Hungary’s Democratic Coalition and its critics from the right and the left

Ferenc Gyurcsány’s new party, the Democratic Coalition (DK, Demokratikus Koalíció), was established on October 22, 2011. Its chairman is the former prime minister and there are four deputy chairmen: Tamás Bauer, economist and former SZDSZ member of parliament; József Debreczeni (MDF), author of biographies of József Antall, Viktor Orbán, and Ferenc Gyurcsány; Csaba Molnár (MSZP), minister in the Gyurcsány cabinet; and Péter Niedermüller, ethnographer.

A few days after the birth of DK, Ferenc Gyurcsány swung into action. On October 26 he had breakfast with the members of The Hungarian International Press Association (HIPA), the association of foreign correspondents in Hungary, where he gave a fairly detailed description of DK’s program.

The next day he gave a speech in parliament in which he severely criticized the Orbán government’s budget to which Péter Szijjártó’s only answer was that the former prime minister should show a little more “modesty.” After all, Szijjártó contended, he is responsible for Hungary’s current problems.

Then Népszabadság published a long interview with him in which he expressed his relief at once again being his own man with an agenda that is different from that of MSZP. Gyurcsány also managed to meet several ambassadors, including U.S. ambassador Eleni Tsakopulos Kounalakis who, by the way, seems to be seeking out members of the opposition lately. For example, the Hungarian media reported her meeting with Attila Mesterházy as well. A few days ago Gyurcsány reported that at least one of these ambassadors complained to him that although they spend a great deal of time translating newspaper articles from the Hungarian media, he still doesn’t quite understand what is going on in Hungary.

Gyurcsány thinks that under these circumstances it is especially important to be able to inform foreign diplomats and politicians about the Hungarian political situation. Thus the new chairman of DK, accompanied by his wife, visited Berlin on November 9 to meet with Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Matthias Platzek. Frank-Walter Steinmeier is currently the leader of SPD in the Bundestag, but he was also the foreign minister (2005-2009) and vice chancellor of Germany (2007-2009). According to Gyurcsány, Steinmeier is so well informed about what’s going on in Budapest that he didn’t need any assistance in recalling the names of István Csurka and György Dörner in connection with the scandal at the Új Színház (New Theater). Matthias Platzek, a German socialist politician originally from East Germany, served as minister-president of Brandenburg and for a short period in 2005 and 2006 was chairman of the SPD.

A day later Gyurcsány made an appearance before an audience of mostly young people at a forum organized by an organization called Policity. Here he talked about “the natural development that is taking place at the moment in oppositional circles.” The government is losing popularity while MSZP and LMP are unable to attract new voters. He naturally emphasized the necessity of cooperation in order to have a chance of defeating Viktor Orbán’s regime.

Gyurcsány is not the only one who is busy. The whole leadership moved into high gear. Csaba Molnár announced on November 8 that the twelve-member board has been hard at work on the party’s program and promised that soon enough they will have specific suggestions on the most important issues, from health care to education. The same Molnár today joined others who are seriously worried about the total collapse of the Hungarian economy in the near future. The new party is taking the position that the Orbán government should negotiate with the IMF in order to ensure the possibility of a loan if it becomes necessary. After all, lately there have been no takers of Hungarian government bonds, and if the country cannot sell its new issuances it will be unable to pay back its earlier loans. For the seriousness of the situation I recommend taking a look at an article that appeared today in a blog called Ténytár.

The first reactions to the establishment of DK came from young political scientists. Responding to an MTI inquiry Gábor Fillipov of Magyar Progresszív Intézet was certain that DK will not succeed. Attila Juhász of Political Capital was also certain that the new party will not be successful. Only the third political scientist, Orsolya Szomszéd of the right-wing Nézőpont Intézet of all places, had the good sense to admit that we cannot see into the future and that the parting of ways between MSZP and DK may be either beneficial or detrimental to the left. Only time will tell.

