MSZP has put its house in order

A few days ago most political analysts were ready to bury MSZP. Some of them were sure that the party would fall apart as a result of the events of the last two weeks. The president of an organization called MSZP Társadalompolitikai Tagozat (Social Policy Section of MSZP) actually wrote an article entitled “Endgame” in today’s Népszabadság. I must say that Gyula Czöndör’s timing was singularly bad because today all 188 members of the MSZP parliamentary caucus signed Gordon Bajnai’s “Political Manifesto.” Since SZDSZ supported the Reform Alliance’s program which Bajnai’s closely resembles it is almost certain that SZDSZ members will also sign. With the possible exception of József Gulyás. But even if he doesn’t sign, there will be a comfortable majority. I might add that according to Károly Herényi even MDF members might support Bajnai’s program once their experts have time to study the details. Therefore, it is something of a mystery to me why Tibor Navracsics thinks that Bajnai’s program will not pass. Perhaps wishful thinking. The current Fidesz strategy is to call Bajnai’s program no more than “the program of MSZP.” The Fidesz description of Bajnai’s program is “the package of hopelessness,” the same phrase it used to characterize the earlier government program. It would be time to come up with something more imaginative, but my feeling is that there is some confusion at the moment in Fidesz.

Those who imagined a huge internal struggle within MSZP were also wrong. It seems that there was an exchange of words between Ferenc Gyurcsány and Imre Szekeres but according to people present Gyurcsány didn’t call Szekeres “untrustworthy and dishonest” or “not fit to lead the party.” Perhaps something similar. Anyway, those commentators who revel in gossip and who immediately jump to conclusions already announced a power struggle between the Gyurcsány faction and the Szekeres faction. With great imagination they foresaw two socialist parties. Well, things didn’t work out that way. However, from here on participants in such confidential meetings will have to leave their cell phones behind.

The opposition finds this a terribly undemocratic move, but such a restriction is not unknown in countries with more established democratic traditions than Hungary. For example, lately in Canada. The next opportunity to come up with a new prediction for intraparty squabble was the alleged dissension over the nomination for the post of the party chairman. Observers were trying to figure out the ideological makeup of the alleged nominees and thereby predict the future course of MSZP. These speculations were also useless because in the end only one person was nominated for the post, a close associate of Ferenc Gyurcsány, Ildikó Lendvai. Lendvai is popular within the party and her election is almost certain. Her replacement as head of the parliamentary caucus will most likely be Attila Mesterházy, one of Lendvai’s associates. Mesterházy is a  thirty-five-year-old economist with a very impressive background.Mesterhazy Pictures of the two politicians below (or wherever TypePad puts them). The other two names mentioned as possible successors to Gyurcsány as head of the party, Péter Kiss and Imre Szekeres, will assist Ildikó Lendvai as managing directors. Otherwise, these two men will most likely remain in the new cabinet: Kiss as minister in charge of the prime minister’s office and Szekeres as minister of defense. At least on the surface everybody seems to be happy.

I’m not so sure whether Viktor Orbán is happy. According to some analysts Orbán just talks about early elections but in fact is relieved that someone else will have to make the hard decisions and push through an austerity program. By next year, if all goes well, he can win the election easily and reap the benefits of Bajnai’s efforts. I’ve waffled on this issue in the past. But by now I think that Orbán really wants early elections. First, I think that Orbán is so eager to be the prime minister of the country that he would even assume the odium of an austerity program. After all, he could put the blame for the country’s troubles on the previous administration. Second, I’m sure that Orbán dreams of winning more than two-thirds of the seats. In this case he could start the new era he often talks about. Third, right now the situation looks overwhelmingly positive for Fidesz, but who knows what will happen a year from now. The Bajnai program might bring results and the victory might not be as absolutely assured or, at least, not as much of a landslide as it seems now.

There are some signs that the majority of the Hungarian people have resigned themselves to the fact that an austerity program is unavoidable. The latest Sonda Ipsos poll shows that 75% of the population will accept such a  program. Even pensioners seem to be coming around, though for now the evidence is only anecdotal. On today’s TV news a reporter must have asked at least half a dozen pensioners on the street what they think. All without exception said that of course they are not happy but they understand: there is no more money. They have to sacrifice too. MSZP voters are optimistic: two-thirds think that things will improve with Bajnai. Fidesz voters are, of course, less sanguine but surprisingly only 37% of them think that things will get worse and 17% actually think that life might even get better as a result of the austerity program. Interestingly enough, although Fidesz tries to hide the party’s intentions, 70% of the people think that Orbán and his team would have to do exactly the same as the MSZ-SZDSZ supported Bajnai government is doing. So, after all, perhaps people cannot really be fooled. They are starting to understand the facts of life, and that might be dangerous for long-term Fidesz plans.

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whoever
Guest

In hushed reverential tones we are told that Meszterhazy is a 35-year old economist with an “impressive” background. I wonder – impressive in what way. I wonder if he has ever done a proper job, or simply breezed around the pseudo-academia of Hungary’s universites and into party sinecures. I’m interested – more details here please, about this impressive individual.

