The Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (known by its Hungarian acronym of RMDSZ) managed to gain over 200 mayoral seats in Sunday’s municipal elections. This was more than four years ago and a good sign ahead of the general elections slated for December 6, RMDSZ President Hunor Kelemen said at a press conference on Monday.
“To complement the strong presence in municipalities, we need to add a strong parliamentary faction, which will make the picture complete,” Kelemen told Hungarian radio Monday morning. “It is already clear that there will be a significant upheaval in Romanian politics, with the National Liberal Party and the Save Romania Union taking over power. This also means that while the Social Democratic Party will remain standing, it will fall back [in popularity].”
Besides the number of mayoral seats, the other significant achievement for RMDSZ was winning the majority of seats in four of Romania’s 41 counties (Hargita, Kovászna, Maros and Szatmár). At the local level, the biggest single victory was that of new Mayor Zoltán Soós in Marosvásárhely/Târgu Mureș, where just under half of the population (45.2 percent of its 134,000 inhabitants according to the latest, 2011 census) is Hungarian and which has had a Romanian mayor, Dorin Florea, for the past 20 years.
Shortly after his election, Soós said that his victory was one of the locals over the corruption that has become endemic during his predecessor’s rule.
“This is not a Hungarian victory over Romanians but a victory for all the inhabitants of Marosvásárhely/Târgu Mureș over the ‘Godfathers,’” Soós, said in a bilingual speech announcing the result.
On the overall national scene, the center-right electoral alliance of Save Romania Union (USR) and the Freedom, Unity and Solidarity Party (PLUS) posted major gains.
In the capital of Bucharest, former USR President Nicușor Dan beat incumbent Social Democrat (PSD) Mayor Gabriela Firea with a preliminary 47.2 percent, eight percentage points ahead of Firea, who scored 39 percent of the vote.
The electoral alliance formed in 2019 also won in Timișoara, Braşov, Alba Iulia, Bacău and Câmpulung Muscel. The Social Democrats only managed to hold on to mayoral positions in two of Bucharest’s administrative districts. These victories also give the USR-PLUS alliance a significant leg up ahead of the general elections.
Beyond the immediate political or ethnic affiliations, the most interesting win was that of 37-year-old German national Dominic Fritz in Temesvár/Timișoara, who first came to the city in 2003, fell in love with it and later moved there, giving up a promising career in German politics (he served as chief of staff for former German President Horst Köhler).
Fritz ran on a platform of digitalizing local administration, unleashing the multiethnic city’s creative potential and restoring mobility in a city stifled by automobiles. He beat two-time mayor Nicolae Robu (65), an engineer by training, the owner of the local ACS Poli Timisoara football club, and former rector of the local Technical University.
Set against a backdrop of a persistently high number of fresh coronavirus infections, perhaps the biggest winner was civic duty itself: Despite the still dire pandemic, national turnout was 45 percent, just two percentage points lower than in 2016.
The election was, of course, not without its quirks either: In the southern Romanian village of Deveselu, near the Danube border along Bulgaria, incumbent mayor Ion Aliman died from COVID-19 on September 17; but he had apparently done such a good job during his previous term that he was re-elected with 1,020 votes out of a total of 1,600. Although, his untimely death had also simply not allowed enough time for new ballot papers to be printed.
Title image: The newly elected ethnic Hungarian mayor of Marosvásárhely/Târgu Mureș answers the press after casting his vote on September 27, 2020. (MTI/Gábor Kiss)