The bidding war between the government and the opposition, staged by the de UDMR

George Marinescu (translated by Cosmin Ghidovean)
English Section /

The bidding war between the government and the opposition, staged by the de UDMR

Traian Băsescu never discussed the immorality of the UDMR. He only spoke about the immorality of the solution of an alliance with the party led by Dan Voiculescu - the Conservative Party. Which later changed to the Romanian Humanist Party.

The versatility of the UDMR is notorious, because we are talking about a political party which has always wanted to be in the government.

The UDMR has always negotiated its votes, with any party, whether right wing or left wing, based on three major notions: administrative autonomy for the counties of Harghita and Covasna, where the Hungarian minority is in the majority; the administrative recognition of the Szekely land; primary, secondary and high school education in Hungarian language, bilingual colleges; bilingual markers in localities where Hungarians are in the majority; the use of Hungarian language in the local and county administration, in the institutions of the state, in the localities where Hungarians represent at least 20% of the total population.

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Every parliamentary majority in the last 26 years has been forced to take into account the opinions of the leaders of the UDMR and their whims. Political or government alliances have been made and unmade around the UDMR, because no party has succeeded in all this time to get the votes that would grant it a comfortable majority and to govern.

The UDMR has been and is a partner agreed by all the parties, despite some national trends that exist on both sides which are on the negotiating table. That is precisely why lately, there have been harsh negotiations with the UDMR leaders for ... the 30 votes that the party has in the Parliament.

Kelemen Hunor, the president of the UDMR, negotiated successively, with the leaders of the PSD-ALDE coalition and with the leaders of the PNL.

It's just that the political opposition doesn't seem willing to make many concessions to the UDMR. Ludovic Orban, the president of the PNL, told BURSA: "The problem of the UDMR is to decide whether to back the current government or not, if it falls. We are at the stage where we are trying to bring down the government and then we will decide on what to do next. Any political party, any parliamentary group needs to act in favor of its voters. The UDMR voters are overwhelmingly against the current government. The UDMR would have to act against the will of its own electorate. Also, they are our colleagues in the European People's Party, so they have to make up their mind on what they want. They can't be right wing and support a left wing government".

We have asked the president of the PNL if, in the negotiations with the representatives of the UDMR they have raised the issue of the supporting by the parliamentary opposition of the recent legislative drafts introduced in the parliament by the Hungarians' party. Ludovic Orban told us that the leaders of the UDMR have not clearly raised this demand and he couldn't tell us what the core of the negotiations with them consisted of.

The UDMR works in mysterious ways

The PSD needs the votes of the UDMR in the Chamber of Deputies, as it has lost the parliamentary majority and it can't get any law through without the help of the Hungarians. Last week, banking precisely on this fact, the UDMR opposed the voting of the Law of Pensions in the session of the Chamber, which has been sent back to the Labor commission for the amendments submitted by the deputies of the UDMR to be passed. The law was supposed to go up for debate and the final vote on it in the Chamber of Deputies today or on Wednesday at the latest, and the PSD-ALDE coalition needs the votes of the UDMR for the normative act to pass the Parliament, after it has been voted in the Senate on November 26th.

The leaders of the UDMR have also negotiated with the representatives of the Parliamentary opposition. The presidents of the PNL, USR and PMP have tried to get the votes of the UDMR for the motion of no-confidence which they have submitted on Friday in the Parliament and which was set to be read today in the plenum. According to calculations, the opposition needs 70 more votes. If it were to get the votes of the UDMR, 40 more votes would be necessary for the motion to pass and the Dăncilă government to leave the Victoria palace. The opposition claims that it is already betting on the votes of 10 social-democrats, but it is still missing 30 votes and it would also need some of the votes of the representatives of the ethnic minorities and from the PSD-ALDE coalition to reach the magic number of 233 votes in favor of the motion.

But the UDMR is playing hardball. Since the beginning of December it has submitted several draft laws, of which it would want to see at least two come through. And that is why it is negotiating. Both with the PSD-ALDE coalition, as well as with the temporary PNL-USR-PMP alliance, which has on its side PRO România as well, the party led by Victor Ponta. Kelemen Hunor and his colleagues are waiting to see who makes them a better offer and what the UDMR will get after giving its votes to one side or the other.

The UDMR is not to blame. That's how politics works: some ask, others offer, and they wait for the counteroffer or the acceptance of the initial offer. It's just that the position of the UDMR leaders in the domestic policy is way different than its attitude abroad. In the European Parliament, the UDMR are colleagues with the PNL in the great family of the European Popular Party. Right wing, in other words again the political left that the PSD belongs to.

In Romania, things aren't as cut and dry for Kelemen Hunor and his colleagues. Meaning that the UDMR is what it has always been: a major player in the Parliament, which has very clearly defined stances and which will sell its votes dearly. The first moment when the UDMR tested the PSD-ALDE coalition was tied to the approval of the law of pensions in the Chamber of Deputies. So the voters of the UDMR have voted the draft in the plenum of the Senate, on November 26th, claiming that the law was good, and in the Chamber of Deputies they changed their mind. And they made demands. And now they're waiting to see who will meet them.

What is certain is that the UDMR can play both ends and win without raising the stakes. The Union's elected MPs can vote on the law of retirement, if the majority of PSD-ALDE backs their legislative drafts and they can vote in favor of the motion of no-confidence, or abstain, knowing that the opposition is unable to take away 40 votes from the PSD-ALDE coalition.

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The UDMR has proposals for a new law of education and states it is open to negotiations with the PSD government for their introduction by Ecaterina Andronescu, one of the three laws of education promised before the unions. UDMR president Kelemen Hunor together with two other MPs of the Union have initiated three weeks ago a draft law which amends the current law of education and which proposes the expansion of schools which teach in the minorities' language, fully subsidized transportation for the ethnic minorities' students, the doubling of the standard cost per pupil and the doubling of the base funding per student in the case of the minorities, exams in the minorities' languages. The draft also proposes the introduction of bilingual signs in all the schools which teach in a minority's language, teachers to give homework at most once every two classes of a subject, two types of high school graduation exam which would also entitle graduates to driver's license test free of charge, the introduction of nurses in the auxiliary teaching staff.

Another draft law submitted in the Parliament in the beginning of December, by the UDMR stipulates "the transposition in the legislation of the provisions concerning the other populations residing in the country stipulated in the Alba Iulia resolution of December 1st, 1918". The UDMR is demanding the urgent passing of the draft so that the national minorities receive proportional representation in the administrative institutions on a local, county and European level, and proportional representation of the national minorities in the court staff. The draft also stipulates the possibility of the creation of separate regions of development, by law, and those new regions can also receive by law special autonomy for the counties that belong to historical regions or for those in which a historical national minority has a significant proportion. At the ministry as well as the public services level, the hiring of staff would be assured, including managers, in proportion to the number of citizens belonging to the historical minorities, both nationally and locally. Is also stipulated the passing of the law concerning the status of national minorities which would regulate the manner of administration of the cultural life, education and the culture of the historical national minorities.

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