Alianța pentru Unirea Românilor (AUR), the Association for the Unification of Romanians, which was founded last year with a Christian, conservative, patriotic attitude, won almost nine per cent in the Romanian parliamentary elections on Sunday. The ultra-nationalist party, which has emerged from almost nothing, has thus entered the Bucharest legislature, creating a platform for extremist views. However, it does not have a coherent position; its strength is the emotion-based politicisation with which it took votes from rival parties, primarily the Social Democrats. According to the Romanian expert, János T. Barabás, the activity of the Romanian secret service is behind the success of the AUR.
The key to the AUR’s fourth-place success in the parliamentary elections is its support for the European Romanian diasporas, its opposition to the political elite, and its campaign on social media sites. The message of improving Romania, uniting Romanians, and eradicating corruption and nepotism resonated well with millions of Romanian citizens living abroad, which also contributed to receiving almost half a million votes. The AUR Facebook pages performed exceptionally well in the campaign compared to the online activities of other Romanian parties.
János T. Barabás, a senior analyst at the Institute of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Economics (KKI), gave a statement to Index, in which he said that the campaign rhetoric revolved around three main topics:
- ethnicity-based nationalism and revisionist aspirations, the unification of all Romanians;
- confrontation with epidemiological measures (anti-mask, virus denial);
- the promotion of traditional family values in accordance with the guidelines of the Orthodox Christian religion.
“Romanians are fed up with theft, lies, and lack of attachment to national values. We are a Christian, nationalist, patriotic party,”
said the AUR’s founder, 34-year-old George Simion, in his post-parliamentary victory speech.
Like the other leaders, Simion is not new to Romanian public life. He began his public career as a soccer ultra, and he founded the hockey ultra-groups Honor et Patria and Uniti Sub Tricolor, which bring together fans of the Romanian national team. According to transindex.ro, their common chants include “afara cu unguri din tara”, which means “out of the country with the Hungarians”.
Another influential figure in the AUR is the blogger Dan Tanasâ, who has been mocked as the “fake news writer”. Tanasa was actively involved in the party’s online campaign. The KKI researcher reminds us that the Romanian authorities did not initiate proceedings due to what happened, which raises the possibility that they carried out what seemed to be a civil initiative with the approval of the Romanian secret services, with the aim of intimidating Hungarians.
Another co-chair of the AUR is former journalist Claudiu Târziu, who, in 2018, as a member of the Coalition for Family NGO, initiated a referendum to ban same-sex marriage. It was not successful.
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The worldview of the three exemplary party members also reflects the AUR’s campaign narrative: anti-Hungarian, anti-LGBTQ, anti-mask, anti-Orthodox Christian values, revisionism, ethnicity-based nationalism, and opposition to the political elite.
The party is a melting pot of different extreme approaches, from which every Romanian dissatisfied with the current state of politics can choose in accordance with their views.
Siegfried Muresan, a Member of the European Parliament for the Romanian National Liberal Party (PNL), spoke to Euronews, for example, about the AUR as an anti-EU, pro-Russian bloc representing a small part of the Romanian population.
“Hungarians have come up on several occasions in the ultranationalist party’s program,” explains the KKI analyst. The areas with a Hungarian majority, namely, Harghita, Covasna, and Mures counties, are accused of suppressing the Romanian minority living there. The party also claims that there is genocide against the Romanian minority living abroad.
To understand the alleged relationship between the AUR and the Romanian secret service, it is essential to review George Simion’s political career. Simion has long dreamed of restoring the former Great Romani, uniting Romani and Moldova. He also organised several demonstrations, built a network, and founded newspapers. According to his declaration of assets, Simion has practically nothing, so it is questionable how he raised the money for these.
Polling stations set up in foreign countries are secured by Romanian diplomacy. However, the staff was provided by the AUR in several cases in the current elections.
“This cannot happen without the knowledge and permission of the Romanian diplomacy,” said Barabás.
The purpose of the secret service may have been for the AUR to absorb those ultranationalist-minded voters who, with the closure of the aptly named Greater Romania Party almost ten years ago, sought their representation but had not yet voted elsewhere. The nationalist rhetoric competition has now been won by the AUR, and it was achieved with new types of extreme-right political tools: emotion-based politicising and the strategic exploitation of social media networks.
“The ultranationalist party is still in isolation for the year, but its success in the election is still wrong for Romanian Hungarians; anti-Hungarian movements will increase in Romanian politics,” predicts Barabás.