“Talking heads” of Hungary

After a brief foray into foreign policy and history it’s time to return to domestic politics. Today’s post was inspired by a television program and its viewers’ reactions to what was said there by young so-called political scientists, and, more importantly, by a thoughtful article written by Vera Lánczos, a member of the Galamus Group, who doesn’t make a secret of her support for Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Demokratikus Koalíció. I should also mention that Ferenc Gyurcsány’s speech at the II. Congress of DK (January 26, 2013) was made available today both on DK’s website and on Galamus.

Let’s start with the television program on ATV called “A tét” (The stake). Its host is András Bánó, formerly of MTV, who received the Hungarian version of the Pulitzer Prize a few years back. By and large I like the program, but some of the young  “political scientists” often irritate me. Political commentators should take their job seriously, and that means in-depth and more or less impartial analysis of current political events. Instead, some of the regular guests only vent their political prejudices. There is one young guy whose superciliousness and flippancy are more than I can tolerate.

Well, it seems that I’m not alone. The show aired last Wednesday and György Bolgár’s call-in show “Let’s talk about it!” was full of angry callers condemning our young man’s attitude toward Ferenc Gyurcsány and DK. Naturally, Vera Lánczos’s criticism is much more reasoned and therefore more weighty. But she also objected to the tone these fellows use in connection with such an important issue as the current state of the opposition and the need for a united stand against Orbán’s regime.

Talking heads

Talking heads

Because right now the opposition is in disarray. New formations appear, old ones reappear, and LMP just fell apart. The way things look, the LMP caucus will be gone by the time parliament convenes in February because the two factions cannot agree on how to keep the LMP delegation together. Separately neither group has enough members to form a caucus. The main sticking point is LMP’s course of action. The position of the Schiffer faction is utterly unrealistic. Although they keep insisting that their main goal is to defeat Viktor Orbán in 2014, they are planning to achieve this alone even as LMP’s share of the electorate hovers around 3%. It is clear that  for Schiffer and the party leaders supporting him, the party’s future is more important at the moment than a united front in which LMP most likely wouldn’t carry much weight. The Jávor faction, on the other hand, is to my mind a great deal more patriotic. It is a shame that the only thing one of the young political scientists had to say about the LMP split was that “the sole difference between the two factions is that one of them likes Bajnai while the other one doesn’t.”

Gordon Bajnai’s E14 is not doing well. In mid-November the enthusiasm for an umbrella organization under the leadership of Gordon Bajnai surged after the October 23 mass meeting. Since then support has slowly dissipated and the number of  undecided voters has begun to grow again. According to some observers, the problem is that Bajnai entered the political arena too early. I disagree. After all, the campaign season has already begun, and to hammer out a common platform takes a long time. A year is barely enough, especially given the uncertainties of the present political situation. No, the problem is not timing. The problem is Milla and Péter Juhász. E14, a movement at the moment, initially announced that it would start proceedings to establish a party. After all, only parties can enter the race. A few days later we learned from Péter Juhász that Milla “isn’t ready to lend its name to the formation of a political party” and E14 pulled back, at least temporarily. Milla is a mysterious and amorphous organization–if you can call it that–about which we know practically nothing. For the longest time Juhász seemed to be the only embodiment of Milla, although lately one can also hear references to Péter Molnár, a member of parliament between 1990 and 1998 (Fidesz and later SZDSZ). Juhász’s latest is that he will never cooperate with Ferenc Gyurcsány. I also doubt that he would cooperate with MSZP. All in all, Bajnai picked the wrong “civic organization” to launch his attempt to bring together the various opposition parties and forces.

After the discussion about LMP, the young political scientists moved on to Ferenc Gyurcsány, whose party is described by its politicians as “the party of unity.” Indeed, it is this party that most consistently and without any reservation supports a joint effort to dislodge Viktor Orbán. Gyurcsány has given up personal political ambition, at least for the time being. He realizes that his party will not be able to capture millions of votes. Therefore he is not forced to make compromises for fear of a mass exodus of followers. He advocates unpopular measures that in his opinion are necessary to turn Hungary’s faltering economy around. Those 100-200,000 people who today would vote for DK will not abandon Gyurcsány because they agree with the details of the party program.

At the II Congress 2,000 people gathered to hear the speeches and vote on the program. I understand that there was only one dissenting vote. The party has 7,000 members with local chapters in 750 cities, towns, and villages. All that without any outside financial assistance. A DK party member won the mayoral race in a smaller town, and DK took second place ahead of MSZP in another.

