A disturbing interview with András Schiffer

A lot of people think that one of the obstacles to cooperation among the democratic parties is the person of András Schiffer. There are also many who consider him not quite trustworthy and who suspect him and his party of being far too cozy with Fidesz. Some would go so far as to say that Fidesz, even if it didn’t actually create LMP, was certainly pleased to see its formation and may have assisted in its sudden rise on the political horizon.

One thing is sure. LMP can’t quite decide where it belongs. In the chamber the LMP caucus sits next to Jobbik and, from the looks of it, the members of the two groups seem to be on very good terms. I heard Gergely Karácsony, second to Schiffer in importance in LMP, praise some members of this neo-Nazi party as being very decent guys. In fact, at one point Karácsony suggested a tactical coalition between Jobbik and the democratic parties in order to defeat Fidesz at the next elections. Not surprisingly, MSZP and DK refused such a coalition, tactical or not. Pictures of Schiffer amiably chatting with some of the less than savory members of Jobbik circulate on the Internet.

Schiffer jobbik

After János Lázár’s attack on him, Schiffer gave several interviews, including the one in Népszabadság that I decided to analyze here. Even in this interview one has the distinct feeling that Schiffer has a soft spot for certain Jobbik political aims. For example, Jobbik and LMP share a dislike of capitalism. In this interview, he recalled that only two members of parliament rose to speak in favor of his proposal to make the national security documents public: Előd Novák (Jobbik) and Katalin Ertsey (LMP). He also favorably compared the behavior of Jobbik to that of János Lázár, whom he labelled a member of the “extreme right.” After all, he continued, members of Jobbik refrain from attacking their opponents in parliament on the basis of their ancestry.

András Schiffer likes to give the impression of political neutrality. LMP, if one can believe him, stands in the middle. His argument goes something like this: “Yes, Fidesz is bad but the former regime was just as bad.” And it is here that his veracity becomes questionable and his position untenable. Here are two examples: “What János Lázár is doing is the extreme right itself. Mind you, the fanatics of Ferenc Gyurcsány did exactly the same thing the other way around [pepitában] when they called me to account on the basis of my political views.” I know nothing about the alleged attack by Gyurcsány’s “fanatics,” but I guess someone might have asked him about his political orientation given his family’s social democratic background.

Furthermore, says Schiffer, János Lázár and his fellow Fidesz politicians were rightfully upset when “left-liberal hacks in the previous eight years” called attention to those ancestors and relatives of Fidesz politicians who had held important positions in the Kádár regime. “So, János Lázár is not a whit different from those hired commenters of the previous regime. Those whose last argument was to invoke the fathers of Zoltán Pokorni, László Kövér, Tibor Navracsics, or, for that matter, Viktor Orbán. They tried to drag the other side down to their level in the muck.” Well, I don’t think that a member of Fidesz or Jobbik could have said it better.

There is another interesting passage in the interview. Schiffer seems to be worried about the damage Lázár is doing to Fidesz in the long run. Specifically, he says the following: “The time has arrived for Viktor Orbán to decide whether he wants to discredit his party with such a fellow.” Although he admits that in the short run a politician such as Lázár might be an asset, in the long run “such politicians [as Lázár] will only be able to yell from the outside of parliament at the head of a party with 3% of the votes.” But, of course, Schiffer is wrong. Lázár is very important to Viktor Orbán, who has no intention of getting rid of him. The two work hand in hand, and if Schiffer doesn’t see that he is not a good politician.

The end of the interview focused on the relationship between Fidesz and LMP in light of Lázár’s personal attack on him. Schiffer explained that no such incident as this can possibly alter LMP’s course. They conduct their politics on the basis of principles. “LMP is a constructive opposition party. . . . We still believe that politics can be different [Lehet Más a Politika = LMP]. At the same time, if Viktor Orbán does not make it clear within a short period of time that he rejects the kind of extreme right approach that is translated into personal attacks against Fidesz’s opponents on the basis of family ties then, in the long run, even beyond 2014, even the most essential cooperation between Fidesz and LMP will be impossible.”

Well, well! Even beyond 2014? That almost sounds as if there is cooperation at the moment. Perhaps it was just wrong phrasing. Or perhaps a slip of the tongue. I don’t know, but the whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth.

After this interview I like András Schiffer even less than before.

