The first day of the Hungarian parliament

This morning I got up early. It wasn't exactly my choice. The two basset hounds decided that they wanted to see the outside world at 3:30 a.m. and again at 4:30 a.m. Thus the best strategy was to stay up and surf the Internet for some fresh Hungarian news. The early rise also allowed me to watch most of the parliamentary debates on the first day of the fall session.

The day promised to be especially interesting because the House was scheduled to vote on its own dissolution. The suggestion for dissolution came from MDF. It was clear from day one that the MDF proposal would not receive the absolute majority of members present necessary for passage. In fact, analysts couldn't figure out why MDF would suggest such a move when dissolution would mean early elections at which the two small parties most likely wouldn't receive enough votes to be part of the new parliament. MDF claimed that they simply wanted to find out who is the "real" opposition and who is not. That is, they wanted to prove that SZDSZ is a kind of pseudo-opposition party. But the Christian Democrats during the debate accused MDF of actually lending a helping hand to Ferenc Gyurcsány by solidifying his mandate. Some political analysts agree. The vote was 204 "nays" and 171 "ayes." Ten members were absent, including Ferenc Gegesy (SZDSZ) who as of yesterday quit the party and resigned his seat.

Although on the floor Gábor Fodor and János Kóka both lambasted Ferenc Gyurcsány's proposals, one had the feeling that the SZDSZ leaders are running out of steam. There were rumors that the meeting of the SZDSZ parliamentary delegation and the party's leadership last Thursday and Friday was an extended verbal brawl where obscenities were flying. Although among the SZDSZ delegation there was unity in voting against dissolving parliament, they are not of one mind on policy issues and the direction of the party. After János Kóka's speech in parliament I saw only one SZDSZ member clapping: Gábor Horn. It is possible that Gábor Fodor was also clapping, but he wasn't visible in the camera shot.  All the other important SDSZ delegates sat there stone faced.

I suspect that Gegesy is not the only SZDSZ member who will quit the party. Perhaps not now and not in a huff like Gegesy, but by shifting interests. Bálint Magyar will be on the board of the Center of Innovation and Technology of the European Union which just opened its doors in Budapest. Mátyás Eörsi is applying for a job in Brussels as secretary of the European Council on Foreign Relations.

And finally, there was another parliamentary member absent: Kornél Almássy, the vice president of MDF who aspired for Ibolya Dávid's job. But then came the revelation that he might be receiving help from Fidesz operatives who want to oust Dávid since she refuses to make a deal with Viktor Orbán. Saturday he announced that under the circumstances he would resign his position as vice president;  his supporters on the nominating committee also resigned from the committee. However, he added, he would not quit the party or give up his parliamentary seat. It seems that Dávid and her friends in the party had a different idea. It was announced this morning by the head of the MDF delegation, Károly Herényi, that Almássy can't participate in party affairs or in the work of parliament while his role in this sordid affair is under investigation.

The general feeling is that Gyurcsány's position was strengthened during the day. Perhaps thanks to MDF and SZDSZ. However, SZDSZ will have to decide soon what to do with the budget. Some analysts are fairly optimistic that SZDSZ will provide the necessary support, mostly because the leadership and parliamentary delegation are so fractured. I am inclined to share this optimistic view.