Whither Hungarian Socialist Party?

Tomorrow we will hear the definitive word on whether Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Hungarian Democratic Coalition Platform will leave MSZP. There isn’t much suspense here. Ferenc Gyurcsány and the men closest to him, Csaba Molnár and László Varju, have been saying for weeks that the “divorce” was inevitable. Why did they drag their heels for so long? Most likely because the group wanted to be sure that at least ten MSZP members of parliament would follow their lead. Why at least ten? Because according to Hungarian parliamentary rules a minimum of ten people is needed to be able to form a parliamentary caucus (“frakció” in Hungarian). Without a caucus independent members have practically no role to play in the House.

According to news reports there are nine MSZP members in addition to Gyurcsány himself who are ready to try to establish a left of center party that will most likely be called Demokrata Párt or perhaps Magyar Demokrata Párt. They are József Baracskai, Ádám Ficsor, István Kolber, Csaba Molnár, Lajos Oláh, Erika Szűcs, Ágnes Vadai, László Varju, and Iván Vitányi.

 

The ability to form a separate parliamentary delegation was an important consideration. As it is, the members of the new party must serve as independents for six months. Thus their weight in parliament will be limited for a while. However, as a separate party their spokesmen will be able to voice their own program in the media. And that is certainly an important consideration for a group that claims that their members have serious ideological and strategic differences with the current MSZP leadership.

I think it is time to take a look at these differences if they even exist because some observers are convinced that the war within MSZP is due solely to personal differences between the followers of Attila Mesterházy and those of Ferenc Gyurcsány. If they could only set aside their personal antagonisms everything would be great.

At least this is what a lot of MSZP supporters claim. The same people are also convinced that the current sorry standing of MSZP is the result of the quarrel between the majority of the party leaders and Ferenc Gyurcsány. If Gyurcsány would only calm down and give up the idea of acquiring a political role, MSZP would again regain its former electoral base.

Mesterházy himself claimed that the party’s popularity, if one can speak of such a thing at all, always rises when Gyurcsány shuts up and goes down when he moves into action. I must say that I didn’t check the accuracy of this statement, but the latest Medián poll that appeared today doesn’t support his contention. According to Medián, MSZP’s popularity shot up from 12 to 17 percent in October when the internal quarrels have been most intense.

In any case, are there any ideological differences between the two groups? Here I will use the points Tamás Bauer makes in today’s Nepszabadság. The only outward and obvious sign of the differences between MSZP as a whole and the Gyurcsány faction was the vote on dual citizenship. Out of the MSZP delegation, two men voted against it: Ferenc Gyurcsány and Csaba Molnár. Iván Vitányi abstained while Ádám Ficsor and Ágnes Vadai didn’t vote.

What does this mean exactly? MSZP decided that in order to receive greater support the party has to imitate Fidesz by adopting a more “patriotic” attitude toward the “national question.” András Balogh, whom MSZP dragged out from nowhere and who suddenly became one of the deputy chairmen, doesn’t disturb much water in political life either inside or outside of the party. However, he declared that the party must have “a new national policy.” Gyurcsány and his followers, on the other hand, adopted the policy of the Horn government that Hungary must support the Hungarian minorities but at the same time must respect the sovereignty of the neighboring countries and must not establish any constitutional ties between Hungary and the Hungarians living outside of the borders. The Gyurcsány group’s position is that the current policies of the Fidesz government only increase friction between the Hungarian minorities and the majorities of the countries they live in.

In addition there are other differences, the most important of which may be the attitude toward the market economy. MSZP in coalition with SZDSZ worked toward building a full-fledged market economy through privatization, economic stabilization, and economic integration. MSZP supported certain SZDSZ reform plans in health care and in education. All in all, says Bauer, MSZP-SZDSZ governance from Horn to Bajnai “meant a friendly attitude toward capitalism.”

That was the main thrust of the MSZP-SZDSZ governments, but there were always groups within MSZP who were not exactly enamored with the economic change that came along with political change. There was a fairly large group within the MSZP caucus that refused to vote for Lajos Bokros’s austerity package in 1995. I recall that there were at least two ministers who resigned in protest. There were many anti-capitalist voices within the party, but while MSZP was in power they didn’t manage to exert too much influence. However, once the party suffered a very serious blow in 2010, these people immediately blamed the MSZP-SZDSZ government’s reforms for the failure of the party at the elections. Mesterházy himself turned toward this anti-capitalist attitude that was earlier the trademark of people like Katalin Szili and other leftist members of the party. Mesterházy nowadays even talks about “the banker government” of Fidesz. You may recall that it was Viktor Orbán and his men who used to call the MSZP-SZDSZ coalitions “banker governments.”

