The Hungarian Socialist Party and Ferenc Gyurcsány

As far as I can see, the conflict over the future of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) between the current leadership and Ferenc Gyurcsány, former prime minister and one time party chairman, is coming to a head. It has been obvious for a while that in Gyurcsány's opinion an effective opposition to the present government must be based on a wide coalition of democratic forces that would include not only the socialists but also the liberals currently without a party, the moderate conservatives for whom Viktor Orbán's populism is distasteful, and the independent civic organization. His own "platform" within the party, the Democratic Coalition–at the moment still not officially approved by the party leadership–also includes non-party members. However, the party's by-laws forbid non-party members from participating in the party's affairs on any level.

It seems that Gyurcsány hasn't been active in the party lately and hasn't attended a number of high-level meetings. One thing is certain: he wasn't at the meeting of the steering committee or board (take your pick for the Hungarian word "választmány") last Saturday. This meeting of the committee, according to party announcements, was meant to be an important occasion for "thinking together" about the future of the party. Out of curiosity I checked the size of this committee or board and was astonished to see that it is huge. I lost count, but it has at least 100 members. How a body of this size can discuss such an important matter as the future direction of the Hungarian left is beyond me. In any case, if this meeting was so important it is odd that the current party chairman, Attila Mesterházy, wasn't present because of his trip to the United States. Gyurcsány was invited but he was also absent. We will see why later.

It is hard to know whether the steering committee's "thinking together" had any tangible results, but I doubt it. The only MTI report I read about the event simply said that the committee decided on the party's 2011 budget. I belong to the group of analysts who don't expect much from MSZP with its current leadership. It seems to me that they are madly looking for their social democratic roots. If I understand it properly, at the moment they have gotten up to 1947! I believe that the present leadership should consider the idea of a wider based coalition instead of a socialist agenda that really can't defeat Fidesz.

While the steering committee huddled together in Budapest, Ferenc Gyurcsány met some of his followers in Ajka, not far from Veszprém. I learned about it from Figyelő, and the headline almost took my breath away. It read: Gyurcsány says "now is the time for the new party." At first glance that sounded as if Gyurcsány had given up on MSZP and was organizing a new party of his own. It was only after some thinking and some discussion about it with friends that I came to the conclusion that the meaning of Gyurcsány's announcement was not the organization of a new party but rather his decision to go ahead and try to reorganize MSZP in his own image. Thus, I expect quite an interesting time ahead within MSZP.

Zsófia Mihancsik of Galamus, who is a very thorough editor, went to the source of the news, the local paper, the Veszprémi Napló, and found that Figyelő was rather sloppy in reporting the news second hand. It turned out that Gyurcsány's announcement didn't take place during his speech as Figyelő reported but during the press conference that preceded it. She also objected to the words Figyelő chose when describing Gyurcsány's criticism of Viktor Orbán's domestic and foreign performance. Figyelő used the word "szapulni," which means something like "to vilify." She very rightly pointed out that the Orbán government's actions at home and abroad richly deserve criticism and therefore Figyelő's word was out of line. I'm a bit more charitable on this score because I came to the conclusion long ago that some Hungarian journalists simply don't know the true meaning of words. They madly look for synonyms and occasionally come up with some real doozies.

Gyurcsány's important announcement, as reported by the Veszprémi Napló, was that "MSZP must be reorganized…. In essence a new party must be created and the time for that is now." So, said Mihancsik, because MTI wasn't present at this meeting this important announcement became no-news. She added that if on Monday we find that there is a real upheaval within MSZP we will not know why.

Well, there is no upheaval yet. Only a modest announcement: "The secretariat of the former prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsány (MSZP), announced on Monday that the former prime minister and party chairman, the president of the Democratic Coalition platform of MSZP, will give a speech about the situation of the country and the government on February 18. In addition he will talk about the situation of MSZP and about his own political plans. The place of the event will be announced later." 

It is worth reading the news carefully. 

 

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
John T
Guest

Eva – I don’t know if this is of any interest?
http://www.nyugat.hu/tartalom/cikk/gyurcsany_interju_partepites_szombathely

Kirsten
Guest

For me it is rather difficult to understand why Ferenc Gyurcsany still wants to put energy into a reform of MSzP. A new party along the lines that he suggests could more easily concentrate on current issues and would not need to work through 60 years of communist and post-communist party history.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kirsten: “For me it is rather difficult to understand why Ferenc Gyurcsany still wants to put energy into a reform of MSzP.”
I’m surprised too. However, I have the feeling that this is his last effort.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

John G: “Eva – I don’t know if this is of any interest? http://www.nyugat.hu/tartalom/cikk/gyurcsany_interju_partepites_szombathely
Certainly. Thank you. Gyurcsany makes here a distinction: to establish a new part and to make a new part. The latter in his mind means of recreating a new party from MSZP.

