner Geoana as a ticket back into the perks and patronage of government, while also realizing that many ethnic Hungarians prefer incumbent President Traian Basescu (PDL) - who cannot be counted out yet. End Summary.
2. (SBU) The umbrella coalition Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) announced on December 2 that it will join the National Liberal Party (PNL) in supporting the "ethnic minority candidate" Sibiu Mayor Klaus Iohannis as the next Prime Minister of Romania. (Note: If named Prime Minister, Iohannis - an ethnic German - would become the highest-ranking minority official in post-communist Romania. End Note.) In a compromise of sorts, UDMR stopped short of following the PNL in explicitly endorsing presidential challenger and front-runner Mircea Geoana of the Social Democrats (PSD). UDMR had ample justification for endorsing Geoana: he had supported nominating Iohannis for Prime Minister following the collapse of the PDL-PSD coalition government in October 2009, and UDMR's traditional ally PNL had secured Geoana's promise to continue backing Iohannis in exchange for PNL's endorsement of Geoana in the second round of elections. Moreover, Post contacts within UDMR have spoken fondly of their four years of collaboration with the PSD in the 2004 coalition government of Adrian Nastase.
3. (SBU) On the other hand, by not explicitly endorsing Geoana, UDMR leaves the door open to re-entering government with Basescu's PDL should the incumbent manage to win re-election. This would also be a hedge with UDMR's ethnic Hungarian electorate, with whom Basescu remains very popular following numerous visits during his presidency to the majority Hungarian counties in Transylvania. In fact, Basescu out-polled Geoana significantly in those areas in the first round of elections on November 22. Former Protestant Bishop Laszlo Tokes, a symbol of the 1989 Revolution and a UDMR Euro Parliamentarian who is influential among more radical ethnic Hungarians, has publicly endorsed Basescu in the second round.
4. (SBU) Comment. UDMR needs to go with the winner of this election in order to regain the perks and patronage that come with participation in government. A hypothetical PSD-PNL-UDMR coalition would carry a wide majority in Parliament and could govern from a stable position. On the other hand, a hypothetical PDL-UDMR coalition would be less stable but would give the Hungarians more clout because UDMR would only have to reach agreement with one coalition partner. Faced with this difficult choice, the UDMR leadership is cautiously betting on the favorite Geoana, while still keeping its options open should Basescu defy the odds, perhaps with conspicuous help from the 600,000-strong Hungarian vote. GITENSTEIN