Beginning of the end? Hungarian opposition in disarray

It was more than a week ago, to be precise on August 15 when I was listening to an interview with Tibor Szanyi, that I had the distinct feeling that the rumor that the negotiations between MSZP and Együtt 2014-PM had come to a halt was not really a rumor. Tibor Szanyi, one of the leading members of MSZP, was invited by Olga Kálmán to talk about the European Union’s decision to hold up practically all the money Hungary currently receives from Brussels. A few hours prior to that conversation, however, Olga Kálmán heard that the negotiations between the two parties had been halted. Szanyi, who is not a member of the negotiating team, neither could nor wanted to give details of what transpired at the meeting. Nonetheless, Szanyi, who is not very good at hiding his feelings, indicated that although the negotiations will most likely continue, for the time being the members of the negotiating teams decided to take a break. Maybe for a week. As Szanyi said, “they could all go home and think a little bit.”

The next day Péter Juhász of  Együtt 2014-PM was the guest on Egyenes beszéd. By that time Olga Kálmán seemed to have gotten more information on the stalled negotiations, specifically that it was actually Péter Juhász himself who caused the rupture by talking threateningly with his negotiating partners. So, Olga Kálmán confronted Juhász by first asking him about the allegedly stalled negotiations followed by probing questions about Juhász’s own role in the possible failure of the negotiations. Juhász denied both, but his nervous laugh gave him away.

Someone with whom I shared my misgivings about these protracted and now possibly stalled negotiations accused me of believing Tibor Szanyi over Péter Juhász. Indeed, given the tone and body language of the two men, I felt that Szanyi’s description of the meeting was closer to the truth than Juhász’s version.

Well, the holidays ended and the negotiators didn’t gather to continue their talks. It seemed that the week that was deemed necessary to think things over was simply not enough. On Friday morning, however, we heard that Gordon Bajnai and Attila Mesterházy will sit down alone in the hope of solving the still outstanding issues. After two and a half hours not only was there no resolution; the divide between the negotiating partners now appeared unbridgeable. As everybody suspected, the sticking point is who will be the candidate for the premiership.

Attila Mesterházy and Gordon Bajnai arrive at their meeting yesterday / Népsxzabadság, Photo Árpád Kurucz

Attila Mesterházy and Gordon Bajnai arrive at their meeting yesterday / Népszabadság, Photo Árpád Kurucz

According to Mesterházy, he arrived at the meeting thinking that the topic of the conversation would be those electoral districts about which the two sides couldn’t agree before. Instead, Gordon Bajnai came up with an entirely new proposal. He suggested putting aside the question of the premiership so that it wouldn’t have any bearing on the number of mandates each party would receive. Instead the two parties should divide the 106 districts: MSZP would put up candidates in 77 districts and Együtt 2012-PM in 35. As for the choice of prime minister, it could be decided after an electoral campaign lasting a few weeks followed by a couple of in-depth polls by two or three reputable pollsters. The man who according to the pollsters would be able to gather the most votes for the opposition should be the nominee.

Clearly, the MSZP leadership has an entirely different scenario in mind. As far as they are concerned, in the case of a coalition government in a parliamentary democracy the largest party provides the prime minister. However, Mesterházy, who was apparently somewhat taken aback by Bajnai’s unexpected suggestion, seemed to be willing to compromise. Indeed, he and his party are ready not to insist on the position and are willing to put it up for a vote. But they insist on the votes of “real” people and not perhaps manipulated opinion polls. Why don’t they have a true primary instead? MSZP is quite willing to hold primaries in larger cities and towns. According to Mesterházy, they wouldn’t cost a lot and would be relatively easy to organize. After all, two years ago the party membership voted without a hitch on whether they would rather follow Ferenc Gyurcsány or Attila Mesterházy.

It’s a stretch to compare a nationwide primary to a party vote of perhaps 20,000 registered members. And just think of the potential Fidesz shenanigans that could wreak havoc with the outcome of a primary. However, one must admit that Mesterházy is a good tactician. Együtt 2014-PM will have a difficult time turning down a seemingly democratic solution to the disputed premiership. At the same time such a primary would greatly favor MSZP, which has a well established national organization with local party headquarters, membership, and delegates in the local town and city councils. Where would Együtt 2014 be in such a primary? Nowhere. So, it’s no wonder that Gergely Karácsony (PM) already announced that as far as he is concerned Mesterházy’s suggestion of a primary is unacceptable.

