In a way I would prefer to continue my short biography of Ferenc Gyurcsány. But I have the feeling that my readers would prefer to hear about current events and short-term predictions rather than the 1980s and Gyurcsány's student years in Pécs. (I'll return to that on a slow news day.)
I'm trying to avoid passing along every rumor that reaches the ears of a third-rate reporter and then is sold as hot news. Most of these stories sound unlikely if not outright unbelievable. The reporters also seem to have a penchant for trying to create panic by outlining scenarios that all predict the certain failure of a smooth transition from Gyurcsány to Bajnai. Both SZDSZ and MSZP are fractured (true enough), so there won't be the necessary votes for Bajnai to become prime minister of Hungary (wrong). The problem with this scenario is that we know the exact number of SZDSZ members who voted against Bajnai. I reported on that yesterday. We also know that out of about 120 members of the MSZP caucus present at the Sunday meeting only four abstained and one didn't vote. Even without the members of MDF who, by all indications, will support the constructive vote of no confidence Bajnai should be fine. So what's the problem? One has the feeling that Hungarian journalists love chaos and trouble. Then perhaps they can write more riveting articles about the impending doom.
Since I'm not trying to sell papers or write episodes of The Perils of Pauline, let me outline briefly the pieces of information that seem credible. (1) Ferenc Gyurcsány decided to resign as party leader when it became obvious that the candidate for the post of prime minister would come from the inside. Two names were mentioned, the first a member of MSZP and the second politically unaffiliated–József Gráf, minister of agriculture, and Gordon Bajnai. If Gráf were to become the candidate Gyurcsány would resign because in his opinion the posts of prime minister and head of the party should be held by the same socialist politician. In Bajnai's case he would resign because they are close friends; if he remained the leader of the party it would look as if he were the puppetmaster and the new prime minister the puppet. (2) Currently there are two serious contenders for the post of chairman of MSZP: Ildikó Lendvai and Péter Kiss. But the field keeps widening. Imre Szekeres, minister of defense, is another frequently mentioned possibility. Kiss says he would accept the nomination but suggests Lendvai. Lendvai says that she would rather stay on as head of the MSZP parliamentary delegation. She claims that she is no good at administration. Next Sunday the nominating congress will have to make its decision. (3) For me the most interesting piece of news today was János Veres's revelation that Bajnai's austerity program is practically the same as the one he and his ministry worked out at the end of January and suggested for immediate acceptance. At that point he didn't get the nod from either the cabinet or the parliamentary caucus. In fact, Veres claims that he had already outlined his plan last summer at an MSZP retreat at Dobogókő. Not only did his plan get rejected only to resurface with a new advocate heading a new government, but it seems almost certain that he will be replaced as minister of finance. A new government, an old/new economic plan, a new minister of finance. (4) According to information the media received (which might just be part of the rumor mill) Bajnai is already talking about personnel changes in the cabinet; at least five people will be leaving.
And finally. What will Ferenc Gyurcsány do once he's no longer prime minister and head of the party? He made it clear that he is committed to continuing his political career. Although he said that he will remain a member of parliament, surely being an ordinary back bencher is not exactly Gyurcsány's style. One conceivable scenario was that if Ildikó Lendvai becomes chairman of the party then Gyurcsány could head the caucus. But no. Gyurcsány rejected that as well. He did, however, mention a position he would like to occupy: heading the Táncsics Mihály Alapítvány, the theoretical think tank of the socialist party. Here I'm speculating, but let me suggest what Gyurcsány has in mind. He is planning to work on making MSZP a truly social democratic party that would meet the challenges of the twenty-first century. A party of which he would be the logical head.