Jostling for power within the Hungarian opposition: Együtt 2014

Commentators are divided over how much time the opposition has to get its act together and begin serious negotiations that may end in a joint effort at the polls at the next election. Everybody knows that separately no party or group is strong enough to win against the monolithic Fidesz. Although some people accuse the MSZP leadership of thinking that their party can single-handedly beat Orbán, I doubt that any of the most influential MSZP politicians truly believe in such an outcome.

There are many who are convinced that the opposition has plenty of time. There is no need to hurry. After all, there is almost a year until the next elections. It would be perfectly all right for them to come up with a solution by the end of the year. Others, and I belong to this latter group, maintain that every moment that is wasted in party jostling to achieve a better position at the negotiating table works against the opposition’s chances at the next elections. Hungarians by now have a bad opinion of politicians in general and the disarray among the opposition only reinforces their negative feelings about them. Many voters who do not want to support Fidesz believe that since there is no unity on the left, there is no one for them to vote for.

Since I’m one of those who think that a move toward forming a united opposition should start as early as possible, I was happy to read that Gordon Bajnai is finally ready to talk with MSZP. At the end of November 2012 Attila Mesterházy suggested immediate negotiations with all opposition parties and groups that would like to see Viktor Orbán and his government go. Several smaller parties, including Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Demokratikus Koalíció, positively responded to Mesterházy’s call. Bajnai’s Együtt 2014, however, refused to join them, claiming that first the opposition should spend its time “uncovering the past.” He demanded that MSZP take stock of its past mistakes. After a lengthy back and forth, by early March it became clear that the Bajnai group was not ready to negotiate.

So, in the first few minutes after seeing the headlines, I was excited. At last, I said, things are moving in the right direction. But after looking at the details of Gordon Bajnai’s plan I became less enthusiastic. First of all, Bajnai is ready to negotiate only with MSZP. Second, negotiations wouldn’t begin until June 16. The date is significant. It was on June 16, 1989 that Imre Nagy and his fellow martyrs were reburied. It was also the date when Viktor Orbán as a result of a much lauded speech began his meteoric rise to political prominence. Bajnai also chose another significant date in recent Hungarian history for a joint appearance with MSZP: October 23, the day the Hungarian revolution of 1956 broke out. I do realize that historical symbolism may have significance in politics but these dates are unfortunate. During July and August life more or less comes to a stop in Hungary. Parliament is not in session and most politicians leave for their yearly holidays. I simply can’t believe that much could be achieved during the summer months. Moreover, public interest in politics during the summer is even less than usual. ATV, for example, for financial reasons suspends some of their political programs. All in all, the dates picked seem untenable.

By WhildImages / Charlie Summers

By WhildImages / Charlie Summers

But why doesn’t Bajnai want to start negotiations earlier? He claims that the parties must work out their programs and that they also have to lay down the fundamentals of their policies that would entail “a rejection of the period before 2010.” A rather strange demand considering that during this period he served as minister in the Gyurcsány government and was also prime minister supported by the MSZP-SZDSZ coalition. I have to assume that these are not the real reasons behind his demand to postpone the negotiations. Rather, he is trying in the interim to build up his party that at the moment has the support of  only 4% of the voting population. Tonight András Bánó, who was substituting for Olga Kálmán on Egyenes beszéd at ATV, managed to get Bajnai to more or less admit that this is indeed the case. So, Hungarian voters will say “politics as usual.” In my opinion that will not endear Bajnai to them. The video of the conversation in which Bánó put some very uncomfortable questions to Bajnai is available on ATV’s website.

Magyar Nemzet immediately noticed that Bajnai didn’t mention Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Demokratikus Koalíció, and since then it became apparent that he is ready to negotiate only with MSZP. Of course, one understands why Bajnai considers Gyurcsány a political liability, but avoiding any contact with Gyurcsány will not save him from Fidesz’s campaign to link the two of them. Indeed, the author of a Magyar Nemzet article simply called Bajnai a sly politician who furtively avoids the issue. The journalist intimated that the link between the two men is so strong that his repudiation of his old friend is no guarantee of anything. Gyurcsány and Bajnai were “partners in crime”  in the past and will work together again given the opportunity.

Attila Mesterházy immediately responded to Bajnai’s call for negotiations and with great political skill suggested that as far as he is concerned he is ready to start negotiations on Monday. And since DK has steadfastly supported negotiations “without any preconditions” Mesterházy also insisted that DK be represented at the forthcoming negotiations.