One of the cartoons inspired by Imre Kerényi’s hideous pictures was called Foxhunt:

 

The cartoon is not exaggerating. It seems that Viktor Orbán is still terribly preoccupied with Ferenc Gyurcsány and is increasingly trying to discredit him. His instrument is Magyar Nemzet which began a hate campaign against Gyurcsány and the new party immediately after its founding. The first editorial appeared against him and the new party on October 25 in which Miklós Ugró complained about the timing of the establishment of the new party to coincide with the anniversary of the October Revolution of 1956. According to him, the timing is a defilement of the anniversary.

In the last two days three articles in Magyar Nemzet dealt with the party and Gyurcsány. Yesterday Ádám Tompos complained that “the former prime minister, the leader of the Democratic Coalition, talked with Kornélia Magyar, analyst of the Magyar Progresszív Intézet, before a young audience in Trapéz, a pub frequented by young people.” Tompos’s aim was clearly to ridicule Gyurcsány. Today László N. Kovács wrote an editorial which seems to be an answer to Gyurcsány’s Facebook note about his conversations with western political leaders and diplomats. It seems that the Hungarian right is somewhat worried about Gyurcsány’s active pursuit of foreign leaders because the article is mostly about the author’s doubts that “western leaders will accept Gyurcsány.” The gist of the article is that western liberals are actually following in the footsteps of Viktor Orbán when he attacks the banks and “the plutocrats” while Gyurcsány and his kind are defending them. Plus he himself is a plutocrat. Kovács then goes on to compare Gyurcsány to some American politicians and I must say that the comparisons are quite incredible. According to him Gyurcsány is like Joe Lieberman who is outwardly a liberal but “he always knows which way the wind blows.” He could be Rick Perry “who is quite ready to give up his conservatism” if he is paid off. But the most outrageous comparison is to William J. Jefferson who stashed his ill-gotten money in a freezer. Except, says Kovács, in Hungary the money goes into Nokia boxes.

Surely, someone is still very much afraid of Ferenc Gyurcsány even if today we don’t have the foggiest idea whether there is any reason to worry about his reappearance as a serious contender in Hungarian politics.

The Hungarian right receives quite a bit of help from Hírszerző, a liberal online site lately carrying only opinion pieces. In today’s issue there is a transcription of Gyurcsány’s Facebook note with the title “Gyurcsány and his German political cronies” (Gyurcsány és a német politikus haverok). One wonders what Hírszerző wants to achieve with headlines like this. Perhaps to compete with Magyar Nemzet. 

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Member

I do not think Orban is afraid of Gyurcsany. His actions toward Gyurcsany has nothing to do with politics, more so with his personal sixth grade hurt feelings. It would be easy to dismiss Orban’s “I will find some sort of dirt” tactics, if it would not be at the tax payers expense.
As for the other members of Fidesz, yes they are afraid. THey are afraid of loosing their well paying jobs. When the support for Fidesz is sliding, they will cling on to any opportunity to make Fidesz look good. Saying something so childish that Gyurcsany is responsible for the current mess in Hungary would receive a failing mark at any reputable economy course, Szijjarto on the other hand will be rewarded by Orban and the uneducated for such silly comments. Amongst the bald the man with no hair is the king, so Fidesz just loves this no-sense comment. Watch out for next time SZijjarto announcing “I see Paris, I see France, I see Gyurcsany’ underpants” while the whole Fidesz fraction will just melt away from those amazing words. What a shame that these are the politicians that someone has to run against.

Joseph Simon
Guest

Kovács’ assessment of Gyurcsány is correct. He has absolutely no political support in Hungary. Still, good luck to him, that is democracy.
Some 1: Einstein wrote in 1947: ‘I must admit quite frankly that the foreign policy of the United States since the end of the war has often reminded me irresistibly of the German attitude under Emperor William II …’ He would consider things even worse now. He held Marxist views and he was considered a communist ‘stooge’. By the way, Einstein had no security clearance to work on the Manhattan project. Ironic, no?

