Divided opposition: Fidesz can be the only winner

Last Sunday there were by-elections in Zugló, the XIV district of Budapest. A Fidesz-KDNP member of the city council, Imre Garaba, had resigned for family reasons. So, a new campaign, new elections for the seat. MTI simply announced the results: Tildy Balázs (Fidesz-KDNP) won with 39.1% of the votes. HVG's headline read: Fidesz-KDNP nominee has a solid [biztos] lead in Zugló.

Well, I wouldn't call the win spectacular. After all, Márta Demeter (MSZP) was second with 30.3% while Gábor Kaibinger (LMP) received 17.5% of the votes. The final result might be a Fidesz win, but the fact is that the MSZP-LMP (socialist-liberal) opposition beat the Fidesz candidate by a mile. If there had been unity on the anti-Fidesz side, a socialist-liberal candidate would have won 47.8% of the votes and would have been declared the winner.

This Fidesz win is even less impressive if we compare the results to the numbers in October 2010, at the time of the municipal elections. Imre Garaba, the man who just resigned, received 47.49% of the votes. Thus, looking at the results in Zugló, we see that Fidesz is losing its supporters but as long as MSZP and LMP can't get together Fidesz is unbeatable.

Leaders of LMP always find some excuse for not cooperating with MSZP. Last September-October the excuse was that LMP couldn't possible hitch its wagon to MSZP because MSZP was corrupt and hated. No way would LMP agree on a common candidate even if that person was not attached to any one party. The Budapest MSZP candidate, Csaba Horváth, was certainly not an exciting choice. Yet he still managed to get almost 30% of the votes, which under the circumstances was close to a miracle. How did the independent LMP candidate fare? He received less than 10%. I'm convinced that an independent common candidate would have done much better than 40%.

The latest alleged obstacle in LMP rhetoric is Ferenc Gyurcsány. Prior to September-October 2010 Gyurcsány was not active politically, but since then he has been making efforts to move his party in a direction he finds most useful under the circumstances. Some of his suggestions–for example, boycotting the discussion of the new constitution–were accepted not only by MSZP under the leadership of Attila Mesterházy but also by LMP. Of course, they would never admit that Gyurcsány's suggestion and their decision had anything to do with one another. Now that Gyurcsány is again in the public eye, LMP and its media began an attack on him as the reason for Fidesz's two-thirds majority as well as for the impossibility of cooperation with MSZP. If Gyurcsány disappeared completely, everything would be wonderful. LMP and MSZP would be bosom buddies.

This is of course a huge lie. It is hard to know what LMP's real role is in this new political game, but its leaders are wrong if they think that their party can wage a political war on two fronts. On the one hand, tell the world how terrible Fidesz is and, on the other, maintain that MSZP is a corrupt party with an unacceptable leadership. In the end, such a two-front war can end only in failure. If LMP sticks with this strategy it will manage, perhaps inadvertently, to keep Fidesz in power.

One mustn't forget the origins of LMP. It grew out of a group of citizens who cared about the environment. During the 2002-2010 period these environmental groups did everything in their power to delay or make impossible any development whatsoever in the country. Whether it was the construction of a radar station, a new factory, or a road, they opposed everything. The particular environmental group that gave birth to LMP was Védegylet. Among other things Védegylet is linked to the election of László Sólyom with Fidesz help to become the president of the republic. One of Sólyom's very first acts was to demonstrate against the radar station that the Hungarian government was obliged to build because of its obligations to NATO.

Sólyom's dislike of Gyurcsány was a well-known fact and András Schiffer (LMP), one of the men who was vital in elevating Sólyom to his position, is only following in his idol's footsteps. He was the one, for example, who went to the prosecutor's office and brought charges against Ferenc Gyurcsány in the Sukoró case. This was the land swap that was undertaken to facilitate the construction of a large entertainment center and casino. As I mentioned several times, Gyula Budai, the commissioner who is supposed to put every opposition politician into jail, tried but failed to implicate either Gyurcsány or Gordon Bajnai. And as things stand right now, it very much looks as if no crime was committed in the course of the transaction. Naturally, the investment is down the drain. The case, by the way, also has anti-semitic overtones since the men who were planning to establish King's City (the intended name of the project) were Israelis and American businessmen of Jewish origin.

