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Gheorghe Funar (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈɡe̯orɡe ˈfunar]; born September 29, 1949 in Sânnicolau Mare) is a nationalist Romanian politician, who rose to fame as mayor of Cluj-Napoca between 1992 and 2004
He became well known for his very strong nationalist stance favoring ethnic Romanians in Cluj-Napoca, which is a multi-ethnic city with an increasing ethnic Romanian majority (80.8%) and a significant ethnic Hungarian population (17.1%). Other ethnic groups include Romani and Germans. Cluj-Napoca is considered to be the capital city of Transylvania, a historical region within Romania.
Funar served as mayor of Cluj-Napoca from 1992 to 2004, when he was defeated in the first round of the mayoral election. Emil Boc of the Justice and Truth Alliance won in the second round run-off against Social Democratic Party (PSD) candidate Ioan Rus. Funar ran again in 2008, coming in fourth with 4.2% of the vote.
Funar is currently the General Secretary of the Greater Romania Party and is a Member of Parliament. Among his proposals in parliament are the distribution of Romanian-language Bibles to all citizens and the raising of a statue of Mihai Eminescu in every commune.
He is married to Sabina Funar, a professor at the University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine in Cluj-Napoca.
Mayorship of Cluj-Napoca
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While many voters said that they voted for him only due to his economic policies, Funar's views demonstrated that tensions over Transylvania's ethnic identity continued after the end of Communism in Romania in 1989 and more than seventy years after Transylvania became part of Romania. His views were often manifested in public policy. Among his measures seen by many as an affront to the ethnic Hungarian community, Funar asked the municipality to paint many public items—including park benches, pavements and even garbage bins—in the colors of the Romanian flag (blue, yellow and red). At Christmas time, the municipality was allowed to use only red, yellow and blue Christmas lights.
In 1993, the city's central plaza, "Piața Libertății" (Liberty Square), was renamed "Piața Unirii" (Unification Square), to call to mind the 1918 unification of Transylvania with Romania. Funar changed the label of the statue of Matthias Corvinus from Matthias Rex Hungarorum (Matthias King of Hungarians) to just Matthias Rex. In September 1996, when Romania signed a friendship treaty with Hungary, Funar organized a funeral ceremony on the streets of Cluj-Napoca. In 1997, he hung a banner in front of the Hungarian Consulate in Cluj saying "This is the seat of the Hungarian spies in Romania". Many of Funar's changes were reversed under the mayorship of his successor, Emil Boc.
Between 1992 and 1993, Funar supported a large-scale Ponzi scheme run by Caritas, a company based in Cluj-Napoca. Funar helped Caritas build its credibility by renting space for it in the town hall, appearing with its owner in public and at on television, and defending the company from attacks. Funar also gave Caritas space in the local newspaper to list winners' names (amounting to 44 pages in 1993) and lent the owner space at the local stadium to run his operations.
- (Romanian) "Rezultatele alegerilor locale din principalele oraşe ale ţării", realitatea.net, 6 June 2008
- Verdery, Katherine (October 1995). "Faith, Hope, and Caritas in the Land of the Pyramids: Romania, 1990 to 1994". Comparative Studies in Society and History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) 37 (4): 654. doi:10.1017/S0010417500019903. ISSN 0010-4175.
- Perlez, Jane (1993-11-13). "Pyramid Scheme a Trap for Many Romanians". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-04-23.
- BBC News – Mayor paints town red - and yellow and blue
- BBC World Service – Letters from Budapest: Nick Thorpe on the right to say 'yes' – about a marrying couple getting in trouble by saying "yes" to each other in their own language (Cluj, 2002).