Right-Wing Groups Are Gaining Strength in Romania
Like many other countries in Europe, groups with extreme views are on the rise in Romania. The right-wing parties are gaining popularity in the country, causing a severe political crisis.
Romania's politics appeared to escape the grasp of extremist parties, but it did not once the Alliance for the Unification of Romanians (AUR) emerged on the political scene. The AUR, whose abbreviation stands for "gold" in Romanian, was created in September 2019; the party secured less than one percent votes in local elections. From less than 1 percent to become the fourth largest party in the parliament is a steep rise in its popularity.
With 9% of the popular vote, the AUR received a stunning victory in the 2020 elections, shocking practically everyone. Since Corneliu Vadim Tudor died in 2015, Romania has lacked a robust right-wing party, an unusual occurrence in a region where far-right parties are gaining ground. AUR has since its inception been promoting anti-Eurosceptic and radical ideas among its followers. The party has been showing off its power through demonstrations.
The Recent Attack on Romania's City Mayor by Far-Right Groups
Romania's German mayor was attacked last week at Timisoara's city hall by far-right extremists. "Shameful, shameful," they yelled to the mayor as they stormed the building from the back. Police did not stop the crowd since no one wore a mask, required indoors. After a quarter-hour of verbal assault and only one city hall staffer standing in their way, protestors finally exited the room after shouting dirty slogans at the mayor.
This was seen last Friday in Timisoara, a city in western Romania, by dozens of AUR extremist party supporters. The AUD supporters gathered alongside prominent neo-Nazi outfit New Right (ND) members in the city center. The rally also included AUR leader George Simion, who, along with other marchers, targeted Dominic Fritz, the German mayor of the city. Fritz became the first foreign-born mayor in Romania in September 2020. Simion proclaimed that the country should not have a foreigner as its mayor and announced the establishment of an anti-Fritz campaign. Simion led the roaring crowd into city hall through the back door because the front door had been locked as demonstrators chanted, "Fritz, this is not your city!" The incidents are documented in videos on Facebook.
Condemnation of the Attack
Simion and his party's invasion of the municipal hall have provoked widespread fury in Romania. Several prominent politicians and journalists condemned the attack and compare it with Nazi storm trooper's demonstrations in the 1930s.
The mayors of 23 Romanian cities signed a statement expressing their support for Dominic Fritz and urging authorities to take strict measures against rioters. In a Facebook message, the leader of Save Romania Union, a progressive green anti-corruption group, went further to criticize the local officials, saying that these protests wouldn't have taken place without their approval. Dominic Fritz, in his message, states that his protest is against a pro-European leader, as well as against the people of Timisoara.
AUR Rise on the Political Spectrum
Over the past 20 years, several political parties have attempted to unite nationalists, conservative Christians, and anti-immigrant voters but failed due to political inaction. However, AUR has been able to capture the momentum and people's attention. AUR, although, isn't your average right-wing party. This party favors Putin, opposes minorities and the west. It also seeks to reunite with Moldova, which was previously part of Romania.
Party events that are aggressively anti-establishment reach thousands of people through social media. Voters in Romania are increasingly disenchanted with mainstream politics, and the country is in a condition of perpetual political upheaval, therefore they are turning toward populist groups.
George Simion, one of the two chairs, has previously been fined and jailed for hooliganism. He initially gained public recognition in 2012, when he launched a radical movement supporting the union of Romania and Moldova, which was a part of Romania between the two world wars.
The other co-chairman, Claudiu Tarziu, is an author who dismisses women and instead sees today's society as being rooted in neo-Marxist ideologies. The party leader’s advocate’s anti-abortion legislation criticizes women's rights campaigns for "gender ideology," rejects same-sex marriage, and is vehemently opposed to LGBTQ movements.
Messages that are Anti-Semitic
Early this month, AUR declared that Holocaust history and sex education are minor concerns that do not deserve thorough study programs in schools. These words plainly show that anti-Semitic sentiments are on the rise in the country.
Conflicts with the Church also a Factor
The conflict between the Romanian Orthodox Church and the official authorities also contributes to the emergence of extremist viewpoints. The pandemic coronavirus brought the Church and the government face to face. The Church was enraged by the government's presentations of doctors and nurses as saints following the first wave. The introduction of the second wave of the coronavirus, following Romanian authorities' bans on religious pilgrimages, only exacerbated hostility. The Church labeled the government as arrogant and delusory.