Member

Jospeh Simon: I am finished talking to you about Einstein who has no relevance to this blog. Do you want Hungarian relevance? Visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erdős–Bacon_number. By the way, did you know that Orban is only six degrees away from Kevin Bacon?
Orban meet with Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton knows Al Gore who was Hillary’s husband Bill Clintons VP.
Ben Affleck campaigned for Al Gore in 2000.
Ben Affleck had a high-profile romance with actress Gwyneth Paltrow in 1998, following her breakup with actor Brad Pitt.
Brad Pitt was in the movie “Sleepers” with Kevin Bacon.
Relevant? No, but entertaining.
You behave like a troll, tossing in ideas that has nothing to do with the blog. I will not contribute to that and just leave it to others if they feel like playing.

Member

Oh, Joseph … You Ass Eh again. You need better diversions.

Paul
Guest

Why does ‘Joseph Simon’ insist on talking about his perceived inadequacies of the US on this blog?!
Joe – two points: 1) This is a blog about HUNGARY, 2) We don’t give a flying fornication for your views on the US anyway.
And why on earth would Einstein have needed security clearance for the Manhattan Project? Do you not understand the difference between the highly theoretical work Einstein did in 1905 and the almost entirely practical, electrical/electronic/pyrotechnic/etc problems the MP team had to overcome half a lifetime later? Einstein, even if he had wanted to help make an A bomb, would have been of very little use to them.
And, if you want to witter on about the MP on a HUNGARIAN blog, wouldn’t it make more sense to write about Teller or Szilárd, they were, after all, both HUNGARIAN. Or is this really just a ‘Jewish’ thing, rather than anything to do with HUNGARY?

Ron
Guest

Some1/Paul: Joseph Simon is right, Einstein was never asked for the Manhattan Project, due to the fact he was considered a security risk, due to his pacifistic views. And Hoover personally stopped him, actually he wanted to kick him out of the country, but the State Department stopped Hoover.
Basically, Einstein was a victim of McCarthyism, which started around 1940 and came to great height in the early 50’s.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCarthyism
As his name was too great they could not do much against him.
Currently, we have Orbanism in Hungary, which is a variant of McCarthyism. I wonder how historians will perceive this period 50 years from now.
Currently, McCarthyism is considered as a black page in the history of the USA.

Sackhoes Contributor
Guest

Perhaps European politics is so different from the US that I fail to comprehend it, but I just don’t see how a politician, who by definition desperately needs to build up domestic support gains popularity by campaigning in foreign lands. If a US politician would do that, it would mean instant political death. Imagine Mitt Romney bragging that the French and the Germans are wild about him.
Once a politician gains sufficient domestic support (and I don’t mean a meager 5%) and gets elected to a leadership position, (s)he can make contact abroad. Right now Gyurcsany’s DK is a untested splinter party with no visible support. If foreign leaders receive him they are being merely courteous.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Sackhoes Contributor: “Right now Gyurcsany’s DK is a untested splinter party with no visible support. If foreign leaders receive him they are being merely courteous.”
I don’t know what they think. One thing is certain there is more and more talk inside and outside Hungary that Viktor Orbán might not be Hungary’s prime minister for long.

Ron
Guest

Sackhoes Contributor: Perhaps European politics is so different from the US that I fail to comprehend it, but I just don’t see how a politician, who by definition desperately needs to build up domestic support gains popularity by campaigning in foreign lands.
If FGy would go to the USA, China and/or Russia I would consider this strange, but he visiting only EU treaty countries I think that would be normal.
Do not forget Hungary is still a net receiver of EU funds, so if he can generate support within the EU that could be good for Hungary.

