János Kóka versus Gábor Fodor

An interesting coincidence, if it is a coincidence. A day after Gábor Fodor announced that SZDSZ is not interested in having any discussion based on Ferenc Gyurcsány's essay entitled "Compact," János Kóka, the former party chief of SZDSZ who is still head of the party's parliamentary delegation, wrote a lengthy article about his ideas for the revitalization of the Hungarian economy. While Fodor says that Gyurcsány's ideas as well as his person are totally unacceptable to SZDSZ, Kóka seems ready to discuss the future with the prime minister. Yes, the "Compact" is not quite enough, but with some changes there is hope for agreement. To me this article confirms what I have been suspecting for some time–that SZDSZ is deeply divided and therefore the final outcome is still very much in doubt.

Admittedly ever since SZDSZ left the coalition the messages coming from the party's leaders have been mixed, if not outright contradictory. First it looked as if Gábor Fodor were ready to patch up the coalition while János Kóka was much more intransigent. Then Fodor started talking tough until there was little difference between the two men. The election for the post of presidency of SZDSZ had to be repeated because it turned out that Kóka's victory by seven votes was achieved by some people voting illegally. The repeated election didn't really change things much. Fodor won, but by one vote. Seven votes, one vote out of about 700 really doesn't matter. It tells us one thing: the party is split in half. After the elections Kóka and Fodor promised unity, but this hasn't happened. Moreover, there is personal animosity between the two.

Kóka's views are close to Gyurcsány's, and where they differ his demands are not outrageous. He wants to stick to the convergence program. So does Gyurcsány. He would like to reduce taxes by 1,000 billion forints in three years. That is almost the same as what Gyurcsány says. In the first year he would like to reduce taxes by 500 billion. That is 200 billion more than Gyurcsány's proposal. Kóka doesn't think that clamping down on the black market economy is enough to cover the loss of tax revenues and therefore would also like to reduce expenses. And finally Kóka wants a parliamentary vote on tax reduction prior to the vote on the new tax bill.

I think that these are reasonable proposals. The only trouble is: with whom should Gyurcsány negotiate? Who is at the helm of SZDSZ? I guess one could with a little political finesse help heal the division within SZDSZ. This morning even Gábor Horn seemed to have abandoned Fodor by taking a more moderate view than the party chief who keeps repeating that Gyurcsány should leave and a "government of experts," whatever that means, replace the current one.

In today's Népszava Tibor Várkonyi in an opinion piece said that SZDSZ is in a tight spot or in hot water or between a rock and a hard place, depending on how you translate "kutyaszorító." I think SZDSZ is in bigger trouble: it is in its death throes. Today Szonda Ipsos published its latest poll: SZDSZ's support is 2%! They would need a minimum of 5% to get into parliament.