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Cablegate: Romania Elections: Ethnic Hungarians Tilt Toward

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

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

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

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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