Jano
Guest

Come on guys, it’s not that hard. Answer: Money, organizational assets, core voter base. Gyurcsány is now sitting on the top of MSZP-s treasure foundation and he won’t give that position up as long as he doesn’t find a more viable alternative. To build up the infrastructure of a new party from scratches…, that’s hard. Also if he started a new party he could only bring along his fanatic supporters (he’s the kind of politician, who is either loved or hated, there is only a negligible amount of “whatever” votes in his case). He won’t give up his current position for that. At least not now and not as long as he thinks he has a chance to take over MSZP again.

John G
Guest

@Jano: sounds just about right, except why would anybody want to re-brand (renew?)that is already a re-brand of an unwanted party. However tasty the MSZP infrastructure may look(buildings, bank accounts, membership lists) it is really an albatross, politically. It maybe more difficult to start fresh, but the pay off in the long run is more realistic than with the MSZP. Gyurcsany already tried to work from within MSZP to change it. Instead, the old guard within that Party ruined his political reputation. That stale bunch of leftovers plucked its nose to spite its face. So now they got what they deserved. Gyurcsany is better off to leave them to wallow in their own mud.

Mutt Damon
Guest

If Fleto stays the point man in the MSZP we are doomed.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mutt Damon: “If Fleto stays the point man in the MSZP we are doomed.”
You know by now well enough that this is my opinion too.

Minusio
Guest

Who is Fleto? Excuse my ignorance.

Vandorlo
Guest

I am waiting with baited breath, too. This is too much to hope for. Are you seriously telling us that the saviour returns? Please let it be so. As you say, I too am a gasp at the prospect: ‘While the steering committee huddled together in Budapest, Ferenc Gyurcsány met some of his followers in Ajka, not far from Veszprém. I learned about it from Figyelő, and the headline almost took my breath away. It read: Gyurcsány says “now is the time for the new party.”‘ Praise be. hallelujah, the saviour is amongst us.

An
Guest

@Jano: “Come on guys, it’s not that hard. Answer: Money, organizational assets, core voter base.”
It could be the organization and maybe the voter base… there were articles in the press lately that MSzP is quite broke.
@Minusio: Fleto is Gyurcsany’s nickname (from Ferenc).

Mutt Damon
Guest

@Minusio Fleto is Gyurcsany’s nickname.

Minusio
Guest

Thanks for enlightening me. Yes, as almost everywhere we have a personnel shortage, and if “Fleto” is Hungary’s best chance: Nice prospects!

Jano
Guest
John G.: But you forget that Gyurcsány is also an albatross politically. I think we don’t agree in Gyurcsány’s role in the past few years (I remember that you described yourself as an admirer of him, sorry if that was not you), and I think having the power he’s left with is very important to him. By ruling the Táncsics foundation, he can still have a lot of people on his leash (because that is how politics works) and that might be the thing that keeps him alive. If he founded a new party, that would basically be a one man show of someone who’s reputation is at least questionable, and the popularity of whom is not topping the stars. Once people get used to the situation he would loose almost all media attention since the right wing media of course won’t give him publicity, while left-wing papers are more tied traditionally to MSZP. With three years until the next election this would be a very bad move. Also if he started a new party, his first enemy wouldn’t be Fidesz but the old MSZP (just think about it is obvious why). That fight can have very bad effect on… Read more »
whoever
Guest

Jano, I agree, but the word is tactician rather than tactic.
What’s underpinning these noises? That state budget money is going to be seriously reduced in the new majoritarian democracy, and many of the MSZP love their money. For sure, you need money to run a political outfit, but they also love it for themselves too, and this tends to be their undoing in many ways.
I don’t think the MSZP has a great deal of space to reshape itself and it has very few people from later generations who are capable and have ideas. Those young people who are there, could be described as liberals, yet this is now a discredited ideology in the eyes of most Hungarians. It has no materials for rebuilding, and is set to slowly dwindle.

Jano
Guest

Whoever: Yup, sorry I was screwing around what to use and deleted the al accidently

Jano
Guest

I mean the ian, I’m going to sleep sorry:)

John G
Guest

@Jano: Yes I am an admirer of Gyurcsany. I very much disagree with you on his tactical abilities. On the contrary it was his lack of tactical skills that lead him to political defeat. In my opinion he is a brilliant policy man and any party would be lucky to have anyone in their mids with his understanding of government policies. Unfortunately he has no idea of the power structure and how to hold on to it. I also disagree that it was his tactical skill that got him Meddgyes’s position. No. The Party realized that M. was not on the same wavelength as them and had to be replaced. They gave Gyurcsany the job for much the same reason they gave it to Mesterhazi. While Gyurcsany was more than a handful for them to deal with Mesterhazi is not even in the game. In my opinion it’s not the leader of the MSZP that is the problem but the old boys network, the hangers-on, the last chance ambitions of worn out politicians who are more interested in their own spot an the deck of a sinking ship than to try and right the boat.

Joseph Simon
Guest

The MSzP is a successor party, ‘utódpárt’. Horn said: he is not apologizing for the past. Ő vállalja Rákosit, Kádárt. As if Orbán said: Ő vállalja Horthyt és Szállasit. This is what Gyurcsány has to do. A complete break. How can he do it? He is married to the odious Apró family. That says it all.

