Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Battered Opposition Regroups ROMANIA

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Battered Opposition Regroups ROMANIA

Article excerpt

THE final results of Romania's May 20 general elections confirmed that the country's feeble and divided opposition will have to wait for the next elections, scheduled in two years, to bring change to the country.

President-elect Ion Iliescu, who won 85.1 percent of the presidential vote, will be working with a parliament dominated by his own party. The ruling National Salvation Front won 66.3 percent and 67 percent of the votes for the lower and upper houses respectively. The results were published last weekend.

Facing this strong block will be the parliamentary opposition, which is divided among small parties with widely different political agendas.

With a mere 7.2 percent of the vote, the Magyar Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR) has emerged as the second-strongest political party in Romania.

"We need to establish a legal framework defending the rights of all Romanian citizens. In this sense, the issues we will be fighting for don't solely concern the Hungarian minority here," says Attila Zonda, UDMR spokesman in Bucharest.

Ethnic Hungarians complain that under the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu they had difficulty preserving their cultural identity. After the revolution, Hungarians became quite vocal and started establishing links with Hungary. Romanian nationalists charged that the Hungarians wanted independence from Romania. The Hungarians deny this.

Still UDMR will be fighting for its own issues, such as setting up more schools that teach in the Hungarian language and the establishment of a special Hungarian University in the northeastern town of Cluj.

Careful maneuvering will be needed to avoid resentment from Romanians. The bloody events in March in the Transylvanian town of Tirgu Mures, where Hungarians and Romanians savagely came to blow, showed how quickly violence can erupt in Romania when minority issues are raised. Three people were killed and nearly 300 injured.

"I am frightened to say that in the future parliament, our opposition will be seen as solely Hungarian," says Mr. …

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