There are people who possess political acumen and those who don’t. When it comes to Ibolya Dávid I’m of two minds. I admire her for her single-minded effort to keep her party independent of Fidesz. I like her attempt at a "more normal" political discourse. I find it refreshing, especially after hearing Fidesz politicians’ constant and unbending opposition toward everything, that she and the MDF welcome certain proposals from the government side. Or, if they don’t agree, they say so, but their negation is not shrill, antagonistic, and total. They also have reasonable counterproposals. So, all in all, especially in comparison to Viktor Orbán, the leader of the MDF is a moderate "European" politician. However, occasionally she shows a total lack of political sense. Today was one of those times that Ibolya Dávid lost her footing.
I realize that it must be frustrating to be head of a party that is for all intents and purposes irrelevant in current Hungarian political life. The two big parties slug it out; SZDSZ, as a coalition partner, makes its presence felt in legislative proposals and on the floor of parliament. Poor MDF is on the sidelines, its votes unnecessary to either side, its ideas usually ignored. Moreover, given the political climate, it can’t even be an honest broker between the two sides. So it’s perhaps not surprising that it has fantasies of "doing away with" (figuratively, of course) political leaders.
There was a fairly long period when Ibolya Dávid announced daily that "both Ferenc Gyurcsány and Viktor Orbán must disappear." Just like that: you close your eyes and, poof!, a minute later the two politicians simply are no more. Ibolya Dávid used a magic wand. Such a turn of events is entirely unrealistic. Let’s assume that Dávid’s wish is fulfilled, and then what? Gyurcsány returns to the business world and Orbán becomes a soccer coach. Just like that. The two parties pick new leaders and from there on the political life of the country will be absolutely tranquil. No one will demonstrate, no one will throw Molotov cocktails, no one is going to demand the return of Orbán. In parliament ladies and gentlemen will have pleasant conversations. Everything will be solved because, after all, the problem of Hungary is simply these two politicians. Well, after a while she realized that this was not a very constructive position. It didn’t matter how often Ibolya Dávid repeated her wish, nothing happened.
Then there was a period when both Ibolya Dávid and Péter Boross, former MDF prime minister, seemed to differentiate between the two sides. From their statements one could discern that they found Gyurcsány more democratic and more reasonable than Orbán, whom they called a populist and a power-hungry politician with whom there could absolutely be no partnership. They accused Orbán of socialist demagoguery incompatible with conservative thinking.
Now there seems to be a new tack. Gyurcsány must go! Ibolya Dávid triumphantly pointed to a Goldman Sachs’ study in which she found a sentence about the possible beneficial economic effects of the Hungarian prime minister’s departure. That is what inspired Ibolya Dávid. I can’t imagine that Ibolya Dávid is particularly savvy in economic matters and, since her command of foreign languages is limited to a little French, I don’t think that she read all those other mostly English-language analyses that predicted exactly the opposite: Gyurcsány’s departure could send the country’s economy into a tailspin. His departure would be interpreted as the end of the economic reforms as well as Hungary’s willingness to follow the convergence program to the letter. It’s enough to look at what happened after the referendum: Standard & Poor’s immediately downgraded Hungary because they interpreted the results in a negative way. So try to imagine what would happen if the prime minister resigned shortly thereafter.
Ibolya Dávid made this grand pronouncement early morning on Napkelte and a few hours later in parliament. By the afternoon she refined her position. György Bolgár, in a telephone interview with her, began by saying that he found it surprising that Ms. Dávid suggested that Gyurcsány should depart in a great hurry. She responded that this was "an exaggeration." Then she gave a long lecture about the impossible situation that has developed in Hungary when the two sides are killing each other and precious time is being wasted. She wants reform, even "more profound reforms," but the prime minister is not "trustworthy." The country needs a new prime minister who enjoys the trust of the people. She even brought up the possibility of a grand coalition for a couple of years. Such a grand coalition could actually introduce these "profound" reforms. Of course, this is a pipe dream. But even without a grand coalition, it is very unlikely that Viktor Orbán would be satisfied with Gyurcsány’s departure and that he would co-operate with another MSZP prime minister. Oh, no! The next demand would be new elections.
I know that Dávid longs to be a truly significant player on the Hungarian political scene, as she might be in a grand coalition, but she doesn’t have the wind at her back.