And finally, the current MSZP leadership is following in the footsteps of Fidesz in opposition. Mesterházy’s MSZP criticizes every unpopular measure whether it makes sense or not. Perhaps unwittingly, MSZP is building up a bundle of false hopes by finding fault with every move of the government. Gyurcsány, says Bauer, is dead against this kind of behavior. There must not be “a war of numbers,” he wrote last summer. “If the government says that it will raise pensions by 2% one mustn’t say that it should be 5%, especially since one knows that the 2% is actually more than we can afford.”

There is a lot of truth in Bauer’s description of the present MSZP leadership. It is enough to read Népszava, the paper very close to MSZP, to know that “largest opposition party” shoots down everything, even those measures that are long overdue. Of course, the question is whether the Hungarian people will be ready to listen to honest talk that might not sound glamorous but is realistic. Because the fate of Gyurcsány’s new party depends on that.

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Paul
Guest

Navel gazing while Hungary burns.
With the new electoral rules Fidesz are bringing in – all designed to reduce the chances of the smaller parties from being elected – is this the time to split the only opposition into two small parties?
And just as the support for MSzP finally starts to pick up?

Member

I agree with Paul.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Paul: “And just as the support for MSzP finally starts to pick up?”
After I had written the piece I listened to a conversation with Endre Hahn, director of Medián. His theory is more or less what mine is. MSZP went up most likely because MSZP voters are happy with the split.
There was another interesting piece of information from Hahn. 80% of MSZP voters are happy with Mesterházy but 76% of them would be also happy with Gyurcsány. Interesting.

Kirsten
Guest
“80% of MSZP voters are happy with Mesterházy but 76% of them would be also happy with Gyurcsány. Interesting.” But there are few people left who are willing to vote for MSzP, and I thought that these most likely would be willing to support any person at the top of MSzP. I would not worry too much about the fact that the newly established parties will be small at their start. MSzP and Fidesz are both not capable of a general change in attitudes and these are the “big parties”. Both are no “opposition” to the current impasse in both the division of the society and the private uses of public property. An opposition that I would very much welcome should refuse to play this “game”, and I thought that there are initiatives that work in that direction. These would attract quickly many (currently “frustrated”) people if only they could mobilise some political talents who are able to cooperate and coordinate. (Which is not really happening at the moment but the absence of a true opposition does not make MSzP that much more attractive in my eyes.) And because of that I am thinking about the chances of the new… Read more »
Member

@Paul “is this the time to split the only opposition into two small parties?”
I don’t think the situation is that gloomy. There is another logic to this. More choices on the left could attrack more undecided voters who were reluctant to commit to the monolitic MSzP. This means votes will increasingly flow away from the Fidesz. It’s now only partly the battle of the MSzPs – it’s more like the battle for the undecided.
It is very important that if the split happens, it happens in friendly terms. Any kind of feud will be disastrous and just simply help the Fidesz (they are counting on it). Or worse help the JOBBIK. They should split declaring that they are just two different flavor of the Hungarian left.
Regarding Fleto – he should move all his followers over to the MDP then fade away.
This is very exciting – watching how the chips may fall.

Member

I just read this on W. Tota’s facebook page. He suggests Gyurcsany is splitting from the MSzP to re-create the SzDSz. Does this make sense?? What does he mean?

Guest

Most often I have not voted FOR someone, I have voted AGAINST the other candidate. It may come to how many fear a continuing Orban administration.

Gabriella
Guest

Eva: “There was another interesting piece of information from Hahn. 80% of MSZP voters are happy with Mesterházy but 76% of them would be also happy with Gyurcsány. Interesting.”
Even though i like Gyurcsany, I understand why people say this, since I feel the same way.
At is point I don’t care who, when, and why, II also don’t care if there is one group, two or three, if it is one party, or 2 smaller ones, as long as they are on the left, and basically they somewhat resemble Mszp.

Rigó Jancsi
Guest

Gyurcsány’s democratic forum might survive especially BECAUSE he wants to tell the truth. If he really manages to do this and will not adopt the typical attitude of Hungarian opposition, just like Mesterházy, as described by Éva.
Gyurcsány is a “burned child” since his infamous speech, so he might have some credibility and will stick to the truth. But maybe people will still say: Oh, there he lies again… His hairsplitting about the signature of loyalty to the party has not really shown the attitude of a frank and direct politician.
Anyways, I guess he might have a future if staying focused on the country’s problems and not on party politics after the split. Because that would be a great distinctive feature nowadays.

