Is the Demokratikus Koalíció a liberal party?

A few days ago Gábor Fodor announced that he will establish a new party called Magyar Liberális Párt. SZDSZ is no more, he declared, and it mustn’t happen that Hungary has no liberal party.

I’m not familiar with the personal relationships among SZDSZ politicians, but former colleagues who once sat in the same parliamentary caucus hardly speak to and refuse to cooperate with one another. Although the various splinter groups have divergent ideas, they seem to have one thing in common: nobody wants anything to do with Gábor Fodor.

As for the existence of a liberal party in Hungary, I propose that there already is one. It is called Demokratikus Koalíció. I venture to say that the bulk of DK voters and party members come from former SZDSZ supporters and/or members. This is only a hunch, but I suspect that a public opinion poll that would tease out the correlation between former SZDSZ and current DK followers would lend credence to my contention.

At least two well-known SZDSZ politicians are on board in DK: Tamás Bauer and Mátyás Eörsi. Both were founders of SZDSZ and both served as members of parliament. Eörsi between 1990 and 2010 and Bauer between 1994 and 2002. Bauer is an economist while Eörsi has a law degree.

liberalism by brexians flickr

Liberalism by brexians / Flickr

Here I would like to summarize an article by Tamás Bauer that appeared yesterday in Galamus. The title of the piece is “Someone who can’t stop attacking Gyurcsány” (Aki a gyurcsányozást nem bírja abbahagyni). Even from the title it is evident that Bauer is coming to the defense of Ferenc Gyurcsány. The great virtue of the article, however, is that Bauer is thoroughly familiar with the details of behind-the-scenes party politics  about which we outsiders know practically nothing.

Bauer’s article is an answer to an opinion piece by András Böhm, an SZDSZ member of parliament between 2002 and 2010, in HVG entitled “The One Who Cannot Stop” (Aki nem bírja abbahagyni). Böhm maintains that Gyurcsány’s political activity turns away hundreds of thousands of voters from the democratic opposition. Böhm made a long list of  political blunders committed by Ferenc Gyurcsány, from the “tax burlesque” of 2006 to his resignation in 2009 that, in Böhm’s opinion, was too late. In the article Böhm makes Gyurcsány solely responsible for the two-thirds majority victory of Viktor Orbán. Or at least this is how Tamás Bauer interpreted the article.

Bauer finds this argument more than odd, especially coming from someone who became a member of parliament in 2002. At that time the new parliamentary majority, instead of correcting the economic mistakes of the first Orbán government, added to the problems with Péter Medgyessy’s two 100-day programs that further increased the deficit. András Böhm, as an SZDSZ member of parliament, voted for all these government programs.

As for the “tax burlesque” of 2006, Gábor Kuncze, chairman of SZDSZ at the time, tried to convince the SZDSZ caucus to give up the idea of decreasing the personal income tax burden as well as the VAT, but Kuncze’s effort was in vain. The majority of the SZDSZ delegation insisted on the decrease. Gyurcsány apparently did the same during his negotiations with the board (elnökség) of MSZP. He got nowhere. Gyurcsány “had to deliver the speech in Balatonőszöd to convince his fellow socialists” to agree to change course. In addition to a mistaken economic policy, political corruption was another reason for the failure of the socialist-liberal governments. Again it was only Ferenc Gyurcsány, says Bauer, who fought for transparent party financing. After he failed, he left MSZP in October 2011 to establish a new party, the Demokratikus Koalíció.

According to Bauer, Böhm’s only concern is what Gyurcsány did or didn’t do between 2004 and 2009. He pays no attention to what the Demokratikus Koalíció is doing today in Hungarian politics. The question is whether DK has a role to play on the Hungarian political spectrum. According to Bauer, the answer is a resounding yes.

Bauer reminds Böhm that SZDSZ was the only party that refused to vote for the so-called “status law” that would have provided Hungarians living in the neighboring countries special privileges inside of Hungary. The members of SZDSZ’s parliamentary caucus were the only MPs who refused to vote for a resolution condemning Slovakia in connection with the language law and its treatment of President László Sólyom.

It is DK that is continuing this tradition when it comes to policies concerning Hungarian minorities. After 2010 both the MSZP and the LMP caucus voted for dual citizenship, with the exception of Ferenc Gyurcsány. Today DK is the only party that continues the former policies of SZDSZ when it comes to the Hungarian minorities. Citizenship yes, voting rights no.

