“An election in Hungary”: Trials and tribulations of MDF (2)

As I mentioned yesterday, I don't want to go into the details of how MDF finally managed to put together a list in Budapest despite intense efforts by some to prevent it. My only comment is that I have never in my life heard of a system that would allow these absolutely endless legal maneuvers that can be undertaken at various jurisdictional levels across a swath of so-called competencies. For instance, when all possibilities are finally exhausted on the official level (election committees, courts) then individuals go to the police and often on the basis of bogus accusations try to stop individuals from running. And because the police must investigate, and in Hungary they investigate very slowly, these cases can drag on and on while a cloud remains over the head of the candidate.

I will list some of these attempts against MDF candidates. There was Tamás Nagy who was the first to collect the necessary number of endorsements. He thought everything was fine when a "citizen" accused him of fraud. The investigation is still underway. Tibor Mészáros got enough endorsements but among them were two that, though properly filled out, used slips that were photocopies. Criminal proceedings were launched. In another case a citizen wrote a letter (handwritten) to the police in which he claimed that he hadn't endorsed Miklós Csapody of MDF but gave his endorsement to another party's candidate. He charged election fraud.

Something very similar happened in the County of Nógrád to Dániel Bali. Again an individual in a handwritten letter claimed that his gave his endorsement slip to somebody else. Criminal proceedings began in this case as well. In Tibor Farkas's case the police were overzealous. After a similar announcement the police went to the MDF headquarters and seized all of his already accepted endorsement slips. The other case involved Viktor Szabadai, MDF-SZDSZ candidate in Budapest. This one has an interesting twist. Proceedings against him for election fraud were launched by the MSZP delegate on the local election committee. The MSZP member together with the other committee members had earlier accepted Szabadai's endorsements. However, he received a handwritten letter from a concerned citizen who claimed that he didn't endorse Szabadi. That very night two policemen arrived to look around the premises.

One of the latest oddities in the concerted effort to get rid of MDF was the case of Zoltán Király. In this case during one of the many court appearances in this long running MDF battle for recognition Király was present in the courtroom when the lawyer of the deputy mayor of Óbuda and Fidesz chairman of the third district announced that Király's case is being investigated in connection with possible electoral fraud because of another handwritten complaint by a citizen. The interesting thing was that Zoltán Király knew absolutely nothing about any police investigation against him. How did this lawyer know the details of a procedure against Király when Király himself didn't? One of those puzzling aspects of Hungarian jurisprudence.

Finally, in some cases "friendly" or not so friendly warnings, often by the person's boss, prevented some people from accepting the nomination. There were apparently quite a few such cases. Thus, it seems to me at least that there was a serious effort to prevent MDF from participating in the 2010 elections.

No doubt it is to the advantage of the bigger parties to get rid of the smaller ones if possible. But simple parliamentary mathematics is not enough to explain this case. Why only MDF? Why not LMP? There is more here than political calculation. I suspect it is Fidesz's immense hatred of MDF and Ibolya Dávid.

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Mark
Guest
“Why only MDF? Why not LMP?” It wasn’t only the MDF. There were several attempts made to stop LMP candidates appearing on the ballot by falsely accusing them of electoral fraud through manipulating the nominating tickets. The one attempt I became most aware was the Jobbik/FIDESZ ambush of Áron Földi, the party’s candidate in Nagykőrös, which though ultimately unsuccessful was pretty nasty. I’m been following elections closely in Hungary since 1994, and there have been problems because of the inadequacies of the nomination system since then. However, this time there has been a fairly concerted attempt by one party to keep as many other candidates off the ballot as it could. There was quite a lot of evidence that FIDESZ got out early and used its superior ground strength to harvest as many tickets as they could – I’m told they were given a target of 2 million; smaller parties were complaining that the difficulties of collecting tickets were “unusual” this time at an early stage. I even heard from MSZP activists that while they could collect their 750, they were having problems hitting the numbers they would feel comfortable with getting to give them leeway when electoral bodies starting… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

I didn’t hear about this Áron Földi case. It seems I missed it. But one couldn’t miss the story of the MDF list in Budapest! Otherwise I agree with everything you said. This whole system is bad.

Alias3T
Guest

The press is fully aware of what’s going on, but they’re ignoring it. There’s a three-line whip on: even papers which would ordinarily have some leeway, like Index or Nepszabi, are being called to order. Index’s journalists, I know, are under huge pressure to stick to a line – as you can tell just by skimming the headlines on the front page. A video entitled “Uj Peter Bukasa” is extremely revealing about the atmosphere in the newsroom.
What’s also revealing is the complete failure of strategic thinking within the MSZP. The next five years are going to be extremely hard for the party, and, regardless of whether Fidesz gets its two thirds or not, they would be far better off as part of a network of opposition parties in parliament, than as just one party at war with two others.
In a year’s time, I think they’ll regret not having the MDF in there alongside them: it’s much easier to present yourself as the “democratic opposition” when there are several of you.

Alias3T
Guest

Mark: I also really don’t see evidence of a coordinated attack on LMP on anything like the scale of that against the MDF, and the differences warrant an explanation.
Orban and Ibolyka really do loathe each other. MDF was meant to go the way of the KDNP back in 2002 under Orban’s “Egy a Tabor” plan, and it’s largely Ibolyka’s strategic cleverness that’s kept it alive for this long. That’s not an endorsement of her politics, which are hard to pin down to say the least, but she has outplayed Orban several times over the past eight years. Still, I think something is missing from this explanation.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Alias3T: “they [MSZP]would be far better off as part of a network of opposition parties in parliament, than as just one party at war with two others.”
Indeed. Laszlo Bito speaks about this in galamus.hu. http://galamus.hu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=5614:az-utolso-pillanat-nyer-strategiaja&catid=9:vendegek&Itemid=66

PassingStranger
Guest

‘ it’s much easier to present yourself as the “democratic opposition” when there are several of you.’
It is much easier to present yourself as a democratic opposition if you’re not the MSzP.Hatred of the party runs so deep that few people will care how democratic it is. As a successor party to the MSzMP, Jobbik and Fidesz will simply cry “communists” whenever they feel like it.

Mark
Guest
Alias3T, I suspect that the plan was to keep MDF under 5% by blocking the Budapest list. I think too that they thought that the MDF was finished because of its internal difficulties. When it became apparent they had underestimated MDF all hell broke loose. This, at least, was what it looked like. Everyone was telling me until the list was submitted that MDF was in a state of complete collapse – and they would not have enough candidates for a list in the capital, even though common sense and last year’s European elections told me it had sufficient support to get the nomination tickets in a fair contest. I suspect they underestimated LMP too. I have to admit I did – I doubted they had the nationwide organization to get on the ballot everywhere. I was extremely impressed with the efficiency of their operation. I wonder how far the public nature of their campaign, and especially their campaign blog where although the posts themselves are not revealing, the comments document lots of the dirty tricks, deterred their opponents pushing the envelope too far. It has harmed the MDF, as given they are not on the ballot everywhere they will… Read more »
whoever
Guest

If all this is true then it is up to MDF to make the necessary complaints, and raise this at a European level as well as at the OECD. Not only that, secret plans which would appear to be illegal have now leaked onto the internet. Fidesz really do need watching.

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