“A tét” showed a clip from Gyurcsány’s speech at the party congress in which he emphasized the necessity of a common stand. He considers this “a patriotic duty” and argues that those who refuse to cooperate only strengthen the regime of Viktor Orbán. According to our flippant “political scientist,” that means that “everybody should embrace Ferenc Gyurcsány” who wants to force everyone into one big unified opposition that would also include his own party. But what is wrong with this? Isn’t Gyurcsány’s party democratic? The other Young Turk on the program announced that the only reason DK wants a unified opposition is because otherwise DK couldn’t be represented in parliament. Total nonsense. As things stand now, a maximum of three parties could get into parliament if the opposition forces don’t manage to build an electoral coalition–Fidesz, MSZP, and Jobbik. And most likely Fidesz would win.

This kind of irresponsible talk doesn’t help anyone. It only confuses the already confused and disappointed electorate. As Vera Lánczos wrote, “The electorate doesn’t want the opposition parties to compete with each other but to come to an agreement for their sake.” To fan the distrust of parties in general and add to the division of the opposition is not the job of political commentators. It’s no wonder that so many people who truly want Viktor Orbán out of office are outraged.

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Kingfisher
Guest
Kingfisher
February 5, 2013 4:55 pm

Essentially, you are grumbling that political commentators on television are not taking sides. Or rather, they are not taking YOUR side.

nadeoszi
Guest
nadeoszi
February 5, 2013 5:09 pm
Orbán does as a general rule always the thing which irritates his adversaries, whether it be the West, the opposition. He wants to show that he can and that he, not others, is right. Nothing pleasures him more than the feeling that his adversaries are upset and think he is something that is thought to be crazy. After all he is both a bully and a hurt child. And whom would put Orbán to the NBH governor’s seat if he really could choose without taking into account anything? Obviously Matolcsy. Everybody else would be a compromise and he has to show that he does not do compromises. Matolcsy is completely deranged, but he will have no power like SImor did not have (it’s the board that sets the rate). Other than that he will succeed in driving all intellogent people to abroad, I mean I doubt that any self-respecting intellectuakl will want to work under him, plus places are needed for Fidesz economists. That said, just days before selling those bonds, this may be a test. If the forint falls significantly he may choose somebody other than Matolcsy, but if it falls only 2-3 forints, it means that the market… Read more »
Guest
February 5, 2013 5:43 pm

London Calling!

Yes Eva – probably Matolcsy. Although my money was on Pleschinger!

He can control Matolcsy with his eyebows!

I think it must be Matolcsy because Orban knows it will frighten the horses – and is limiting the damage to the forint by declaring he will only announce Simor’s successor the day before he ‘retires’ on March 2.

(He’ll announce Matolcsy on March 1)

Regards

Charlie

Ron
Guest
Ron
February 5, 2013 6:02 pm

I do not think that market does not care. I believe the market does care, but they are no longer interested in Matolcsy. I believe they discounted this move already. The next one will be important. Who is going to take over GM’s job, and how this person will act on VO order’s or not.

Jano
Guest
Jano
February 5, 2013 7:23 pm
I have to agree with Kingfisher. I’m sorry but I can’t remember you being that any time the other side was bashed. Personally, I find this political scientist profession to be more of a bogus in Hungary. All of them are strongly biased to one side or another, but some conceal that in semantics better than others. The best thing a TV program can do to be impartial is to get one from the left and one from the right. This also means that you have to endure hearing opinions that doesn’t agree with yours. I also can’t subscribe to the view that GYF preaching about common platform would be giving up his political ambitions. Please tell me what else he could do? He’s obviously not going to be the prime minister in 2014, DK isn’t gonna get a single seat unless there is a common platform that will carry it on it’s back into the house. This is not a sacrifice for him, but the last straw to stay alive in the political arena. On Milla, I started to share your concerns. Not because they are against Gyurcsány, but because they really seem to lack the will or the… Read more »
An
Guest
An
February 5, 2013 9:05 pm

I am sure these “political commentators” are fulfilling Fidesz orders to create more confusion and prevent the opposition from uniting. Funny that they are still so preoccupied with Gyurcsany… apparently he is still seen as a threat. I don’t see why, as looking at how DK stands, he is obviously not. But he still gets treated like he was the “mumus” (bogeyman).

to divide or to unite?
Guest
to divide or to unite?
February 5, 2013 10:16 pm

In the rightwing gallery all refrain from criticizing the Orban-Vona brothers.