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Population One
Guest

Thank you for the analysis of the interview. Nothing shocks me about LMP nowdays, not even your conclusion, even though it should shock me. Since the tag teaming with the Jobbik incident, I just lost faith in LMP, even if there are a couple of decent people in there.
Sorry to go off topic for a few sentences, but I just feel that there is really no proper opposition.
You know what I would love to see? You probably don’t but here goes anyway. 🙂
I would love to see that DK somehow form a parliamentary group after an appeal in the EU courts, flips KDNP the bird for being absolute frauds, and then the very same day DK has a big party, where Ferenc Gyurcsány turns around and says he is stepping down and taking a minor strategic background role in DK and gives the head position to Vadai Ágnes.
And then I woke up from my dream…

Petofi
Guest

When there was talk of the opposition parties uniting to unseat Orban and Fidesz who popped up immediately and refused to participate? Schiffer.
Orban couldn’t have dreamt of a better way to puncture that trial balloon! (Or, did Orban have something to do with that..?)

Kingfisher
Guest
Is it really true that Schiffer is the most important person in the party? He basically got squeezed out of his group leader job recently due to dissatisfaction with his fellow LMP-ers. I also think it is a bit unfair to criticise individual LMP-s for smiling when talking to Jobbik MPs. One of the things most foreigners like about Hungary is that people are generally very courteous and charming to one another in the flesh. They are seated next to one Jobbik and surely as we all know in real life, people’s political opinions don’t generally translate into how nice or unpleasant they are as fellow human beings. To quote the scientist I I Rabi, you should not use someone’s good characteristics as a weapon against them. The biggest problem with LMP, to my way of thinking, is that they view themselves as a kind of Green party but were voted in by those who in the past, voted for SZDSZ and are not particularly interested in the green agenda. It is a big problem in Hungary that all five incumbent parties are essentially anti-capitalist which is a problem when everyone realises that the only way forward is through the… Read more »
Tyrker
Guest

Mr Schiffer is about the only Hungarian politician with any sort of integrity these days. Mind you, he’s got his own set of deficiencies, like an almost complete lack of charisma or leadership skills. Additionally he, like the rest of LMP, seems undecided about whether his (very much Budapest-based) party should expand into a nationwide force that could offer a real alternative to Fidesz in 2014 or 2018, or remain a niche eco-social party focused on fringe issues. But his uprightness is unquestionable – and that alone is an invaluable asset in today’s Hungarian political arena.

enuff
Guest

Schiffer being polite to Jobbik MPs doesn’t bother me. Smiling to someone doesn’t mean you like them.
What raised my eyebrow was when he warned VO of Lázár in the interview. Why would you care or tell your opponent that a certain personnel is damaging to his party?
The cunning side of me will secretly wait for my opponent’s downfall.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Population One: “Sorry to go off topic for a few sentences, but I just feel that there is really no proper opposition. You know what I would love to see? You probably don’t but here goes anyway. :)”
I like Ágnes Vadai very much. But I like Gyurcsány also. One of the few here.

steve
Guest

“I like Ágnes Vadai very much. But I like Gyurcsány also. One of the few here.
Posted by: Eva S. Balogh | March 26, 2012 at 06:35 AM ”
Ditto. I also like Gyurcsany.
Especially true, after the Miklos Gimes interview in the Gulash Fascist article.
Gyurcsany is a fresh voice. He said that he became a believer in liberalism after reading some words of Imre Nagy.
We all could also read the 1833 speech of Deak to overcome the curses preventing a Hungarian renaissance.
The tone must be different. The supporters of the anti-communist Fidesz/Jobbik could consider a moderate evaluation of the late Kadar era, and embrace the scientists, artists, politicians who are the backbone of a Hungarian intelligentsia.
There is no redemption in the ideas of the fervent ideologues of the Greater Hungary, or Greater Horthyism.

Population One
Guest

@Eva S. Balogh, steve
When I made my comment, I was thinking in pratical terms. Gyurcsany has been smeared so bad by the Fidesz and others, and his 35 second sound bite, and the “last 8 years”, and the list goes on.
It is difficult to come back from pathological lies that have been inprinted in peoples minds to just spout on command, while it has nothign to do with the truth.

An
Guest

Sorry, slightly OT
A very god description of the OV regime on the Orulunk Vincent blog
In rough translation:
“The Orban regime is unacceptable; but not because it is right wing. This regime is not right wing; it is a mafia-corporation, using ideology, religion, culture, traditions, and patriotic feelings (both in their moderate and extreme forms) as brand identities. So, it is pointless to criticize the regime from the left, from a liberal standpoint, or even from the right. This regime is a mafia organized along business interests that holds political power (with a slight psychopathology added to the mix). It handles people in one of two ways: if you are on the inside, you are protected, if you are on the outside, you are robbed, and all this with the help of the state. So those who are not excluded want to get in. This is what gives popular support to the regime. This is not so complicated.”
I think it is also insightful what he writes about the opposition. Worth the read (in Hungarian).
http://orulunkvincent.blog.hu/2012/03/25/hogyan_legyunk_meg_annal_is_jobb_baloldaliak_es_vagy_liberalisok?utm_source=ketrec&utm_medium=link&utm_content=2012_03_26&utm_campaign=index

Paul
Guest

“The biggest problem with LMP, to my way of thinking, is that they view themselves as a kind of Green party but were voted in by those who in the past, voted for SZDSZ and are not particularly interested in the green agenda.”
Yet again, an astute analysis. This is exactly their biggest problem.
But, unfortunately, this is all a little academic. Anyone who takes a good look at the new election rules will soon realise that LMP aren’t going to be a factor in the next parliament.

