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.
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.