The first draft of a “party program” of the Hungarian democratic opposition. Part I

On July 16 the Magyar Szocialista Párt (MSZP) and Együtt 2014-Párbeszéd Magyarországért (PM) signed an agreement which at last makes the cooperation between these two parties more or less a certainty. Naturally, there are still a lot of questions, among them how this new “election association” (választási szövetség) will deal with other democratic parties such as the Demokratikus Koalíció (DK) that is after all not much smaller than  Együtt 2014-PM. And what about the small liberal parties? Although for the time being a decision on a common candidate for the premiership is not an issue, in time it certainly will be.

The text of the agreement is available online. It is a fairly lengthy document, so today I will tackle only the first half of it.

In the preamble the document reasserts that the period between 1990 and 2010 was one of the freest and most democratic in Hungary’s history but it also adds that many problems were left unattended and therefore the system became unstable. A simple return to the time prior to 2010 is thus not a solution. According to the statement signed by Gordon Bajnai and Attila Mesterházy, “the electorate must receive assurances that the new government will govern in a predictable and expert manner and will stand on solid moral grounds.”

The signatories promise to look after those who cannot look after themselves and to pay special attention to children, women, salaried employees, small business people, and pensioners. The current government favors the well-to-do but the new coalition will expect a larger contribution from them in the name of  solidarity.

Gordon Bajnai and Attila Mesterházy at the press conference after the meeting of July 16 / Népszabadság, Photo Zsolt Reviczky

Gordon Bajnai and Attila Mesterházy at the press conference after the meeting  Népszabadság, Photo Zsolt Reviczky

Let’s see what the specific points are that these two parties agreed on. First, the decision was made that the Basic Law of 2011 cannot remain the constitution of the land. That is a definite switch as far as Együtt 2014-PM is concerned. Only a few weeks ago Viktor Szigetvári said in one of his interviews that Együtt 2014 could live with the Fidesz constitution because, after all, it is not so bad. Obviously that was an illogical stance. The Basic Law was written by one of the Fidesz politicians; it was written for Fidesz and it was passed by Fidesz and Jobbik. Surely, a government that wants to break with the present political system cannot function under this constitution which, even without its amendments, was unacceptable to the Venice Commission.

Very rightly, a new democratic government must restore municipal autonomy and end the excessive centralization of power created by Viktor Orbán’s government. In addition, it wants to put an end to decision making from above without any consultation with societal groups. Naturally this is not as easy a task as it sounds.  What are they going to do with the nationalized schools or the hospitals? These are only two questions that must be solved but there are many more because the earlier system of self-government in cities and towns was not exactly ideal either.

The third topic of the agreement covers law and order issues with special attention to the police. I can certainly appreciate the decision to rethink the whole structure of the police force. The new democratic opposition seems to be committed to creating a “community police force” instead of a national hierarchy that has been the Hungarian model ever since there has been a police force in Hungary. They also want to get rid of TEK (Terrorelhárítási Központ) whose commandos in ski masks can take over ordinary police functions. The new government will also get rid of the new 340-350 member parliamentary guard which as it stands will defend 199 MP’s from next year on.

The document also includes the promise that the new government will work out a comprehensive strategy against corruption. All government contracts and all tenders will be open to the public on a website that can be visited by all. In this work they will ask the assistance of civic organizations concerned with corruption issues.

There is the promise, let’s hope for the last time, that the documents of the Kádár regime’s security forces will be opened to everybody. The agents’ names will be revealed. They will also strengthen parliamentary and civil control of the present national security agencies. They also want to re-examine the many cases that the government deemed top secret and made unavailable for sometimes as many as 80 years. They promise to take away the unlawful land leases granted to Fidesz supporters. As for the tobacconist shops, the government will initiate a review of the cases. Actually, if they asked me, I would have suggested undoing the whole ridiculous system.

As for economic growth I’m sure that once the Orbán government is gone there will be a much greater influx of foreign capital because the new government, especially if it is headed by Gordon Bajnai, will inspire confidence. Investors will greet the formation of  the new government with a sigh of relief. Of course, it will take time but I have no doubt that there will be greater growth and a lot of good will worldwide toward a new government committed to democracy and a healthy market economy.

