The lowest common denominator: What do the opposition groups want?

A few days ago an interesting chart appeared in Népszava. It accompanied an article entitled “The lowest common denominator” about a study published by the Attila József Foundation, an MSZP think tank. The study dealt with opinions held by the opposition parties and civic organizations on some key political issues. Unfortunately the chart is not available online. I got it from the paper’s digital edition, and I think I should share its findings.

The heartening news is that all these organizations hold very similar views on issues. So, the current problems standing in the way of cooperation are partly personal and partly the groups’ attitudes toward the past and toward each other.

When it comes to questions of democracy and the rule of law, all groups (LMP, DK, Solidarity, 4K!, Haza és Haladás) agree that the new government will have to restore it. DK, Solidarity, and 4K! consider the new Basic Laws (Constitution) illegitimate. Haza és Haladás (HH) wants to move toward restoration, but slowly and gradually.

When it comes to independent institutions, all groups agree that the former competence of the Constitutional Court must be restored. DK and HH also specifically mention the restoration of the rights of the Budgetary Council and the independence of the Hungarian National Bank.  HH adds the independence of the courts.

There are no differences of opinion on the media law and the existence of the Media Council in its current form. They all demand a new media law and the abolition of the Media Council. They are unanimous when it comes to legislative actions that are retroactive, a practice often used by the current government. They also see eye to eye on the new election law; they all reject prior registration as a prerequisite for voting rights. Basically, they all want to return to the old system although LMP would like to make a few adjustments. HH mentions the National Election Committee that would need serious revamping. After all, the members are all Fidesz appointees and their tenure is exceedingly long.

On social security, especially on the question of pensions, there are more divergent opinions. LMP would like to raise the age limit and peg pension increases to inflation. DK is much more ambitious. They want to return the money the Orbán government took away from employees’ private pension funds and to restore the private retirement funds alongside  the state’s social security system. Solidarity would like to abolish the enacted laws that decreased the size of pensions hitherto received. 4K! has a rather peculiar idea. According to them, state-owned companies should pay into the social security fund in order to maintain it. HH doesn’t seem to have any explicitly stated plans. They are just very critical of the current system.

As for the Roma question, LMP seems to have the most radical solutions. The party explicitly talks about quotas, though only in the public media. They also would like to set up extensive scholarship programs specifically for Roma youngsters. Solidarity hasn’t paid much attention to the problem and therefore they have no program worked out. DK mentions integration as a goal while HH talks about employment and educational integration. So, the solutions offered are rather vague.

In the sphere of education, DK seems to be the group that spent the most thought and energy on the subject. The reason may be that three of DK’s deputy chairmen have academic backgrounds. DK emphasizes the restoration of the autonomy of teachers, it doesn’t reject tuition but would combine it with scholarships and student loans. 4K! wants to withdraw the educational reform altogether while HH has no specific suggestions but is simply critical of the present situation.

Practically all political formations studied emphasize the necessity of leaving cultural matters to the practitioners. DK is the most emphatic here: “the government has no business here,” they say. LMP, perhaps because of its young membership, mentions state assistance to popular culture. The others don’t have much to say.

Health care is in crisis at the moment, but most groups concentrate on higher wages. It is only DK that goes into some detail. They want to reintroduce co-pay and allow private insurers to participate in the health care system. You may recall that these ideas have been in circulation ever since 2006 when the second Gyurcsány government began revamping the health care system. It was then torpedoed by the joint effort of MSZP and Fidesz. The final blow was the referendum that abolished both tuition and the co-pay of about €1.00.

Most of them agree that Hungarians living in the surrounding countries shouldn’t get the right to vote; voters must live within the borders of Hungary. However, what “The Theoretical and Moral Fundamentals of the Together 2014 Movement” says about the question is a great deal less explicit. According to the document, the granting of dual citizenship “opened a new chapter in the question of national  unity. Therefore it cannot be the goal of the new political era to disenfranchise  Hungarians living outside of Hungary proper. But at the same time we must find legal and political guarantees so that in this new constitutional situation Hungarian domestic politics shouldn’t influence the lives of Hungarians living in the surrounding states.” So, will all new Hungarian citizens be able to vote or not? It is not at all clear from this passage, but I’m inclined to say that Bajnai’s umbrella organization would leave the new law in place.

As we can see from this comparison of opposition groups’ political goals, there are many issues that have been left untouched. However, their positions on important issues are very close. If that is the case, why did Gergely Karácsony (LMP) exclaim only a few days ago that he was in favor of negotiations with Bajnai only to be able to veto his nomination for the position of prime minister? Or why he did he say that he hates MSZP more than he hates Fidesz? All this doesn’t bode well for the future.

