Politics

Local Elections In Romania: Ethnic Hungarian Candidates Optimistic About Winning Back Two Major Cities

Ethnic Hungarian candidates in two Transylvanian cities with substantial ethnic Hungarian communities are optimistic that a strong campaign and Romania’s new single-round local election system could help them win back the position of mayor despite both localities having a Romanian majority.

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Marosvásárhely: Ethnic Hungarian candidate Zoltán Soós, who is running as an independent, stands a strong chance to become the first Hungarian mayor in the city of 133 000 after sixteen years (photo: MTI)

In Marosvásárhely (Târgu Mureş), a city in central Transylvania that is home to some 133 000 people, around 45 per cent of which are ethnic Hungarians, Zoltán Soós, who is running as an independent with support from the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ), the country’s largest ethnic Hungarian party, is optimistic that the county seat could again have a Hungarian mayor after sixteen years of Romanian leadership.

Experts say Mr. Soós stands a strong chance against Dorin Florea, the city’s incumbent, thrice-reelected mayor who is currently on trial for corruption. Whether he will manage to win the position will depend upon two key factors: the degree to which he will succeed in mobilising ethnic Hungarian voters and support for fringe candidates, which could divide the Romanian vote and secure a path to victory for the Hungarian candidate.  The proportion of the city’s ethnic Hungarian population has been declining steadily from 71 per cent in 1966 to around 45 per cent today, due to Romanians being settled in the city’s newly-built areas and emigration to Hungary after democratic transition.

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Szatmárnémeti: Ethnic Hungarian candidate Gábor Kereskényi has a 1 per cent lead over his Romanian incumbent rival, according to a recent poll (photo: maszol.ro)

The ethnic Hungarian candidate is similarly optimistic in Szatmárnémeti (Satu Mare), a city of some 100 000 inhabitants near Romania’s northeastern border with Hungary. Approximately 39 per cent of the city’s population belongs to the ethnic Hungarian community; however, Gábor Kereskényi, who is running as the candidate of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, is optimistic that the Hungarian community could win back the leadership of the city, lost four years ago to incumbent mayor Dorel Coica. In an interview with transindex.ro, Mr. Kereskényi revealed that there is currently an atmosphere of protest in the city, and not only among voters of Hungarian ethnicity.

Besides the single-round voting system, the Hungarian candidate’s chances are improved by an agreement of cooperation with the local branch of an ethnic German organisation and support from “several Romanian people of good will”, he said, pointing out that the importance of winning back the city is well reflected by the fact that RMDSZ chose to hold its campaign lauch for local government elections in the city. His hopes are confirmed by a recent survey, which show Mr. Kereskényi leading by 28 per cent, slightly ahead of Mr. Coica’s 27 per cent.

Local elections are scheduled to be held in Romania, a country of 19.5 million inhabitants, on 5 June. The country is home to the largest ethnic Hungarian community, numbering around 1.25 million according to the latest figures, among states neighbouring Hungary.

via mno.hu and transindex.ro
cover photo: Marosvásárhely by night (Petra Meltzer/flickr.com)