Political chaos in Hungary

I wasn't sure whether I should write anything today because I can't make heads or tails out of what's going on in Hungary. Surányi says he doesn't want the job. So more scrambling. One wakes up to the name of János Takács as the newest MSZP suggestion for prime minister. I had never heard of him. He turned out to be the CEO of Electrolux Hungary. His name surfaced only to be dropped within a couple of hours: SZDSZ wants no part of János Takács. SZDSZ, although earlier its leaders emphasized that MSZP should nominate while they would simply nod or not nod, decided to come out with its own candidate, earlier the MDF candidate: Lajos Bokros.

Bokros at the beginning seemed eager enough and expressed his willingness to serve. At least that is what the Hungarian media reported. However, today the situation seems to have changed. Now Bokros says that he is not going to be part of the political machinations of MSZP. That can mean only one thing: he wants the support of the "opposition" parties: Fidesz, SZDSZ, and MDF. Well, if this is true Bokros will not be prime minister because in Orbán's opinion Hungary's future prime minister can  only be Viktor Orbán, preferably after early elections. The new spokesman of MDF, Szabolcs Kerék-Bárczy, behaved rather oddly today when Olga Kálmán inquired whether if MSZP supported Bokros's candidacy MDF would lend its name to a three-party political alliance behind its own favorite candidate, Lajos Bokros. Kerék-Bárczy refused to answer, saying that the very supposition is totally absurd. I guess that MDF is so afraid that anyone might associate the party with the left that its spokesman refuses to answer even a hypothetical question.

At the moment SZDSZ is sticking with Bokros although there are some voices (currently a minority) in the SZDSZ caucus who would be willing to support one of the MSZP suggestions. According to the latest rumors half of the MSZP nominating committee is ready to accept Bokros but the other half is dead set against him. They will meet again tomorrow morning. However, it might be irrelevant how Gyurcsány, Lendvai, and some of the others decide. The party's left wing is gathering strength: they have had enough of the "circus" of the whole nominating process and are planning to overthrow Ferenc Gyurcsány. According to Tamás Suchman, one of the heavyweights in this group, because Gyurcsány already announced his intention to resign he shouldn't be conducting the negotiations about his successor. Instead his deputy, the minister in charge of the prime minister's office, Péter Kiss, should assume his place at the negotiating table. Moreover, Suchman continued, he is going to make a motion to convene an extraordinary congress to elect a new party chairman. A left-wing putsch against Gyurcsány is brewing. Katalin Szili, Gyurcsány's rival in the party and the head of its left wing, somewhat more obliquely spoke of the party's duty to stop the "drift of the country" and urged that the party should take "political responsibility." I guess that means that Szili, Suchman, and others are ready to get rid of Gyurcsány both as prime minister and party chief and alone shoulder the responsibility of governing. But how?

Given the intra-party revolt, MSZP and SZDSZ should move quickly to decide on a mutually satisfactory  candidate. A rational human being would think that the survival instinct of these two parties would kick in and dictate cooperation. However, we are in Eastern Europe. In fact, very close to an area called the Balkans. In that area rational political thinking doesn't always have the upper hand. Cooperation? They don't know the meaning of the word. Western businessmen often complain that Hungarians are not good at team work. They are not joking! These two parties should have learned a lesson from the fiasco four years ago; because of their refusal to cooperate, although they had a majority in parliament, the country ended up with László Sólyom as president. The same left wing of MSZP was certain that their candidate, Katalin Szili, would win despite SZDSZ's refusal to support her. Well, it didn't work out that way. Both parties were at fault then and both are behaving the same way now.

I consider Gyurcsány a talented politician, but at the moment he is in a very difficult situation. The candidate both parties supported wouldn't accept the job. So now names come, names go, and tempers flare. His party's left wing wants to unseat him and undermine him at every turn. Meanwhile Viktor Orbán calls any prospective candidate a "clown" (paprikajancsi in Hungarian) because a "serious" candidate simply wouldn't take the job. Meanwhile the Hungarian Guard is planning to blockade roads to force early elections.

I'm downbeat today and I recall "Gloomy Sunday," the Hungarian "suicide anthem." Why would political parties in effect commit suicide? According to the Hungarian psychiatrist Bela Buda, Hungarians regard suicide differently from most other people. "In the unconscious popular mind suicide is a positive pattern of problem solution, it's a formula which is actualised in times of crisis because everybody has experiences with other persons who committed suicide and who were regarded not as failures but as brave people daring to restore their self-esteem and dignity by this desperate and heroic act." Is it heroic to turn over the reins of government to Fidesz?  I think not. So MSZP and SZDSZ had best come up with another solution to the problem of national governance.