This latest move of Együtt 2014 baffles commentators, and they’re hard pressed to offer logical explanations. The most outlandish explanation, and one that seems to be gaining some traction in the media, is that Együtt 2014 never really wanted to have an agreement with MSZP and from day one they planned to run alone at the next election. Well, I may have a low opinion of Gordon Bajnai’s advisers, but I still think that they cannot be that stupid. How could a party that has been trying for months to edge up in the polls without much success possibly want to go it alone in an electoral system that severely limits the chance for smaller parties?

It is more likely that Gordon Bajnai or rather his chief adviser, Viktor Szigetvári, misjudged the situation. Együtt 2014 demanded too much given their size and importance. People who always preferred Bajnai to Mesterházy are rather angry at the Együtt 2014 team whom they blame for the sorry state of the negotiations. First, they point out, Bajnai and Szigetvári were dragging their feet in hope of a great breakthrough that never materialized and now because of their political appetite they are practically killing the possibility of an electoral victory. Because, let’s face it, most people at this point think that the next prime minister of Hungary will be neither Attila Mesterházy nor Gordon Bajnai but Viktor Orbán despite the fact that the majority of the electorate want to see the Fidesz government go.

Even those people whose political views are closer to those of Bajnai’s party than to MSZP’s reacted angrily. Gábor Fodor (Liberal Party) wrote on Facebook: “Attila Mesterházy answered Gordon Bajnai’s ultimatum with an ultimatum of his own. This way there will be nothing of the whole thing. The largest opposition party must be the one that names the prime minister. The political games of Együtt 2014 have wasted a whole year. It is time to close the debate and begin attending to the ills of Hungary.” Ferenc Gyurcsány, who often expressed a preference for his old friend Gordon Bajnai, also came to the conclusion that Bajnai made several major mistakes and now has to give up the idea of becoming the next prime minister of Hungary. Gyurcsány is very pessimistic about the chances of the opposition altogether.

As things stand now, Mesterházy announced that if Együtt 2014 is not willing to play ball, MSZP will begin negotiations with Gábor Fodor’s liberals, Andor Schmuck’s Hungarian Social Democratic Party, and Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Demokratikus Koalíció.

This might not be the end of the story. If Bajnai has any sense, Együtt 2014 will retreat from this position. Although Bajnai lost a lot of goodwill and enthusiasm of the electorate, he still has a certain following, but if his followers realize that because of his unfortunate political strategy he is helping Viktor Orbán’s cause his reputation will be seriously tarnished.

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Nick
Guest

I’m sorry to say that yet again politicians show how infantile they can be – even worse than most of us humans! When will these idiots realise that they are supposed to be acting for the good of their country and not of themselves???!!! Fidesz will be giggling about this, as well they might – it is pathetic!

Member

‘With friends like that who needs enemies?’
One things is for sure, Orban must have a great time laying back and watching as the opposition is in self-destruction mode.

petofi
Guest

Oh really! Does it all make any difference?
The vote will be rigged no matter what–this is all window dressing.

Hungary is in full tribal mode: the country has slipped about 150 years in having a democratic sensibility.

Paul
Guest

The beginning of the end was when Gyucsány made THAT speech. Orbán’s victory, and everything that has followed since then, including the mess the opposition are in now, was inevitable from that moment.

Paul
Guest

“the majority of the electorate want to see the Fidesz government go”

I’m not at all sure this is true, it’s certainly not my understanding of how the average Hungarian views things. Many, perhaps most, have lost faith in this government and no longer actively support it, but that isn’t the same thing as wanting it to go. Because what is the alternative? They may not have much faith in Orbán any more, but they have no faith at all in the idea of MSzP running the country again. Better the Devil you know,

And even if it is ‘true’ in the sense that the combined vote of the non-Fidesz parties in opinion polls is greater than the Fidesz vote, this hardly translates, in any meaningful way, into the majority wanting rid of Orbán. How many Jobbik voters would rather have an MSzP government instead? How many MSzP supporters regard themselves as being in the same camp as their Jobbik counterparts?

