The new electoral law and the dilemma of the democratic opposition

I’m going to cover several intertwined topics today.

Perhaps the most important news of the day was that three members of parliament (two Fidesz, one KDNP) submitted their draft bill on the most recent changes in the new electoral law. This bill, the key provisions of which I’ll outline  later on in this post, might act as a catalyst for possible change on the political left and be center stage in Hungarian political life for months to come.

But first let’s step back a bit to last week’s hunger strike by four members of Demokratikus Koalíció, a new party established by former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány and several other former members of MSZP. Some leading members of the by now defunct liberal party SZDSZ and the right-of-center MDF have since joined DK.

The media’s initial reaction to the idea of a week-long hunger strike was, as I noted earlier, largely negative. Even in the liberal and socialist media there were scores of critical articles. As time went by, however, people changed their minds. Even those who had been very critical of Ferenc Gyurcsány, primarily because they considered him a traitor to the socialist cause, came to the conclusion that the former prime minister had managed to call a very apathetic country’s attention to the threat of an electoral law that might mean the end of Hungarian democracy, even formally.

Cooperation / flickr

Gyurcsány seems to be so eager to form a solid unified opposition that he has gone so far as to officially announce that not only does he have no intention of being a candidate for prime minister but he is ready to endorse anyone chosen by a future united opposition. He initially announced that he is ready to endorse Attila Mesterházy if he is chosen, although Gordon Bajnai’s ideas about the future of Hungary are closer to his own thinking. The next day he went further. He declared that he would even vote for András Schiffer (LMP) if he were the candidate. You may recall that it was András Schiffer who brought charges against Gyurcsány because of his handling of the sale of a tract of land where American and Israeli businessmen were planning to build a casino-wellness complex.

There were faint signs of a positive reaction from MSZP to Gyurcsány’s gesture. Mesterházy immediately announced that MSZP will support the demonstration announced by DK for Saturday afternoon. I spotted Ildikó Lendvai in the crowd, but that didn’t surprise me terribly. After all, Lendvai not long ago wrote an article urging the establishment of a united opposition, and during the hunger strike she  visited the striking DK politicians. What, on the other hand, did surprise me was that Tibor Szanyi (MSZP), who said not a few very nasty things about Gyurcsány in the last year or so was also there. Moreover, earlier Szanyi and Ágnes Vadai (DK) had a joint appearance, taking part in a kind of friendly debate about what to do next.

LMP was not moved. The party leadership steadfastly maintains that the Orbán government  can be ousted at the next elections, regardless of what kind of electoral law is finally accepted, without a unified opposition emerging before the elections. When LMP politicians face questions about their specific plans, however, they cannot really answer. One of the most pitiful recent examples of such an encounter was an interview yesterday with Benedek Jávor, the whip of the LMP delegation. This  morning when Gergely Karácsony, another important LMP politician, was asked whether LMP would join DK in forming a “living chain” around the parliament building, he proudly announced that he and his fellow LMP politicians discuss matters in parliament and not on the streets. This remark is especially amusing because until now it was mostly members of the LMP delegation who liked to chain themselves to objects, only to be removed by the police. Jávor went so far as to claim that Gyurcsány’s hunger strike will have only one result: the Hungarian people will love the idea of registration. Of course, this is colossal nonsense. A recent poll from Nézőpont, a research institute close to Fidesz, indicates that 75% of the people are against Fidesz’s registration scheme.

This is where we stand. So, let’s see what the Orbán government is planning to do.

First, yes, there will definitely be registration. And it’s not a one-shot deal: every four years citizens wishing to vote will have to re-register. Registration will enable the voter to vote in all elections for the next four years: national, local, European, or, for that matter, by-elections. If a person fails to register, he deprives himself from voting for four solid years.

Second, the Fidesz government is not at all sure whether the newly introduced registration procedure will be constitutional. That fine point never bothered them in the last two years. Moreover, their sacred new constitution has  already been changed once and will be changed time and again. Right now at least three new constitutional changes are being contemplated: retirement age of judges, limit on the sovereign debt, and now voter registration.

Third, the endorsement tickets (ajánlószelvény) will be replaced by an endorsement sheet (ajánlóív) on which 200 signatures will enable a candidate to run. Since Hungarians will be allowed to endorse more than one candidate in a race, signatures should be very easy to come by.

Fourth, perhaps the most important question cannot be answered yet because there is no word in the proposal about campaign financing. Rumor has it that individual candidates would receive 2-3 million forints from the budget instead of lump sums going to parties based on the party’s size. So, this critical question remains unanswered.

