Ethnic Politics of the Hungarian Minorities in Slovakia, Romania, and Serbia in 2015

In: European Yearbook of Minority Issues Online
Carol Skalnik LeffDepartment of Political Science, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

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Oana I. Armeanu Political Science and Public Administration Department, University of Southern Indiana

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In the post-communist period, the driving forces behind minority rights protection have been international—the incentives surrounding membership in the European Union and relations with Hungary—and domestic—the minority’s capacity to gain representation, and therefore leverage, in the political system. In this analysis of the current state of minority affairs, we focus largely on the domestic context—the politics of Hungarian minority representation in Romania, Slovakia, and Serbia—and the ramifications of relations with Hungary. In this overview, we will contextualize the key strategic situation in all three cases: the demographic challenge of inexorably declining minority populations. Given the size of their electorates, neither the half-million Slovak Hungarians nor the 1.2 million Romanian Hungarians can afford the kind of partisan split that could push all minority parties below the five percent electoral threshold. In Serbia, the Hungarian minority of around a quarter million benefits from the waiving of the electoral threshold. Nonetheless, they are a distinct minority even in Vojvodina, the region of their greatest concentration. We will also review ongoing controversies that have surrounded minority issues since the collapse of communism: language, education, and the issue of territorial and cultural autonomy.

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