It seems that there is, or at least appears to be, a crisis: SZDSZ is mighty sore. They took offence at Ferenc Gyurcsány’s announcement of his intention to dismiss Ágnes Horváth as minister of health. Ágnes Horváth, who is not even an SZDSZ party member, was nonetheless the party’s choice for the post. Poor Horváth in her thirties became the most hated politician in the country although she did nothing else but execute, for better or worse, the government program. So basically she is the sacrificial lamb of a failed policy. Personally, I feel sorry for her. I think she deserved better. However, in political terms, I can understand why the prime minister decided as he did. Ágnes Horváth became a symbol of defeat. There is a need for a new face.
What János Kóka and a newly unified SZDSZ complain about is the way Gyurcsány dismissed Horváth. The prime minister was not lying (as Péter Szijjártó, spokesman of Fidesz claimed) when he announced at the party conference that he informed both Kóka and Horváth of his intentions. He did phone them before the fact. What Kóka and SZDSZ politicians complain about is that he acted without consulting them. Yet Gyurcsány did nothing illegal. The prime minister has the right to unilateral action in cases of choosing or dismissing members of his cabinet.
Some people, including Sándor Friderikusz who had a long interview with Gyurcsány tonight, feel that the prime minister, by announcing Horváth’s dismissal at the party conference in front of thousands, if not millions, humiliated the smaller governing party. Gyurcsány’s answer was that he didn’t intend to humiliate anyone and, in any case, "we are big boys and girls" and in politics one shouldn’t be offended. Taking offence and acting in anger or hurt is not good politics.
Both Kóka and Fodor are hanging tough. At the moment SZDSZ’s position is that if Ágnes Horváth is dismissed as of the end of April on the very same day SZDSZ will leave the coalition. Unless, of course, Gyurcsány resigns. Then they will think about it! The answer to this was swift. The presidium of MSZP got together tonight and said that they support the prime minister and that Kóka and company can decide what they want to do. MSZP would like to continue the coalition but not at any price.
Meanwhile Gyurcsány made his first move toward achieving a possible coalition reconciliation. He announced that in the revised health care bill he still wants to see mention of private capital. (Earlier there were rumors that private capital would be banished.) I don’t know whether SZDSZ will find this enough. Another piece of news (at least according to a couple of on-line newspapers) is that perhaps the current undersecretary of health, Gyula Kincses, will be Horváth’s successor. Kincses is a white-haired, male doctor who has worked as a health expert for all major parties. Perhaps he will be accepted by SZDSZ. After all, they accepted him as deputy to Horváth.