When it comes to employment I’m much less optimistic. It is all very well and good to say that every Hungarian family should have at least one gainfully employed person but that requires sustained economic growth and a better educated workforce. And that is a difficult undertaking. It is easy to say that “we will do our best to train people for gainful employment,” but one needs a lot of money for that and also a population that is “willing and able.” There are in the document a few promises that don’t sound realistic to me. For example, the state would guarantee further educational opportunities to every man and woman under the age of thirty who after finishing their studies cannot find a job. One has the feeling that the authors of the document themselves are aware of the present difficulties of the unemployed because the new government would triple the duration of unemployment benefits from three months to nine.

The coalition will put an end to the flat tax introduced by the Orbán government that caused so much trouble both for the poorer strata of the population and as well for a balanced budget. They promise that the new tax law will reflect the government’s desire to increase investment and hiring.

They also plan to scrap the Orbán government’s labor code. They would restore the rights of the employees, including the rights of the trade unions.

European Union subsidies will be spent mostly on education, healthcare, public transportation, and the creation of new jobs instead of on “prestige projects” and football stadiums.

There is the usual mention of a concern for a livable environment and reducing wastefulness in energy consumption. The latter will again cost a lot of money because the government will provide funds for making dwellings more energy efficient.

One of the most fully developed subjects of the document concerns education. They will again raise the compulsory school age to 18. If you recall, one of the first decisions of the Orbán government was to lower the age at which students could leave school to 16. They promise the introduction of steps that would ensure integration and minimizing differences between schools. Once again, this is easier said than done, especially since experts repeatedly tell us that as long as parents are free to send their children to schools of their own choice the differences between schools and the education children receive will get greater and greater. And I’d bet that a possible successor to the present government would not have the guts to put an end to the practice of free school choice.

On the other hand, they will put an end to the Orbán’s government’s very high tuition fees as well as the bans on graduates accepting work abroad if they received a tuition-free education. In their scheme, everyone who is accepted to a university or college will pay no tuition for the first year. However, depending on academic achievement and financial needs, there will be tuition from the second year on. I’m not quite sure where they will find the money for it, but they want to finance a three to five month study abroad for all college students.

As for demographic problems and the employment of women, what we can read in this document is very vague. They will make it possible for women not to have to choose between employment and motherhood. It remains their secret how this is going to be achieved.

To be continued

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tappanch
Guest

The cell phone companies are obliged to maintain special rooms in Hungary to facilitate eavesdropping by the secret services. In addition, police request data on the average on 160 people daily.

http://index.hu/tech/2013/07/18/kulon_lehallgatoszoba_van_a_mobilcegeknel/

SSS33
Guest

Good luck…The MSZP/egyutt need an Arthur Finkelstein…..to win the election through deceit and confusion.

Rovásírásos étlap
Guest
Rovásírásos étlap
Bit OT: My take is that the moment somebody takes any party manifesto seriously and tries to argue about it or analyze it rationally, the game is over. Successful candidates win by the sheer enthusiasm of their supporters (such as Obama, at least the first time, or Orbán in 2010 etc.). If MSZP/Bajnai cannot muster such enthusiastic fans who could care less about their programs, then they are lost against fanatic supporters o Fidesz and Jobbik. See, this is what Fidesz party chiefs love, LOVE the best (I don’t mean this post here, just the phenomenon), leftist and liberal blogs (I see their posts on Facebook all the time) criticize the Left’s candidates and standpoints endlessly — meanwhile the Right and its media are united and cheering in unison. One can ridicule Heti Válasz and Mandiner and Habony and Áder and Deutsch Tompika, but the right is mighty in its unitedness, while the left is criticizing itself to death, literally (even if the critiques are often right). But it is not about winning points in whichever blogger is smarter, but winning an election. The Left (or the leftist leaning voters) have never realized that, and so they will fail (well,… Read more »
Rovasiras
Guest
Bit OT: My take is that the moment somebody takes any party manifesto seriously and tries to argue about it or analyze it rationally, the game is over. Successful candidates win by the sheer enthusiasm of their supporters (such as Obama, at least the first time, or Orbán in 2010 etc.). If MSZP/Bajnai cannot muster such enthusiastic fans who could care less about their programs, then they are lost against fanatic supporters o Fidesz and Jobbik. See, this is what Fidesz party chiefs love, LOVE the best (I don’t mean this post here, just the phenomenon), leftist and liberal blogs (I see their posts on Facebook all the time) criticize the Left’s candidates and standpoints endlessly — meanwhile the Right and its media are united and cheering in unison. One can ridicule Heti Válasz and Mandiner and Habony and Áder and Deutsch Tompika, but the right is mighty in its unitedness, while the left is criticizing itself to death, literally (even if the critiques are often right). But it is not about winning points in whichever blogger is smarter, but winning an election. The Left (or the leftist leaning voters) have never realized that, and so they will fail (well,… Read more »
oneill
Guest

