During the life of Hungarian Spectrum I wrote infrequently about LMP (Lehet más a politika = Politics can be different), and not only because it is a new party. I developed a real dislike of one of its leading members, András Schiffer. Or to put it slightly differently, there were times when I found his judgment sound. At other times I violently disagreed with him. One point of contention was his rejection of any cooperation with the other democratic parties.
I wrote about him and LMP twice at length. The first post, on March 27, 2010, was about LMP's party platform. The second, on November 14, 2011, dealt with the by-elections in District II when LMP's refusal to support the independent candidate backed by MSZP resulted in a huge Fidesz victory. In the first round LMP's candidate, Gergely Karácsony, received 15% of the votes and Katalin Lévai 25%. In the second round Lévai received almost 35% while Karácsony dropped to 6%. The message the electorate sent was lost on András Schiffer although I think that Karácsony himself understood that the party's decision on that occasion was dead wrong.
Many commentators and ordinary observers of the political scene found LMP suspect. The first problem was that LMP, which is allegedly a "green party," grew out of an environmental group called the "Defense Association." It was this group that suggested László Sólyom as a candidate for the presidency. After a certain hesitation Fidesz endorsed Sólyom who had a visceral hatred of Ferenc Gyurcsány and showed definite partiality toward Fidesz. Mind you, it didn't help him when it came to his renomination for a post Sólyom would have gladly continued.
LMP's success in 2010 cannot be denied. Out of nothing within a year the party managed to get enough votes to send a fifteen-member delegation to parliament. In the Hungarian electoral system each party has to gather a certain number of endorsements to get on the ballot. Until the last minute it looked as if LMP would not be able to run in Budapest because of an insufficient number of signatures. Then, in the last few hours, a miracle happened. As LMP candidates were out collecting signatures on the streets people rushed to add their names. Rumor had it that Fidesz came to LMP's rescue for obvious reasons: splitting the MSZP votes in Budapest where both MSZP and LMP were fairly strong.
It seemed to me right after the elections that LMP saw itself as a party standing between Fidesz and MSZP. András Schiffer became the leader of the parliamentary delegation, and soon after the opening of parliament he invited Viktor Orbán for a friendly chat. Schiffer also maintained good relations with Jobbik. What connected Schiffer to Jobbik was the LMP politician's misplaced conviction that peaceful demonstrators had been beaten by the police at the instruction of Ferenc Gyurcsány. Schiffer's position coincided with that of Jobbik and thus the two parties cheerfully participated in a parliamentary subcommittee set up in order to prove Gyurcsány's guilt.
In parliament the LMP delegation sits right next to Jobbik's much larger group, and even Gergely Karácsony who was described to me by a Hungarian journalist friend as "one of the more normal ones in LMP" declared that a temporary coalition should be formed by all opposition parties. That would naturally include Jobbik. The democratic parties were outraged: how can the democratic opposition cooperate with Nazis, they asked. But Karácsony explained in one of his interviews that he knows those Jobbik MPs and there are many decent people in the group.
Recently the media started pressuring Schiffer. Ever since the details of the new electoral law became known, it was clear to everybody that there is no way of winning the elections against Fidesz unless there is prior agreement for close cooperation among the democratic parties, including LMP. Schiffer was conflicted: he would say something one day, something else the next day. For instance, one day he said that he would cooperate with MSZP but never with DK and Gyurcsány; the next day he said that he wouldn't even cooperate with MSZP because LMP alone would be able to win the elections in 2014. I should mention that according to Ipsos's latest opinion poll, only 4% of the electorate would vote for LMP. On the third day he announced that LMP would cooperate even with the devil in order to get rid of Viktor Orbán. And he said all that with such hatred in his voice that it was frightening. Schiffer seemed to share certain characteristics with Viktor Orbán that I found abhorrent.
In the last week or so more and more articles appeared in the Hungarian media indicating that not all was well within LMP. These rumors were followed by the resignation of Virág Kaufer, an LMP MP, and a few days later the announcement of Gábor Scheiring, another LMP member of parliament, that he was resigning to finish his Ph.D. dissertation at Cambridge University.
And finally, I must mention a most unusual letter that appeared on Galamus by Anna Schiffer, aunt of András. The title: "Letter to my nephew." It begins "Dear Andris" and continues by saying that Aunt Anna tried to get in touch with "Andris" via Facebook but nephew had removed Aunt Anna from the list of his friends. Aunt Anna explains that she is not an MSZP fan but she is worried about nephew's Gyurcsány phobia and by some of his remarks about cooperation with Jobbik. She feels that she must say something. "Neither your great-grandfather nor your grandfather would have cooperated with extremists under any circumstances. They were decent left-wing politicians who suffered as a result of their moderate views at the hands of the extreme left. You bring shame to their name with your politics." Aunt Anna finished her letter by quoting László Majtényi's speech at the January 2 demonstration with a twist. "It is better to be a voluntarily departing leader of a democratic party than a politician who is kicked out." Well, it seems that "Andris" got the message. He stepped down as head of the LMP caucus.
And the great-grandfather Aunt Anna was talking about? Árpád Szakasits was a journalist and social-democratic politician who was arrested in 1950 and received a life sentence. He was released only in 1956. He died in 1965. His daughter, Klára Szakasits, was András Schiffer's grandmother. She wrote about her father's fate at Rákosi's hands in 1987. It is interesting reading.