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Amid a low turnout, the Hungarian minority’s RMDSZ party (UDMR) managed to reach the parliamentary threshold at the Romania elections held on Sunday. In an outcome that many label a potential stalemate, four other parties or formations managed to do so, none of them with a large majority. In addition, an ultra nationalist party also made it to Romania’s National Assembly.

In the weeks leading up to the elections, Hungarian politicians were active to call up Hungarians with Romanian citizenship to go cast their votes for RMDSZ. Both the PMO Chief Gergely Gulyás and Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó took the trip to Transylvania to help RMDSZ in campaigning. The latter’s activity even led to minor diplomatic tensions, after RMDSZ used Szijjártó’s voice and Hungarian- language message in the campaigning phone calls, which some viewed as breaching Romania’s sovereignty.

At this time, RMDSZ’s list could represent the entirety of the Hungarian political spectrum in Romania after it had entered into an alliance with the right-wing, pro-autonomy Hungarian People’s Party of Transylvania (EMNP- that had merged with two other smaller parties).

In total, around 6% cast their votes for RMDSZ, which essentially equals the proportion of the Hungarian population in Romania. In terms of voter turnout, similar tendencies could be observed in the Hungarian majority counties as well as country-wide (a record low turnout of 31.84%). RMDSZ eventually won in four of the 41 (plus Bucharest) counties: Hargita (Harghita), Kovászna (Covasna), Maros (Mureș) and Szatmár (Satu Mare).

Fact

PM Viktor Orbán congratulates Romania RMDSZ on election result
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has congratulated Romania’s ethnic Hungarian RMDSZ party on the results it achieved in Sunday’s general election, saying that Hungarian representation remained strong in the Romanian parliament, the PM’s press chief said. In a letter to RMDSZ head Hunor Kelemen, Orbán noted the challenges the coronavirus epidemic had posed during the elections, Bertalan Havasi said on Monday. The difficulties have also shown, however, that “exemplary cooperation” between Hungarian parties in the country was justified, Orbán said, and congratulated Kelemen on the results.

However, in a rather more worrying outcome for Hungarians, newcomer ultra-nationalist Alliance for Romanians’ Union that previously campaigned against Hungarians, has close ties with the Orthodox church, and spread pandemic-denying conspiracy theories, also managed to jump over the threshold. They performed better than expected, garnering almost 9% of the votes.

RMDSZ party leader Hunor Kelemen thanked those who voted. He said low turnout was predictable. According to him, those parties entering Parliament must start government-forming talks as soon as possible, since the country “faces huge challenges” and the pandemic’s consequences will not disappear overnight. On the subject of radical AUR’s performance, Kelemen commented that “there is no need for such a party in parliament, but we respect the voters’ choice.” Kelemen also claimed that for now they haven’t been asked to enter into cooperation with another group. RMDSZ earlier formed an alliance with center-right PNL.

Fact

The elections continued turbulent times in Romanian domestic politics. PSD’s landslide victory four years ago was soon followed by turmoil, scandals, anti-corruption protests, and three different prime ministers. Orban’s PNL took over the country’s leadership one year ago but governed without a majority.

While both parties claimed victory, left-wing opposition Social Democrats (PSD) garnered more votes with 29.8%. Prime Minister Ludovic Orban’s ruling center-right National Liberal Party (PNL) collected 25.1%. The third place goes to progressive, anti-corruption USR-PLUS Alliance that pocketed 14.5%.

According to analysts, these results could easily lead to a long domestic stalemate or even a grand coalition. This latter scenario was however, soon denied by PSD President Marcel Ciolacu who also wants incumbent Orban’s resignation. Moreover, USR-PLUS also announced that it wouldn’t form an alliance with PSD. Ahead of the elections, a cooperation between PNL and USR-PLUS would have been a likely outcome; at this point, however, even with RMDSZ they wouldn’t have a majority. Other options are barely left, after both Traian Băsescu’s conservative PMP and Victor Ponta’s center-left Pro Romania party dropped out of Parliament.

Anyhow, it is now up to president Klaus Johannis to appoint who could form (or at least, try to) the next government.

featured image: Hunor Kelemen with the press after casting his vote in Csíkkarcfalva (Cârța); via Nándor Veres/MTI