Apart from the university tuition fees pledge I do not see one proposal above which will win one undecided or neutral vote.

That’s not to say that the Orban State shouln’td be dismantled from top to bottom and the man himself locked up for life for crimes against the nation… it’s just that the vast majority couldn’t care less for auch abstracts as muncipal autonomy. Also the other (sad) fact in Hungary is that the poor don’t vote; hence the income tax pledge is a vote loser not winner.

JGrant
Guest
Rovasiras : But it is not about winning points in whichever blogger is smarter, but winning an election. . It never stops amazing me how on this blog and elsewhere commenter after commenter repeats the indisputable fact that the government has the press in its pocket, that the vast majority of the population has no access to alternative news, that even the few remaining left leaning media outlets are cautious and the vast majority are afraid to voice their true feelings. And then, go ahead and write such defeatist prognoses as Rovasiras and many others. How else could it be? But that does not mean the underneath it all the people are not angry, frustrated and getting to the end of their tether. Why do these sceptics and doom merchants believe as gospel the opinion polls? Everything can be falsified in this country except those? I am sure the quiet opposition, who would rise to the challenge if it was laid down to the Fidesz is out there and hopefully the left will enthuse them next year. However, even if they don’t, how long do you think will it take for the thieves to fall out amongst themselves? I have… Read more »
Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

@Rovasiras

The comparison with the US two-party system doesn’t hold. However, considering both Fidesz’s strength and Orbán’s persona, I think you have a point.

Yet precisely, a common party platform is an important step. Should it be extended to DK and (however unlikely) to LMP, this would push the election towards a referendum for or against Orbán. In the absence of an equally powerful figure, that’s the best chance the opposition has.

Andrei
Guest
Csanyi still has 1.1m shares (worth at least HUF 4bn) and HUF 3bn worth of OPUS bonds convertible to OTP shares, although they are actualy more like a normal bond with an added option (and nominally her wife holds them). But I think it is much more more telling that one of the deputy CEO’s who came from McKinsey and who is not part of the politicking/oligarchy segment of the top management of OTP, sold something like HUF 400m worth of OTP shares in June and has no more OTP shares left (as far as I could ascertain it). He does not play games, but is only an extremely rational guy and he sold it. Csanyi may have other motives (ie. than to get out of OTP immedately) and his agricultural holdings (other than the very easy wheat/corn growing, ie. meat, milk, wine etc. holdings) do make enormous losses, although since he surely has other assets than OTP shares he could have sold those instead of OTP shares. He is the ultimate insider and if he thinks it is better to sell the shares now, well, I would not be an OTP shareholder (or even a depositor). Then again famous… Read more »
Cakewalk
Guest

Dismal stuff. Can’t add to what Seres Laci wrote today: http://hvg.hu/velemeny.publicisztika/20130719_Seres_A_kilenc_legfelelmetesebb_szo

Czeczman
Guest

Cakewalk: Seres is an extremist, sorry but he is. He may be smart, and right at times, but he is a weird neocon nut.

I don’t get why his analysis of people (MSZP/Bajnai) whom he otherwise detests (for various reasons) and would never vote for matters the least bit to anyone.

It’s like us arguing in detail whether the Fidesz-KDNP election pact is fair or good or well-founded policy wise or whatever.

Jean Luc Goddard said it best when he said the way to criticze a move is to make another movie (which interestingly a number of French former critiques followed and shot movies).

If he has so detailed and comprehensive arguments, he should set up his own party or simply enter politics. He will never do that.