Rigó Jancsi
Guest

Ups, did I write democratic forum? I hope this will not be another MDF… 🙂

Ron
Guest

Off topic. An article about Mummy boys and the Eurozone sovereign stress based upon 5yr CDS.
Unfortunately, I could not find the one for other currencies (that is the CDS 5yr.
http://www.bondvigilantes.com/2011/10/20/mummies-boys-the-number-1-variable-for-predicting-eurozone-sovereign-stress/
http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/cache/ITY_PUBLIC/3-08102010-AP/EN/3-08102010-AP-EN.PDF

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mutt: “There is another logic to this. More choices on the left could attrack more undecided voters who were reluctant to commit to the monolitic MSzP. This means votes will increasingly flow away from the Fidesz. It’s now only partly the battle of the MSzPs – it’s more like the battle for the undecided.”
Mutt, This is very well put. There are many who wouldn’t vote for MSZP exactly because of the kind of men and women like András Balogh or Mónika Lamperth. (I don’t know why they don’t like Lamperth, I don’t find her that terribly objectionable. But this is the case.) And yes, it is the fight for the large uncommitted, undecided voters without a party.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Mutt: “He suggests Gyurcsany is splitting from the MSzP to re-create the SzDSz. Does this make sense?? What does he mean?”
I guess he thinks that a liberal party is needed because without it MSZP will never be able to win an election. There is something in that. Moroever, don’t forget MDF, moderate conservatives, like Szabolcs Kerék-Bárczy.

Joseph Simon
Guest

Gyurcsány may or may not succeed but that is the right way to procceed. The Charta should have done the same, to work inside of Hungary, to present their case, to convice the voters. Appealing to foreign governments is nerdy, weak, inappropriate. They are shooting themselves in the foot. Why are we Hungarians so good at that?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

It seems that the dye is cast. MTI reported at 12:47 that Gyurcsány has established a new party called Demokratikus Koalíció.

Member
Joseph Simon: “The Charta should have done the same, to work inside of Hungary, to present their case, to convice the voters. Appealing to foreign governments is nerdy, weak, inappropriate. ” Can I kindly ask you to return to the previous blog entry by Eva, where it was clearly explained by many that reaching out to foreign governments is not unique, and quite appropriate under certain circumstances. Unfortunately when a mad man runs a country, and he himself misleads the said foreign governments, it is a must for any responsible individual to protect the country from the crook and advise those who are taken for a ride at the expense of the Hungarian people. Obviously many people like to deal with this things “behind closed doors” as there is some kind of some kind of stigma created by various parties that when “abuse happens in a family, we should keep it all amongst us”. It is unfortunate that many intelligent people are bullied into this kind of a thinking. Orban by the way continually reached out to foreign governments while in opposition, except he was way more sly than anyone, but that is his personality, and it seems to work… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

To Some1, We must also remember that there is a Magyar Demokratikus Charta and the Canadian one is a branch of that initiative. The Charta’s link is http://charta.info.hu/

Paul
Guest
The big problem in Hungary at the moment is not Fidesz, or OV’s dictatorial inclinations, or even the future of MSzP or Gyurcsány – it is that everyone still talks in terms of democracy. Everyone still assumes that democratic solutions are still possible. The answer to OV is to build/change parties to make them more relevant, discover new, charismatic leaders, get disenchanted voters back into voting left/liberal again, recreate a centre-right party to oppose Fidesz on its own ground, and so on. But none of this will work for one simple reason – OV has abolished democracy. And what little of it that is still functioning will have gone by the next election. And if you don’t believe this, just read through the evidence presented by Éva’s own Charta. The number of MPs will be cut almost in half. The voting system will be changed to effectively ‘first past the post’. And an entirely unnecessary system of early voter registration will be brought in. Add to that the fact that Fidesz controls almost all the media, and you end up with a situation where the left/liberal voters will be virtually unrepresented in the post-2014 government. And if that doesn’t worry… Read more »
Solomon Fierce
Guest

I agree with Paul. Hungarian Spring must come to Orbanistan. But it would be a brutal shame to have to wait another two long years. If not more.

Paul
Guest

The way things are going, it will be a lot longer than 2 years before people get fed up enough to kick OV out.
And, by then, there’ll be no ‘easy’ option.

peter litvanyi
Guest

A couple words Vera sent to me recently; it applies to Feri/ Atilla as well:
“Élj
Úgy, hogy soha
ne szégyelld, ha a világ
megtudja, mit teszel,
mit mondasz,
még akkor is, ha nem igaz,
amit a világ
megtudott.
Barátaid
jobban ismernek téged
találkozásotok első percében, mint
ahogy
ismerőseid megismerhetnek
ezer év
alatt.”
Good Luck Feri as well as Good Luck Attila. As long as the two of you never forget…; yet both of you already did. Thus it is time we remind you both: neither one of you carries our mandate. You’d better start working, both of you.
Together yet justly separate now. Congratulations: nice drama of a divorce. And what about the kids?
Sincerely:
Peter Litvanyi

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