Yesterday I discovered a brief news item in Magyar Nemzet. It was about Ferenc Gyurcsány's alleged decision to establish a new party. The article was entitled "Left wing party bloc may be established." Magyar Nemzet claimed to have "learned that the current leadership of MSZP and the followers of the former prime minister are contemplating negotiations about 'a peaceful divorce' that would resolve the irreconcilable differences between them." Magyar Nemzet's informer expressed the opinion that the debate within the party must end by the spring of 2012 when the party will hold its general meeting in order to be ready for the 2014 elections.
It's easy to dismiss information coming from Magyar Nemzet because this newspaper is notoriously unreliable when it comes to scoops about the opposition. So at first I disregarded the news as being "one of those Magyar Nemzet stories" until this morning I learned that Csaba Molnár, Ferenc Gyurcsány's right-hand man and deputy in DK (Demokratikus Koalíció), sent a letter to Attila Mesterházy in which the Koalíció suggests that the socialist MP's who received their seats in parliament from the party list resign to provide an opportunity for new, more capable people to represent the party in public. Such a mass resignation would leave only two current MSZP parliamentarians, who won their districts outright. Of course, such a decision would also entail the resignations of Ferenc Gyurcsány and Csaba Molnár. The news about Molnár's letter is accurate, and Attila Mesterházy took it seriously: he is calling together an extraordinary meeting of MSZP's parliamentary delegation to discuss these new developments.
Mesterházy's reaction to the suggestion is naturally negative. He pointed out this morning in an interview with György Bolgár that Gyurcsány's fomenting dissension within the party doesn't serve the true interests of the democratic opposition. After all, it is MSZP that most likely will be able to gather the forces of the left-liberal opposition, and these debates that are conducted in public only weaken the party.
On the surface Mesterházy's argument has merit: it seems easy to criticize what Gyurcsány is doing. After all, he is the man who most ardently desires the fall of Viktor Orbán and his regime. Moreover, he is a talented and intelligent man. Therefore, why is he forcing the issue? For personal gain? I very much doubt it.
Here is my take on the issue. Gyurcsány and his followers came to the conclusion that a "renewal" of the party from within is a hopeless undertaking. Yet, with the current leadership it is impossible to remove Fidesz and Viktor Orbán. So the decision was made to come up with a demand so impossible that it would necessarily lead to a parting of the ways. I assume that Gyurcsány is counting on his popularity within the party. According to the latest vote taken only a couple of months ago it looks as if the pro-Gyurcsány forces are in the majority. If the party membership splits, the financial resources of the party must also be split. Thus, the new party (Demokrata Párt?) wouldn't have to start from scratch. There would be membership and even financial resources in addition to real estate holdings.
Why did Gyurcsány decide to act? I think because by now he is convinced that a Mesterházy-led MSZP simply cannot inspire the anti-Orbán forces. There is something to that. Here are the results of the Szonda–Ipsos (lately only Ipsos) public opinion poll that shows the changes between May 2010 and August 2011:
Medián just came out with its latest poll, and its results are in line with those of Ipsos taken just before September 8. Fidesz's share is 31%, the smallest in the last six years. Viktor Orbán's popularity stands at 38%, a historic low. The last time Orbán was doing very poorly at the polls was in December 1999, in the middle of his first tenure as prime minister, but even then his popularity stood at 41%. And yes, very few people are satisfied with the current government: less than 30%. Almost 70% of the people think that the country is heading in the wrong direction.
All this should sound like music to the ears of the anti-Orbán forces, but the trouble is that MSZP is stuck at 12%. That is bad enough, but if we consider that Jobbik is doing just as well as MSZP then we must realize the gravity of the situation. It doesn't matter how often Mesterházy announces that in the near future their strategy and communication will change dramatically, words are not enough and a lot of people are convinced that the current MSZP leadership is simply not capable of more.
I would call Gyurcsány's latest move–if my analysis of the situation holds–a bold and risky one. But perhaps in grave situations drastic actions are needed. Given the current state of affairs perhaps it is a risk worth taking. Perhaps this way one could also measure the popularity or unpopularity of Ferenc Gyurcsány. Since at the moment there is no rising political star on the horizon, it might be worthwhile to find out for sure what he would be capable of doing. If he fails, he can put a permanent end to his political career and move on to something else. And the left can go in search of another dynamic politician.