Back to politics. As I was re-reading my posts of the last week or so, I suddenly realized that I failed to mention that there were two fairly sizeable demonstrations in Budapest against the government. The attack on the constitutional court was the last straw, it seems. I should note here that the Hungarian left hates to demonstrate. To move the anti-Orbán forces is extremely difficult. In the last eight years it was very easy for Viktor Orbán to call his people to the street. Huge crowds gathered at the appropriate national holidays. Of course, Fidesz exaggerated the numbers quite a bit but, still, these gatherings were impressive.
The Fidesz forces also always managed to have a few hundred rabble rousers on hand to follow Ferenc Gyurcsány everywhere he went. These people were ready to demonstrate against him or even to disrupt official events. The other side never made such an attempt. Why not? One might hypothesize that people on the left are intrinsically more peaceful, but most likely the reason is that there was no attempt from above to organize such demonstrations. During the last eight years there was only one occasion, during the 2006 election campaign, when a really large crowd gathered to boost the spirits of MSZP.
So, getting out five or six thousand people in early November on short notice was quite a feat. Especially since the first demonstration organized by the Hungarian Democratic Charta took place on November 2, after a three-day-long weekend. The organizers "advertised" the event only on the Internet, and I wasn't at all sure whether even a few hundred people would gather in front of Imre Nagy's statue for the occasion. Great was my surprise when the crowd turned out to be quite large and also quite spirited. This liberal crowd came with posters, yelled slogans, and altogether behaved in a way that is unusual in these circles.
If one visits the Democratic Charta's website and clicks on the word "Aláírók" (Signatories) one will find there the best known liberals in the country, starting with Árpád Göncz and ending with Iván Vitányi, an important supporter of Ferenc Gyurcsány within MSZP. The Charta is a civic organization, but it is clear that the people involved are Gyurcsány supporters. Just lately the Charta organized a conference where Gyurcsány gave a speech. At the November 2 gathering there were three speakers: Tamás Bauer (formerly SZDSZ MP), Rudolf Ungváry (who is really a moderate conservative), and Ferenc Gyurcsány. MSZP's leadership didn't join forces with the Hungarian Democratic Charta, but certain important party members were spotted in the crowd: among them, Ildikó Lendvai, formerly chairman of the party; László Kovács, foreign minister in the Horn government, and László Mandur, former speaker of the house.
The official MSZP leadership decided to demonstrate alone and later, on November 27. It seems odd to me to wait a whole month to demonstrate against the assault on the constitutional court, but the explanation for the late date is that they want to organize a nationwide demonstration, not just an ad hoc Budapest affair. And, they add, that requires time and a real organizational effort. Moreover, they said that they want to have such a meeting every year, just as Orbán gave his "assessment of the affairs of the country" every February while in opposition. I wish the socialists could come up with some original ideas just once.
My feeling is that the official MSZP simply didn't want to be associated with the Democratic Charta they consider Gyurcsány's political vehicle. Gyurcsány has a lot of enemies within the party although his chief enemy, Katalin Szili, left the party already. But there is still the choleric Tibor Szanyi who is always ready to say something outrageous. This time he managed again. On an Internet website he called Gyurcsány a traitor to the party.
Let's get back to the the demonstration itself. As I said, the speeches were more fiery than one might have expected from this intellectual crowd. In fact, some people objected to Gyurcsány's calling Orbán a "political monster" and to Ungváry's use of the f-word at the end of his speech. Ungváry really surprised me because he is such an old-fashioned Hungarian gentleman. The background of the f-word is that Sándor Petőfi, the great national poet, used it in connection with the "Germans," i.e. the Austrians in 1848 in one of his less than illustrious poems. Some people were offended, others thought that it was appropriate for the occasion. For anyone who would like to listen to the speeches, they are available in video form on the Hungarian Democratic Charta's website, under "Hírek." By the way, there were some right-wing demonstrators but only a handful. I guess old habits die hard.
MSZP wasn't the only group that refused to demonstrate together with the Charta. LMP didn't either. András Schiffer made it clear even earlier that he considers Gyurcsány to be as antidemocratic as Orbán because he was allegedly behind the police brutality against "peaceful demonstrators" on October 23, 2006. I might add here that in this respect the "democratic" Schiffer is no different from Jobbik's leading personalities–Krisztina Morvai, Tamás Gaudi-Nagy, or Zoltán Balog (Fidesz). As far as I'm concerned, the greatest historical falsification in modern Hungarian history has been taking place in the last four years concerning the events of that day. Although there were a few cases where the police were perhaps a bit rough, the people one could see there were not at all "peaceful demonstrators." Yet LMP cooperated in the falsification process by sending its own delegate to the parliamentary subcommittee "investigating" the affair when it was clear from the beginning that the subcommittee, whose meetings MSZP refused to attend, was set up for only one purpose: to prove that Gyurcsány was in some way responsible for the "bloody" events in October 2006. The delegate, a young woman, had the temerity to announce that in her opinion the work of the subcommittee was fair and its chairman impartial!
So, LMP had its own demonstration the next day. It was a much smaller affair, but it's true that it was raining that day. Schiffer again tore into Gyurcsány right in front of the building of the constitutional court instead of concentrating on the real issue. All this just shows that the Hungarian opposition is unable to cooperate. I don't think that there can be any meaningful cooperation with LMP because it is very hard to figure out where these people stand politically. However, in the long run it really doesn't matter because my feeling is that LMP will not survive. At the moment only 2% of the electorate would vote for them.
As for Gyurcsány and MSZP. Only time will tell who will be able to unify the party making it a serious political force again. Attila Mesterházy is a very weak leader who in my opinion will not be able to inspire the electorate.
Last week word spread in the media that Ferenc Gyurcsány wants to ask a question from Prime Minister Orbán "before the official agenda." Today would have been the day, but Orbán is out of the country. Tibor Navracsics was there to answer Gyurcsány, but naturally Gyurcsány refused to deal with the stand-in. According to house rules Orbán will have to engage in a dialogue with Gyurcsány within three weeks. Well, that will be interesting. Gyurcsány is a formidable speaker and Orbán lost the elections in 2006 primarily because in the television debate he performed terribly. Even Fidesz supporters had to admit that their hero flopped. It was from this point on that Orbán refused to speak with the prime minister and ordered his troops to leave the chamber when the prime minister rose to speak. I'm looking forward to this encounter. Luckily the parliamentary debates are available online.