Ferenc Gyurcsány outlined his program

Not that he thinks the Orbán government will fall any time soon. He simply decided that it was time to tell the Hungarian people what the socialist party under his leadership would do under the present circumstances. This is a welcome change on the left. MSZP politicians keep criticizing the Orbán government but to my knowledge up to now not one of them has offered an alternative. Yes, they talk about themselves as a constructive opposition, but their faint messages don’t resonate. Now at least we know what Ferenc Gyurcsány would do.

 

So, let me start with Gyurcsány’s program. The important points are (1) concentration on education; (2) spending more money on public works; (3) introduction of property tax over 100 million forints; (4) raising taxes on the wealthy; and (5) reintroducing inheritance tax over certain limits.

I must say that I consider these steps essential in changing the current rather hopeless economic situation. I think that it has become quite clear by now that the flat tax simply doesn’t bring in enough revenue. Moreover, it is unfair. Viktor Orbán can talk about “proportionality” till doomsday. Paying the same percentage in taxes from very low salaries and very high ones is simply not just. What the Orbán government did was to take money away from the poorer people and give it to the rich ones. In a poor country like Hungary it is a real attack on the overwhelming majority of the population.

The lack of education among very large segments of Hungarian society is a core problem today. There are almost a million people whose educational attainment is so low that they are basically unemployable. The Orbán government is paying scant attention to them, but this mass of people on the fringes of society might cause incredible problems later on. Something must be done. Instead of cutting public works as Orbán et al. did, more programs should be provided to assist this segment of society until the educational stimulus kicks in.

Otherwise, Gyurcsány expressed his belief that “the third republic is dead.” Viktor Orbán killed it. “He built a regime of despotism (önkény).” According to Gyurcsány, “from here on we have to be not so much the opposition to the government as the opposition to a regime based on tyranny.” Once Orbán and his government are gone, Hungarians will have to rebuild democracy again.

Gyurcsány warned Hungarians against looking backward. “Neither István Tisza nor János Kádár will ever come back.” He described Orbán’s ideology as an amalgam of “István Tisza’s class egotism, Gyula Gömbös’s national unity and führer cult, and József Mindszenty’s Christian fundamentalism. But this is not our world. That is the past which we must close in order to take possession of the future.”

He severely criticized the Orbán government’s policies. In his opinion it was a mistake to give up the idea of joining the eurozone any time soon. And although Fidesz in the last eight years with good reason criticized the irresponsible fiscal policies of the socialist-liberal government, the current government is continuing on the same road, a road that “leads straight to hell.” The Orbán government’s standing in the world can be also severely criticized. In foreign policy, Orbán was unable to get anywhere in Moscow, and Washington doesn’t even want to talk to him. It is also quite clear that Orbán’s reputation in Brussels is battered. He managed to alienate practically everybody and as a result it is not surprising that Hungary lost the opportunity to host the Eastern Partnership Summit.

Gyurcsány was quite open about his mistakes. Early in his speech he said that one of his biggest mistakes while in office was that he trusted people who didn’t deserve his trust. He also admitted that he wasn’t quite ready to be prime minister. The position came to him too early and too fast. “Orbán was a better student than I was. He tells people I will give you affluence in exchange for freedom.” It seems that the majority of the people accept this deal, “but I must disappoint them because very soon there will be neither freedom nor bread.”

As for the mistakes of MSZP. First and foremost it was a mistake to spend irresponsibly between 2002 and 2006. Second, they were wrong when they thought that Viktor Orbán was a democrat. He himself misjudged Orbán when he tried to build bridges to Fidesz in 2002 and he “even paid a pilgrimage to the House of Terror.” As for his own mistakes, in 2006 he had neither the experience nor the strength to complete the necessary reforms. Although his speech at Őszöd brought success within the party, it “was a murderous weapon in the hands of others.” He claimed that Viktor Orbán and Fidesz “attained power with the help of the rabble.”

As far as I can see Gyurcsány doesn’t want to establish a new party, a move that would be a huge mistake. What he really wants–although he doesn’t openly admit it–is to become the leader of MSZP again. Although both Gyurcsány and Attila Mesterházy emphasize that they see eye to eye, my hunch is that Gyurcsány doesn’t think much of Mesterházy’s leadership. There are also fairly influential people in MSZP who would be delighted if Ferenc Gyurcsány disappeared for good.

There is endless guessing among political commentators about the strength of Gyurcsány’s support inside and outside of the party. From a fairly reliable source I learned that within the party he is popular. The same source, however, emphasized that he is very unpopular in society at large. I don’t know of any opinion polls inquiring about Gyurcsány’s support except for Szonda Ipsos’s monthly popularity charts where indeed Gyurcsány is not doing well. However, given the very lopsided party preferences between the right and the left at present, this is not surprising. On the other hand, my feeling is that former SZDSZ voters in the last two years or so gathered around Ferenc Gyurcsány. Sure, Fidesz supporters will always hate him but that is to be expected after the very studied and professional character assassination conducted by Fidesz under the instruction of Viktor Orbán who simply couldn’t forget his humiliation in the TV debate during the campaign of 2006.