In the leftwing everybody feels free to trash Gyurcsany, Mesterhazy and Bajnai.

Long live the Hungarian nightmare!

The question is to divide or to unite?

qay
Guest
qay
February 6, 2013 3:59 am

To divide: This is The Fundamental Curse of the left anywhere.The left is much more liberal and does not like discipline, they love arguing and debating. They think themselves so much better, the have the dignity of a free person, and look down on the uncritical conservative pundits.The leftists are always much less effective in government because they are more tolerant of the conservatives than the other way round. See Fidesz relentless march against anything percieved as not Fidesz enough. The left meanwhile opens with being so tolerant –so the net result is that policies remain Fidesz-inspired.

Unfortunately, if this is a contest (perhaps a even a political war, certainly Fidesz sees is that way) discipline and loyalty are fundamental. Those who don’t understand this are doomed to fail and sit at ATV arguing till the end of time, which is what will happen. See Gyula, Fidesz’ organisation is 10x better than MSZP’s (Bajnai or LMP literally have nozing), this will have dire consequnces under the current election system.

Kingfisher
Guest
Kingfisher
February 6, 2013 4:08 am

I think that is a slightly unfair generalisation qay. Remember Antal’s government where the right fell apart, party by party. No, Fidesz is monolithic not because it is “right” (or because it is “not left”) but because of the way that Orbán has organised it and built it. He controls its finances so completely that it is he who chooses who is an MP and ensures there is no grassroots movements within the party.

segura
Guest
segura
February 6, 2013 6:33 am
Kingfisher, I agree with qay, it is in fact the denial of this fundmental difference which dooms the current left to failure. Nothing makes Fidesz lough harder then when leftist pundits criticitze their parties to pieces. Until ATV uses its airtime to kill the left and sow doubts about the ability of the left to govern and get to power – well, ATV will get to keep its license. When it will be like MSNBC or be like a leftist Foxnews or Hírtv, then their license will be taken away – ATV knows this. Generally, the fact is that right wing and conservative people value dicipline, authority and loyalty much-much higher, while leftist – nowadays – do not like authority (ie want a more equal society), like to be rational and love arguing (as their idea is the deliberative democracy). And the logic works the other way: such people self select and join the party accordingly. Fierce control and the look of the ability to control (and to act decisively) are necessary (the Obama campaign machinery and the Obama WH are also extremely controlled and disciplined, there are no leakages like during Clinton, they learnt a lot from W.) The… Read more »
Guest
February 6, 2013 7:05 am

I agree with you all re the problems of the left but why have Britain, Germany and also France and afaik the Scandinavian democracies managed a strong left aka socialist or social democrat party ?

Italy (though I don’t know too much about its politics) seems more like Hungary there – why is that ?

Especially Germany has a very strong Social Democrat party which is in coalition sometimes with the Greens, the Liberals and sometimes even the “Left” (aka Communists) and the Christian Democrats aka Conservatives.

SSurely one reason is the history and continuity of the parties in Western Europe, but is there anything else ?

Deak Deak
Guest
Deak Deak
February 6, 2013 7:16 am

It is not a secret by now, that the conservative patriotic parochial politics is favored in Hungary by ca. 5:1.
The leader can be an idiot, but he is their own conservative idiot,
And victory is assured if free elections are held.
Liberalism can be only resuscitated if Deak will reappear.