I’m afraid, whatever the opinion polls might say, in real terms, given the alternatives, the majority of the voters would prefer Orbán to stay.

Ivan
Guest

@ Paul

No, “the beginning of the end” was not when Gyurcsany made ‘that’ speech, a speech – if one reads it in full – of great honesty that should have enhanced his popularity, actually.

The “beginning of the end” was really the moment that Fidesz proved how easy it was to spin and remix a couple of soundbites out of context from that speech and actually convince a gullible public to hand them an overwhelming victory on such a flimsy basis.

I have never encountered any desire from the supporters of the present government to actually know the content of the whole speech. They were happy, by-and-large, to have the speech reported to them, spoon-fed to them, even interpreted for them, by their ‘leader’.

Paul
Guest
Eva S. Balogh : Paul : The beginning of the end was when Gyucsány made THAT speech. Orbán’s victory, and everything that has followed since then, including the mess the opposition are in now, was inevitable from that moment. Did you read the speech? I read the translated version. But the content of the speech doesn’t matter. It was a stupid and horribly naïve thing to do (both the way he said it and thinking it would stay private), and it was gold dust to Orbán. When he first heard about that speech, he must have thought “that’s it, we’ve won!”. Without that speech, he might not have won. But even you accept that he was going to win in 2010 anyway, he wouldn’t have got a two-thirds majority. To get that he needed, not just popularity, but to be able to utterly discredit the opposition – Gyurcsány gave him the key to do that. And, without the supermajority, it would have just been 98-02 again, he could never have done a fraction of what he’s ‘achieved’. It was suggested the other day that Mesterházy might be a Fidesz mole, but a much better candidate, based on effectiveness alone, would… Read more »
Paul
Guest
Ivan : @ Paul No, “the beginning of the end” was not when Gyurcsany made ‘that’ speech, a speech – if one reads it in full – of great honesty that should have enhanced his popularity, actually. The “beginning of the end” was really the moment that Fidesz proved how easy it was to spin and remix a couple of soundbites out of context from that speech and actually convince a gullible public to hand them an overwhelming victory on such a flimsy basis. I have never encountered any desire from the supporters of the present government to actually know the content of the whole speech. They were happy, by-and-large, to have the speech reported to them, spoon-fed to them, even interpreted for them, by their ‘leader’. Sorry, Ivan, but that is not how the average Hungarian voter saw it. Your last paragraph sums it up nicely. People heard the soundbites, it chimed wonderfully with what they already believed or suspected (politicians lie, MSzP were corrupt), and that was it – Gyurcsány and MSzP were dead. Have you ever tried arguing with a Hungarian that Gyurcsány didn’t mean that HE had lied? Take my advice and don’t waste your breath.… Read more »
Ivan
Guest

Condemning a speech one hasn’t heard is like condemning a book one hasn’t read. The fault cannot belong to the writer.

A speech that called for new probity and transparency, and angrily ordered collective regret, was remixed to make it seem as if the exact opposite was being said.

Any speech that has ever been made can be ripped to shreds and treated with this sort of contempt. The fault, therefore, was not Gyurcsany’s. The fault was the cynicism of the Fidesz spinners and the unquestioning ignorance and credulity of their audience.

This, after all, was the kind of honest speech that the citizens of other EU countries had been crying out for their leaders to make (after years of ‘Bliar etc).

As is often the case in Hungary, in time people will come to recognise the speech for what it really was. But this will be a long time. And by the time Gyurcsany has been rehabilitated it will be far too late for his country.

Christopher Adam
Guest

Based on what I heard from some relatively senior Együtt sources, they lost their appetite for running a single party list and a single candidate for PM right after the first official negotiations in June. They found MSZP’s negotiators to be aggressive and seemingly not too open to compromise, pleasantries and gestures that would suggest that they saw Együtt as an equal partner in this. Együtt begrudgingly went along with the idea of negotiations, but their heart was no longer in this and by early July they were actively looking at running separate party lists for both the Hungarian and EP elections, and were looking at scoring around 10 to 12 percent in both. In the case of the EP vote, they had their hopes on sending three MEP’s, which would necessitate around 12 percent.