Gyurcsány in his speech talked about a renewed MSZP by 2012. We will see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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lookingglas
Guest

Single correct measures would still not result in a fair taxation. Flat tax is not fair taxation. In H. nobody is for fair taxation anyway, H. rejected property taxing . Democracy supposes fair taxation, more in fact than free speech. To make the H. population believe in fair taxation, extreme measures like publishing everyone’s taxable income would be needed. Who would put this on his political agenda? In H. sadly nobody.

Member

Sounds like the Oszod speech without the expletives. At least he learned that. If the MSZP wants to survive it needs to throw a bone to the right. How about law an order? They need to emphasize regulations for basically everything that the right complains about, from excessive severance pays to nepotism, corruption, the works. With new faces otherwise it’s not credible. The nation is loosing faith in the politicians. This “education/public works/tax the rich” thing is totally lukewarm. What else there? Kissing babies?

Vidra
Guest

More regulation isn’t the answer, it’s consistent and impartial enforcement of existing laws that people want to see. I think Hungarians generally believe that few politicians have clean hands and, above all, the broad left needs to change that perception.

Kirsten
Guest
I think that independently of whether he is gaining broad support for his programme currently or whether this just provokes some debates in MSzP, at least there is now something that people that are opposed to OV and Fidesz could use as a basis of an alternative programme. In my impression OV and his government are already in financial trouble but perhaps this is an exaggeration. But given the inconsistencies in OV’s policies apparent already now it may still be prudent to prepare an emergency programme in addition to a medium to long term growth strategy. @Mutt: “from excessive severance pays to nepotism, corruption, the works” I do not know exactly how widespread this is in Hungary but judging from the Czech experience this is rather independent of party membership. The network of “insiders” (politicians, police men, judges, bankers) is amazingly strong even if their actions are found out (e.g. by journalists). I am afraid that nothing can change from above through some government programme, the “more honest” people or politicians must manage to give the police or the judges true independence (and these must make use of that) no matter what that means for the reputation of some present… Read more »
Johnny Boy
Guest

Too bad he didn’t have any program during his 5-and-half-year prime ministership.
Who cares about him now? For some unknown reason, he thinks he is still a factor. He may be a factor in one aspect though: keeping the flame in the right-wing voters’ soul alive. The moment the see Gyurcsány, they immediately lose all their doubts about the correctness of their vote.

Paul
Guest

So, we have a cobfession from the heart of Fidez that “right-wing voters” have “doubts about the correctness of their vote”.
Perhaps ‘Kenny’ could enlighten us as to what these doubts are and what has caused them?
It would be interesting to see the official Fidesz line on their declining support.

Paul
Guest

“cobfession” and “Fidez” are, of course, cunningly crafted new words.
Or it could be because I’m typing English on a Hungarian keyboard. Without my glasses.
Or just ruddy typos…

Member

Johnny Boy: “Too bad he didn’t have any program during his 5-and-half-year prime ministership.” In fact he did. WHat were the programs of OV that he has promised, what are his programs now, and what are the programs he has launched and did not cause International outrage so far? Can you remind me please.

Paul
Guest

What’s going on with all these flags?
Obviously Gy is making some point by having loads of flags like OV, but half of them EU.
But why have so many to start with? Are Hungarian politicians frightened to stand in front of their public without ridiculously loud statements of patriotism blaring out?
I’ve not made a detailed study of this, but I don’t remember other EU politicians (non far-right, at least) parading in front of half a dozen flags. There may be one or two somewhere in the picture in some cases, but when (for instance) did you see Gordon Brown or David Cameron last making a speech with a background of Union Jscks. I think even the Americans traditionally only have the one flag!

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Paul: “but I don’t remember other EU politicians (non far-right, at least) parading in front of half a dozen flags.”
Half a dozen? I counted Orbán’s flags: there were twenty of them. All Hungarian and not one EU flag.
Obviously Gyurcsány is afraid to appear with only two flags: one Hungarian, one EU. Perhaps people will think that he is not patriotic.
I have very bad feelings when I see all those flags. I assume you can figure out why. I even tried to write something about that but I was told by my editor that I exaggerate.

