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Thousands of ethnic Hungarians march for autonomy in Romania

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Around five thousand ethnic Hungarians rallied Sunday in the central Romanian city of Targu Mures to call for autonomy for the Szeklers' Land, home to most of their minority.

Brandishing Szekler and national Hungarian flags, the protesters gathered in front of the Szekler Martyrs' Monument that pays homage to revolutionaries killed in 1854.

They then marched through Targu Mures, a city that in March 1990 was the theatre of violent clashes between ethnic Hungarians (or Szeklers) and Romanians, which left five dead.

"The Szeklers' Land must become an autonomous region and this must be enshrined in legislation," Izsak Balazs, the head of the Szeklers' National Council (CNS), told the participants.

"We are also protesting against the government's regionalisation draft, which threatens our people's existence," he added.

The draft initiated by the centre-left government aims to group Romania's 42 counties into eight regions.

Hungarians say they fear this will change the ethnic composition of the areas where they are now more numerous than the Romanians.

The members of the 1.4-million strong minority mostly live in the Transylvanian counties of Covasna and Harghita, where they account for around 80 percent of the population.

Their leading political party, the Hungarians' Democratic Union (UDMR), which has 27 seats in the Romanian parliament, did not take part in the rally, although its leaders stressed they back the principle of autonomy.

Strict security measures were taken in Targu Mures during the protest as the authorities feared the Romanian far right would also stage a rally, but no incidents occurred.

mr/mfp

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130310/thousands-ethnic-hungarians-march-autonomy-romania