On a somewhat lighter note, one of the members of parliament who submitted this bill was Lajos Kósa. He gave an interview on the subject this morning on MTV. As we know, Kósa talks too much and often says very stupid things. I think it is enough to remember when he briefly shook the entire financial world by announcing in the summer of 2010 that Hungary was close to bankruptcy.

Well, this time he was trying to explain how much better this new electoral law was going to be than the previous one because even “with the endorsement tickets real clowns could be elected.”  He immediately gave an example: József  Torgyán, chairman of the now defunct Smallholders Party. Who was Torgyán? Once upon a time he was an important man. In 1998 without Torgyán Viktor Orbán wouldn’t have been able to win the elections, and as a result the first Orbán government–often called Orbán-Torgyán government–was actually a coalition government. Orbán wanted to be prime minister so badly that he even promised the presidency to Torgyán.  No question, Torgyán was a clown, but Torgyán never had to collect endorsement tickets. At every election from 1990 on, Torgyán was elected from the Smallholders’  party list. Oh well, checking facts really is a colossal nuisance.

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Petofi1
Guest

This whole electoral procedure is a farce calculated to make a mockery of the democratic system: perhaps that’s the real intent of the process…to create such massive confusion for the electorate, and to elect scores of beer toting mustachios whereafter the democratic system will be deemed unworkable in the Hungarian reality. Seems like something dreamed
up in a kgb/fsb think-tank exercise on the stepping-stones toward the destruction of fledgling
democracies. If so, then surely the Russkies are riotously laughing in their vodkas!

Member

I think that denying a Hungarian Citizen his or her basic right to participate in any election is the end of democracy. If someone shows up on the day of election and can provide proof of Hungarian citizenship and proof of residency that is applicable for the particular election, the person should have the right to vote.

Kingfisher
Guest

Apparently, within a couple of hours of this act being submitted, Selmeczy tabled an amendment striking out the clause that if you don’t register, you can’t do so for four years. Which is something I suppose. But how ridiculous that laws are being rewritten within hours of submission like this.

I have to say, I don’t see any evidence that the hunger strike was viewed with any less ridicule at the end than the beginning. And I find it depressing that Lendvai Ildikó is still in politics, a discredited politician who like Gyurcsány, should have quit public life.

Petofi1
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
Well, I’m afraid Kingfisher and I will never see eye to eye. I very much like Ildikó Lendvai whom I consider to be an honest and decent woman. She is one of the best one can find in MSZP.

The problem with the MSZP is that they were such a gang of thieves that anyone belonging to them has, by his/her presence, condoned the past doings. At the very least, a sincere mea culpa was the least that Mersterhazy owed the electorate with a solemn promise that, if elected, there would be stringent penalties (including jail terms) for those defrauding the public purse. How on earth could anyone expect the voter to vote for MSZP without a complete
overhaul of that party? Is all of Hungarian politics “forgive and forget and go on stealing”?

To continue the argument vis a vis Lendvai, how ‘honest and decent’ can she be if she continues with that gang called MSZP? Had she gone with DK, one could make a case for her…

Julie
Guest

“LMP was not moved. The party leadership steadfastly maintains that the Orbán government can be ousted at the next elections, regardless of what kind of electoral law is finally accepted, without a unified opposition emerging before the elections.”

There’s none so blind as those who will not see.

Guest

London Calling!

Have I missed something?

If 2,500,000Ft goes to each candidate, and any Joe Soap can be an ‘independent’ candidate – then the voting list will be unmanageably long?

It will be worth applying just to get your hands on the dosh – as you said in an earlier post, Eva – the money would be useful for the food bill.

And the voting list will divide the opposition – such will be the ‘granularity’ – sneakily drawing votes away from the opposition parties.

And you will have the Hungarian named participants equivalent to:

Tarquin Fin-tim-lin-bin-whin-bim-lim-bus-stop-F’tang-F’tang-Olé-Biscuitbarrel, of Monty Python fame

I feel ‘dignity’ is fast draining away from the electoral process in Hungary. A farce looms.

Regards

Charlie

Guest

…of course you might want to see the original – oops!

sympa hunga
Guest

It would be nice to understand the bigger picture. The MSZMP leadership must respond to the lingering pain of the majority of the nation that was left out of favors under the Soviet and the later Kadar rules.

These are the waves that carry the FIDESZ. These people are the clients of the Christian churches.

These people will leave the FIDESZ – JOBBIK if the MSZMP can strike a sympathetic modern tone.

Member

Kingfisher :

I have to say, I don’t see any evidence that the hunger strike was viewed with any less ridicule at the end than the beginning. And I find it depressing that Lendvai Ildikó is still in politics, a discredited politician who like Gyurcsány, should have quit public life.

