Ferenc Gyurcsány’s message to the Left and to MSZP (IV)

The fourth and final part of Ferenc Gyurcsány's pamphlet is about the strategy and tactics MSZP should follow in this new situation. From the socialists' point of view their situation is pretty desperate. The opposition parties combined don't have one-third of the parliamentary seats, which in practical terms means that they have no chance of even proposing legislation on their own. Nothing can reach the floor without the support of at least one-third of the appropriate legislative committee. The same is the situation with proposals for investigative committees. The Hungarian opposition will be too weak for any independent action.

But let's assume that as a result of Fidesz's generosity at least one-third of the committee seats will be allocated to the opposition parties. The situation even then is grim because it is very unlikely that Jobbik and MSZP, for example, will see eye to eye on important issues. It is another matter that even if these legislative proposals were to get to the floor, the government party's overwhelming majority will make for very lopsided legislative activity in Parliament.

Therefore Gyurcsány suggests quiet and deliberate parliamentary work that would concentrate on legislative details concerning specific questions. This would be great but if one looks at the MSZP rostrum all the key slots on the list were allocated to bigwigs in the party apparatus and there is practically no one, for example, who could deal with health care, or the environment, or many hundreds of similar specific issues where MSZP might have a chance to affect legislative outcomes in some quiet way through work done in the background.

The parliamentary balance is way out of kilter. Everything will depend on Fidesz. The president will, according to Gyurcsány, "be a yes-man who will even ask the prime minister what kind of necktie he should put on." The chief prosecutor will also be someone close to them that will mean even further Fidesz influence on the judiciary. A few months ago Fidesz refused to extend the tenure of Árpád Kovács, head of the Accounting Office, most likely because the Accounting Office worked properly, pointing out waste and illegality in government spending. Surely, Fidesz wants its own man on the job who would not be bothered with such "trivial matters." For years Fidesz refused to agree on a person to head the public television and radio stations because it wants to be sure that the new chairman will be entirely at their beck and call.

So, in a situation like that, says Gyurcsány, one has no choice but to cooperate with the other opposition parties. But then comes the thorny question of the presence of Jobbik. Surely, "one mustn't cooperate with this party." These are very difficult questions and Gyurcsány doesn't claim that he has answers, but he is certain that "one mustn't wage a war of numbers." If Fidesz says that they want to raise pensions by 2%, MSZP mustn't insist that it  be 5% "especially when we know that even the two is more than the country can afford."

On the other hand, if the government doesn't come up with "immediate and radical tax cuts we must attack immediately. There is no other choice because tax cuts were their only tangible promise. Of course, we know that this promise is unrealistic but the chairman of Fidesz must have repeated these words at least a hundred times. He kept saying that one mustn't behave like a bookkeeper but must introduce an economic policy that promises economic growth." Therefore, an opposition party must hammer on this promise that greatly helped Fidesz achieve such a spectacular victory.

Because Orbán promised radical tax cuts what should MSZP consider to be adequate? Gordon Bajnai's government as of January 1, 2010, cut taxes amounting to about 1% of the GDP. Therefore MSZP should demand tax cuts amounting to at least 2% of the GDP from Fidesz. MSZP should remind Hungarians that this was a promise that must be fulfilled. Moreover, Orbán claimed such drastic tax cuts would not be accompanied by any austerity measures. "So, come on, if you don't fulfill your promises, you lied, you misled the electorate!"

Another area where MSZP could take a more forceful oppositional role is in social welfare legislation. Fidesz passed on, it seems, the responsibility for welfare, education, and culture to the Christian Democrats. These people are "family friendly." They think that the reluctance of couples to have large families is only a financial matter. As it is now every child, well into their twenties, receives state subsidies on a sliding scale. The new government wants to change that and give tax credits by introducing "family taxation." This would help middle-class families who pay taxes, but people on minimal wage who don't pay taxes would be left out. According to Gyurcsány, MSZP should oppose any legislation that introduces family taxation because "it is punishes the poor and rewards the rich."

If Fidesz wants to change the constitution, the party should raise its voice and should be ready to organize national opposition to such measures. He brings up as an example a change in proportional representation. Fidesz might point to the British example where winner takes all, but in the United Kingdom it doesn't occur to the majority party to change the constitution. (Actually, there is no written constitution to change.) Hungary is no Great Britain.

And a final word. MSZP should not be guided by feelings of revanche "because we know where this leads. We must remain normal." 

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Nick Ottens
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Sir!
Sorry to use the comments form here for an unrelated purpose but I couldn’t find another way to contact you. Would you mind dropping me an email please? Thanks
— Nick

Vándorló
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Well I suppose given this blogs ridiculous obsession with anything Gyurcsány says we can expect the serialisation (otherwise known as the mental death by a thousand cuts) of his upcoming book to be broadcast in excruciating detail here any time soon http://hvg.hu/itthon/20100511_gyurcsany_konyvet_ir

Paul
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gyurcsany’s secret weapon – hitting fidesz with the line “you lied, you misled the electorate!”
how hypocritical would that sound coming from the mszp, and mr lies himself? the mszp will struggle to ever land another serious blow on fidesz without serious generational change. i imagine that jobbik is currently fidesz’s biggest concern.