It was during the 2006 campaign that Viktor Orbán first came up with the idea of decreasing the price of natural gas. MSZP tried to outdo him and promised even greater decreases. It was only SZDSZ that refused to follow suit. Today MSZP promised support for the government’s decision to lower utility costs. DK is against the measure.

In 2008, on MDF’s insistence, MSZP voted to repeal the inheritance tax; SZDSZ had the courage to vote against the measure. Today DK’s party program spells out its insistence on reinstating inheritance taxes on estates over 20 million forints. Bauer points out that today MSZP is talking about absolutely free higher education; it is only DK that is calling for tuition fees across the board combined with financial assistance for the needy. Once upon a time it was only SZDSZ that wanted to renegotiate the agreement between Gyula Horn and the Vatican. Today it is part of DK’s party program.

All in all, in Bauer’s opinion, DK is the only party representing a liberal economic policy, liberal legal thinking, liberal higher education, liberal national policy (magyarságpolitika), and liberal policies concerning church and state. There is no other party among the opposition groups that represents these ideals.

Bauer concludes his article by saying that it is not enough to win the elections. It is also important to know what kind of Hungary will be created after the victory. And in that new Hungary one must have a party that represents “these liberal values that neither MSZP nor Együtt14 is ready to stand behind.”

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Maxinquai
Guest
Rule no 1 in politics: Avoid the “L-word” like the plague. Gábor Fodor with his new party, with all due respect, is a complete jackass, he is delusional. I can imagine the heads of Tamás Deutsch or János Áder when they heard about this, asking is this guy out of his f***ng mind? The first aim of Hungarian politics should be to reach the ideological level of the German Conservatives (Christian Democrats). But they are radical, red banner leftist-liberals for most of the Hungarian voters. It does not matter whether DK is liberal or not, only whether they can collect the votes of the ideologically liberals (that is 5-6% of the voters, ie who voted SZDSZ in 2002 and 2006). Since LMP and Bajnai also compete for these votes, not to mention MSZP with which a vote has the biggest chance to not get lost in this merciless election system, DK is in a tough fight. The system is set up so that the left/liberal side is as fragmented as possible. Until Fidesz remains the dominant party of the right it will continue to have a field day (as the election system is calibrated to the dominant party of the… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest

I wonder what is the use of thinking who in the opposition has an advantage over whom in the opposition. I thought the main objective should be to agree on some common principles between all parties that are democratic, agree on some broad distribution of candidates, and then to care for one’s own voters base and mobilise it in the interest of this broad coalition. I know already that this is highly unlikely because there will be only few if any candidates acceptable to all opposition groups. But that makes it even more unlikely that one of these already existing opposition parties will be able to dominate the opposition or to practically take over all others because of its superior performance.

Minusio
Guest

@ Kirsten. If you want to see the opposition parties to agree on some common principles, I really think it is worthwhile to first see where their ideas might overlap. This is why I find Éva’s documentation very important.

Would you have thought, that Gyurcsány’s DK consists mostly of liberal positions? I wouldn’t, and I think it’s surprising and important to know – because there may be a reservoir of liberal voters left.

Paul
Guest
No disrespect to Éva, or anyone else who thinks that the future lies with Gy or bringing the Liberals back. It’s all interesting stuff and makes for good articles and debates – but it isn’t going to get rid of Orbán. And the reasons are simple: First the names ‘Gyurcsány’ and ‘Liberal/SzDSz’ are toxic and will lose far more votes than they gain – you might as well label yourself ‘Communist Jew’. Secondly, as Maxinquai points out (above), and I have tried to explain before, Hungary no longer has a proportional electoral system. There is little or no chance of there being any minor party MPs in the post-2014 parliament. There are only three ways Orbán is going to go: 1) Act of God/internal collapse in Fidesz/right-wing coup/etc, 2) MSzP somehow recovers enough to defeat him at a future election (as it is the only party capable of so doing), or 3) The opposition somehow manages to present a non-political united front whose sole aim is the get rid of Fidesz and the new constitution, produce a new (inclusive and agreed) constitution, and hold free and democratic elections. We can, of course, just sit and wait for 1), or even… Read more »
Paul
Guest
Hoist on my own petard! Well, at least Charlie will enjoy that – serves me right! What it should have looked like was this – crosses fingers… No disrespect to Éva, or anyone else who thinks that the future lies with Gy or bringing the Liberals back. It’s all interesting stuff and makes for good articles and debates – but it isn’t going to get rid of Orbán. And the reasons are simple: First the names ‘Gyurcsány’ and ‘Liberal/SzDSz’ are toxic and will lose far more votes than they gain – you might as well label yourself ‘Communist Jew’. Secondly, as Maxinquai points out (above), and I have tried to explain before, Hungary no longer has a proportional electoral system. There is little or no chance of there being any minor party MPs in the post-2014 parliament. There are only three ways Orbán is going to go: 1) Act of God/internal collapse in Fidesz/right-wing coup/etc, 2) MSzP somehow recovers enough to defeat him at a future election (as it is the only party capable of so doing), or 3) The opposition somehow manages to present a non-political united front whose sole aim is the get rid of Fidesz and the… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
As for Kirsten’s comments. Gyurcsány’s speech today was all about putting the removal of Orbán before anything else. Everything else is secondary in his opinion. I happen to agree with him.