ttreww
Guest
ttreww
February 6, 2013 8:37 am
Sorry, but this is by Péter Uj (a former chief editor of Index, who has a written style similar to the style of Stephen Colbert, I think). He is more conservative then left leaning (but he was too independent at Index, so he was fired about a year ago) and often has good insights. “Most, hogy a Bajnai-féle Együtt 2014 mozgalom gyakorlatilag összeroppant Jávor Benedek politikai súlya alatt, és szépen eltűnt a politikai porondról, a közfigyelem maradéktalanul a Matolcsy–Orbán-féle „Műköggy!!! 2013” Dumaszínházra irányulhat, és a közfigyelemnek, mint megelőzőleg számtalan alkalommal, ezúttal sem kell csalódnia.” I would not worry about Bajnai too much, only about their party organisation, but it is true that they would need more ‘visibility’. (Now that there is no registration, a lot (almost half of the people) will make up tehir minds in the last minutes.) But they don’t have the media for the visibility, now do they? I guess now – slowly it dawns upon MSZP and Bajnai, hopefully, becuase it is still not sure – they realize that Fidesz was thinking in terms of decades and they never wavered and never compromised for a second on the strategy to: own the media (and the prosecution… Read more »
Stevan Harnad (@AmSciForum)
Guest
February 6, 2013 10:05 am
Member
February 6, 2013 1:04 pm
I think the disease of the Hungarian politics today is the MSZP. They are everybody’s boogeyman in the country. Everybody – left, right, conservative, liberal is pointing the finger on them. If they sit down next to you on the bus you would move over to another seat. All the Milla, Trilla, Together20XX, Without20XX, LMP50 (50% that is) is all trying to get away from them. Obviously the same comes from the Fidesz side. DK and everybody who had once MSZP ties is doomed. This is the key in the Gyurcsany (or Bajnai for that matter) bashing campaign – they were MSZP politicians once. Nobody cares about Gyurcsany personally. He is just a punchbag for the average Joe. The ex-MSZP politician scare crow. It works better then pointing the finger on Mesterhazy. The MSZP is like Jabba The Hutt of the Hungarian politics. Some disgusting big creature nobody wants to unite with. And they don’t care. They are just sitting in the background waiting for the voters come back to them after running away from the Fidesz. What we see in the country outside of the Fidesz is that nobody wants to sit with the stinky boy on bus. Until… Read more »
Member
February 6, 2013 1:30 pm

Eva S. Balogh :
I don’t understand Fidesz’s rationale in attacking Bajnai and Gyurcsány instead of going straight at MSZP. Gyurcsány, after all, left the party mostly because of the its shady dealings and refusal to modernize while Bajnai was never a member of the party.

They are going after the MSZP. They don’t care about Gyurcsany. Gyurcsany and Bajnai were MSZP or in Bajnai’s case “close to MSZP” politicians. The average Hunky doesn’t hear when we say “Gyurcsany wanted to reform the MSZP”. They only get the negative message.

Orban is afraid of the MSZP’s 30% and the Milla’s and likes final “fuck it” moment before the election when they will endorse the MSZP. Gyurcsany doesn’t matter.

Kingfisher
Guest
Kingfisher
February 6, 2013 2:31 pm

Gyurcsány certainly wanted to reform the MSZP and had the intelligence to realise that what that party was doing was simply intolerable. But nevertheless, and I think this is why ultimately Gyurcsány is a failed politician, he tried to have his cake and eat it. He might have been calling for party reform and yet he who appointed the appallingly corrupt Veres János as his finance minister. It was Gyurcsány who foisted the corrupt Koka Janos on SZDSZ. And it was Gyurcsány who was perfectly happy to conduct obscene “behind the scenes” deals with Orbán which our hostess Éva doesn’t want to hear about. It is only possible to look at the MSZP with a benevolent eye if you don’t know them.

spectator
Guest
spectator
February 6, 2013 3:06 pm

Kingfisher :
Essentially, you are grumbling that political commentators on television are not taking sides. Or rather, they are not taking YOUR side.

Well, Eva said:
“Political commentators should take their job seriously, and that means in-depth and more or less impartial analysis of current political events.”>/i>

– please, just what part of this sentence correspond to your statement?

Since your comment clearly indicate some kind of problem – say, you have comprehension issues, – let me help you, I’m sure, we can work out something, even you can understand – no offense intended!

Roger
Guest
Roger
February 6, 2013 3:09 pm
The rationale behind the Bajnai attacks is simple, but you have the wrong angle. First, there is no campaign yet, so it is not the time to target adveraseris. It is not Fidesz who targets Bajnai, only ‘civilians’ (of course directed right wingers, but not the party, it counts, a lot of people are superficial). In other words, it would be below the dignity of Fidesz to openly target anyone at this point: they are in the incumbent position and they are above petty campaigning (this is the image they want to radiate). An open campaining would actually show that they (Fidesz) are weak, that already a year before the elections they would need to fight someone who has a current popularity of a fraction of that of Fidesz. Fidesz’ image very much builds on the aura of its powerful position and maintaining this image is of primary and paramount importance. That said, with keeping the distance (through civilians): they try to target the only, and I emphasize that, only potential adversary of Fidesz. Fidesz knows well that LMP and other miscellaneous leftist/liberals will self-destruct, their open targeting at any point just isn’t worth the effort. Given the elections system,… Read more »
spectator
Guest
spectator
February 6, 2013 3:33 pm

Deak Deak :
Liberalism can be only resuscitated if Deak will reappear.