Vándorló
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@Paul: Jobbik are irrelevant. Completely. What can they hope to do except dance around in uniforms and try to convince people that somehow this is going to improve their social and economic situation as well as that of social cohesion – which is non-existent in Hungary. Jobbik will just collect their tax free expenses like the rest whilst telling people they are for radical change. Ye right.

Paul
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i beg to differ, vandorlo. jobbik are the only party who are fundamentally different from what we have seen over the last 2 decades in hungarian politices – they are the only party for whom “collect their tax free expenses” does not apply. hence why the other parties and the media are so terrified.

Vándorló
Guest

@Paul: ‘they are the only party for whom “collect their tax free expenses” does not apply.’ I take it you haven’t been keeping up to date with your MEPs then, particularly Morvai. Anyway, we will know soon enough, each month the expenses are publish on the parliamentary website and I expect they will be no different. And when I draw attention to this you and BobsFullofIt will ask why I don’t ask the other parties the same – which of course I do, but MSZP and Fidesz don’t even seriously claim to be honest.
Which is why Gyurcsány worked so well with Laszló Keller, Koka and a wide group of clowns whilst bemoaning the fact nothing changed. Hypocrite, an absolute hypocrite. And what was the verdict of Transparency International and others of Gyurcsány’s reign?
The four part diatribe here is insulting to Hungarians and anyone who lived here through Gyurcsány’s reign. This ability to rewrite history with a completely straight face and believe it is the real problem with Hungarian politics, politicians and society.

gio
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“A few months ago Fidesz refused to extend the tenure of Árpád Kovács, head of the Accounting Office, most likely because the Accounting Office worked properly, pointing out waste and illegality in government spending.”
Wrong. It was MSZP who opposed the prolongation of the tenure of Árpád Kovács. “Most likely because the Account Office worked properly”?

Eva S. Balogh
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Paul: “gyurcsany’s secret weapon – hitting fidesz with the line “you lied, you misled the electorate!” how hypocritical would that sound coming from the mszp, and mr lies himself?”
I find it perfectly logical. If Fidesz’s main complaint against MSZP was that they didn’t keep their promises, they lied, then surely one expects from Fidesz to keep their word. If they don’t, they are no better than the former government

Eva S. Balogh
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gio: “Wrong. It was MSZP who opposed the prolongation of the tenure of Árpád Kovács.
Check your facts. You’re wrong.

gio
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I Googled a little and found in the leftist daily Népszava:
“A legegyszerűbbnek az Állami Számvevőszéken lévő elnöki és két alelnöki szék betöltése látszik. Kovács Árpád ellen – aki 12 évig állt a testület élén – a Fidesz nem emelt kifogást, az MSZP ellenezte mandátuma újabb 12 évre szóló meghosszabbítását.”
Briefly, Fidesz had no concerns about the prolongation of the mandate of Árpád Kovács who had led the office for 12 years; it was the MSZP who opposed it.
http://www.nepszava.hu/articles/article.php?id=290321

Guest

“all the key slots on the list were allocated to bigwigs in the party apparatus and there is practically no one, for example, who could deal with health care, or the environment, or many hundreds of similar specific issues where MSZP might have a chance to affect legislative outcomes”
And whose fault is this ?
As I wrote before – wait for the biological solution ie until all the MSZP Stalinists are dead, then there can be a new left party …
MSZP is irrelevant now and will be for the foreseeable future!

Guest

“then surely one expects from Fidesz to keep their word. If they don’t, they are no better than the former government”
Yes, but also not worse than the “Old Guard”

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

wolfi: “As I wrote before – wait for the biological solution ie until all the MSZP Stalinists are dead,”
Let’s not exaggerate because such way-out statements only discredit the one who writes them. They are not Stalinist. Just not the kind of politicians a modern party needs.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

geo: “Briefly, Fidesz had no concerns about the prolongation of the mandate of Árpád Kovács who had led the office for 12 years; it was the MSZP who opposed it.”
Nepszava’s reporter is wrong. It would not be the first time. The sitution was the following. MSZP had no objection to Kovács and neither was at the beginning Fidesz. But there were two unfulfilled positions for vice-chairmen. MSZP wanted to vote on those as well. At this point Fidesz said no. Only Kovács but no vice-chairmen. And that was that.

Guest

“Stalinists” may have been an exaggeration – but still I wonder: How did MSZP (and the other parties too) simply continue with their “old” people from before 1989 ?
My Hungarian wife doesn’t want to talk about politics too much, she has seen too much of all these people (being over 60, like me) and still remembers her work in the mayor’s office in some small Hungarian town – those “Marxists/Socialists/whatever you call them” were just horrible – and they just continued after 1989 without much of a change …

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

wolfi: “How did MSZP (and the other parties too) simply continue with their “old” people from before 1989 ?
Would you list all those important people today in MSZP who also had important level-posts in MSZMP?

whoever
Guest

Eva, much of what Gyurcsány and his supporters say sounds quite OK on paper. But for those who look at objective social realities, the final verdict on his time in government must ultimately condemn his approach. The stark poverty, environmental degradation, decay and lack of social cohesion in Hungary 2010, HAS to be mainly the responsibility of the outgoing government. At the end of the day, Gyurcsány’s model of development was wrong for Hungary, and is also likely to be abandoned by the UK Labour Party, from which it originated. It’s over. And in regards to his long plans, which smack of monomania, I am surprised anyone is interested.