MDF: The new Hungarian liberal party?

We haven't talked much about Magyar Demokrata Fórum lately although I think that the party's new orientation is certainly worth pondering. Because, yes, it seems that in 2009 Ibolya Dávid changed direction. If you asked her whether her party is on the right of the political spectrum she would answer in the affirmative. Yet more and more it looks as if Ibolya Dávid is moving toward the left in order to fill a vacuum created by the withering SZDSZ, the original liberal party that appeared just before the collapse of the old regime.

Odds are that it was Zoltán Somogyi, the former owner-president of Political Capital who served as an advisor to MDF, who suggested a turn toward the moderate left. Most likely it was also Somogyi who came up with the, let's face it, brilliant idea of recruiting Lajos Bokros as the party's candidate for the European Parliament. At first it looked as if the party would completely disappear as a result of that decision. Several people from the MDF parliamentary delegation left the caucus and therefore MDF lost its right to form a "frakció." The separate MDF caucus may have disappeared but MDF, most likely thanks to the presence of Lajos Bokros at the head of the list, managed to send a delegate to Brussels. Moreover, not just any delegate but an internationally known and respected economist and former minister of finance who managed to put the country back on the road to economic recovery in 1995. Since then Bokros served in an advisory capacity in several East European countries, including Poland, Slovakia, and Ukraine.

From the very beginning there were rumors that Lajos Bokros might also become MDF's candidate for prime minister. Questions were addressed to both Dávid and Bokros about such a possibility: would he leave Brussels to take part in the election campaign? Recently the question was answered; yes, Bokros is MDF's candidate and yes, he will return to Hungary. His place in Brussels will be taken by the representative of the "new Hungarian branch" of the Habsburg family, György Habsburg.

Ibolya Dávid gave an interview to MTI yesterday in which she voiced her opinion that "the only serious challenger of Viktor Orbán is Lajos Bokros." I have the feeling that she is right. The only problem is that MDF is not in the position to name the next prime minister of Hungary. Therefore more and more people think that perhaps there should be close cooperation among all the anti-Fidesz forces to stand against Fidesz and Jobbik. That would mean an alliance among MSZP, SZDSZ, LMP, and MDF that would stand behind Lajos Bokros. If they managed to win the elections they would then form a coalition government.

That suggestion was rejected by all the parties. They want to fight alone and measure their strength at the polls. However, there have been utterances here and there that indicate that this decision is not carved in stone. I noticed in at least one of the earlier interviews of Dávid that she used the word "now." Meaning that at the moment it is not considered but….. Actually, such an electoral alliance might be formed only a few weeks before the elections. Or, although less likely, between the two rounds of elections. Put it this way: I wouldn't rule out the possibility.

In this latest interview given to MTI Dávid mentioned that in preparation for the 2010 elections "MDF announced the politics of openness and it was in this spirit that Tamás Katona, Gábor Roszik, József Debreczeni, Zoltán Király, Zoltán Somogyi and Gábor Szécsi joined" MDF again. Katona, Roszik, Király and Debreczeni were active in the early 1990s, Szécsi hails from SZDSZ, and Somogyi is the former advisor who by now has severed all ties to Political Capital. József Debreczeni the readers of this blog know very well. He seems to think that the time has arrived to be active in politics again.

Even in this latest inteview Dávid was careful not to exclude the possibility of some kind of anti-Orbán alliance in the future. Specifically she said the following: "there is no such political party in parliament with which MDF could ahead of time [előre] forge an alliance." As you can see the lady is cagey. Only time will tell what will happen.

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“That would mean an alliance among MSZP, SZDSZ, LMP, and MDF that would stand behind Lajos Bokros”. I hate to say it, but if anyone is suggesting this seriously, they are deluded. How many people do they think are going to vote for this? The reason Bokros worked so well as a strategy for the MDF is that they are after building themselves a secure base by exploiting a niche which is not going to be exploited by others. Dávid knows full well that the outcome of the 2010 elections is decided, but needs an independent base from which she can expand in 2014. This niche is appealing to wealthy, urban voters who are sick of paying taxes, and believe that they would be personally better off if the Hungarian state has no social role at all. This “niche” is predominantly Budapest-centred and will get the MDF into parliament, but not very much further alone (which suggests that Dávid plans some softening of this line later). Given that the MSZP vote is now a “rump” and this “rump” is strong among pensioners who are disproportionately dependent on this kind of state spending, why should they vote for Bokros, unless he… Read more »