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Sandor
Guest
Ah, yes! The spiral of history has turned an other full circle. You may consider it an other flight of circular steps up, or down, as your taste dictates, but a full circle it is, no doubt. The situation is eerily similar to the one after the first world war. The government in total disarray and nobody is ready, or able to take the reins. And while the democratic pretender, Karolyi is desperately running from pillar to post, while the radical enemy gleefully watches as the power is dropping into their lap in spectacular, cinematic slow motion, (that has not been invented yet), and the hapless “annointed” is loosing their grip, finger by finger. All mouths agape, all is engaged in patriotic oratory, they all tell what must be done, but none of them does anything: they are actually paralyzed by impotence and fear. A heroic era has came to its end. There are no bangs, only whimpers. But the macabre “enemy” is not any better. The nationalist pretender, with a clipped and unmistakably fiendish grin frozen to his face, triumphantly looks down (actually up, since all of them are taller then him), upon his parrot commando ” well dudes,… Read more »
damdamdam
Guest

Yeah, of course, to Gyurcsány the most important thing still is to solve the country’s problems.
Of course this is just about revenge, what else? After all, he was right all along, wasn’t he? The poor bastards will really-really suffer without him now..
Some people will never see from their own eyes…

Mark
Guest
“Given the intra-party revolt, MSZP and SZDSZ should move quickly to decide on a mutually satisfactory candidate. A rational human being would think that the survival instinct of these two parties would kick in and dictate cooperation.” But the problem here is that neither party has a rational way of ensuring their survival. That is why this is such a mess. To win the elections, or to have even a fighting chance, the MSZP need to raise the living standards of the population dramatically. Even then they have to explain away Őszöd, why they imposed an austerity programme on the population in 2006 which ended up ditched in 2008 after they played for a draw in three referenda, and a number of other things that would strain credibility (and I doubt they can do this). They can’t improve people’s living standards, and all they can really hope to do is manage the decline in living standards. And in the meantime the MSZP-left have been living in a dreamworld, whereby if only Gyurcsány and those horrid liberals around him would go away, then they could return to the world of distributing the goodies to the population to increase their popularity. This… Read more »
Odin's lost eye
Guest

With a constructive vote of no confidence what will happen if NO one is found acceptable to succeed as PM? What happens then if there is a Negative vote? Does Gyurcsány stay on?

Mark
Guest

Odin’s lost eye: “With a constructive vote of no confidence what will happen if NO one is found acceptable to succeed as PM? What happens then if there is a Negative vote? Does Gyurcsány stay on?”
Yes – if a constructive vote of no confidence fails then the current incumbent remains in post. He can then decide to resign, but that places the decision of what happens next in the hands of the President of the Republic.