I was reacting to the first comment, not to Eva’s post. Eva wrote that DK can be considered liberal, but at least I have not read in it that it should be considered the most important party when it comes to the elections in 2014. Perhaps I overreacted, but I understood that from the post above mine. Regarding Ferenc Gyurcsany, I am generally more sceptical about his beneficial role, not because his ideas were problematic but because he is apparently dividing society. And I still believe that it is possible to reduce these divisions among Hungarians, at least I cannot imagine how the current calamity could be overcome without some more mutual understanding and respect. So my comment was not to criticise Eva’s choice of topic, not at all.

Guest

London Calling!

Yes – I agree Maxinquai that the only way Orban can be shifted is with a big majority – ideally a 2/3rds majority (some hope!) – so that some of his most devious tricks can be undone.

But it ain’t gonna happen.

There is only one way to maximise the vote and that is through ‘caretaker’ government route, which I have posited before.

This ‘single-aim’ manifesto is the only way – clearly – that the opposition could unite fully.

‘Anyone but Orban’.

Once he’s gone and the democratic climate has been stabilised – then open and fair elections can take place.

At least with this route very little agreeing has to be done – and EVERYONE has to hold their nose.

But ‘Unity’ – and ‘Oppostion’ are mutually exclusive..

And it ain’t gonna happen. (2)

Regards

Charlie

Guest

Btw – the smaller parties – splitting into even smaller parties – DK, PM LMP is the opposite of what is required. Ego-itis.

Must account for Orban’s smirk.

Reminds me of the ditty:

Big fleas have little fleas, upon their backs to bite ’em,
Little fleas have littler fleas,
And so ad infinitum!

Member

Yes, that is what is Hungary needs to solve all its problem, a new party. Soon, Hungary will certainly become a leader in something, the highest number of political party per capita.
I think this latest move completely demonstrates the Hungarian problem, and it is that there is simply no consensus and never will be amongst Hungarians. Everyone wants to lead, and want their own ideas to dominate, and the only way they give it up if there is something “in it” for them. Hungary’s newer history proves that it is not the political ideologies that most politicians have problems with (hence Fidesz shifting left and right, hate for ex-communists, although they have the most of them), it is simply has to do with who will offer to them better access either to prestige (kutyabor) or economical gains.

Yul
Guest

Some1 :
Yes, that is what is Hungary needs to solve all its problem, a new party. Soon, Hungary will certainly become a leader in something, the highest number of political party per capita.
I think this latest move completely demonstrates the Hungarian problem, and it is that there is simply no consensus and never will be amongst Hungarians. Everyone wants to lead, and want their own ideas to dominate, and the only way they give it up if there is something “in it” for them. Hungary’s newer history proves that it is not the political ideologies that most politicians have problems with (hence Fidesz shifting left and right, hate for ex-communists, although they have the most of them), it is simply has to do with who will offer to them better access either to prestige (kutyabor) or economical gains.

Some1, you beat me to it: yes, that’s (one of) the big problem! That and the “us or them” mentality and seeing everything in black in white that keeps them working together.

