I'm in the middle of writing a long (long) post about nationality and nationalism and identity and all that stuff for my extremely occasional series about Szekely Autonomy, and hope to have it done soon, but in the meantime, I was thinking about the UDMR (political party representing ethnic Hungarians in Romania), and what their purpose is.
You see, in broad terms, I don't really get it. I can see one or two benefits in their existence (which I'll get to in a minute or two) but in general I think they can act (on a national level) against the interests of the Hungarian community rather than for it.
Let me try and explain. Locally, they hold a fair amount of power - county and city authorities in Harghita and Covasna and probably elsewhere are typically run by the UDMR with a virtual lock on power. But why? The Hungarian electorate will tell you that they need to stick together in order to ensure that local government is not taken over by Romanians with a Bucharest agenda. Which, to en extent, makes sense. But as a single issue party (yes, they have economic policies, and so on, and are technically not single issue, but people vote for them not because of their policies on investment or what have you, they vote for them because they are the UDMR and "we have to stick together"), it's a little bit odd to have them in power for years and years.
[At this point I have to say that I think it's quite impressive and amazing that the UDMR has managed to position itself as the sole representative of the entirety of all 1.6 million (ish) Hungarians in Romania, with no major internal political ructions. I mean if I were Hungarian Romanian, who would I vote for? The UDMR is basically centre-right on most things, and I'm not really a big fan of what economic policies they do have - and the fact that they are aligned with the UK Tory party in the "European People's Party–European Democrats" grouping in the European Parliament is all I need to know about their political leanings outside of the national question]
On a national level, I think (aside from one crucial element) their role is even less clear. Their existence actually ensures that the bigger Romanian parties need say or do nothing to appeal to Hungarians. There's no votes in reaching out to the Hungarian population so why bother doing it? If the UDMR ceased to be, or ceased to play on the national stage, presumably the bigger parties would want those votes - 7-8% of the population is a huge voting block, and would represent something that would hugely benefit whichever party could best attract them. Look at the work that parties in the US do, for example, at attracting the various ethnic minorities. Likewise they (the UDMR) don't actually have to achieve anything for people to continue voting for them. They are, in effect, acting against democracy to some degree.
The only way that it does actually work is the way they put forward a candidacy for the presidency, who (obviously) picks up the statutory 5 or 6 % of the vote in the first round and then those votes can be "sold" to whichever of the runoff candidates promises more to Hungarians. (Though once elected there is nothing to ensure that the president will actually do anything for that community)
The exception, the positive side to their existence mentioned above, is presumably unintended. That is, that by controlling the balance of power, they can ensure that the odious PRM are not part of the government. That at least appears to have been the primary function of the (national) UDMR over the past ten years. They become part of the coalition, the coalition does nothing particularly to support or promote the rights of Hungarians, but at least the government doesn't actively target them (as it presumably would if ever Vadim Tudor or Becali or any of those other vile wankers ever got a sniff of power). So, yes, they do have a function, and an important one, but is that all there is to it?
I'd be grateful if anyone out there more clued in than I could offer any suggestions as to what the real purpose of the party is, and what they actually achieve on a national level (other than the above "not being the PRM" acheivement)