New World Order
Guest
Eva Yesterday, early elections from your vantage was the worst possible outcome. Now that Gyurcsany’s ploy has come back to bite him, and all he has done in resigning is started the early the disintegration of the MSZP, you are now for elections? The truth is the MSZP is self immolating, but this is a good thing. It will get trounced in this election, and then have to decide what type of Party it really is. They will in all likelihood choose to be a real left wing party. On the right, MDF is also self destructing and SzDSz will be voted out of Government having already ceded all credibility. The best hope for the country is that from the cadavour of the MSZP, SzDSz and MDF some sort of real centerist, pro-market force would emerge under a new generation of leaders. Guys like Bajnai will not remain in MSZP that is dominated by Kiss and Szili. The senior leadership of SzDSZ (Demsky et. al.) and MDF are also finished for all practical purposes. Being completely out of power makes it hard to sustain the corruption. There must also be somewhere sensible liberal/free market people currently on the fringes of… Read more »
Mark
Guest
NWO: “The truth is the MSZP is self immolating, but this is a good thing. It will get trounced in this election, and then have to decide what type of Party it really is. They will in all likelihood choose to be a real left wing party.” One really wonders how the MSZP will cope with implosion. NWO talks about the MSZP becoming “a real left wing party”. I think the real problem I have with this is that the phrase MSZP left is actually quite misleading. I understand left-wing values to be about the extension of democracy from the political and legal into the economic and social realms, and the creation of an social and economic order that rests on the recognition of the fundamentally equal worth of every human being. I have to ask the question of who stands for this in the MSZP? And who is advancing a viable political programme informed by these values in Hungary? The answer really is nobody. When I’ve asked those who support Kiss and Szili and co. what they would like to see done differently, I don’t really get an answer. A few tell me that the MSZP allowed itself to… Read more »
Odin's lost eye
Guest
The general election when the ever it comes will almost certainly result in a crushing defeat for all the parliamentary parties except Fidesz. Whilst more important economic ministries would probably go to persons of financial sense and knowledge the remainder of the party will be preoccupied with ensuring that their leader Orbán will take over or position from which cannot be displaced by popular vote and be granted a massive power. There will obviously have to be several manipulations like replacing the members of the constitutional court before this can be done. Initially he will be supported by the far-right whom he will probably use it as his storm troopers giving them free rein to punish those who have dared to keep him out of power. Once he has acquired the position of ‘All Highest’ he can use this to threaten to disrupt the European Union should play complain about undemocratic government etc. And as he becomes more entrenched in power he will probably rid himself and his party of the more moderate members and shifting his party further towards a ditatorship. He may well get slapped about by the European Audit Commission will want to know why European funds… Read more »
Mark
Guest
Odin: “Orbán will take over or position from which cannot be displaced by popular vote and be granted a massive power.” This is absolutely possible, and it is very likely that he will try to do this. My guess is he will seek to use the precedent of De Gaulle to do this. But that parallel is not reassuring for FIDESZ. Though De Gaulle faced a weak opposition the one direct election he won as President (in 1965), he only won by a 55-45% margin over the left-wing candidate and later President, Francois Mitterand. And the chain of events that led to his resignation in 1969 started when he had to make concessions to the general strike and associated student protests in May 1968. In other words, if he curtails parliament and concentrates power in an executive presidency, discontent will not disappear with it – it will just build up until it explodes in open street protest. France in the 1960s witnessed economic growth unprecedented before and since, and the country’s transformation into a consumer society. These were favourable economic circumstances, and those that a new Orbán government will confront in Hungary could not be more different. When FIDESZ voters… Read more »
spectator
Guest
Interesting question, all along. Who’s next? Unfortunately: there is no choice… Well , I agree wit Eva, Mr. Kiss is the most suitable – after all, what Hungary needs today is a proper bureaucrat, who does what required, and does it well, without too much party- or ideological attachment… However, he isn’t a “leader” – so to speak. As Mr. Gyurcsany has stepped aside, there is nobody in sight to take the lead. Yes, I know of mr. Orban. Unfortunately. Just today I have read of his speech in Ungvar, Ukraine. Mr. Orban declared, that if he going to rule in Hungary, he would provide the ukrainians with double citizenship. Well, it certainly sounds as a promise, isn’t it? – With a slight blemish, as it is: in Ukraine there is NO such thing accepted as double citizenship. Hmm…. Then, just like two question emerges: – Mr. Orban has no the slightest clue, how the Ukrainian law does work, regarding citizenship, even if he – allegedly – doctor jurist, which makes him in this case, well, not really up to the professional standards, let alone, be a prime minister of Hungary… – Mr, Orban indeed know, that there is no… Read more »
Sandor
Guest

In the meantime Bajnai was accepted by SzDSz.
He started out well i.e. tough. He also requested that the two parties now supporting him undertake in writing that support. I don’t know how he could enforce such commitment, but at least initially perhaps it may work.

NWO
Guest
Mark: My sense of what “left-wing” would mean in the context of Hungary and the MSZP is a party singulalrly committed to extensive State involvement in the economy (perhaps even with a certain return to State ownership in key industries), and a substantial welfare state that provides minimum incomes for a large percentage of the population via transfer payments. [Sounds a lot like Kadarism fuelled by EU money] I do not associate left wing in this context with either greater liberty, freedom or more democracy. Just the opposite in fact. My wish would be for something to develop in Hungary along the line of what has happened in Poland, where a “sensible” conservative identity has been forged btween the traditional, old-style left and the populist, Catholic right. I am not particularly sanguine that such will emerge, but it would make me happy. Does Orban believe in democracy? I do not know. Do I think he will try to implement measures that fundamentally abrogate democracy? I don’t think so. I continue to believe the allure of EU membership for the population as a whole remains too strong to allow Hungary to go down such a path (regardless of the menatality of… Read more »
Mark
Guest

Sándor: “In the meantime Bajnai was accepted by SzDSz.”
You need to wait and see how many fail to support the constructive motion of no confidence – and how many of the dissidents like Karsai in the MSZP join them. And then, if he gets through how far he can rely on parliament to vote through his measures. And lastly, the question is raised in the face of the inevitable street protests of how long – given its legitimacy problem – it can survive.

Mark
Guest
NWO: “In the end, see Italy and current day Italian politics.” As I’ve said before I think there is much merit in seeing Hungary as a poorer and smaller version of Italy, in terms of its social relations and the nature of the state. The real issue though is that Hungary is poorer – OK, the Mezzogiorno has problems of a magnitude that are similar to CEE, but it can be supported by productive regions in northern and central Italy (though as the presence of the Lega Nord and the pressure towards federalism shows, this is not without strains). The productive sector is simply not big or strong enough to provide the support for the level of redistribution that large sections of the population would accept (this is why what NWO rather nicely calls “Kádárism with EU money” is not a viable way out – in fact it was already tried by Medgyessy, and look what happened to him!) I’ve heard historian Paul Ginsborg argue that Italy is – by its nature – “a centre-right country”. What I think he means is that support for a market economy underpinned by political Catholicism and anti-Communism is absolutely hegemonic (centre-left governments have… Read more »