I found an article in Index, an internet paper, about a new study published by a political think tank called Republikon Intézet. See the article here: http://index.hu/politika/belfold/mdf1501/ It is a fascinating paper in which the author/authors analyze the outcome of all the interpellations to the different ministers since SZDSZ left the coalition. Normally opposition parties use interpellations as a blunt weapon against the government. At almost every session a member of one of the opposition parties gets up and demands an answer to some trivial question from one of the ministers. The text of the interpellation has to be submitted ahead of time because the minister or his undersecretary must be prepared to answer the particular question. Once the answer is given, the Speaker of the House asks the member who posed the question whether he/she accepts the answer. The reply is always a categorical "no." Then the Speaker of the House asks the entire House to vote; the members of the government parties say "yes" while the members on the other side of the aisle say "no." When the government has a majority these votes are basically irrelevant. However, for a minority government the vote can be critical. The conclusion of this study is that MDF surreptitiously helped the government. Out of 31interpellations in May and June 27 were accepted and only four were rejected.
Because I never heard of Republikon Intézet I decided to do a little research, and the first article that caught my attention (about the growing number and influence of think tanks and political advisors) appeared in HVG (April 4, 2008). For anyone interested in the article here's the link: http://tinyurl.com/6qpsvt It seems that doing political analysis or giving political advice is a fairly big business in Hungary. According to HVG it may be in the order of one billion forints a year. The article mentions a number of think tanks along with their political sympathies. Századvég (headed by István Stumpf who is in some trouble in connection with the Dávid affair) is close to Fidesz. So is Nézőpont, about whom I wrote earlier in one of my blogs. Political Capital is neo-conservative and works for MDF. And then there is Republikon, a group closely associated with SZDSZ. Now that was a real surprise. The study was so clearly anti-MDF that at first I suspected some organization close to Fidesz. But SZDSZ? It took some time before I recovered. I found out that the head of the institute is Csaba Tóth, who is also head of the Miklós Szabó Foundation. Szabó, a historian who died a few years ago, was one of the emblematic founding fathers of SZDSZ. Although the institute's homepage simply says that it is "an independent liberal" political think tank, the board of directors includes many luminaries from the early years of SZDSZ: László Rajk, Jr.; Károly Lotz, formerly SZDSZ minister in the Horn government; Gábor Iványi, a prominent SZDSZ member and Methodist minister; Ágnes Heller, philosopher; György Konrád, writer; and Miklós Jancsó, film director.
Once I recovered from the shock, I realized that I heard a half a sentence in János Kóka's otherwise unremarkable speech accusing MDF of helping Ferenc Gyurcsány by demanding a vote on the dissolution of parliament when Ibolya Dávid and her friends must have known that the vote would go in favor of the government. At this point MSZP members began to roar. Index must have found it hilarious too because in the last hour or so they came up with a computer-generated picture to accompany the article. The picture has something to do with the Hungarian saying that someone is pushing another's cart. (Fortunately it gives some license to the saying and has Iboya holding the reins.)
According to parliamentary rules regarding interpellations an abstention is considered to be a negative vote. But this is not the case for absentees. As it now stands now there are 190 members on the government side and 196 in the opposition parties (including, of course, SZDSZ). If seven or more members of the opposition parties are absent there is by default a government majority. The study claims that MDF absences weren't random but were used strategically.
The author/authors of the study admit that most of the time SZDSZ supported the government: in only 12 of 31 instances did they vote "no," but these were open and clean rejections. Not like MDF's devious activities. They were so thoroughly orchestrated that members of MDF were running in and out during the same parliamentary session depending on which question was on the table. (I have my doubts, but then I'm not a "political scientist," especially not one working for SZDSZ). The Republikon study goes so far as to divide the eleven-person MDF delegation into right and left wings on the basis of how many times they were absent and present at the time of voting. Here is the absentee list: János Vas (27), Ibolya Dávid (26), Miklós Csapody (17), Kornél Almássy (13), Zoltán Hock (10), Károly Herényi (8), Péter Karsai (8), Kálmán Katona (7), András Petkó (7), Péter Boross (6), András Csáky (4). Well, I don't buy this hypothesis. A single counterexample: Kornél Almássy, who was among the leading absentees, turned out to be a man who was most likely working for Fidesz.
Meanwhile, two other important SZDSZ people told what they think of Gábor Fodor and the leadership. One of them is a member of parliament, Klára Sándor, whom I earlier tagged as a person who might not follow the lead of Fodor-Horn-Gulyás. The other is Béla Csécsei, SZDSZ mayor of Józsefváros (Josephstadt) in Pest. He wrote an open letter that started: "Gábor, what you are doing is not good and you're not doing it well." He pretty well asked for a new meeting of delegates to get rid of Fodor. Things aren't going well for SZDSZ. And Repubikon didn't advance the cause.