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Jano
Guest

I wish we could be this optimistic, but there are two main concerns about it. The goals they agree on are mostly general and vague, and I think there are huge differences between how different parties/organizations plan to implement e.g. the restoration of the rule of law. Secondly, it seems implicitly assumed to me that we can believe parties and their campaign promises. This is problematic at least as I honestly have no idea e.g. how DK could return the stolen pension money unless they are thinking on the timescale of decades in which case this claim is almost irrelevant regarding the 2014 elections.

Paul
Guest

What tends to happen in situations like this is that the opposition unites in order to eject the government, but then almost immediately falls apart, before any meaningful or long-term changes can be made.

What Hungary needs is not just a united opposition to kick Orbán out, but an agreed programme of reform afterwards, that all parties will agree to stick to.

I can just about see the former happening, but I fear there is very little chance of the latter.

lutra lutra
Guest

I agree with Paul; the problem with forming a grand coalition is going to be finding someone to hold all the egos in check. Not only could this be a problem if they succeed in kicking out Orbán but it could well be another theme in Fidesz’ inevitable negative campaigning.

LwiiH
Guest

At the moment, the everyone is saying Banjai or runnation with others saying.. no my guy or runnation. I think that one thing that could help the opposition parties to come together is a US like convention where all of the candidates put their nominations forward and delegates decide. As you know the runups are messy but everyone tends to fall in line afterwards.

Herdermann
Guest
Conservatives brand name intellectuals and public figures will never, ever join Bajnai. That does not mean that voters who identify themselves as conservative/rightist will not vote for Bajnai (always assuming he will be on the ballot and not Mesterház for example), but you will never be able to declare that you have a real joint opposition coalition. One of the unifying force on the right is the hatred for the “communists”. The expression is in parentheses because “comminsts” is only a symbol, a methaphor, it is simply something onto which hatred and frustration can be projected (they may mean atheists, jews, ‘destructive minorities’, gays, modernism, competition). For these right wing public figures hating any and all persons who may be branded as a communist, is a total no-go. Note also that as in every narrative based on hatred (human emotions) there is a contradiction: they say that MSZP is really the communists, the successor of torturers and nationalizers of property, at the same time they also say that MSZP is realy not leftist, but rather neoliberal capitalist, lead by billionaire oligarchs who want anarchy and liberalism (gay rights, anti-chirstian etc.). Hungary would burn in flames before any of the usual… Read more »
Guest

It’s really fascinating how people here analyse the sorry situation in Hungarian politics, helps me also to understand (at least a little of …) what’s going on.

Thank you all, especially Eva, but also the other contributors!

After all I’ve read in the last days however I think there’s no chance of winning against Orbán and his clique in 2014. Maybe when they’ve been “riding the country into the merde” (as we Germans say) for another four years – then people might wake up …

PS:

That doesn’t mean the opposition groups shouldn’t try – but they’d need a kind of miracle.

OT:

Something like that happened at the last local parliament election in Schwab country (aka Baden-Württemberg) which were held shortly after Fukuyama – so the Greens got strong as never before and now we have a green local prime minister and a green mayor in Stuttgart …

So miracles can happen – but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Paul
Guest

“Hungary would burn in flames”

I fear it might. I know I’m still in a tiny minority on this – although others now seem to be agreeing with me re the impossibility of getting Orbán out democratically – but I honestly can’t see many other ways this is going to end.

Orbán isn’t going to go democratically, or of his own will – if nothing happens to unseat him, he will be ‘running’ Hungary for years, perhaps decades. Of course he could bring his reign to and end himself by running the country into the ground, but I think he will manage, one way or another, to avoid this (autocrats ruling over poverty stricken countries but still managing to survive is hardly a new concept).

So, how will it end? Economic ruination? Revolution? Right-wing coup? It almost doesn’t matter – the end result for the poor bloody Hungarians will be much the same.

Orbán needs to be got rid of now, before any of this becomes an inevitable reality. And we can’t do this democratically.

Jano
Guest

“Orbán needs to be got rid of now, before any of this becomes an inevitable reality. And we can’t do this democratically.”

Maybe, but do we have the right to do that undemocratically, provided we could?

Guest

Wolfi:
“So miracles can happen – but I wouldn’t bet on it.”