Why? Because Fidesz said so? Do not forget that same Fidesz tried very hard to put Gyurcsany behind bars, and they were not able to, because they were wrong. In your mind being accused is equal being guilty?

Member
Petofi1 : Eva S. Balogh : Well, I’m afraid Kingfisher and I will never see eye to eye. I very much like Ildikó Lendvai whom I consider to be an honest and decent woman. She is one of the best one can find in MSZP. The problem with the MSZP is that they were such a gang of thieves that anyone belonging to them has, by his/her presence, condoned the past doings. At the very least, a sincere mea culpa was the least that Mersterhazy owed the electorate with a solemn promise that, if elected, there would be stringent penalties (including jail terms) for those defrauding the public purse. How on earth could anyone expect the voter to vote for MSZP without a complete overhaul of that party? Is all of Hungarian politics “forgive and forget and go on stealing”? To continue the argument vis a vis Lendvai, how ‘honest and decent’ can she be if she continues with that gang called MSZP? Had she gone with DK, one could make a case for her… I would much rather be associated with MSZP then with Fidesz. I guess that makes me a criminal. I would like to have an alternative… Read more »
petofi
Guest

“In your mind being accused is equal to being guilty?”

Ahem. The Hungarian reality in a nutshell–why else would Fidesz be serially prosecuting former MSZP members of government? For good measure, the crown prosecutor, in the event where there is no evidence, feels compelled to instruct the vacuous populace that Gyurcsany is not innocent but they just haven’t found the necessary incriminating evidence just yet.
Nice stuff. What other legal system allows
such behavior by a prosecutor without risking a monster legal suit? Russian?

Member

Kingfisher :
I find it depressing that Lendvai Ildikó is still in politics, a discredited politician who like Gyurcsány, should have quit public life.

Just curiousity .. Why is Lendvai a discredited politician? Ok, you can pin the Oszod speech on Gyurcsany, but what’s wrong with Lendvai? Because she resigned from the party leadership after the 2010 election?

So what do you think discredited is? Because I could give you a slew of discredited FIDESZ politicians. What’s your definition?

Member

sympa hunga :
It would be nice to understand the bigger picture. The MSZMP leadership must respond to the lingering pain of the majority of the nation that was left out of favors under the Soviet and the later Kadar rules.

Arithmetic, as Bill Clinton would say. Do the math. You have to be at least 50 today to claim you lived at least a few years of your young adult life in the Kadar era. That’s give or take the 50% of the electorate. Just what part of this group feels a lingering pain for being shut out of the goodies of the commie era? How many of them look at the MSZP hoping that they will bring back the good life? C’mon …

Member

petofi :
“In your mind being accused is equal to being guilty?”
Ahem. The Hungarian reality in a nutshell–why else would Fidesz be serially prosecuting former MSZP members of government? For good measure, the crown prosecutor, in the event where there is no evidence, feels compelled to instruct the vacuous populace that Gyurcsany is not innocent but they just haven’t found the necessary incriminating evidence just yet.
Nice stuff. What other legal system allows
such behavior by a prosecutor without risking a monster legal suit? Russian?

I am sorry but I can’t follow you. ARe you saying that Fidesz is making up the stuff, or you saying that they not making it up?
Gyurcsany had one slip, and that was the Oszod speech. It was chewed up so many times, that I am not going to go there. Fidesz cannot make a single comment on a single day that one or more of its members discredit. THey are discrediting each other by the day. STill, they are in power…

Me
Guest
Democracy means that the will of the majority happens. It’s very sad to see that most of you (without a question beeing non-Hungarian from the cultural point of view) just cannot accept the fact that Hungary has the strongest democracy in Europe. Why? Because you do not belong to the majority. Well, maybe it’s not democracy what you want then. But who cares about what you want? It doesn’t fit your aspirations of ruling the world. It doesn’t fit your anarchistic methods developed in free masonry, tested in the French revolution and on many occasions since then. You don’t like to see that although you triggered and managed the red terror, broke the country into pieces in Paris, you set up AVO and AVH, you could repress our freedom fight in 1956, we are still Hungarians and not the brainless idiots you want us to be. Well, you had better giving up. The fight between a brave nation and its parasites will soon end. Your time is soon over. Finished. Koniec. Basta. And then you pack up and go. There is no place for disgraceful parasites in this country. We only tolerate people who work hard, respect our culture, and… Read more »
Member

Hey, You! Or Me! Whatever … Were you short on time? You could troll at least 5 posts with this much crap. You dumped all your wisdom into one comment.