Member

Coincidentally, I just read an article ob HVG about the Hungarian National Theatre that is taken over by the nationalists, just like the extreme right took over the Ujszinhaz. Let me quote something here, as this is exactly what is happening in the Hungarian political life, supported by masses, who still believe that this game is all about them.
“Since the changes [1989] took place, there was no time where so many careerists found their goals is such short period. The truth is, of course, that it never caused a moral dilemma to Hungarian citizens for profiteering at the expense of the other, the looting of the common property or the depletion of the future.”
(“A rendszerváltás óta eltelt időben még soha ennyi karrierista nem találta meg számítását ilyen rövid idő alatt. Az igazsághoz persze hozzátartozik, hogy a magyar polgár számára soha sem jelentett morális dilemmát a más kárára való nyerészkedés, a közös tulajdon zabrálása vagy a jövő felélése.”)

petofi
Guest
But what is the surprise here? This is the crux of the Hungarian mentality…and why, as time goes by, I believe that Hungarians are getting exactly what they deserve with Orban, and the future collapse of the country. If Morality and Integrity had been taught for the last few generations, the country may not have come to this impasse; but neither M or I has shown a profit in these environs for at least 60 years. An illustrative story: there was a recent “kozgyules” (tenant’s meeting) at our building. After all the pertinent issues had been dealt with I bought up the issue of a neighbor and friend of ours: she lived in 135 sq.m. alone (a huge bone in the throats of other tenants) and, for 20 years, have been paying over 10,000 forints a month in water dues even though she only visits for 3 months of the year. Now of course, there are two issues here: one, why is a water fee attached to the size of the apartment rather than the number of tenants inhabiting? Not a tough question but we Hungarians know the answer: “let’s stick it to the rich foreigner”, and use the old… Read more »
petofi
Guest

By the way, the lady in question is not a foreigner, but a Hungarian who married abroad and lives outside of this country.
Nowadays, whenever she flies between
Paris, London, Cyprus and Budapest, she never admits to being Hungarian.

“I say I’m Breetish”, she confesses in her thick accent.

E14
Guest

A good paper was published on economic planning by Haza es Haladas, Egyutt2014

BIZALOM A JÓ KORMÁNYZÁS GAZDASÁGPOLITIKÁJA

http://www.hazaeshaladas.hu/hirek-1/bizalom_a_jo_kormanyzas_gazdasagpolitikaja_-_a_vitaanyag_itt_letoltheto.html

petofi
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
@Kirsten: ” Regarding Ferenc Gyurcsany, I am generally more sceptical about his beneficial role, not because his ideas were problematic but because he is apparently dividing society.”
But yesterday Gyurcsány made it clear that DK is willing to work with the others without asking for participation in the government. So, here is someone who really takes the removal of the Orbán government seriously without demanding any political reward. What else can he do? Who else is willing to follow him in the other small parties. Nobody at the moment.

You can save your breath, Eva, Hungarians don’t understand action without self-interest.
(Perhaps Gyurcsany is running for the papal seat….?)

Paul Wal
Guest

http://www.budapesttimes.hu/2013/02/20/theyll-do-it-their-way-and-their-way-alone

Ferenc Kumin (“the Master of Distortion”) will work overtime…in vain once again.
Belarus, Hungary….hardly any difference!
New international (awful PR for the Fidesz regime) storms coming up.

Paul Wal
Guest

Dear Eva,

“Nobody can fathom that someone really thinks that Orbán is so dangerous for the country that one has to put aside their own selfish interests”.

It is coming to the point to decide….(unfortunately)…to be nice and fair….or for the opposition to really fight aggressively (with words, aggressive campaigns, posters etc. …still full of integrity, but aggressively)..it looks like Orban is going to win otherwise easily.
Right now it looks like he will.

Kormos
Guest

Re(Perhaps Gyurcsany is running for the papal seat….?)
For sure, he knows how to preach….:-)

petofi
Guest

Kormos :
Re(Perhaps Gyurcsany is running for the papal seat….?)
For sure, he knows how to preach….:-)

Sadly, no amount of preaching (of any religion) will make up the deficit in Morality and Integrity that afflicts this hapless society.