Kirsten
Guest
After learning e.g. here on the blog that Ferenc Gyurcsany is an “outlaw” with whom an upright Hungarian would try to avoid contact, I was quite surprised reading the names of the vice-presidents of DK. In particular Bauer and Debreczeny. Are these two the only people that have not been in MSzP before or has DK attracted more people from other (former) parties? I think that foreign politicians talk to Ferenc Gyurcsany because he is a politician and because given the apparent helplessness of the other democractic opposition (trapped in the anti-Gyurcsany crusade of Fidesz; in particular manifested in the statement that any person including all of Fidesz and perhaps even Jobbik is more acceptable that Ferenc Gyurcsany, which in its consequences implies a deliberate failure to create a powerful opposition) he still appears to be the most “organised”. To foreigners apparently the reasons why Ferenc Gyurcsany is an outlaw and also the alleged fact that democrats will be able to organise an opposition efficiently only when Ferenc Gyurcsany disappears completely have not yet been fully clear. To many (me included) it appears as if those in the opposition who are so meticulous about the role of Ferenc Gyurcsany are… Read more »
Sackhoes Contributor
Guest

Ron and Kirsten: my hunch is that politicking with foreign politicians elicits more negative reaction among Hungarian voters than positive. The Hungarian public (regardless of party affiliation) resents “foreign” criticism or influence. I’m affraid Gyurcsany is making a tactical error and Fidesz, of course will make the most of it.

Joseph Simon
Guest

Look, in all your criticism of Hungary, you hold up the US as an example, whether explicitly stated or not. It is useful to see the views of a man like Einstein, as a counterweight to your babbling. Such views introduce a sense of reality, sadly missing in these comments.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kirsten, about Bauer and Debreczeni and others who have not been MSZP members. As far as I know the majority of the people who first signed up to the Demokratikus Koalíció Platform (still inside of MSZP) was non-MSZP members.
I suspect that a lot of SZDSZ voters would vote for DK.

Member

Ron: I never said that Einstein was asked for the Manhatten Project. I just simply stated to Joseph Simon that I am not going to discuss Einstein on this Board in two different blog entries as it has no relevance to Eva’s entries. Joseph acts like a troll and he certainly gets way more attention then the original subjects.

Member

@Joe Simon Did you know that in America they beat the negros …

Ron
Guest

Some1: Sorry you are right. I should have adjusted that part of the comment.
I wanted to reply to your six degrees. I decide against it.
But this is what I wanted to say. I used to work with a guy from Texas Instruments, who used to be a colleague of the son of Einstein and who knew him, and therefore, I would be 4 degrees from Albert Einstein.
There was somebody, who had a theory that everybody was max. 5 steps away from somebody else. So basically, if you know a lots of people (must be various places in the world), you are connected to the entire world.

Paul
Guest
Ron – JS may be right in that Einstein wasn’t invited to join the Manhattan Project, and that he was viewed with suspicion by the US government. But he is entirely wrong (as usual) in the general point he is trying to make because Einstein being invited to join the MP is a complete red herring. What on earth has it got to do with anything? Especially the current situation in Hungary. By the time the MP started, Einstein was 62. He made his theoretical breakthroughs in 1905, when he was 26 – like all physicists, he did his great work when he was young. Even if the MP had needed more theoretical work and insights to achieve its goal, Einstein would not have been the man to provide them. It wasn’t even him that came up with the idea of the nuclear chain reaction (i.e., the atom bomb) – that was Szilárd (who, quite rightly, was on the MP). And, of course, Einstein rapidly became very against the construction and use of atomic weapons (he described signing that letter to Roosevelt as the “greatest mistake of my life”). In short, Einstein had no place in the MP, wouldn’t have… Read more »
Member

Ron: How many degrees are we from Orban? lol I actually meet him at a wedding. So, since you know me, you are only two degree from him. I never meet Gyurcsany although. My father meet Nixon in 1957.

Törpefejű
Guest

And no one has seemed aware that the entire idea of ‘six degrees of separation’ is a Hungarian invention, first appearing in a feuilleton by Frigyes Karinthy!

Paul
Guest

No doubt JB will tell us that Frigyes Karinthy was actually a Secret Jew!