So my understanding is that as far back as mid/late June, nobody took the idea of a single party list and joint candidate for PM seriously in the Együtt camp.

petofi
Guest

“Have you ever tried arguing with a Hungarian that Gyurcsány didn’t mean that HE had lied? Take my advice and don’t waste your breath.”

Correct, in that particular…
But there was nothing wrong in the speech. There is a whole lot wrong in a mentally and emotionally-challenged society that is present-day Hungary. I’m afraid, when you can’t think for yourself, you end up with an Orban…and for long term, too.

Nothing more than what the country deserves…

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Paul :I’m sorry, as, in other respects, I have a similar respect for Gyurcsán to Éva’s, but that was a stupid, naïve, thing he did. And, not only did it hand the election (and, as it turned out, the country) to Orbán, but it also showed Gyurcsány up to be a lousy politician. He’s a clever guy, he makes a lot of sense, he makes great speeches, in an ideal world, he might even make a great PM, but in the real world, no one is going to trust his political judgement after that speech.

I’ll drink to that. It reminded me of former French socialist PM Jospin, who was eliminated in the first round of the 2002 presidential election – after he had publicly said things like “the Government cannot do everything” and “my campaign platform isn’t a socialist one”. A remarkable man as well, but…

andy
Guest

Re: Gyurcsány’s infamous Oszodi speech, his intentions paled in comparison with the thruth he underlined regarding the MSZP as “robbing day and night”, “f’king up the system” /the term he used/, and the constant lies… I heard the speech in its entirety and picked up all the nunaces…

It was the spark of “verité’ which ignited the country which already saw years of robbery of state holdings during tricked privatization maneuvers. That process had gone on from 1989 and the population was sick of being on the losing end of everything. And very angry. Saying the truth out loud was the catalyst to the bomb.

As I mentioned: his goal of wishing to put an end to his very own plundering was too late. Its like killing a person and then saying I’m sorry I won’t do it again…

Gyrucsany at that point became the dark horse. If he had the minimum amount of decency he would quietly withdraw.

As re Bajnai’s effort: Theres a main party in existence the MSZP which has sizable support. Bajnai has not gained substantial popularity and his organization is very weak.

In the interest of the country he should get out and ship out.

Laop
Guest

the problem is that no lefty is enthusiastic about either mesterhazy or bajnai. and in such case it is difficult to campiagn at all. orban still has an army of very enthusiastic followers.

orban will stay in 2014 and mesterhazy will try again in 2018, at least bajnai will not be participating in 2018. mesterhazy is just a hopeless lightweight against orban and his cronies.

andy
Guest

Re: Laop:
1. The parliamentary process requires that each side attempt to garner as many votes as possible so as to obtain proportional representation in the parliament.

2. The issue at stake is so great that it is worth a hefty try to win – there’s no telling what terrible things can still occur until the elections.

Ivan
Guest
I disagree with Paul about Gyurcsany’s speech (as I’ve said, he seems to be commenting rather on people’s views regarding the popular ‘redux’ speech that bears no relation to the original). I do, however, completely agree with his views on the pro-Fidesz electorate. There has been no sizeable anti-Fidesz (rather than any other issue) rally for 20 months. I NEVER hear any anti-government opinion from anyone I meet. I hear rabidly pro-Fidesz (and pro-Jobbik) opinion, or complete and total apathy – and the apathy party does not in any way mean ‘anti-Fidesz’ but ‘anti-politics’ – these people will NOT be voting, and so their vote cannot be tapped or won. In general it seems most positivity regarding Hungarian political opinion comes from outside Hungary. This in part must be because the state of the country is such that it must seem unthinkable that there might not be serious anti-Fidesz discontent. But this is not a normal electorate. Yes, people are living in mass poverty. This matters much less, though, than the patriotic duty to vote for Fidesz and to close one’s ears to ‘traitorous’ dissent. One or two districts in Budapest may buck this trend come election time. But that,… Read more »
parth
Guest

It’s not that people want this government, but in order to sack it, non-Fidesz-sympathizer voters would have to agree on a new one. That they cannot do.