– And just who’s gonna recognize him?

Think about it: an illiterate PM and his fierce supporters can’t even tell king Stephen the Saint from Koppány the heretic..!

Exaggerating? Maybe. Let’s see, however:

Remember: the person who wanted to ‘keep traditions’ at any price was Koppány, while the one who moved on to implement ‘modern’ ideologies and religion, with total disregard toward old and traditional rites, customs, etc., was Stephen – and at the same time the contemporary Hungarian government referencing Stephen as the king and statesman whom they treat as the quintessential origin of all, what ‘traditionally’ Hungarian.

Just how stupid could one turned to be, when the ‘nationalist’ blindfold became a standard government issue..?

Paul
Guest
February 6, 2013 3:55 pm
qay : To divide: This is The Fundamental Curse of the left anywhere.The left is much more liberal and does not like discipline, they love arguing and debating. They think themselves so much better, the have the dignity of a free person, and look down on the uncritical conservative pundits.The leftists are always much less effective in government because they are more tolerant of the conservatives than the other way round. See Fidesz relentless march against anything percieved as not Fidesz enough. The left meanwhile opens with being so tolerant –so the net result is that policies remain Fidesz-inspired. Unfortunately, if this is a contest (perhaps a even a political war, certainly Fidesz sees is that way) discipline and loyalty are fundamental. Those who don’t understand this are doomed to fail and sit at ATV arguing till the end of time, which is what will happen. See Gyula, Fidesz’ organisation is 10x better than MSZP’s (Bajnai or LMP literally have nozing), this will have dire consequnces under the current election system. Despite Kingfisher’s disagreement with this, I thought it was a pretty accurate and concise summary of the problems of the ‘left’ in politics – it certainly matches my experience… Read more »
Paul
Guest
February 6, 2013 3:56 pm

‘incite’ should have been ‘insight’ – brain failure…

spectator
Guest
spectator
February 6, 2013 4:01 pm

Pretty good assessment, Roger!

However, are you sure, that you meant: “it would be below the dignity of Fidesz” ?

A what?

Actually, I don’t think that using the word “dignity” in a same sentence as “Fidesz” is appropriate, ever! Particularly, if someone familiar with their campaign methods from the previous elections!
Just try to remember Orban’s infamous “…oszt’ jónapot” sentence, and the circumstances it came forward – one hardly can go lower than that.

To those who has no recollection: during the campaign silence Orban personally instructed his supporters to break the law, encouraging them, saying: “- and if you encounter any problem, our lawyers will take care of it, ‘oszt’ jónapot'” – as is: “and that’s it, have a good day”..!

– And he is the ‘law abiding’ Prime Minister of Hungary!
– Even better: he’s making the law, and breaking it at will, or adjusting it to his like!

He is the personal friend of an alleged ‘journalist’, who called the ethnic minority in Hungary “animals”, which “shouldn’t be”, – without any consequences.

So, let’s talk about “dignity”!

Paul
Guest
February 6, 2013 4:04 pm

“As things stand now, a maximum of three parties could get into parliament if the opposition forces don’t manage to build an electoral coalition–Fidesz, MSZP, and Jobbik. And most likely Fidesz would win.”

Despite the qualifications, a timely recognition of reality. Unfortunately, things will still stand pretty much this way in a year’s time.

If our experience in the UK is anything to go by, the collapse of one major party, following the landslide victory of the other, needs at least three elections before something like equality is restored. (And we didn’t have a nascent dictator changing all the rules after his victory.)

Paul
Guest
February 6, 2013 4:15 pm

OT (or perhaps not) – I got quite a shock tonight when I went into Facebook and this picture was at the top of my wall:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=10151185354861093&set=a.10151185352311093.502709.298090296092&type=1&theater

One of my wife’s friends had posted a link to it and my wife (who, in the odd world of Facebook, is my ‘friend’) had ‘liked’ it – so up it pops on MY facebook!

If you want to understand the psyche of the Fidesz supporter, this picture is a good place to start…

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