Ok, after you’ve finished laughing … take a deep breath and DO NOT reply to this!

petofi
Guest
Some1 : petofi : “In your mind being accused is equal to being guilty?” Ahem. The Hungarian reality in a nutshell–why else would Fidesz be serially prosecuting former MSZP members of government? For good measure, the crown prosecutor, in the event where there is no evidence, feels compelled to instruct the vacuous populace that Gyurcsany is not innocent but they just haven’t found the necessary incriminating evidence just yet. Nice stuff. What other legal system allows such behavior by a prosecutor without risking a monster legal suit? Russian? I am sorry but I can’t follow you. ARe you saying that Fidesz is making up the stuff, or you saying that they not making it up? Gyurcsany had one slip, and that was the Oszod speech. It was chewed up so many times, that I am not going to go there. Fidesz cannot make a single comment on a single day that one or more of its members discredit. THey are discrediting each other by the day. STill, they are in power… I am saying that ‘accusing’ is tantamount, in the Hungarian mind, to being found guilty. Gyurcsany and the ‘one slip’. This is nonsense (if we’re talking about the same… Read more »
Pete H.
Guest

“Me” in a nutshell (pun intended) – “Blah, blah, blah, damn Jews, blah, blah, blah.”

petofi
Guest

Julie :
“LMP was not moved. The party leadership steadfastly maintains that the Orbán government can be ousted at the next elections, regardless of what kind of electoral law is finally accepted, without a unified opposition emerging before the elections.”
There’s none so blind as those who will not see.

People just don’t appreciate the level of duplicity in the average Hungarian politician..LMP, as a ‘neutral’ body, will be best placed for the syrupy emoluments that will be showered on them from either, or both, parties.

Penny Oswalt
Guest

Hello Hungarian Spectrum friends…..It has been a longtime, I am trying to get caught up. So now it is the election process that is being messed with? Someone mentioned. That “dignity” is being lost in Hungary? Remember this, whatever is lost can be restored in a heartbeat.

Penny Oswalt
Guest

Where is democracy these days in any country?

Penny Oswalt
Guest

Maybe “me”really meant to say “seriously brazenly liberal”!

Member

1.
Isn’t it remarkable that – since the electoral defeat of Bush Sr. 20 years ago – no challenger was able to defeat the incumbent president in the US? This cannot be good for for democracy.
2.
Hungary is the least democratic country in the EU at present – there are politicians and businessmen in Germany and elsewhere who would love to repeat Orban’s experiment in transforming democracy to tyranny in their country.

Kirsten
Guest

Me, when you are so sure that your programme represents the will of the majority, why not finding this out in a referendum? So I hope that you are working hard to prevent the voter registration from being introduced! And as regards your ‘pure’ language, I suggest you first present some Hungarian stripped of the Slavic words. Please present for instance pure words for the days of the week starting with szerda, a pure word for asztal, ebéd, vacsora etc.

Member
Me : Democracy means that the will of the majority happens. So you are saying that if majority want disorder and disregard fro basic principals that is OK? I would suggest for you to read the book Lord of the Flies. Certainly some basic education is missing from system in Hungary. It’s very sad to see that most of you (without a question beeing non-Hungarian from the cultural point of view) just cannot accept the fact that Hungary has the strongest democracy in Europe. Why? Because you do not belong to the majority. Well, maybe it’s not democracy what you want then. But who cares about what you want? OK, so you do not mind “non-Hungarians” but you want Fidesz laws installed on all. Laws that crosses out the principals of democracy. The principal also includes the right to change the system. Fidesz at this point changes the law in order to keep itself in power. THey changing the rules not once or twice a year, but by the minute based on the latest opinion polls. Best examples are that Fidesz already had to change the new constitutions they typed out on an IPad, and their new ideas when finally… Read more »
Member

Penny Oswalt :
Where is democracy these days in any country?

I would say, we have it Canada. Thanks for asking.

LwiiH
Guest
Some1 : Kingfisher : I have to say, I don’t see any evidence that the hunger strike was viewed with any less ridicule at the end than the beginning. And I find it depressing that Lendvai Ildikó is still in politics, a discredited politician who like Gyurcsány, should have quit public life. Why? Because Fidesz said so? Do not forget that same Fidesz tried very hard to put Gyurcsany behind bars, and they were not able to, because they were wrong. In your mind being accused is equal being guilty? I’m fear that I have to agree with Kingfisher, Gyurcsány should have bowed out when he quit.. he just didn’t quit MSzP, he quit Hungary. And if we are to believe Mr. Gyurcsány in that he resigned because he couldn’t deal with the corruption in his party then he’s just tainted every other MSzPer.. which means that party is in no condition to replace Fidesz because all of those people are equally unelectable. The whole thing with the corruption is that everybody has had their hands in the honey jar and maybe this is a big reason why Gyurcsány got off. If you convict Gyurcsány you no longer have any… Read more »
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