Extreme Views Are On the Rise for Various Reasons
Political parties in Romania have recently broken many of their ties with voters. There have been issues of Governance under both right- and left-wing parties. Voters affected by the economic crisis connected with the pandemic do not appear to find government leaders interested in their problem.
Various forms of displeasure appear to have culminated in a protest vote. Younger, less informed people who live in smaller areas and feel abandoned and disconnected from prosperity appear to be more attracted towards AUR.
Romania's lockdown was tough on the economy, uneven, and, some would argue, ineptly administered. AUR was against the lockdown, and they could gather masses to their cause since the lockdown was causing more problems for people.
The Unity of the Far-Right
In the 2016 elections, the top three nationalist/right-wing parties gained 5 percent of the vote. Nevertheless, AUR secured 9% of the vote in 2020, demonstrating that people with far-right ideologies come under one roof and increase their votes. One of the main factors could be that social injustice puts fear into people, leading them to look for simple solutions and authoritarian leaders. And often, society tolerates a lot of far-right ideas that can provide such simple solutions. Briefly, that is what AUR did: it organized existing communities, promising both rescue from outsiders and malignant elites.
AUR Is Gaining Ground in the Polls
Recently, the party made headlines by requesting that schools not teach about the Holocaust and the killing of Romanian Jews. Timisoara has seen the party's supporters before: the last march, the party's supporters, yelled racist and xenophobic slogans inside Mayor Dominic Fritz's private apartment as they protested his anti-coronavirus laws.
Despite the fact that the AUR has been unable to assemble more than a few dozen individuals for such demonstrations, a maximum of 2,000 people attended their anti-coronavirus protests. Many observers believe the party is one of Romania's most serious political concerns. Polling numbers for the party have risen dramatically since the last elections. It currently polls under 20% nationally, and many studies rank it second to the Social Democrats.
Liking Viktor Orban but Anti-Hungarian
Unlike Hungary, Poland, and most other countries in central and southeastern Europe, Romania does not have any notable right-wing nationalists. That was partial because right-wing nationalist and xenophobic parties like the Social Democrats stepped in to fill the seeming vacancy on the right.
The AUR is engaging with right-wing parties on a European level, specifically Victor Orban's Fidesz party. At the same time, Hungarians in Transylvania, which are more than one million people, are treated with chauvinistic attitudes domestically. During the anti-Hungarian protests in June 2019, George Simion led anti-Hungarian demonstrations in the Uz Valley just before AUR's founding. These protests resulted in the destruction of a cemetery of Hungarian and Romanian war graves by right-wing nationalist Romanian thugs. Ironically, while the demonstrators were damaging the cemetery, George Simion was praising Hungarian President Viktor Orban. He also dubbed himself "Orban of Romania," he announced the AUR would join the right-wing nationalist and radical alliance that Orban helped form.
The Recent Violent Attack Is Not the First One by AUR
Right-wing extremists and nationalists' violent storming of Timisoara's city hall is particularly sad from a symbolic aspect. A large number of people were killed during the 1989 uprising against Ceausescu's dictatorship in this same city. Timisoara, Romania's third-largest city, has since become a symbol of freedom and European integration. The city stood up for liberty and liberalism even in the darkest days of post-communist nationalism in the country.
Timisoara was probably one of the most shocking events staged by the AUR party so far, but it wasn't its first. Last week, AUR supporters, together with COVID conspiracists and anti-vaccination activists, invaded the courtyard of the Romanian parliament, where police managed to keep them out. The AUR has been at the forefront of organizing violent anti-coronavirus protests across the country for some time now.
Mayor Fritz is Concerned
Timisoara's mayor Dominic Fritz is worried about the rise of right-wing parties and the AUR. He believes it represents a profound crisis of trust and degradation in political culture that few other European countries are experiencing.
In order to impede the rise of the far-right, it is now the responsibility of the major political parties and civil society organizations to build not only physical barriers but also address the underlying issues affecting the working class and the less privileged. A rise in far-right movements in the country could result in a radicalized and unbalanced society. More attacks could be made against those who oppose their ideology.
Written By: Olivium's Staff.