Magyar Demokrata Fórum (MDF): Too big a bite?

For almost a decade Viktor Orbán has been trying to establish a right-wing party that would assemble all shades of political opinion on the right, from the moderate MDF to the extreme right. "One camp, one flag" was the slogan. However, he never pulled it off. Some analysts in fact claim that his frantic effort to unite all shades of opinion on the right into a single party under his control was Orbán's downfall. To have only one party on the right, they claim, is the road to failure. Fidesz needs a coalition partner now as much as it did in 1998 when the Smallholders and MDF joined Orbán to form a government. Once he got rid of the Smallholders as a separate party and once he tried to do the same with MDF, he kept losing elections.

He managed to split MDF in half. The more radical, nationalistic right wing of the party joined Fidesz, but the other half under the leadership of Ibolya Dávid was not to be swayed. Orbán certainly hates Gyurcsány more than Dávid, but Dávid is a close second. The Fidesz leadership is convinced that if Dávid's MDF hadn't run as an independent party and received over 5% of the votes Viktor Orbán would be prime minister of Hungary today. That is difficult to swallow for someone as power hungry as Viktor Orbán.

The leadership of MDF is convinced that there is a new assault on their party. I share this view. Ibolya Dávid has been the party leader ever since 1999 and ran unopposed every time there were leadership elections. There were some people in the party in the past who thought about going against her, but they never managed to get enough support within the party. This round there's a new maverick, the twenty-nine-year-old vice president of MDF, Kornél Almássy. I'm inclined to believe that the impetus to challenge Dávid comes from Fidesz.

There is a so-called political scientist, András Giró-Szász, who is closely tied to Fidesz. He is the CEO of Századvég, a public opinion firm originally established by Fidesz. For example, István Stumpf, after he had to depart from his ministerial post in 2002, moved to Századvég. In any case, Giró-Szász, as a good political scientist, did a little research into the state of affairs of MDF. According to him the problem with MDF is that the party's support and voter base is grounded in the name recognition and popularity of Ibolya Dávid. Decent right-wingers would never vote for MDF because they suspect that Ibolya Dávid's MDF is too cozy with the left. Dávid is very popular with left-wingers, hence her high rank in the popularity charts. But, says Giró-Szász, MSZP sympathizers would never vote for MDF; it doesn't matter how popular Ibolya Dávid is personally. On the other hand, if Dávid were removed from the leadership, moderate right-wingers would flock to MDF. It could be a mass party. It seems that our naive Kornél Almássy swallowed this nonsense hook line and sinker.

The whole so-called political analysis of Giró-Szász smacks more of political intrigue than any kind of "science," political or otherwise. MDF today is more popular today than it was at the time of the last elections when it just squeaked by the five percent minimum requirement. So why remove Ibolya Dávid? It seems to be another attempt on the part of Fidesz, in a not too subtle way, to obliterate MDF. But why? Isn't the commanding lead Fidesz has at the moment enough? Why does it need MDF voters? Fidesz knows that 80-90% of the far right will vote for them no matter what. And the far right is about 9-10% of the voting-age population. Why do they need that extra 6-7% of those who currently think they would vote for MDF? The only thing I can fathom is that Fidesz is running scared. They are not sure whether their very favorable numbers at the moment will hold. Moreover, perhaps they are even worried that when the chips are down and MSZP needs a coalition partner MDF will step up to the plate. Unless, of course, SZDSZ manages to regain its former strength, currently a highly unlikely scenario.