The Hungarian minority government: the first hurdle cleared

I am taking a day off from theoretical musings on political linguistics to return to the cold realities of everyday politics. Today the first vote was taken in parliament and the minority government prevailed. The parliament voted for the reorganization of the government with 200 "yeas" and 142 "nays." Allthough there had originally been some doubt about the plans of SZDSZ, at the end most of the SZDSZ members voted for the bill. There are 386 members of the Hungarian parliament (as an aside, far too many for a relatively small country), so a fair number of members of the opposition parties were not present. This is especially interesting because Tibor Navracsics, head of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation, tightened the rules and regulations on attendance. He announced that there could be a 50,000 Ft fine for missing a vote.

As for the SZDSZ’s attitude. A few days ago Lajos Molnár, former minister of health and now simply a member of the SZDSZ delegation, wrote a letter to his fellow members urging them to vote against the reorganization of the government. The contents of this letter leaked out, and I understand that even Gábor Horn was somewhat annoyed with Molnár. The party’s original stance was that the shape and form of the cabinet is the prerogative of the prime minister, and therefore the opposition parties should not interfere in this matter. Later this opinion was somewhat modified: they were not happy about the changes, but if the prime minister could assure them that the reorganization would not cost any extra money, they would vote for it. Therefore they invited Ferenc Gyurcsány to argue his case. Gyurcsány either was convincing or the SZDSZ members realized that a "constructive opposition" is not supposed to vote down the prime minister’s reorganization of his cabinet. In any case, SZDSZ voted for it. The newspaper reports on the actual breakdown of the votes are sketchy, and therefore it is not clear as yet whether the SZDSZ vote was unanimous.

But let’s say a few words about Lajos Molnár. Lately Hungarian newspapers talk about his departure from his ministerial post as if he had been relieved of his duties by Ferenc Gyurcsány. That was not the case. He resigned. I’m sure that Lajos Molnár had some very good ideas, but I think he failed as a minister of health mostly because he was absolutely unable to communicate. It was pitiful to listen to the man. It was never clear what he wanted to say, and he never managed to use the time allotted to him on television or radio interviews well. He would talk for ten or fifteen minutes, and one still didn’t understand what the reform was all about. The funniest complaint of Molnár was uttered at the end of an hour-long interview in Sándor Friderikusz’s show: "I could explain things well, but I am never given enough time." I don’t understand how it was possible that the politicians of SZDSZ didn’t realize that their expert couldn’t express himself well and gave the impression of muddle mindedness.

Surely Lajos Molnár (Dr. Molnár since he is a physician) is very angry with the prime minister and MSZP, but he should not place his own personal hurts ahead of his party’s interests. And his party’s interest is not to vote with the "real opposition" against their former ally. Especially in this fluid situation when we don’t even know who will be the party chief of SZDSZ after June. If SZDSZ managed to get itself into this unfortunate situation at least it should not get itself into bigger trouble by trying to trip over Ferenc Gyurcsány, the most liberal member of MSZP.

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“If a person is not talented enough to be a novelist, not smart enough to be a lawyer, and his hands are too shaky to perform operations, he becomes a journalist.” Norman Mailer
or in Molnar’s case a politician.