Bajnai’s answer was disappointing. He rejected Mesterházy’s call for an immediate start to the negotiations. In his opinion, “the parties have to use the spring months to inform their voters of their programs.” Well, it is true that Együtt 2014 does need to work out a program, but MSZP has already crafted its own. Although Bajnai avoided mentioning DK or Gyurcsány, he made it clear that Együtt 2014 is ready to negotiate only with MSZP. When one of the reporters asked him about DK he was forced to say something. From his answer I gathered that he would like MSZP to make a separate deal with DK so he and his party wouldn’t have to sit down with his former friend and his prime minister.

Naive Bajnai who thinks that this will help his case. It won’t. I doubt that too many undecided voters will be swayed by his determination to talk only with MSZP or that he can build up his party significantly in the next two months. I also doubt that Fidesz’s propaganda against the Bajnai-Gyurcsány duo will be any less fierce because of his “sly” avoidance of DK.

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Ricky
Guest
Magyar Nemzet (the daily Fidesz party mouthpiece) actively plays politics. It is not just a daily paper. It is an instrument of politics for Fidesz. Nothing can be written down and published regarding such fundamental issues like the opposition without getting clearance from the very top of Fidesz. (This may sound strange to foreigners, where a normal top politicion simply would not have time to deal with individual articles, even the idea would sound absurd – not in Hungary, anything that is power related is micro-managed by Orbán). Anything Magyar Nemzet writes, they do it with the intention of influencing the situation in this case to tease up Bajnai (but rather, the people around him!) not to enter into negotiations with Gyurcsány, in other words to prevent a fully joint effort of the left. When Orbán was in opposition his media specifically targeted the average lefties so that they became doubtful, restless and – through their internal dealings, carry out the work: to persuade the Gyurcsény/Bajnai governments to do or not to do something (which Orbán could not have done directly). Orbán was a master of sowing the seeds of doubt among average Socialists. They do it again and Bajnai’s… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest
I think that before choosing the strategy for the next elections there should be some idea of how many people could be actually mobilised for voting for the (any) opposition and then also for which type of opposition. From reading this blog, comments of the readers and what I heard from Hungarians I would have thought, chances for the opposition to mobilise substantial parts of the society are small. (Also because those who are in principle critical of Orban, are so very sceptical about the possible chances and therefore do not start to get involved themselves.) In such circumstances I would also be very cautious to enter into too close cooperation with MSzP. What can be won with a party whose programme consists mainly of ideas how to return to power by whatever means? And which considers it a problem to state that the broad public does not wish to return to the years before 2010? Hungarians appear to be sick of politics because nearly every party has a rather cynical approach to it, preaching morals and whatever goodies for the population, and in the end thinking mainly in terms of inner circles and power play. Ii is in this… Read more »
An
Guest
@Ricky: “I completely agree that Bajnai will always be joined with Gyurcsány in the right wing media, so he might as well negoatiate (as there is no downside what the media will do to him). But it is like former Socialist prime minster Gyula Horn with the Catholics, he tried to appease them with the signing of the Vatican treaty, but the result was that the financially strengthened Catholic Church became one of the most important campaign tool (with its national network influencing schools, hospital, asssisted living facilities etc.). Appeasment never works, you have to be a oplessly naive Socialist to believe it does.” I think it is more complicated than this. Bajnai is reluctant to join forces with DK not because of Orban, but because of Milla, the organization that Bajnai unfortunately got tangled up with. The self-proclaimed leader of Milla has always been very anti-Gyurcsany, and has propagated this attitude in the organization as well (though it is really not clear, exactly how many of Milla’s supporters and sympathizers would be turned off if Bajnai were willing to join forces with MSzP AND DK. I doubt that too many. But its leadership has always been very vocally against… Read more »
Guest

London Calling!

One of the ‘known unknowns’ is the power of the Roman Catholic church.

Orban’s enshrining of the faith (and the only faith) into the constitution is no coincidence. With the concomitant emaciation of other religions, the Roman Catholic church is almost ‘omnipotent’.

No coincidence? Yes – Orban knows it will be the best election partner to consolidate his power at the next election.

In England it is often said that the Church of England is the Tory party at prayer

(Suffragette Maude Royden (1876-1956) in The Times of London, 1917.)

Well the Roman Catholic Church in Hungary is the Fidesz party at Prayer no less.

(CharlieH – Hungarian Spectrum April 2013.)

It was very illuminating a while ago on here when one of the contributors was told by a neighbour that to be part of the community he should attend the Catholic church.

Yes coffee after the service is a chance for everyone to renew their Fideszian credentials and to gossip about transgressors – encouraging even more ostentations support.

Renewed every Sunday these are the most effective political rallies any party would welcome.

Yes:

The Roman Catholic Church – Fideszians at prayer!

I like that! (Can you tell?)

Regards

Charlie

Inktomika
Guest

It is not the religion, and church attendance per se, but the enourmous information gathering and organising network that count.

