It’s a season full of elections in Romania this year, as on December 6th, citizens of Romania went to the polls to elect their senators and members of parliament. The election was marked by a record low turnout of 32% of eligible voters. The results were quite surprising when taking the September municipal elections into account, as the Socialist PSD made a comeback, winning 29% of the vote, up from their rather weak showing a few months earlier. However, it is important to mention that overall PSD’s vote decreased by approximately 16% compared to the 2016 legislative election, translating to a significant loss in parliamentary seats. The centre-right PNL and USR-PLUS parties won 25% and 15% of the vote respectively, increasing their share of parliamentary seats compared to the last legislative election, but underperforming compared to the local elections. A major change on the centre-right of the Romanian political spectrum is the failure of PMP to achieve the required 5% of votes to enter parliament.
The Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, RMDSZ (UDMR), received 5.8% of the vote, a slight decrease from the previous election’s 6.2%. However, over the last few Romanian legislative elections, RMDSZ’s support has been relatively cyclical, meaning an election with high ethnic Hungarian turnout is followed by another with lower turnout. Despite a slight decrease in votes, RMDSZ managed to achieve the same number of deputies and senators as in 2016, meaning that the Hungarian minority will maintain its presence in the Romanian parliament.
So far, sounds like a pretty standard election, right? But we have not talked about the newcomer in the Romania parliament: AUR. The Alliance for the Unity of Romanians is a far-right nationalist party that now has 33 deputies and 14 senators in the Romanian parliament by virtue of winning 9% of the popular vote. AUR, meaning Gold in Romanian, is defined by its right-wing, anti-establishment populism, it embraces a Greater Romania ideology, including union with Moldova, and is openly Hungarophobic. For the first time since the Greater Romania Party failed to meet the 5% threshold in 2008, there is a radically right-wing and Hungarophobic party in the Romanian parliament. Let’s take a closer look at this party, that in September only received 1% of the votes in the local elections and is now the 4th largest party in parliament.
The party was established on 1 December 2019, on the Great Union Day of Romania, and has been actively involved in the controversy around the Úzvölgye/Valea Uzului Military Cemetery, which has become a nationalist pilgrimage for all sorts of right-wing groups over the last year. The party has stated that the four pillars of its doctrine are: faith liberty, family, and motherland. It has two co-leaders: George Simion and Claudiu Tarziu. George Simion’s claim to fame is having been a campaigner for the unification of Romania with Moldova and being banned from the Republic of Moldova for doing so. Claudiu Tarziu has had a similarly illustrious career, unsuccessfully campaigning for a constitutional ban on gay marriage in 2018.
The party’s list of parliamentary candidates includes two individuals who have been accused of committing atrocities during the 1989 revolution, as well as individuals who have voiced their sympathy for the fascist Iron Guard. An interesting case is one AUR party member, Vasile Nagy, who identifies as a Hungarian from Arad, he made headlines by stating that he feels at home in the party. It is also important to mention here that AUR openly opposes ethnic minority parties, and has called for parties like UDMR to be banned from the Romanian political system.
The sudden rise of AUR can be ascribed to three factors. The first is Covid-19, as the party has made a strong effort to capitalize on anti-mask and anti-vaccine sentiment, going so far as having a future senator remove her mask while meeting with President Iohannis. The second is that the idea of unification with Moldova is quite popular in Romania. The third, and most relevant to Hungarians, is that open Hungarophobia is still very much a viable electoral platform in 2020 Romania.
Due to their commitment to staying out of government, AUR does not present an immediate danger to the rights of ethnic Hungarians in Romania, but they will most likely become a voice for extremist anti-Hungarian and anti-minority views over the next four years in the Romanian parliament.
In the featured photo: AUR co-leaders Claudiu Tarziu and George Simion (from left to right). Photo by MTI/AP/Vadim Ghirda