Paul
Guest

The description of Fidez-Jobbik that An posted is also excellent.
In fact, I find myself impressed by Kingfisher’s and An’s posts so often, that I’m beginning to wonder if I should give up posting on here and just agree with them all the time!
But what do I do if they disagree?!

Population One
Guest

@Paul
You agree to disagree!
Just kidding. 🙂

riviera1
Guest

@Liking and disliking Gyurcsany-
I liked Gyurcsany immediately after the nonsense soudbite
came out–ie. “…we lied…”–simply because..when a man
admits to lying, he has no intention to lie again (or he wouldn’t have admitted it in the first place). So, I thought to myself: this is a man that, if he couldn’t be trusted before, can be trusted from this point on.
But I can’t get over my dislike of Gyurcsany going against the EU and playing ‘nice,nice’ with Putin over the pipeline issue.
There are just no long term gains to be had ‘going East’.

Paul
Guest

That’s a given on here, pop – otherwise it would be like the comments you get at the end of online articles!
Joking aside, I do occasionally disagree with both of them. But I find their analysis is usually so good that when this happens it actually makes me consider my point of view. (Not that I’ve changed it as a result!)

Population One
Guest

@Everyone
What do you guys think of Mesterházy Attila as a leader of the MSZP? For some reason I can’t be convienced by Attilas acting.
I just can’t be convinced by his “guning” rhetorics against the Fidesz and others. If the socialists should have any chance in the next election they need someone that is sharp, and an intellectual with brilliant communications skills, not someone that just critizises and squeezes their mouth during speeches and publich apperances (no offense).
@steve
Thank you for mentioning what you did in the above post, it made me want to read up on a few subjects!

Kingfisher
Guest

@An, what a superb description of the current state of affairs! And a nice translation as well.

Petofi
Guest

@ Mesterhazy
I like him. He’s balanced and well-spoken. Tibor seems like an opportunist and appears much less trustworthy, atleast to me.
I also like Vago Gabor and forgive him his Magyari mustache. (Is it necessary these days to look like a farmer from the 19th century?)
But the right guy for the country at this time is Bajnai..

Population One
Guest

@Petofi
Agree with you completely, that Bajnai would be great, however, he needs a party as I believe he doesn’t have any ambitions to enter politics as previously.

Kingfisher
Guest

The LMP has a number of MPs who are likeable as people. If Vágó Gábor or Karácsony Gergely came around for dinner, I’m sure I’d have a pleasant evening and I wouldn’t count the silver spoons after they left! But neither of them are people one could imagine running an office, let alone a ministry, or the country.
The LMP lacks a vision that can be taken seriously, which unfortunately puts them on a par with MSZP and Jobbik. The only person who has any concept of what needs to be done is Gyurcsány, who unfortunately is damaged goods in the eyes of the Hungarian public, and also failed to run the country well enough when he had the chance to deserve a second go.

nimh
Guest
I know you don’t like Schiffer, Eva, but this criticism seems, at times, somewhat improbable. For example, you note that Schiffer commented that if Orbán doesn’t soon clean house, “then, in the long run, even beyond 2014, even the most essential cooperation between Fidesz and LMP will be impossible”. You read this to mean that, “well, well”, that almost sounds like “there is cooperation at the moment”! Way I see it, it pretty obviously means the opposite. As in: there is no possibility for even the most essential cooperation now, and if Orban doesn’t clean house, there won’t be any possibility for collaboration even after 2014 either. I mean, for a moment I thought that your rap on him, upon reading his remark, would be that he kept the door to collaboration open at least for some hypothetical period after 2014, if Fidesz starts behaving better. That would be a reasonable criticism, if you believe that any such future cooperation is inherently bad. But this interpretation just doesn’t seem to make much sense. That’s the least of it though. I mean, you basically insinuate that the LMP is allying itself with Jobbik. But the only evidence you give of this… Read more »
nimh
Guest

By the way, I haven’t commented here in a while (though I read the blog religiously), but the last time I commented, Eva, we got in a bit of a discussion about Gyurcsany’s electability. That was months ago, mind you!
I argued that he was so discredited and impopular that his presence would only drag down any opposition force. You pointed out that there was no recent polling about the standing of individual politicians that could bear that out.
I didn’t check that out at the time, but a couple of weeks ago I came across a poll that showed the (im)popularity of individual politicians as of last January. It was a Median poll too, so not one of those absurdly Fidesz-friendly Nezopont polls. Here it is: http://www.median.hu/object.4b8ae06d-1587-421d-9caa-d85d4e66d7dc.ivy
As you can see, Gyurcsany is not at the very bottom, but fairly close to it. 100% of those surveyed knew him, but only 18% of them liked him. In comparison, Orban was at 36% popularity, Mesterhazy at 30%, and Vona at 23%, so I think that somewhat illustrates the point I was making back then.

