I devoted the last two paragraphs of my last post to Ferenc Gyurcsány’s unhappiness with the deal Attila Mesterházy and Gordon Bajnai hammered out. Yesterday Gyurcsány claimed that the agreement signaled the failure of the quest for unity and that the announcement by Bajnai and Mesterházy was no more than a fig leaf that covers up this failure. My reaction to this brief comment by Ferenc Gyurcsány last night was that the deal is not as bad as he imagines it to be.
Since then Ferenc Gyurcsány has appeared on every possible media outlet, starting with Kossuth Rádió, continuing with György Bolgár’s “Let’s Talk It Over,” and finally an interview with Olga Kálmán on “Straight Talk” (Egyenes beszéd). Obviously 🙂 Gyurcsány didn’t read yesterday’s Hungarian Spectrum where I suggested that instead of public appearances he should negotiate first with Mesterházy and then with Bajnai, perhaps with the backing of MSZP.
As a result of all these appearances I think I understand what Ferenc Gyurcsány is complaining about. Over the months he has never wavered in his conviction that there must be one common candidate in all 106 electoral districts. He has also emphasized the necessity of designating a common candidate for the post of prime minister. And finally, he felt strongly about a single party list. Now he claims that none of these three requirements for electoral success has materialized. After all, Mesterházy and Bajnai divided the 106 electoral districts between themselves; they created two party lists which will mean two parliamentary delegations that, in Gyurcsány’s opinion, will result in a weak government coalition. And third, by not naming a prime minister designate Viktor Orbán will face no challenger in the campaign.
As far as the candidate for the premiership is concerned, Gyurcsány has made it clear all along that he will not present himself as a contender. At the beginning he favored Gordon Bajnai, but by the end he felt that it was more appropriate to choose the top of the ticket from the largest party. He may have shifted his position on the prime minister designate because it was becoming evident that Együtt 2014’s attitude toward him was outright antagonistic and Gordon Bajnai didn’t seem to be able or willing to go against his colleagues in the party’s leadership. Or perhaps he realized that despite Bajnai’s best efforts E-14 has been unable to achieve serious popular support vis-à-vis MSZP and therefore Bajnai’s insistence on the post was ill advised and unfounded.
Instead of a secret deal between Bajnai and Mesterházy, Gyurcsány expected a new round of negotiations in which the other parties, including DK, were represented. After all, he is convinced that DK’s support is not much smaller than that of E-14. Instead, out of the blue he was confronted with a private deal that was made in secret and against the declared wishes of MSZP that also favored a common party list. I guess he felt betrayed. And he flew off the handle. He will not go and beg for crumbs and will not accept alms. As the day went by he became increasingly radical, declaring that if DK is not offered a square deal his party will run alone and will put up 106 candidates. He will show what DK and he himself are capable of. He darkly mentioned his ability as a campaigner.
According to the electoral law, in order for a party to be able to have a party list it must have candidates in at least 27 electoral districts. That’s the reason MSZP gave E-14 more than 27 districts. In fact, as it stands E-14 has 35 districts as opposed to MSZP’s 71. As far as Bajnai is concerned, if MSZP wants to give up some of its districts to DK or anyone else it is their business. He made it quite clear, however, that E-14 has no intention of yielding any of its 35 districts. Last night Mesterházy said that MSZP would be willing to give four districts to the other opposition parties. If that is the case, we can safely say that DK would receive no more than two seats and that would not satisfy Ferenc Gyurcsány who would consider this no more than crumbs. He made that much clear today. However, by tonight Gyurcsány calmed down somewhat and indicated that he was ready to negotiate and may not insist on starting the negotiations anew in order to scrap the present agreement between Bajnai and Mesterházy.
During his interview with Olga Kálmán we learned that sometime in the afternoon Gyurcsány talked to Mesterházy and indicated that he would accept a fair offer. He didn’t mention exact numbers, but I gathered that ten or a dozen districts would satisfy him. However, he would insist on a joint MSZP-DK party list. I also gained the distinct impression that he would demand some concessions from E-14 as well. While in the early afternoon he threatened that DK would run alone, by the evening he said that if DK doesn’t get a fair shake it might withdraw and refuse to participate in the elections, an option doesn’t like and he wants to avoid DK’s running of its own.
In the last couple of weeks DK has been waging a campaign because polls indicated that most voters don’t even know that Ferenc Gyurcsány left MSZP more than a year ago and established a party of his own. The campaign has apparently yielded results. I heard from independent sources that since the campaign began the number of new party members has grown appreciably–as it stands DK has over 8,000 members–and that the party’s telephone campaign is also successful. The party claims that 15% of those phoned are willing to be included in DK’s database. So, I gather that Gyurcsány thinks that his party’s popularity is nearing that of Együtt 2014 which is around 6% among the voters. He therefore believes that he deserves a piece of the pie.
And here is an encouraging piece of news for those who would like to see unity of action. On Sunday there will be by-elections in Szigetszentmiklós. There MSZP, DK, and E-14 together support an opposition candidate. Magyar Nemzet has already announced that a Fidesz win would be close to a miracle because Szigetszentmiklós is traditionally a liberal-socialist town where Fidesz barely won at the local elections.
Szigetszentmiklós is not the first town where MSZP, DK, and E-14 managed to cooperate on the local level. It’s too bad that one cannot find the same willingness when it comes to national politics.