A local priest will always tell what’s happening, who’s who,what are the rumours, what are the weak spots of an opposition candiadte, if a Fidesz politician calls from the party centre.

Also the local church congregation, the parochial schools of which there are hunderds and other socia institutions are a powerful network.

This is what really matters, when, if you are Bajnai you have no idea where Berettyóújfalú or Tápióbicske are, let alone being able to talk to even one sympathizer. You are in the dark, wher at Fidesz the voter’s data base, updated constantly from infr from the church people, gives a clear picture.

Guest

London Calling!

Inktomika – interesting response – Thanks.

Since I don’t attend I couldn’t accuse the Priests and Religious leaders of actually promoting Fidesz – but I do suspect it.

People will be categorised as ‘one of us’ – or not.

There is no mention of any opposition plans to try and win over the RC church (how could there be?) But you could devise a strategy.

So it is even more important than ever that the opposition unite – and unite soon (if not earlier).

They not only have to win against Fidesz – but God!

Well OK – The RC church.

Methinks it is already too late.

Regards

Charlie

Member

Fidesz uses Hungarian taxpayers’ money to support ethnic Hungarians parties in Romania that are friendly to Fidesz and hostile to the main Hungarian party RMDSz.

http://itthon.transindex.ro/?cikk=20082

Paul
Guest

OT, sorry – but an anyone get the nol.hu site to work?

Paul
Guest

Still doesn’t work for me – the first page comes up, but I can’t page up or down, or do anything with it, and after a few minutes I get an error message “nol.hu is not responding”. Same result on the laptop too. It works on my phone, but that’s the mobile version (it refuses to load the normal version!).

Any techies out there who can explain this?.

Ron
Guest

Paul :
Still doesn’t work for me – the first page comes up, but I can’t page up or down, or do anything with it, and after a few minutes I get an error message “nol.hu is not responding”. Same result on the laptop too. It works on my phone, but that’s the mobile version (it refuses to load the normal version!).
Any techies out there who can explain this?.

I assume you are using Chrome. First try to open it in another browser, if it does not work in that browser, you may want to try to re-start the modem (switch off wait 1 minute and re-start). Than re-try.

If the website start in other browser, than the extention in Chrome need to be checked out (updated?).

Paul
Guest

Cheers Ron, but I’m using IE.

I’ve just tried it in Chrome and it works OK, so that’s the problem solved short term at least.

But I’m still left puzzled as to why a site doesn’t work in the most commonly used browser.

Ron
Guest

Paul :
Cheers Ron, but I’m using IE.
I’ve just tried it in Chrome and it works OK, so that’s the problem solved short term at least.
But I’m still left puzzled as to why a site doesn’t work in the most commonly used browser.

Paul, you are still using IE? Well if you do please regularly update IE, flash, and other programs of IE. Also clean out regularly (weekly?) cookies, etc.

I like Chrome, Firefox, Opera, because they are fast, do not use too much CPU and memory and automatically update themselves.

Dan
Guest

I don’t blame Bajnai for shunning Gyurcsany. When Gyurcsany took over the Hungarian Socialist Party in 2004 it was the strongest, most powerful party in Hungary and had been for sixty years. After he left, Fidesz had a two thirds majority and the MSZP scrapes about 10 percent in opinion polls. Gyurcsany is a walking disaster. I was present at a talk that Bajnai gave at New York’s Columbia University in 2009 while he was there for the UN GA. The Hungarian historian Istvan Deak introduced him as a “protege” of Gyurcsany’s. Bajnai sat there shaking his head like he was trying to disassociate himself from Gyurcsany in the most obvious way. Gyurcsany is nothing, he’s been nothing since 2006. Bajnai knows he needs to try and revitalize the MSZP from the outside to stand a chance in 2014. Bajnai seems like a competent manager. But is that enough?

Roman
Guest
Dan: Bajnai was a protege of Gyurcsány. Hell, Bajnai worked for Gyurcsány in the early 90’s as an investment advisor. But it is only natural that you want to dissociate yourself from an unpopular politician. Bajnai may or may not be a good manager, he was at big companies, but I guess a jury is out as to what his achievements were. He was of a generation that was just starting their career after the fall of communism and often by sheer luck got into positions of prestige, of which one led to another. Is he that much better compared to those who don’t get such chances these days? He is smart and ‘cultured’ but is he up to the task of executing a campaign and harnessing the love and enthusiasm of the people, and should he win would he be capable of destroyng the Orbán-system? I am not sure. To me he is not agressive or ambitious enough. That said, Gurcsány understands, gets Orbán, Bajnai and the current MSZP does not. And therein lies Gyurcsány’s danger to Orbán. This may sound strange, they all live in the same yountry after all, but Bajnai and the current leadership of MSZP… Read more »
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