A few days ago I wrote a post entitled “Talking heads of Hungary” in which I mentioned that Vera Lánczos, a member of the Galamus Group, called attention to a young political scientist who said that “the sole difference between the two factions [of LMP] is that one of them likes [Gordon] Bajnai while the other doesn’t.” It was a flippant description of what is going on because, after all, the divide between the group led by András Schiffer and the so-called platformists of Benedek Jávor and Tímea Szabó is much deeper than their differing attitudes toward Bajnai. They differ fundamentally on strategy. Or at least this is what it looks like from the outside.
I also predicted–it wasn’t too difficult, mind you–that by the time parliament convenes there will be no LMP parliamentary caucus. Indeed, on Monday Benedek Jávor will officially inform László Kövér, the speaker of the house, that the eight members of the Párbeszéd Magyarországért (Dialogue for Hungary) will leave the LMP delegation. Since according to house rules a separate delegation needs at least twelve MPs and the Schiffer faction has only seven members, neither group can form a caucus. They will have to sit with the independents, who number fifteen at the moment. With the addition of the present and former LMP members their number will double. It will be an interesting group; it includes former Jobbik members, the left socialist Katalin Szili, and the “independent” Gypsy-hater Oszkár Molnár whom even Fidesz refused to back as the party’s candidate in the 2010 general elections.
The public perception is that the cause of the split is a deep division over the future of Hungary. Most people claim that the platformists’ main concern is the removal of the Orbán government at the earliest possible moment, and to this end they must not follow the road András Schiffer envisages for the party. Schiffer wants to keep some distance from both left and the right. As Katalin Ertsey (LMP MP) said in an interview, as a “green party” LMP is steadfastly in the middle avoiding the right as well as the left and keeping its eyes on what is ahead. Given the new electoral law, critics of Schiffer claim, this strategy only helps Fidesz.
But from the inside it seems that some of the pro-Schiffer members of LMP see the struggle differently. Yesterday Katalin Ertsey described the situation as a simple “power struggle” between Benedek Jávor and his followers and András Schiffer and his group. Ágnes Osztolykán (LMP MP) elaborated on the same point, claiming that the platformists caught the common disease of politicians, a “hunger for power.”
These two were joined by Beáta Eszes in an article that appeared in Galamus. She isn’t sure that the Jávor group is at all serious about negotiations with the opposition forces. To bolster her claim she reminds her readers of past utterances of the platformists that contradict their present orientation.
At the time he became LMP’s whip in February 2012, Benedek Jávor vehemently attacked Ferenc Gyurcsány because of the events of September-October 2006. And let’s not forget that Gordon Bajnai was a member of Gyurcsány’s cabinet. Of the three-member LMP caucus in the Budapest City Council two refused to vote against the proposal to strip Ákos Kertész of his honorary citizenship and thus joined with the representatives of Fidesz and Jobbik against Kertész. The still unified LMP decided to bring suit against Ferenc Gyurcsány. Gábor Scheiring and Gergely Karácsony suggested a strategic coalition with Jobbik in order to remove Orbán in 2014. LMP refused to join a demonstration against the Horthy cult, racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia because MSZP and DK also took part in the demonstration. Dávid Dorosz engaged in a discussion with a Jobbik MP about “national policies” (nemzetpolitika) on the notorious Echo TV. At the end of the article Eszes points out that while the platformists declared that their group would establish a left-wing party, “the person of Gordon Bajnai is no guarantee of a left-wing, socialist type of government.”
Like Eszes, I also have my reservations about both groups. Yet the claim that the difference of opinion on strategy stems solely from the platformists’ hunger for power doesn’t sound plausible. In fact, by leaving LMP and sitting as independents they lose a lot. They will have less opportunity to speak in the House and will have to give up their seats on parliamentary committees. This means less political influence as well as a financial loss to individual parliamentary members. They are also giving up their share of the state subsidy allotted to parties that from here on will go to Schiffer’s LMP. They’re losing the assistance of fifty-five men and women who have been helping the LMP caucus. So, I don’t see how individual ambitions are being served by this move.
But one thing is sure. If the Párbeszéd Magyarországért Párt (PMP) is serious about forging a united democratic opposition, they cannot continue the strategy that LMP has pursued. Otherwise, the break-up of LMP was a useless exercise that will serve no one.