GDF
Guest

Paul:”I think even the Americans traditionally only have the one flag!”
It depends. If it’s just an ordinary address, there is one flag. If it involves war or similar topics (such as terrorism), there is another one, I am not sure what flag it is (maybe that of the Navy or Air Force) but it has war-like symbols, such as lightnings…

John T
Guest

Eva – If he wants to demonstrate his patriotism, thats fine by me. But it must be patriotism and not nationalism. I think (hope) he is trying to emphasize his patriotism and that is why there are a number of them. But I suspect he is also trying to show that Hungary is deeply intertwinned with the EU going forward. Whether people pick up this message, who knows.
Wrapping oneself in the flag can always be a controversial move any I have to say I think it can be a cynical ploy, rather like photo ops kissing babies. But if the society under the flag is a tolerant, forward thinking and inclusive one remains to be seen. And whether Gyurcsany is the right person to push this remains to be seen. His admission of his mistakes is encouraging though – in my experience, its very rare for a Hungarian to take responsibility or the blame for anything.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

John T.: “But I suspect he is also trying to show that Hungary is deeply intertwinned with the EU going forward.”
In fact, he wanted to emphasize Hungary’s belonging to the EU. As you know Orbán never has any EU flag around. Not even in his office. Gy. is not a nationalist.

Member

The event was held in a five-star hotel with an audience of 200. According to the Index, there were 2 (two) anti-Gyurcsany demonstrators in front of the hotel. The room was one of the hotel’s conference rooms. I can assume the flags just came with furniture. I think the guy is cautiously testing the waters.

Paul
Guest

What it reminds me most of is the Nazis.
I know the trols will scream overreaction and Kirsten will tut-tut, but I’m afraid that is the memory that that image (or more accurately the OV one) brings up.
Unlike Éva and one or two others on here, I didn’t experience the war directly, but I grew up in the immediate post-war era, when memories of all that had happened were still fresh and we were still trying to come to terms with much of it.
There’s a very thin line at times between Fidesz and Jobbik, and when OV ‘wraps’ himself in the flag, he is in danger of crossing that line. As Éva wrote recently, “he is playing with fire”.
As for Gy, if he really is trying to start a new, realistic left-of-centre opposition, then a very good start would be ditching all the flags. We know which country we’re in, we don’t need the piros-fehér-zöld in our faces to remind us.

Kirsten
Guest
Paul, I will do exactly what you expect me to do (I had to look these two words up in the dictionary!). These flags of course can remind one of the Nazis but they could equally remind one of the Communists (just replace the European flag by something red with hammer and sickle). Many European countries that long strove for independence from whatever foreign rule often display their flags. I understand your uneasiness because these definitions of a nation are not based on political rights but on race, nation or some proletarian paradise. But within this group, “nation” is the most likely to be compatible with modern political rights. So flags alone I would not consider to be a problem, in particular not if the EU flag is among them. In some way it contradicts what the other flag may suggest about Hungarian superiority. And someone on this blog wrote some time ago that the “purely political definition of the nation” that Gyurcsany stands for is not acceptable for most Hungarians. I would take that simply as a concession to the current mood (which does not reduce the need to make people more familiar with a political definition of a… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mutt Damon: “The event was held in a five-star hotel with an audience of 200.”
One had to get an invitation.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kirsten: “These flags of course can remind one of the Nazis but they could equally remind one of the Communists”
They remind me of both, to tell you the truth.

John T
Guest

Paul – I think that you are overacting a bit here. The flag is the symbol of the country, and I don’t have a problem with a number of flags being displayed. It is it the values of the country that determine how we view them being displayed. If you go to the Mall in London, there will often be a line of Union flags from Trafalgar Square to Buck House. But I don’t see them as threatening, as the UK is by and large an established, tolerant democracy. But a row of flags behind Nick Griffin, and the policies he promotes, is far more sinister.

Member

I do not mind the flags. I think Gyurcsany is making a statement, and the statement is that Hungary is part of the EU, and the MSZP recognizes that. It is a message not only to Hungarians but to the outside world. Gyurcsany is willing to cooperate. I don’t think anyone can accuse Gyurcsany for nationalism. From marketing point of view he wanted people to register where he stands, for Hungary with the EU, in the EU. If he wouldn’t of put any flag behind himself, he would of been accused of not speaking for his country and so forth…. Why so many flags? I think they just wanted to make sure that whatever angle photos will be taken, both flags would be visible.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

someone: “Why so many flags? I think they just wanted to make sure that whatever angle photos will be taken, both flags would be visible.”
I think that we will have to live with the many flags behind the speakers. Actually it would be interesting to see when the Fidesz communication team came up with the idea. It would take a little research but I bet we could pinpoint the exact time.
By the way, does anyone remember what fuss there was when Sólyom’s first New Year’s address lacked a flag! God knows why he didn’t want to have a flag behind him but he is a strange bird (haha, this pun wasn’t intended sólyom = falcon) and most likely he had some explanation. However, next year, he dutifully put out the flag.

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