spectator
Guest
Honestly, people, I’m sick and tired of the “someone/whoever”, who disqualified to say anything what matters – in spite that what he/she says is right, true, substantial and so on – only just because of he/she made the statement, it must be wrong by definition. I’m trying again, this time with names: If Gyurcsány says something, regarding the present situation in Hungary just can not be right – in spite of the facts – simply, because he said so? And this is all, because he said sometime in 2006: “we have lied, day and night’..? Does it really mean, that when he says, that “Orbán must go”, we/you will object, just because Gyurcsány will that too..? Come on, people, I thought, you’re a bit more enlightened than this… When, – if ever, – we’re going to reach the level of intelligence, that we start focusing on the task, not on the question where the idea coming from, and on the reasoning, why not it can be done, – instead of doing something, for Pete’s sake? Are we really have to put up a couple of more mandate-period with a wannabee dictator – the name Orbán – and his ‘right hand’,… Read more »
Mikael
Guest
The most fundamental political goal is to disrupt the Fidesz regime, even for a second. Orbán simply can’t come back more powerful then he is now, he has 2/3 and in Hungary it is enough for any- and everything. There is no political downside, like it was in Slovakia (although Fico is anyway not as maniac as Orbán and he is not able to amend the constitution). The slow, not legal, but sociological solidification of the regime must be broken to create a precendent, that even for a second the left was able to stand up to Fidesz and somewhere below the surface there are Western-oriented, leftist, anti-Fidesz people as well. Also, should the left come to power in 2014, other power constituents would have an example and they could not totally ignore the left (as they do now) even if Orbán came back with a vengeance in, say, 2016, because after Orbán the left might come back again. The national power structure is not based simply only on laws and the constitution, but on practice, everyday custom (how to behave with a local Fidesz boss, how to win a prublic procurement tender, how to arrange a place in the… Read more »
Paul
Guest

The key words in my previous post were ‘toxixc and ‘behind the scenes’ – as helpfully highlighted (eventually!).

My point was that Gy’s name is potentially very damaging to whatever cause it is attached to. If he wants to lend his undoubted skills to the cause of getting rid of Orbán, then he needs to do this in such a way that his name never appears and cannot be associated with the cause.

If he is as pure as Éva thinks he is, he will be prepared to do this.

Paul
Guest
Let’s have a realistic think about possible outcomes of next year’s elections: 1) Orbán wins with 2/3rds majority – things continue as now 2) Orbán wins with working majority – things continue (more or less ) as now 3) Orbán wins, but needs coalition with Jobbik to govern (or amend constitution) – things continue as now, but possibly get even worse 4) MSzP win most votes, but no working majority – stalemate, nothing changes – Fidesz-Jobbik refuse to cooperate, Orbán conducts intense black propaganda campaign, Fidesz voted back in at next election 5) MSzP wins but needs coalition with small parties to govern – no small parties, so see 4) 6) MSzP win with working majority – chaos – government won’t be able to change constitution, key posts all still held by Orbánites, Fidesz-Jobbik refuse to cooperate, Orbán conducts guerrilla war against government, Fidesz voted back in at next election 7) MSzP wins 2/3rds of seats – ain’t gonna happen 8) Non-political, single aim opposition coalition wins working majority – brave attempt to annul constitution, create new one, etc – Fidesz-Jobbik do everything in their power to disrupt parliament (etc), Orbán conducts guerrilla war against government – no holds barred,… Read more »
spectator
Guest
Paul, I see your point regarding Gyurcsány quite clearly, I just don’t agree with you. Countless times I’ve asked around even here, somebody tell me, please, what exactly Gyurcsány has done, what horrible sins he committed, that he has to be eradicated from public political life, up to date I haven’t got any substantial answer, only vague references to one or other heresy, with the conclusion: “he must be dirty somehow” after all this years..! You certainly know as well as I do: this exactly how a character assassination works. Sling the mud and keep repeating relentlessly, sooner or later all what the public remembers is, that “he is dirty”, because there is no smoke without fire, isn’t it? The next question, how the person should react to this? How would you react? Go home, cry, and keep hiding ever after, shake it off as nothing happened, or stand up against and fight? It very much depends on the character of the person, I guess. I, for one, wouldn’t hide away, no way to give in to a bunch of spineless bastard, proving them right just as good as pleading guilty for no reason, as I see it. So, in… Read more »
Paul
Guest
spectator – it doesn’t matter that he has not done anything (although the ‘lies’ speech was one of the stupidest things I have ever seen in politics). It doesn’t matter if a great injustice has been done against Gy, and it doesn’t matter if one day he is proven innocent and rehabilitated to rapturous applause from Éva and the other Gy supporters (possibly, even from me). All that matters is that Orbán has won the smear campaign hands down. Millions of Hungarians believe that Gy is a criminal (or, at the very least, was associated with criminals and did nothing) and can’t be trusted – he is deceitful, slimy, won’t look you in the eye, too ‘intellectual’, suspiciously rich, an ex-communist with ‘connections’, etc, etc – my in-laws even think he is a poor speaker and his English is worse than Orbán’s! For every sane and sensible vote you might attract by appealing to someone’s common-sense over Gy, you will lose 10, maybe 100, just for having Gy’s name associated with your cause. It isn’t fair, and something should indeed be done about it – but right now, and for the foreseeable future, it is reality. And we have to… Read more »
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