I wouldn´t bet on it either but I would risk a small bet on the EU being behind it if a miracle does happen. The EU has for a long time had Greece as the top economical problem demanding all the attention. Now the EU has decided to pay a lot of money to keep Greece afloat for a while, and the attention may be turned to another acute problem, Hungary sliding into a black hole. I am shure the EU decision makers are aware of the disastrous consequences for the EU of member states taking that course.

Breki
Guest

Remember Robert Mugabe (close to 90, he still there). He has been ruling Zimbabwe for ages, through hiperinflation, nationalizations, chaos, whatever. Coopted his adversaries, played every trick in the book and only when he dies will he leave politics. Nobody gives a damn. After all who cares about a bunch of unlucky Africans? Orbán might also end up like Mugabe, after all who cares about the crazy Hungarians?

Jano, at one point you may need to be undemocartic to keep democracy alive.

With the power network of personal loyalists (and people with personal stakes in the survival of the Orbán regime) almost completely in place, fully or formally legal methods might just not work.

Orbán is a tricky lawyer who set up a system that as a matter of both practicality and legality is exteremely diffcult to get rid of. Even with 2/3s, you would almost need the consent of Áder, the partizan Constitutional Court etc.

The West might have to play an important role: to acknowldge internationally the legitimacy of a regime change that might not fully comply with formal legality.

Member
Breki : Remember Robert Mugabe (close to 90, he still there). He has been ruling Zimbabwe for ages, through hiperinflation, nationalizations, chaos, whatever. Coopted his adversaries, played every trick in the book and only when he dies will he leave politics. Nobody gives a damn. After all who cares about a bunch of unlucky Africans? Orbán might also end up like Mugabe, after all who cares about the crazy Hungarians? Jano, at one point you may need to be undemocartic to keep democracy alive. With the power network of personal loyalists (and people with personal stakes in the survival of the Orbán regime) almost completely in place, fully or formally legal methods might just not work. Orbán is a tricky lawyer who set up a system that as a matter of both practicality and legality is exteremely diffcult to get rid of. Even with 2/3s, you would almost need the consent of Áder, the partizan Constitutional Court etc. The West might have to play an important role: to acknowldge internationally the legitimacy of a regime change that might not fully comply with formal legality. I very much agree with you with the exception of “Orbán is a tricky lawyer”. He… Read more »
Breki
Guest

I meant that Orbán’s way of thinking resembles that of a trial lawyer hell bent on winning his case (if you met a lawyer like that). He is cunning, wily, what have you.

It is a world view, they way you approach problems, an epistemology. If you are an economist or a social worker you see things differently.

Breki
Guest

For those who speak Hungarian:

http://eztigyhogy.nolblog.hu/archives/2012/11/27/Rna_Pter_lemondott_s_htat_fordt_Magyarorszgnak/

It reminds me of a Lacanian who said that when you leave your country and return after a long time, you are stressed out, tense etc. not because you feel that that you have changed too much and that your country has changed too much (so that you diverged much) but rather because you subconsciously feel that you are very much like them (but you don’t want to face that reality, fact and so you’d rather leave).

At some level one has to embrace and accept (and be confortable with that acceptance) that strange world which is not even the Balkans, certainly not the Visegrad region, and most certainly not the West — something other and often something mean.

Kingfisher
Guest

Breki beat me to it! Eva loathes Rona with a vengeance so I’m sure she’ll be glad he has gone. I must say, I’ve always found him a thought provoking presence and will be sorry if we don’t hear from him again.

Guest

London Calling!

O/T

Quite a big coverage of Gyongyosi’s ‘Tally’ speech here in England.

Regards

Charlie

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/27/hungarian-rightwinger-call-survey-jews
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20510648

enufff
Guest

OT

What I learned on how to get registered for next election. Please correct me if I’m wrong…

1) through Client Gate (Customer entry and identification system of Hungary)
2) through a notary!!
3) no registration through mail allowed.
4) they expect 8 mil. people to be registered within 6 months.

It is preposterous that the govt. couldn’t arrange for mobile registration for rural residents while they could spend millions on unnecessary advertisements!