As far as I can see MSZP would be ready to work together with LMP at any time, but LMP isn't budging. If there is no united opposition in the next couple of years we will know whom to blame.

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StuckInTheMiddle
Guest

Eva, while I admire your thoroughness and tenacity, your writings on Fleto are hard to digest. Next time you want to remind us why at least half the country will never vote for him again, don’t go to the trouble of writing your own entry. Make it easier on yourself and simply do a direct translation of Zsolt Gréczy’s latest comment on Stop.hu.
There is an urgent and critical need for tough and smart opposition to the Fidesz autocracy, but Gyurcsany is unsuited for that role or any other major political undertaking, even if he sometimes hits the nail right on the head.
Unfortunately, whenever he makes a public statement, in his case it’s impossible to separate the message from the messenger.
Bajnai made his first public appearance today in a year. He will need more than his current claim to the PM’s job (successful crisis manager) to win an election and lead the country, but it’s a start.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

StuckInTheMiddle: “Next time you want to remind us why at least half the country will never vote for him again, don’t go to the trouble of writing your own entry.”
Thanks for your advice but I don’t appreciate other people telling me what I can and what can’t do. I also don’t appreciate your kind of argument. I can do anything I want with this blog and if my opinion is that Gyurcsány has a future in Hungarian politics I can certainly express this opinions. What you think of him is your business.

Pete H.
Guest

Gyurcsány should get out of the way of progressive politics in Hungary. If he is as smart as many suggest, then he knows he’s an obstacle. And if he knows, then his current actions can only be seen as self-serving. He can have his try at a comeback a decade from now.

Mouse
Guest

“On the one hand, tell the world how terrible Fidesz is and, on the other, maintain that MSZP is a corrupt party with an unacceptable leadership.”
The problem with this argument above is the approach of LMP can be logically correct. It is perfectly possible that both leading parties are unfit for power. Sad but possible. So LMP should accept the least bad and turn a blind eye to their failings?

Jano
Guest
Eva: What Stuckin’ expressed is his opinion and he also has the right to write it. That is what blogging is about. I mostly agree with him and Pete H. on Gyurcsány and Bajnai. And I’ll say something more. I’m tired of anti-voting, I don’t want to vote for a formation that is just made to be anti-fidesz. To me and to a lot of voters MSZP is almost equally abysmal. Even if MSZP and LMP would craft a temporary coalition, I don’t want another goverment blaming the opposition (even if Fidesz looses, they will be a strong opposition) for it’s inability to govern properly and to do reforms (I know your opinion is that Gyurcsány failed due to Fidesz obstruction. I don’t think that’s true but for the moment let’s assume it. Then why won’tt he fail again if there was another obstructive Fidesz opposition in the future). No I need someone who just gets the job done without theatrical moments, without a party behind his back full of sharks with Nokia boxes. Bajnai with a decent party without the good old MSZP folks would do it (the current MSZP doesn’t). Dream? Yes, I know. But I still won’t… Read more »
Sackhoes Contributor
Guest

It’s clear to me at least that Fidesz’ best support comes from the MSzP and more specifically, from Gyurcsany. GyF is such a perfect foil, he is the one people love to hate, even people who are opposed to Fidesz.
Will the “tantusz” ever drop? Will Gyurcsany finally get the message that no matter how smart he may be, no matter what good ideas he may come up with, he is the symbol of the failed socialists. Until he does, his name alone will motivate people to vote – against his party.

peter litvanyi
Guest

I agree with your article.

