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Cablegate: Splitting the Ethnic Hungarian Vote: Court

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

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DPT FOR EUR/NCE

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

BUCHAREST 00000090 002 OF 002


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

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