150704 4/22/2008 6:17 08BUCHAREST315 Embassy Bucharest CONFIDENTIAL VZCZCXRO4149 PP RUEHBW RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHBM #0315/01 1130617 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 220617Z APR 08 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8193 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BUCHAREST 000315
STATE FOR EUR/NCE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/18/2018 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, RO SUBJECT: ETHNIC HUNGARIAN PARTIES FACE NEW ELECTION CHALLENGES
Classified By: Polcouns Theodore Tanoue for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (C) Summary: Ethnic Hungarian political contacts predicted that the UDMR and the rival Magyar Civic Party (PCM) would not be able to reach an accommodation before the registration deadline for candidates in the upcoming June 1 local elections. They predicted that both sides saw the election as a bellwether for gauging their relative strengths prior to the fall parliamentary elections. They noted that regardless of the parliamentary election results, the ethnic Hungarian parties would show flexibility in forming alliances with either Basescu,s PD-L or with the PNL-PSD camp. End Summary.
2. (C) UDMR Senator Peter Eckstein-Kovacs told poloffs 4/14 that negotiations between his party and the newly-registered Magyar Civic Party (PCM) were the key issue for the ethnic Hungarian community going into the June 1 local elections. Eckstein said because both sides realize they cannot reach the 5 percent threshold for parliamentary representation by going it alone, negotiations between UDMR and PCM concern practical issues such as who the candidates are and how to avoid a head-on competition that would weaken both parties. He admitted that the PCM was stronger in Hargita and Mures counties, but noted the UDMR had greater appeal and better established candidates in other ethnic Hungarian strongholds in Transylvania. Asked about the relative strengths of the two parties, Eckstein guessed that the UDMR probably would receive around two-thirds of the ethnic Hungarian vote; the PCM would get the remaining third. Eckstein acknowledged that the emergence of the PCM had a radicalizing influence on both ethnic Hungarian parties, as both were now competing for the Magyar vote by stressing increased autonomy. He said that the local elections were important as a bellwether in establishing the relative strengths of the two parties going into the fall parliamentary elections.
3. (C) Eckstein-Kovacs described President Basescu as the "godfather" of the PCM; Basescu had promoted the creation of a new party as revenge for the UDMR staying in alliance with the PNL in the Tariceanu government, and as a way to split to the ethnic Hungarian vote. He predicted that Basescu's divide-and-rule strategy was creating a dynamic where parties were reluctant to ally themselves with the Basescu/PD-L camp. Given that the PD-L probably would not receive a majority of votes in parliamentary elections this fall, the likely outcome would be the creation of an anti-Basescu alliance comprised of the PNL, PSD, and the UDMR. He acknowledged, however, the Hungarians were flexible, and said that his party was one of the few remaining actors on the Romanian political stage which could still either join the PNL and PSD, or cast their lot with the PD-L. From this perspective, he said, it was useful to have the PCM as a partner since their relations with the Basescu camp were excellent.
4. (C) Similarly, UDMR Deputy Tibor Toro (a close confidante of Bishop Laszlo Tokes and a UDMR maverick whom some have speculated would soon defect to the PCM camp) told poloffs 4/15 that despite efforts by Bishop Tokes and himself to close the gap between the two ethnic Hungarian parties, there had been no success reaching a pre-election agreement before the April 22 deadline for registering candidates for the June 1 local election. He confirmed that the current mood on both sides was to use these elections as a "test run" to gauge their relative strengths before a new round of negotiations prior to the fall elections. He added, however, that the mood for cooperation varied by county. In Cluj County, for example, the two parties were likely to reach some sort of informal accommodation; other local compromises were also possible given the two parties, different regional strengths and weaknesses. (Note: his estimate for the strengths of the two parties was similar to Eckstein's--e.g., two-thirds for the UDMR and one-third of the votes for the PCM.)
5. (C) Toro bemoaned the fact that the PCM side was "unrealistic" about its electoral chances, since many in the PCM were extrapolating from Tokes' strong performance during last November's European Parliamentary contest. The difference was that although Tokes was a charismatic politician and a symbol of the fight against Ceaucescu,s regime, others in the PCM were political unknowns and newcomers. He said that Tokes' position was to stand "above the fray" and support any ethnic Hungarian candidate who was "authentic" in their demands for Hungarian autonomy. Toro confirmed that the intent was to promote a more radical stance on the part of both parties. (Note: UDMR foreign affairs advisor Kinga Papp-Tontsch recently told us that the reason for Tokes' studied neutrality was more personal, since his falling out with PCM President Jeno Szasz).
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6. (C) Toro also described the "special relationship" between the PCR and Basescu, noting that Basescu had been instrumental in the PCM's being able to register as a new political party over the objections of the UDMR. He said that while Basescu,s motivation might have been to divide and control the ethnic Hungarian bloc, the upshot was a more pluralistic system for the Magyar minority. Whatever the outcome of the fall parliamentary election, the Hungarians would be "flexible" enough to play their traditional "kingmaker" role by allying with the party or group of parties most likely to form a government.
7. (C) Comment: It is likely that no ethnic-Hungarian political strategy will develop as hoped. The effort by the ethnic Hungarians to be politically relevant through a more radicalized platform favoring autonomy will be a deterrent to the mainstream parties without some "quid pro quos" on support for a mainstream (read: not Hungarian-centric) platform. The traditional flexibility of the ethnic-Hungarian political leadership also probably will come into play by the time of the national elections, leading either the UDMR or the PCM to ally with a more mainstream party and thus splitting their electoral power, or force the two Hungarian camps to unite in a brokered deal that would likely further empower the Basescu camp through his PCM proxies. End Comment. TAUBMAN