Kirsten
Guest

@Sackhoes: “Until he does, his name alone will motivate people to vote – against his party.”
That is certainly their right but should they perhaps not instead of anti-voting think of creating parties that they could vote for…? And why is Fidesz with all that they have done during the last year still not worth an anti-vote but the beneficiary of Gyurcsany antipathy? Although I agree that MSzP is not too promising a party, I think that Gyurcsany antipathy is an easy excuse for accepting what Fidesz has been doing lately, in particular in coming closer to one-party rule.

Hank
Guest

Does anybody know where this ridiculous rule in local election law comes from that the biggest party after the first round of elections wins the seat?
That rule, if I’m not mistaken, means that Fidesz now has Zugló, though Fidesz represents a minority of voters.
In Esztergom, it means that Fidesz with only 35% of voter support has ten out of the 15 seats in the local council and can dominate (and frustrate) everything, while the united opposition (yes, MSZP, LMP and Jobbik) has the major and only five of ten seats. The citizens of Esztergom voted for change (65% for the new mayor, 65% for non-Fidesz parties, but the rules still gave them a Fidesz-dominated town.
Surely, if you have a district system normal democratic procedure would be to have a second round of voting between two contestents if no-one wins more than 50% in the first? Whoever came up with this absurd and undemocratic notion that the winner of the first round can take all? Was that always part of the post-communist election law or has it been introduced in the meantime? And by whom?

Hank
Guest

Sorry, I mistyped. Obviously the opposition in Esztergom has the mayor’s position and five out of fifteen seats.

kis fiu
Guest

@ Eva “wage a political war on two fronts”
I think this is a problem for any smaller 3rd party. To survive LMP must be able to differentiate itself from both MSzP and Fidesz. To be effective, LMP must be willing to compromise with other parties. Right now (and even last year) MSzP has very little to offer LMP; only a tarnished image. Joining forces with MSzP in 2009 might have made a difference in the make-up of the current parliament, but it would have been political suicide for LMP as a party. Joining forces with MSzP now will have absolutely no effect on the country while it will still tarnish the independent image of LMP.
Now is the time for LMP to really figure out what it stands for and this means to differentiate itself from others.
That said, I agree with Hank that it is a tragedy that one can win local elections with as little as 35% of the vote. Fidesz obviously benefits from this rule (at least for the moment) so I cant imagine it being changed anytime soon.

Ron
Guest

I believe people are tired of politics. Only 27% showed up. Another election will take place on May 29. (Source Origo.hu)

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kis fiu: “”wage a political war on two fronts” I think this is a problem for any smaller 3rd party. To survive LMP must be able to differentiate itself from both MSzP and Fidesz.”
Theoretically you’re right. But there are times when the future of the country is more important than the fate of a small party.

Member

Patience, patience … I know it’s not a typical Hungarian treat. Let’s not try to win the elections in 2014. Invest for the long run. The MSzP is trying to be the big brother of the opposition using another upcoming smaller party’s vote to get back into power with a “coalition” then grind it up. LMP should wait. Shape it’s own image. First of all they should loose this stupid name. It sounds like a tea party thing – “we have no clue, but we want to be different”. In a few year they can give the same condescending “your country want’s you to support me” speech to the little MSzP. The MSzP and Fleto have to run the gauntlet at least until after the next elections.

Member

My crystal ball says there will be no early elections. Let’s cross our fingers that there will be elections in 2014. If there will be, it’ll be close call FIDESZ win with Jobbik gaining a lot.
Frankly my theory is that the country needs to be screwed for 8 years by a loony right wing government to realize that there are more important things than hatred.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mutt Damon: “My crystal ball says there will be no early elections.”
It wouldn’t be good strategy on the part of Fidesz. They would lose their two-thirds in parliament.