So given the new election system Fidesz will remain, although of course we cannot tell the future.

Also note one thing: the left and liberals have no media exposure (strategy) except for the internet. But exactly the internet is the most unforgiving, critical, mocking kind of media which delights in being a bit of bully too, and of course it turns out that some media like Index is indeed more Fidesz leaning (after all Zoli Spéder’s future, who owns Index, is contingent upon taking control over the savings cooperatives, as his FHB bank is not in good shape).

As they say, with friends like these (hvg.hu, nol.hu, 444.hu – who are probably right in their opinions) who needs enemies?

At the same time, Fidesz’ media world is not only uncritical but is hell-bent on keeping Fidesz in power, which is the sole reason of its existence.

Member
I do not think that having poll or survey is a bad idea. In fact it is a genious marketing tool that Fidesz does not have and cannot copy at this point. “We let the people decide!” How cool that is, and what a new concept in current day Hungary. Opposite to what most party suggested in the past and delivered later, with this turn the people will have a saying already in the politics of a newly formed cooperating body. People would start to talk and discuss the differences between what these candidates offer versus their current (maybe) Fidesz representative. Older people in general (above generation Y) are “brand loyal”, means if they choose to get involved with a selection, they will likely switch to that brand. (It is proven that people who participate in taste tests are more likely to use the brand they selected versus a brand they used before and was no part of the taste test). People will start to talk about what this new party all about and Fidesz will be kept busy to explain themselves and their “mislead factory” has to get into full force. This is the best way to get all… Read more »
Member

OT: In case anyone missed the most important political event in Hungary today. There is an official referendum happening right in the centre of the city. It is about the future of Margitsziget. Should the island belong to the 13th district or to Budapest from now on is the question. At this point 66% of eligible voters already cast their ballots. THat is one of the highest turnout in current Hungarian voting history. Unfortunately the the other 34% percent likely will not show up as nobody seen that 34% for a while. THe total number of eligible voters are 3. 2 voted already. They will wait until 7PM for the last person to show up and vote. I am not sure what will happen if the third person does not show up and there is a tie.

andy
Guest

The concept of a popularity poll is untried and is not necessarily a correct indication of a wider-scope of thinking. Its also unfair. A currently unpopular (see current polls, Bajnai has about 1/5th of the support of MSZP) element has no right to dictate a procedure at this late stage in order to try for a belated turn-around of opinion. Bajani had all the time in the world to establish a funtioning party. If he didnt manage, lets not help him to try to make up for his incompetency. MSZP is sufficiently up to the task of fighting a battle with FIDESZ.

Perhaps even more importantly, an open battle within the left – that is – the opposition is SUICIDAL. It will expose the weaknesses within the parties and give Fidesz an advance opportunity to hone a successful strategy. Anmyone (Bajnai) proposing such a strategy is hell-bent on “himself” or no-one else on the left and is a Kamikaze action.

Member

The Sick Man of Europe

The root cause of the unspeakable mess in Hungary today is not (1) Gyurcsany’s malapropisms at Oszod, nor (2) any shortfalls of his track-record in office, nor (3) MSZP’s prior history of malfeasance, nor (4) Bajnai’s naivete nor (5) Merstehazy’s personal ambition and limitations, (6) nor even Orban’s unscrupulous distrortion and expoitation of all of these.

The root cause of the mess is the mentality of the Hungarian populace — the Fidesz croneys and cultists, the petty and vicious “patriots,” and the apathetics that together make up the vast majority.

They are the ones that are making the sick-bed that Hungary is doomed to lie in for decades to come.

buddy
Guest

Some1 :
OT: In case anyone missed the most important political event in Hungary today. There is an official referendum happening right in the centre of the city. It is about the future of Margitsziget. Should the island belong to the 13th district or to Budapest from now on is the question. At this point 66% of eligible voters already cast their ballots. THat is one of the highest turnout in current Hungarian voting history. Unfortunately the the other 34% percent likely will not show up as nobody seen that 34% for a while. THe total number of eligible voters are 3. 2 voted already. They will wait until 7PM for the last person to show up and vote. I am not sure what will happen if the third person does not show up and there is a tie.