Ron
Guest
Ron
Guest

Slightly OT. The European Court of Auditors investigated in 2011 Single Area Payment Scheme (SAPS) regarding agriculture. Of course this has major irregularities in the new EU countries, and yes Hungary is one of them. I like the comment to pay to hunting club subsidy for agricultural purposes. How much money will be paid back?
PDF alert: http://eca.europa.eu/portal/pls/portal/docs/1/18684795.PDF

http://www.euractiv.com/specialreport-agriculture/court-auditors-identifies-subsid-news-516285

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

CharlieH :
London Calling!
O/T
Quite a big coverage of Gyongyosi’s ‘Tally’ speech here in England.
Regards
Charlie
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/nov/27/hungarian-rightwinger-call-survey-jews
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20510648

With anti-Semitism it is possible to deflect attention from an undemocratic new election law.
On the other hand many Hungarians seem to believe that the most important problem of Hungary is the question can a Jew be a Hungarian?

Member

Klubradio “suspended” (finished) its broadcasts in Esztergom & Tatabanya today, 11-27-2012.

oneill
Guest
„That doesn’t mean the opposition groups shouldn’t try – but they’d need a kind of miracle” The problem surely is if the opposition fight the regime on the regime’s chosen ground, ie accept the registration system which has been designed to make sure they don’t have a snowball in hell’s chance of winning (and if that doesn’t seem to work bet your bottom forint that Fidesz will come up with another way to deny democracy), then they can’t complain when the inevitable happens and Orban wins another 4 years. If the election is boycotted, then, if nothing else, matters will be surely brought to a head. We will then be dealing with a genuinely illegitimate dictatorship and any measures, short of physical violence, against its authority will be 100% morally justifiable. The dictator crowed the other day that the lack of opposition to the government (eg no strikes, no civil unrest) means that then plebs have accepted his authority to do whatever the hell he likes. OK, put that theory to the test, the opposition shouldn’t waste time bickering with campaigning for what will be a sham election. The opposition, civic society and the trade unions should start preparing now… Read more »
Bowen
Guest

The news about Gyongyosi is once again providing lots of negative news coverage about Hungary in the international press.

Interestingly, I keep reading that the Hungarian government “condemns to the greatest possible degree” what Gyongyosi said. This is also stated on the English section of kormany.hu.

Funny. I don’t remember the Hungarian government condemning Gyongyosi while he was actually speaking. Funny, too, that the Hungarian section of kormany.hu does not contain this condemnation, or anything whatsoever on the story.

The Hungarian government should be ashamed of itself.

Guest

London Calling!

O/T (2)

Hungary’s been caught trousering EU farm subsidies – queue Petofi mega-rant!!

(Sorry P!)

Regards

Charlie

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-20510654

Petofi1
Guest

tappanch :
Klubradio “suspended” (finished) its broadcasts in Esztergom & Tatabanya today, 11-27-2012.

tappanch :
Klubradio “suspended” (finished) its broadcasts in Esztergom & Tatabanya today, 11-27-2012.

We need more on this: lack of money? government order? or what?

Kingfisher
Guest

I realise this will sound incredibly cynical but I’m inclined to believe that Fidesz deliberately dragged its heels when it came to beating down Gyöngyösi, because it provides a wonderful distraction from the election law, which will now receive considerably less media attention. Fidesz has done similar things time and again.

The election law is the real story, Gyöngyösi a foul burb that sadly will be what the international audience finds newsworthy

Member

He is very likely on the FIDESZ payroll. Just read his bio.

Member

Here is an analysis of his career. The jist of it is this. He was born in 77. Son of a communist cadre, enjoyed all the perks while growing up. Oxford educated. He also studied in Germany. He worked a few years abroad then came back home. He is an accountant of some sort. He joined the JOBBIK in 2006 and very soon he became part of Vona’s inner circle. He is the promoter of the Chinese, Russian and Iranian connections and a staunch supporter of Hungary leaving the EU. Oh, yes and the JOBBIK’s foreign minister candidate (what a nightmare). He is probably the most educated fascist of the country.

If you ask me he is Orban’s remote controlled robot inside of the JOBBIK.

http://atv.hu/cikk/20120211_senki_sem_tudja_honnan_erkezett_gyongyosi_a_jobbikba

Paul
Guest

Jano :
“Orbán needs to be got rid of now, before any of this becomes an inevitable reality. And we can’t do this democratically.”
Maybe, but do we have the right to do that undemocratically, provided we could?

Very good question.

I’m not sure ‘right’ comes into it. It’s a judgement call – do we think Orbán poses such a danger to Hungary that he needs to be removed? If ‘yes’, and he has prevented us doing it democratically, then we have to do it by whatever means we can.

I’m not exactly in my comfort zone with questions like this, but I think we only have the ‘right’ to do this if we have a workable, and demonstrably better, solution ready to implement as soon as OV has gone – one that guaranteed a quick return to full democracy, new constitution, etc.

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