GW
Guest
Patience and distance from all parties while continuously pressing rational analysis is the best strategy for LMP. There’s an old saying in Germany that “there is no coalition in the opposition” and I believe that that is true. The years of coalition with MSzP were not good for SzDSz and, to the degree that LMP has assumed the liberal mantle in Hungary, they have learned that they need to have an independent profile and emphasizing their green credentials can only be advantageous. Moreover, the big news is the recent by-election is not the majority for MSzP+LMP but rather the strong showing by the youngest party, and this comes at a time of tremendous momentum on the continent for Greens in general, with the recent elections in Germany catapulting a Green into the minister-president’s position with the SPD as the junior partner in Baden-Wuertemburg, one of the wealthiest lands in Germany and one in which Christian Democrats have ruled for six decades. A real green political force could be uniquely successful in Hungary. Such a force would have no historical baggage, nationalist/conservative, socialist, or liberal and yet would have potential to capitalize on Hungary’s unique resources: a countryside that could be… Read more »
John G
Guest

“A real green political force could be uniquely successful in Hungary.” Wish that were true but Hungarian society needs to go through a major metamorphosis before a green or ecological platform would appeal to the general population. Such a metamorphosis is not likely to happen in the next generation, nor in the current one.

Sackhoes Contributor
Guest

ank: “Does anybody know where this ridiculous rule in local election law comes from that the biggest party after the first round of elections wins the seat?”
I would not call it ridiculous at all. In the US it has worked quite well for almost 225 years on the national level, although some state and local elections (like the recent Chicago mayoralty election) do have runoff elections.
The purpose of an election is to name the winner from a number of qualified candidates. Why would it be fairer to artificially reduce (kick out) the candidates to only two? If some of these candidates feel that they have a better chance of winning by convincing other candidates to withdraw in their favor, let them do that (as Eva suggests) before the election.
It is hard enough (both in the USA and in Hungary) to get people to actually take the time to vote once. To ask them to do it twice is almost impossible.

Johnny Boy
Guest

“it’ll be close call FIDESZ win with Jobbik gaining a lot.”
It’ll be a convenient Fidesz win with Jobbik losing ground.
“Frankly my theory is that the country needs to be screwed for 8 years by a loony right wing government to realize that there are more important things than hatred”
Everything is true here if you exchange “right” for “left”.
This is exactly what happened. It took 8 years for a loony left wing govt to wreck the country to the extent that people realized that there were things more important than their hatred against Orbán, fuelled by Heti Hetes and the totally amoral left-lib press.

Member

Well Johnny Boy, I am happy to report that people are catching up, and Fidesz is loosing ground. Read the news! Of course those people who do not believe in the Fidesz fairy any more most be all enemies of the real Hungarian people. So not to worry, your people and all who are still on the payroll as extras are still behind you.

Johnny Boy
Guest

someone: this question will become relevant in 3 years. Until then, happy camping.

Odin's lost eye
Guest
If Ron is correct (and I have not checked his figures) a 27% turnout of potential voters shows us one of two things. Either the voters do not like ANY of the candidates or that they will not vote for one and do not vote for the other out of fear. Let us look at ‘the current runners and riders’. To start with MSzP The problem with this party that it has been publically branded by the Fidesz publicity machine as being ‘incompetent’ and ‘corrupt’ –Anyone who does not adore and follow blindly the Leader of Fidesz- must be either corrupt or insane. I have to ask myself that Gyula Budai who by now should have had the ‘Drains Up’. If MSzP are half as crooked as they are painted some of them should now be in jail for very long time. There can only be one of three reasons for this failure. These are:- 1. That Budai and his merry men are extremely incompetent, 2. That the evidence is so well hidden that it will never be found, 3. That there is NO evidence at all. Until that evidence shows up (if it exists) MSzP must be presumed INNOCENT!… Read more »
Member

Johnny Boy: You left your logic behind again? Once in a while you should check your own nonsense comments when someone replies to you, before you provide an other nonsense response. In that way you have a better chance to provide the readers with some relevant and probably richer content in your post that rises above your usual sandbox style.

Johnny Boy
Guest

someone: sorry, I don’t have the slightest clue of what you’re talking about as you didn’t provide any pointers to help my lost mind find its direction.

Paul
Guest

A rare moment of truth there from ‘JB’.
Now, ‘Johnny’, I’ve been off for a few days, so I might have missed those sources you were going to give us. Which thread did you post them on?

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