Kevin Moore
Guest

For some unknown reason, Gyurcsány still thinks he is a factor.
It was only his money and shrillness that made him an unfortunate factor for a period worth forgetting.

Sackhoes Contributor
Guest

Can’t Gyurcsany see that he is Orban’s number one vote-getter? As long as he remains on the scene, the Socialists can not get support from the majority of the voters.
As far as the Socialists looking to their Social-democratic roots, they are looking in vain. It was the MSzP’s ancestor (elod part) that utterly destroyed the venerable Social Democratic Party and the labor unions affiliated with it, turning them all into vacation administrators for the state. Anna Kethly deeply despised Kadar and fled to the West to escape his reigh of terror.
There is simply no genetic connection between the MSzP and the political heritage of Willy Brandt or Olof Palme.

whoever
Guest

True in many ways, Sackhoes. One would need to drill into the history of the old MSZDP to see that it was deeply weakened by the outcome of the 1918-20 period, very divided and factional, containing some who were sympathetic to Communists, some who were reconciled to the Horthyite settlement. It’s a tragic story, as by the end of the Second World War the MSZDP contained many of the brightest political talents – maybe enough for 2 or 3 decent political parties – and all of the talent was slowly drained away, leaving only a tendency within the MSZMP. This tendency epitomised by Nyers Rezső is perhaps the one claim that the MSZP has to continuity with the MSZDP; but it’s very tenuous, and I understand that this was usually a tokenistic aspect during the Kádár period. Kádár himself, like many Communists, made it his business to understand and ‘manage’ social democrats, but unlike many, he tolerated them to a certain extent.

jano
Guest
“I also disagree that it was his tactical skill that got him Meddgyes’s position.” If you read it carefully, I didn’t write that. ‘On the contrary it was his lack of tactical skills that lead him to political defeat. ‘ Three years after the Oszod speech with his popularity hitting the bottom. What you’re saying is like Napoleon was a bad army leader which led to his eventual defeat. No, if he was any less brilliant he would have been toppled in a month after Oszod. He organized his basis inside the party so that it was supporting him even though he became one of the most hated politicians. His personnel policy, his skill to maintain power was absolutely stunning for me. He was not able to say a sentence the public would have liked, but he knew exactly what he had to say to the members of MSZP. He kept on writing his new revolutionary plans every second month (with a random number of points (sometimes completely abandoning the previous ones) so he constantly seemed to be in motion. He had the right people at the right places who were dependent on him and for whom it was better… Read more »
Guest

@Simon the Troll:
I don’t usually answer your idiotic comments – but now:
“He is married to the odious Apró family.”
This argument was typically used by the Nazis – you’re responsible for your family ancestor’s actions, aka “Sippenhaft” …
Let me give you a counter-example:
It was just in our local German paper, that the son of the (in)famous “Butcher of Krakow” Horst Frank spoke about the book that he has written on his parents. They not only were responsible for killing more than a hundred thousand Polish people (not all of them Jews) but also arranged for the looting of many museums – so they had a lot of valuable paintings and gobelins etc and books in their residence.
The son wrote and spoke about how he hated his parents who found all this killing and looting the “Untermenschen” quite natural …
So would you also call him responsible for his family ?
PS: This has absolutely no connection with whether I like(d) his policies or not …

John T
Guest

If Gyurcsany does form his own party, it will at least show what support HE has. It will also free up the MSZP from any Gyurcsany effect, so should bring MSZP inclined voters back into the fold. Of course, it may likely just split the anti Fidesz vote and perpetuate their large Parliamentary majority.
My own view is that a new centre party with sensible values and a sound world view is whats needed. But I don’t see it emerging for years, many as there are no leaders of any calibre around. Bajnai might be an option, but I doubt he’d waste his time.

whoever
Guest

Very well put jano, a very good description of Gyurcsány’s style, which was really a bizarre echo of his hero Blair in the later, futile stages. A puppet master with a really terrible script and no real story to tell.

Mutt Damon
Guest

@Sackhoe “Can’t Gyurcsany see that he is Orban’s number one vote-getter?”
He is a vote-getter on both sides (MSZP and FIDESZ). I wonder where those voters and up? Will they switch sides? 🙂

Mutt Damon
Guest

@wolfi To Simon Jozsi’s point. If the son of the Butcher of Krakow would run for an office his father’s past wouldn’t help with gathering Jewish votes.
Klara Dobrev is Antal Apro’s granddaughter (not even daughter). She is Gyurcsany’s 3rd wife I think (I wonder is this relevant for the Hungarian voter?). They got married in the 90’s so I don’t think there was much gain in hooking up with the Apro family by then. I’d say it was the opposite.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mutt Damon: “They got married in the 90’s so I don’t think there was much gain in hooking up with the Apro family by then. I’d say it was the opposite.”
Do you know how often I explained all this? Innumerable times. Makes no difference. I have never seen a bunch like that.

Kirsten
Guest

@Mutt, Éva: It could still foster loyalty towards the party and make the break difficult if it is seen as a “family tradition”.

wpDiscuz