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Bajnai in Transylvania

July 3rd, 2013

A pro-government columnist describes Gordon Bajnai’s visit to Transylvania as phoney and hypocritical. A Transylvanian news site, on the other hand, suggests Bajnai did not go to chase after votes but to listen to what Hungarians living in Romania had to tell him.

Gordon Bajnai made a two-day visit to Transylvania last week, to meet leaders of ethnic Hungarian political groups. A small group of protesters presented him with a T-shirt saying “I am a tourist, not a Hungarian”. Under the new electoral law, for the first time in a hundred years, more than three hundred thousand Transylvanian Hungarians will have voting rights at the next parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2014.

In Magyar Nemzet, leading columnist Miklós Ugró finds Bajnai’s explanation for his visit – that he went to learn about the situation of Hungarians there – typical of leftist politicians “who don’t know the first thing about Hungarian minorities in neighbouring countries”. Ugró points out that while Bajnai claims he did not go in search of votes and allies, he did criticize the present government’s policies by saying that Fidesz tries to dictate to minorities, while if he were prime minister, his government would listen to the legitimate representatives of transborder Hungarians. If that is not fishing for votes, Ugró asks, what would he say if he were on a campaign tour?

HVG publishes the editorial of Transindex.ro – a centrist-liberal webmagazine in Romania –, where editors find that the media, especially on the right, was put off by Bajnai’s strategy not to seek heavyweight  media coverage. The editors report that Bajnai met a mixed crowd, listening to everyone and not asking for votes. His intentions – Transindex suggests – might be better described as a cautious first attempt to look for potential allies, by seeking out future voters among minority Hungarians who are not politically committed. While Fidesz has a strong presence in Transylvania, they are unable to gather Hungarian votes around Bishop László Tőkés, their favoured minority politician. MSZP, on the other hand, made a hard-to-forget blunder when Socialist MP Tibor Szanyi called a group of Transylvanian Hungarians Romanians. Bajnai offered a different style by “leaving his comfort zone”, as attested by the sudden appearance of the young protesters whom Transidex identifies as people close to the most right-radical Hungarian group in Transylvania.

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