I thought this comment was some kind of odd joke, but actually you are correct! How bizarre…
http://index.hu/video/2013/08/25/2013_0825_nagy_nepszavazas/

Note the one line that Index chose to caption, very revealing.

petofi
Guest

Stevan Harnad :
The Sick Man of Europe
The root cause of the unspeakable mess in Hungary today is not (1) Gyurcsany’s malapropisms at Oszod, nor (2) any shortfalls of his track-record in office, nor (3) MSZP’s prior history of malfeasance, nor (4) Bajnai’s naivete nor (5) Merstehazy’s personal ambition and limitations, (6) nor even Orban’s unscrupulous distrortion and expoitation of all of these.
The root cause of the mess is the mentality of the Hungarian populace — the Fidesz croneys and cultists, the petty and vicious “patriots,” and the apathetics that together make up the vast majority.
They are the ones that are making the sick-bed that Hungary is doomed to lie in for decades to come.

I’ve been saying this for quite a while. Consider, too, that the chief culprit in this state of affairs is the Catholic Church, which likes nothing more–atleast, in Hungary–than to have a malleable, unthinking, ‘flock’. Well, they’ve achieved this; and there’s many a church in the country which doesn’t let a Sunday pass without a special prayer for ‘our Viktor’.
Ahem.
Seperation of church and state, anyone? Hungary–17th century.

petofi
Guest

I might add here, how laughable it was to hear the ardent Catholics of Hungary speculate about the Archbishop of Hungary becoming Pope!??
(That would’ve killed the papacy faster than anything.)

I remember the primate–Peter Erdo–appearing at a holocaust memorial a number of years ago which was organized in front of the Terror House on Andrassy. (Any association meant there?Jews=Communist Terror, perhaps?)

He held forth about a particular Catholic nun who, during the war, aided jews (…so you see, there were’many’ who helped the jews…).The old listeners just sat, mouth agape, at this intelligence. There was nowhere a rabbi to lead in a kaddish–the prayer for the dead–which is normal on these occasions. What there was, was an orchestra of sorts–a collection of mentally challenged individuals. Now, I have nothing against these groups but I have yet to see the same group perform for Orban, or in a Catholic ceremony.

Such humiliation is the common weal of jews in Hungary.

spectator
Guest
petofi : Stevan Harnad : The Sick Man of Europe The root cause of the unspeakable mess in Hungary today is not (1) Gyurcsany’s malapropisms at Oszod, nor (2) any shortfalls of his track-record in office, nor (3) MSZP’s prior history of malfeasance, nor (4) Bajnai’s naivete nor (5) Merstehazy’s personal ambition and limitations, (6) nor even Orban’s unscrupulous distrortion and expoitation of all of these. The root cause of the mess is the mentality of the Hungarian populace — the Fidesz croneys and cultists, the petty and vicious “patriots,” and the apathetics that together make up the vast majority. They are the ones that are making the sick-bed that Hungary is doomed to lie in for decades to come. I’ve been saying this for quite a while. Consider, too, that the chief culprit in this state of affairs is the Catholic Church, which likes nothing more–atleast, in Hungary–than to have a malleable, unthinking, ‘flock’. Well, they’ve achieved this; and there’s many a church in the country which doesn’t let a Sunday pass without a special prayer for ‘our Viktor’. Ahem. Seperation of church and state, anyone? Hungary–17th century. Unfortunately I have to agree with both of you, with one… Read more »
tappanch
Guest

Ferencvaros fans proudly own up supporting the 1944 ghetto commander of Kassa.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/MI-voltunk/160900040767149

petofi
Guest

tappanch :
Ferencvaros fans proudly own up supporting the 1944 ghetto commander of Kassa.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/MI-voltunk/160900040767149

And pray, where were the police to arrest them?
Aren’t there any ‘hate-crime’ laws in modern, advanced, Hungary?

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