Iohannis has lost the Hungarians – commentary

Unlike five years ago when ethnic Hungarians voted for Klaus Iohannis as president, the second time around, voter turnout in the Transylvanian counties with a significant Hungarian population was extremely low. Gabriel Andreescu, columnist for Romanian news portal Observatorul Cultural, looks at the reasons behind this.

Turnout in Hargita/Harghita County at last month’s presidential elections was 22.86 percent and 25.86 percent in Kovászna/Covasna, the two lowest figures in the whole country. Five years ago – when Iohannis was first elected president – the situation was drastically different. Turnout in Hargita was 79.78 percent – the highest in the country – and in Covasna 79.95 percent, surpassing even Szeben/Sibiu, Iohannis’ home county (79.48%).

The Hungarian electorate’s mobilization in support of Iohannis was most likely accountable to the fact that ethnic Hungarians probably thought Iohannis – an ethnic German himself and president of the German Democratic Forum there – would be both aware of and receptive to other minorities’ grievances.

They got their first inkling that they were in for a surprise next April when Iohannis’ original message to the congress of Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ), which contained some very positive promises regarding minority rights and the preservation of their identities, was deleted after a short time from the presidential website. Eventually, a presidential advisor read an abbreviated message at the congress, consisting of mere platitudes.

Iohannis’s message to the 2019 RMDSZ congress was polite in its praise and somewhat justified in its veiled reproach for RMDSZ’s support of the then ruling coalition. But it again was entirely void of reassurances – or even recognition – regarding Hungarians’ problems.

But the most notable event happened this summer, when Iohannis challenged in the Constitutional Court most of the stipulations of the Administrative Law, which in essence did nothing but keep the language rights of minorities. With this, Iohannis became only the second president in Romania’s post-communist history to have challenged already acquired minority rights. (The first was Ion Iliescu during his first term.)

The only reason Iohannis could have had for this attitude towards the Hungarian minority was that at the time, RMDSZ supported his political enemy, the then ruling Social-Democrats (PSD). But that is no reason for a president to behave this way, especially given his role as mediator between state and society, a role that should have prevented him from doing so. As mediator, he also should have called attention to the systematic harassment of Hungarians by the supposedly impartial judiciary system.

Additionally, the president has a direct responsibility to eradicate the innate nationalism and chauvinism of the domestic secret service, the SRI, inherited from its communist predecessor, the Securitate. After all, Iohannis is legally entitled to nominate his candidate for the leadership of the secret service (SRI and foreign intelligence SIE) and appoints their deputies as well.

Title image: Klaus Iohannis (source: Facebook)


Author: Dénes Albert