Kirsten
Guest

An, I wrote my comment to your previous post before I read your comment here. Perhaps his network has made it now to a “mafia”, might be (will be seen if you see first people shut in the streets as in Slovakia in the 1990s), but even if not (which I believe), even less can be harmful for democracy, and it is found in the “other camp” too. And to be precise, most often not all people who belong to the “camp” are involved. This makes the detection and the replacement of the involved people difficult.

riviera1
Guest
@ nimh…re Gyurcsany as crook Sorry, I don’t believe it. Personally, I think that what did him in–aside from the character assassination of Fidesz–were the crooks in his own party. For the political hacks, there is nothing worse than to be in the seat of power and find that the flow of cash is down to a trickily because of the uprightness of their leader. Gyurcsany held them back: they struck back with the sound bite etc. No, Gyurcsany is on the level and I’ve heard from quite a few upstanding Hungarians who are willing to go to the wall for him. Interestingly, many Fidesz supporters would do the same for Orban but the difference is this: In the first instance, people recognize merit and integrity; in the second, they’re mesmerized by the sentimental rhetoric. (There are just too many examples of the kleptocrat Orban for any doubt to enter.) Startling is the similarity in impact on a crowd between Orban and Hitler. Whoever posted that notion first..I agree with it. You can almost see Orban swell up when he’s in full rhetoric mode–not unlike an adder ready to attack… However, I agree that Gyurcsany is unelectable. I think he… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

To nimh. I don’t think that you will be able to convince me either about LMP or Schiffer.
As for the party. Its ideology leads Hungary nowhere. The party’s anti-capitalist rhetoric only strengthens most Hungarians’ very confused thinking about democracy and capitalism.
As for Schiffer. I find him a man full of hatred. I find him “antipatikus.” A man who makes all these unspeakable attacks against another democrat who is fighting against Orbán’s autocratic rule is either a fool or a knave. Schiffer might be both.

riviera1
Guest

@ Karacsony ‘likeable’..???
Did you forget that Karacsony went back on his offer to the MSZP candidate in a runoff in 2nd district, Budapest?
For me, Karacsony is a non-starter. In Canada, his career would be over once he so blatantly goes back on his word..and without explanation of any sort. I’m even dumbfounded when Kalman Olga calls him on her show for his opinions. But that’s Hungary for ya: an 11 second memory, and no shame to speak of–

riviera1
Guest

@ Eva re Schiffer.
Agree: he’s a self-righteous twit…at the best of times. At the worse, there could be considerably more sinister explanations.
Only Vago Gabor impresses me, but I’m saddened by the necessity of the farmer’s mustache…

An
Guest

@Paul: Well, we have serious disagreements over the value of palinka, I guess 🙂
The beauty of this blog and all the posts here that we all bring our own perspectives and biases… I need to be reminded from time to time that there is a Hungary outside Budapest!
I too enjoy reading your posts and I am always up for a friendly debate.

peter litvanyi
Guest

Dear Eva,
do not attack your /howevever tactical it may be/ allies, please. I shall refrain from commenting on Andras Schiffer as well as Gyurcsany Ferenc. Neither shall I comment on your article.
It’s not a good time for all that.
You see Mr. Orban Victor is YOUR piece of garbage. No wonder you are so sentimental about him. He could be a Milton Friedman poster boy tomorrow if he just made two changes /that would cut into his income/.
Your piece of garbage so you should pick it up.
Don’t rip into the people who actually can help you to do so. Past that our ways may or may not part. We have a lot in common. I would much rather discuss that part.
Sincerely:
Peter Litvanyi

Úr Dr Schmitt Pál
Guest

Clear and lucid as ever, Péter.

Andy
Guest

Eva, that’s great, that you like gyurcsány 🙂 At least somebody likes him. The majority of the hungarian public unfortunately can not forget his impotency as prime minister. The real tragedy, that he is followed by even a more disastrous one, Orban.
Can we lease Miklos Dzurinda or somebody capable like him for a couple of years? Obviously the current hungarian offer of politicians is alarmingly poor.

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