Sandor
Guest

But Eva! How can you compare any Hungarian fumbling to anything Canadian?
The measure taken by the conservatives, out of paranoia, was unprecedented and met universal derision. And it also only happened because our prime minister, not unlike Orban himself, is as doctrinaire and paranoid as the Shaman himself.
I am not sure, how ours is better then “ours,” But I take pleasure in being offended by even the suggestion of a comparison.

whoever
Guest

Regarding Meszterhazy – nothing against him, in particular – but doesn’t it depend what you’re looking for from your leaders?
I’d imagine there are thousands of people out there with a CV including 2 foreign languages, and study abroad… and teaching at a young age. The problem with Hungarian universities is that we know that many tend to be terribly nepotistic, so an academic career can also be an indicator of connections and what is cruelly described as “brown-nosing”. I’m sorry, but if it was any establishment here (apart from possibly CEU) then we’d have to distinguish this from, say, somebody teaching at Cambridge University.
I’m interested in any new theories and knowledge which he may have added to the world – any unique insights into the human condition, imparted from that mouth, from in between those most shiny of teeth.
Just because he’s not obviously displayed bravery, integrity and leadership, with a clear moral and intellectual basis, doesn’t mean that he may not possess these traits. But being charitable, I’d say the jury is still out. So no, Eva, still not impressed. Sorry 🙂
Just can’t please some people…

whoever
Guest

As I said before it is nothing against Meszterhazy per se, it is just that he represents the modern breed of career politician with extremely limited real-world experience and without ever being actually tested under stress. This makes him, and others like him, appear very lightweight. He also suffers from a lack of gravitas -not only resulting from inexperience, but also from a lack of ideological/moral standpoints.
Foreign relations with other EU countries and US have gone through a sour period, and it will get worse. The fact is, foreign governments know that a Hungarian regime, whether MSZP or Fidesz, is lightweight, opportunistic, short-termist, and, honestly, it is a pain to have to deal with an administration which always appears to be hustling. The isolation of Gyurcsany after the EU summit was real – an indicator of a general distrust of noises coming from Hungarian politicians mouths. There is a huge credibility issue – Hungary being perceived as a bad place to do business, and bad people to have to negotiate with. Meszterhazy in this scheme of things is simply more of the same.

Godot
Guest

“poll shows that 75% of the population will accept…”
What else can they do? Protest on the streets?
Right now there are more than 100,000 people on and around Heroes Square, demanding early elections and responsible government. The same time MSZP in their well-protected hideout singing the Internationale, the same old song they inherited from their commie fathers.
Something is profoundly wrong in Hungary when the wishes of the owners (the people) can be ignored by a bunch of leftist leftovers from the old system.

whoever
Guest

The real problem with the MSZP masquerading as a “socialist” party – and I think Eva may agree with me on this – is that it prevents a genuine left-wing party emerging in Hungary.
Whilst I may disagree with Eva’s politics, I wouldn’t deny her the right to express her opinions and vote for one of the centre-right parties (MSZP, MDF or SZDSZ)
The MSZP is disingenuous because its tentacles reach across the political spectrum – its dishonesty could only be cured by merger with SZDSZ and MDF. And any new name should not contain the words “social democracy” or “socialism” – let’s be honest here.
You’re not a socialist or a social democrat Eva – so how comes you support the MSZP? It’s because they are not, either. And it makes me wonder the nature of people’s commitment to genuine democracy. Let the people decide!

whoever
Guest

“And one more thing whoever! It is not Meszterházy but Mesterházy. Someone who doesn’t even know how to spell someone’s name should not say much about the person or his character. ”
I didn’t say anything about MisterHousey’s character. I’m talking about a political persona based on TV appearances, interviews etc. Try reading it again.

whoever
Guest
Not sure I have to decide anything: I respect your right to support the governing coalition. I find the current version of democracy here something of a sham, with many people unrepresented in this Fidesz-MSZP puppet show. Amongst these groups I would say are those who would traditionally support a leftist, worker-supporting party (up to 25% support if the immediate post-war period is indicative). So the MSZP voters are a “broad church” – including yourself and many trade unions and manual workers. It’s just that people such as yourself will always be more articulate at expressing what you want. And the MSZP and its leadership is therefore is tilted towards the wealthiest supporters – resulting in the total marginalisation of the working people. Sure – I’d rather you supported MSZP than Fidesz. But I feel very sorry that this is the poverty of choice for the electorate in 2009, and I hope this changes soon. The MSZP is simply not a very good vehicle for the social change and renewal that’s required here, and is discredited by various scandals and ties with Big Money. If the MSZP became defiantly socialist that would no longer be convincing either – its future… Read more »
whoever
Guest

Looks like I’m not the only one to see that the MSZP in current form is unsustainable…
http://nol.hu/belfold/lap-20090407-20090407-24

Gábor
Guest

Well, there are a lot of guys having written books on Hitler without being Nazis. 🙂 It’s not a really relevant argument, you should have mentioned that the book itself is more smypathetic towards its central figure than usual, Krausz’s approach and methodology is primarily based on the analysis of ideological texts from the perspective of ideology etc. Krausz is certainly on the left of the left, as it is revealed by his political texts, but it won’t make a failed argument better.

Mark
Guest

Éva: “I didn’t read the book.”
I bought it in December, and have read it. It is a serious piece of historical writing, and is a strongly empirically grounded intellectual history of Lenin’s thought.
Krausz is what one would call in the west “new left” – I think he favours “workers’ democracy” rather than traditional state socialism. He’s certainly more left-wing than me. But the key argument of the article is no different really to what I and others (from a social democratic, rather than a new left perspective) have argued on this blog: “Right up until today the MSZP has no clearly defined theoretical, cultural, socio-economic and political goals, arounf which it could shape a perspective”. (OK, I found “horizontja” here untranslateable). He’s clearly right, and this is surely their problem.

whoever
Guest

My feeling is that if people in the MSZP really cared about the Third Republic, and were genuinely committed to democracy, they would actually be quite reconciled to the idea of a viable social democratic workers’ party occupying a space to their left.
There’s a bit of history here, but the history of the MSZDP since the transition indicates that there has never been a time when the MSZP has been comfortable with rivalry. We’re talking deliberate infiltration of other parties and sabotage in order to create a left monopoly – it’s all documented and confirmed.
So, Eva, who are the Bolsheviks exactly?

torpike
Guest

To Eva Balogh: what do you think about Mesterhazy today, April 2010?

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