The end of Magyar Demokrata Fórum?

Possibly. Put it this way. I wouldn't put too much money on its survival. I'm no fan of the so-called political scientist István Stump, who headed Viktor Orbán's huge "office of the prime minister," but he had a point the other day when he essentially buried MDF. He talked about the transformation of MDF and mentioned that by his own calculations this is about the forth time that MDF has changed colors. This time by selecting Lajos Bokros, the neo-liberal economist, to head MDF's EP (European Parliament) list. I might add that the second man on the list is György Habsburg, son of Otto Habsburg. György is the "resident" Habsburg in Budapest and chairman of the Hungarian Red Cross.

MDF, the largest party in Hungary in 1990, has suffered setback after setback over the years. First there was a split between the conservatives supporting József Antall and his government and the right radical faction headed by István Csurka. The party, already battered in the transformation of the planned economy to capitalism, was decimated. It became a small party of diverse elements. Then the moderates broke away and established a separate party that was even less successful than the party they left behind. The situation looked so bad that by 1998 the only way MDF managed to get into parliament was on the back of Fidesz. MDF and Fidesz were practically one party until Ibolya Dávid, minister of justice in the Orbán government and by that time leader of the party, decided that MDF should regain its independence and try to get into parliament on its own. On the heels of that decision the party split again: about half of the MDF parliamentary caucus left Ibolya Dávid and the party and became "independent." Six months later–the compulsory period for an independent to change parties–they all moved over to Fidesz. In fact, today these former MDF members are the most radical group within the party. The "spokesman" for this group is István Balsai who, in my opinion, is the worst representative of the Hungarian political right, full of venom and hatred.

A couple of months ago MDF almost lost its right to form a caucus in parliament. One needs ten members for a caucus but one of its ten became "independent." At that point MDF managed to enlist an "independent" member whose outrageous personal behavior was too much for his former party, Fidesz. Dávid and her deputy Károly Herényi received quite a bit of flak over that move, but it was clear that MDF was desperate. Without a caucus a party is powerless in the Hungarian parliament.

And now comes this business of Lajos Bokros, the liberal economist and former socialist minister in Gyula Horn's cabinet. That didn't sit well with several members of the MDF caucus and the membership at large. After all, they said, MDF is a conservative party. One of the founders of MDF quit, but his defection was more symbolic than real trouble. Then the current EP member of MDF left in a huff. All this before the MDF board (választmány) had even voted on Bokros's nomination. Well, over the weekend the vote took place and by a slim margin Ibolya Dávid managed to force her will on the party. The vote was 48 in favor, 44 against. But at what price? Yesterday András Csáky, MDF member of parliament, quit the party and announced his intention to become an "independent." So once again there are only nine members in the MDF caucus instead of the minimum of ten. And that may not be the end of the defections. There are two more members who are being rumored to leave the party and the caucus: Zoltán Hock and Kálmán Katona.

As the world was crumbling around her Ibolya Dávid decided to be really brave. Or mad. Yesterday she announced that she is going to work on putting together a so-called "vote of constructive no confidence." In Hungary if seventy-five MPs sign a petition to demand a no confidence vote and at the same time they agree on the name of a prospective prime minister the parliament by a simple majority can oust the current prime minister. Ibolya Dávid offered up the name of Lajos Bokros as the prospective prime minister! Yes, the same Bokros who is supposed to head the MDF list for the European Parliament. The same Lajos Bokros whose nomination for the EP caused such dissent within the party. I can't fathom why Bokros allowed his name to be used in such an absolutely hopeless cause. I guess sometimes ego trumps sanity. Certainly Fidesz and MSZP, the two big parties, won't vote for Lajos Bokros. SZDSZ already announced that they are not partners in this latest scheme. It is not even sure whether the whole MDF caucus (if there is such a thing in a week or two) would vote for it. As someone sarcastically said: Ibolya Dávid may get five people to sign her petition. Herself and four of her followers within the caucus.

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MDF maybe be on its last legs, but if it goes down it will do so with the votes of many in my family who have in the very early 90s voted for FIDESZ and since then for SzDSz.
David, whatever you want to say, understands the gravity of the problems facing the country and is trying to do something radical. It may be the wrong approach, but it is far better than ALL the other parties that neither talk about real change nor have any inclination of actually implementing such change.

“As the world was crumbling around her Ibolya Dávid decided to be really brave. Or mad.” I don’t know if her gamble will work, but I don’t think it is mad, either. It is an extension of the logic that got the MDF above 5% in 2006, namely calculating that she had to mobilize the votes of conservative-liberals who disliked FIDESZ and MSZP equally, and regarded the SZDSZ as too compromised as consequence of their association with the MSZP. This is really an extension of that logic – and if it works, she could get lots of voters disillusioned with the disastrous situation of the SZDSZ. The gamble, however, is whether Bokros is still too associated with the MSZP to alienate those voters (Boross certainly believes he is). Dávid believes rather that Bokros is rather seen as the person who has told the truth about the economy, and is a clear voice for a smaller state. We will see in June if she is right …. When we considered the “political map” in January there was a minority, but significant cluster of the population who combine positive attitudes towards economic globalization, with extremely conservative social attitudes. If we consider that… Read more »

Ėva: “Well, it didn’t work and most likely it was mad.”
Ah, but I don’t think she ever intended to put Bokros into the Prime Minister’s office. It was about differentiating herself from the others. It is a shame that she differentiated herself from an unfortunate number of her own party colleagues, but we’ll see whether the strategy it forms part of works in June.