Czeczman
Guest
tappanch
Guest

@OTP

Csanyi might know that Orban plans to nationalize then re-privatize the OTP Bank in the near future, like he did a few days ago with all of the savings and loans banks (save one belonging to Orban’s friend)

http://hvg.hu/gazdasag/20130719_Trojai_falo_a_Takarekbankban
http://hvg.hu/gazdasag/20130628_Takszov_allamositas_vezetok

Cakewalk
Guest

And what about Mong Attila?

Jano
Guest

I’m sorry Eva, I would love to be as optimistic as you are, but I think your unreasonably optimistic about the undecided voters. They are surely anti-fidesz but I don’t see them being to fond of the socialists either. Bajnai only had an appeal independently, if he doesn’t end up as candidate for PM (and he only will if Mesterházy thinks the election is unwinnable and needs a scapegoat), he is going to loose much of E14’s support.

To be honest, I don’t really find any reason in myself that should make me excited to vote for them other than they are not Orbán. Eventually that may be enough for me to vote for them (If Bajnai is not PM candidate though, I’m out), but I doubt it would be for those masses you are hoping for.

oneill
Guest
I am also pessimistic. I enjoy this blog and more importantly I think it performs a very useful role in informing the wider English-speaking world about the nonsense presently being inflicted upon the country that all of us resident on here love. But… and this is not a specific criticism of Hungarians, turkeys vote generally for a scenario where Xmas has been postponed indefinitely and to date Orban has measured exactly what needs to be fed and promised to his sheep (sheep here being the wider electorate). I personally would be delighted to see the repeal of the various restrictive media laws. But I am in minority of what? 10%? 5%? 1% Outside a small minority of Budapest hippsters no one will care until he is thick enough to start taking on the reality shows on RTL and TV2. Be honest. If the democratic opposition want to overthrow the regime at the ballot box then promises to check corruption, develop EU friendly policies, rebuild an independent state media are not going to gain one extra seat. That’s the reality. ” months before the elections Orban cuts public utility bills, whacks the banks, starts legal actions against several *post-communist* *traitoirs*: whamm,… Read more »
Member

To be honest, I don’t really find any reason in myself that should make me excited to vote for them other than they are not Orbán. Eventually that may be enough for me to vote for them (If Bajnai is not PM candidate though, I’m out), but I doubt it would be for those masses you are hoping for.

The ignorance and amorality of Fidesz/Jobbik voters is one thing — but to opt out if the opposition is not exciting to vote for, or not the right pretty face? Isn’t it exciting (and crucial) enough to vote against Fidesz/Jobbik after all they’ve done and are doing?

Swesdwq
Guest

Jano:

That’s the thing. The left can’t be united, ever. They will always want their dream candidate, which of course will never exist. They have problems with Bajnai, MSZP, LMP, what have you.

Orbán and co. love that, because Fidesz voters will vote for a monkey if it is put forward as a candidate.

That is the strength of the right: they don’t ask questions, they alwas do as they are told.

Right wing voters positively and enthusiastically want to be instruments of Fidesz’ grip on power, thereby feeling useful, part of the machinery, of the greater good. They will do literally anything agaist the enemy: communists, liberals.

Until the left can match this, and it seems to me that, they can’t, see jano and friends, the left is lost and Orbán will be truimphant.

But I guess the left will never get the nature of politics. They only want to be smart intellectuals, because that is what makes them feel good. Is it a surprise that Orbán makes fun of them at every turn??

Guest

@Swesdwq:

You may well be right – but the “left” (which includes liberals, greens, …) has won many elections in other democratic countries in Europe – so is Hungary really different ?

The latest “triumph” was in the German state of Baden-Württemberg (where I’m from), which now not only has green mayors in all the university towns (no big deal, you might say …) but also in its capital Stuttgart – and a green prime minister.

So, yes we can!

A bit OT:

I’ve read that Orbán wanted to come to Stuttgart, visit some local companies: Porsche, Mercedes, Bosch etc but his office got some questions re democracy in Hungary from our green/red government which they didn’t like – so they cancelled that visit …

Guest

PS:

I forgot: Of course the incident at Fukushima helped the Greens in those local parliament elections – maybe the Hungarians need some similar (or totally different …) catastrophe to wake up ?

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