Before Sunday all those who wrote about the establishment of Demokratikus Koalíció (DK) assumed that the ten MPs who left MSZP would be in parliamentary quarantine for six months. The quarantine in this case means that they will have to operate as independents with very limited opportunities to play much of a role in the debates. Moreover, the party cannot be represented on the parliamentary committees which under the present circumstances is not a huge handicap. On the other hand, not receiving any money from the budget to which every recognized party is entitled will be a big problem. It is a well known fact that no party can be maintained for any length of time from dues and voluntary contributions alone. The amount of money a party receives naturally depends on the size of its parliamentary representation and therefore DK would receive relatively little money, but it would still be better than nothing.
I think I already mentioned that the fate of DK depends on the speaker of the house, László Kövér, and one cannot expect much good will from him. In one of my posts I called him a "dúvad," a Hungarian word with a dual meaning. It can mean "beast of prey," but in ordinary speech people use it to describe a brutish fellow. In addition to his brutishness he is also vindictive and full of hatred. From him Ferenc Gyurcsány and Csaba Molnár can't expect much sympathy. If Kövér has a way of interpreting parliamentary rules in a way injurious to the new party, he will find it.
And it seems that Kövér will have an easy time of it. Csaba Molnár argued that the situation is crystal clear. The ten MP's didn't "withdraw" and they were certainly not "expelled" from MSZP. They simply seceded as an already declared new party, just as MDNP (Magyar Demokrata Néppárt) seceded from Magyar Demokrata Fórum (MDF) in 1996.
Although Kövér is still in South America and will not be back in Budapest until Sunday, there are signs that DK's quest to form a parliamentary caucus immediately might be a difficult if not impossible proposition.
György Rubovszky, chairman of the parliamentary committee on immunity and mandate questions, wrote a letter to Kövér in which he outlined his understanding of the situation. According to Rubovszky, Attila Mesterházy's letter to the House explicitly states that the ten members of parliament "withdrew" from the party's parliamentary delegation and according to house rules a member who withdraws or is expelled is considered an independent member for six months. According to Rubovszky the House didn't examine, as it shouldn't, whether the leader of a caucus is telling the truth or not.
Csaba Molnár was naturally perplexed and announced that there must be a misunderstanding which he will clear up with Attila Mesterházy. Their meeting will take place tomorrow. According to Molnár, if these ten people "withdrew," their withdrawal would have been accompanied by a formal notification, and they didn't sign such a declaration. Indeed, in English at least "to withdraw" among other things means "to give up a position especially by formal notification," but the Hungarian dictionary doesn't mention such a requirement. Moreover, here we have a difference of opinion about the circumstances under which the DK members left MSZP. Whether it seceded as an already organized party or whether the members of the new party withdrew individually.
Mesterházy's excuse is that he had no other choice. He had to specify "withdrawal" (kilépés) because MSZP rules have only two categories: "kilépés" and "kizárás" (expulsion). I'm pretty sure that this is the case, but at the same time with a little good will he could have phrased the letter in a way that wouldn't have made Kövér's job so easy. He could have said that the ten people left because the day before they joined another party. But he didn't. Why not?
While Ferenc Gyurcsány in his speech at the declaration of the new party emphasized that he and his fellow DK members of parliament will never utter a bad word about MSZP, it seems that politicians of MSZP are not reciprocating. Right after Gyurcsány's speech András Balogh, one of the deputy chairmen of the party and a representative of the party's left, said a few nasty things about DK. In making a speech on the anniversary of October Revolution in Kaposvár, birthplace of Imre Nagy, Balogh announced that his former comrades are establishing a new party that will be "some undefinable liberal party, a kind of new SZDSZ."
Gábor Simon, the chairman of MSZP's board, made it clear that DK is not a successor to MSZP because itt is not a socialist but a liberal formation. That's why this is "withdrawal," not "separation." Moreover, said Simon, the ten members should give up their parliamentary mandates and let MSZP fill their positions with others from the party list. The chairman of MSZP in Komárom-Esztergom County demanded the same. József Tóbiás, director of the MSZP delegation, triumphantly announced that with Gyurcsány's departure "gyurcsányism" also disappeared from the socialist party. So, it seems to me, MSZP is not taking "the separation" too well and the "peaceful divorce" will remain a pipe dream.
According to an article in HVG the debate within the MSZP leadership has been going on for weeks between those who want to get rid of Gyurcsány and his friends in such a way that they would not be able to set up a parliamentary delegation and those who were hoping for a friendly divorce. According to the article the letter Mesterházy wrote to the speaker of the house was written to reflect the views of the former group. The same article also mentions that the three latecomers to DK–István Kolber, Lajos Oláh, and Erika Szűcs–could have been talked out of joining Gyurcsány but "this wasn't the goal." The hard-liners wanted to get rid of them too because these three were considered to be too liberal. Apparently the pressure on Mesterházy to be really hard on the Gyurcsány faction was intense.
It is hard to tell who is Gyurcsány's greater enemy. The people within MSZP or Fidesz. He is being attacked from both the left and the right.