By accusing the ethnic Hungarian minority in Transylvania, the Social Democratic Party and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of plotting to give Transylvania to Hungary, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis betrayed exactly those who trust him most, popular Romanian news channel Digi24 wrote in an editorial.
From Radu Ceontea to Corneliu Vadim Tudor (infamous leader of the Greater Romania party in the 1990s),the country has had a long line of politicians who regularly spouted conspiracy theories about paramilatary Szekler camps, occult maneuvers to destabilize the country and other never substantiated claims.
This time however, it was different because the words were of those of the president, a politician with 20 years of experience, almost two terms in his current position and the constitutional duty to “represent the country”. The latter means that whatever he says, it is supposed to become if not a legal norm then at least a moral norm, and an example to be followed by the country’s citizens.
Shortly after World War II, the occupying Soviet army put 70,000 people from Romania in forced labour for no other reason than that they belonged to the German minority. The few who survived came home only four years later. As former president of the association of ethnic Germans in Romania, Iohannis must have first-hand experience in what it means to be stigmatized just because of your mother tongue.
Iohannis also said “Good day, Ciolacu!” in Hungarian, “What did the leader from Budapest, Viktor Orbán, promise you in exchange for this agreement?”
Yes the president must be a model of accountability, but one at the very least based on facts. Yet the president’s claims have no basis in reality, but they do cause restlessness. If the president says we are in danger, it must be so. But we don’t know what kind of danger that is supposed to be. Neither did the foreign intelligence service or the army confirm any such danger.
His statement was referring to the autonomy bill submitted by the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ). As a politician, the president does have the right to support or oppose any political project. But he cannot say “I will not tolerate such laws”, as the ambition for autonomy is a legitimate democratic initiative, fully in line with the country’s legal system.
Paradoxically, Iohannis accuses the very voters who have most confidence in him. According to a February opinion poll, 24.6 percent of the voters of Covasna/Kovászna county (the county with the second highest percentage of ethnic Hungarians in Romania) said they trust Iohannis, compared to an overall five percent trust in other Romanian politicians or political parties.
Cynics will say that no matter what the president says, there will always be discord between Hungarians and Romanians and there might be a grain of truth in that. But that is exactly why democracy puts a single person as example before the others, so that people do not give in to their basest instincts but have a worthy example to follow.
Title image: Romanian President Klaus Iohannis (source: presidency.ro)