Some musings on Hungarian politics today

I hope I haven’t bored you to death with my continuing saga of the Hungarian democratic opposition’s struggles, but there are still many aspects of the issue that are worth investigating.

The general consensus is that Gordon Bajnai is the victim of a political game that has been going on for the last year and a half. On October 12, 2012, Gordon Bajnai seemed to be the messiah the anti-Orbán forces were waiting for. He offered himself as the beacon of the opposition; with his name on their banner they could march toward a better future in the name of democracy. He didn’t establish a party at that time but a kind of umbrella organization under which the groupings on the left could gather.

The initial reaction was fantastic. There were at least 50,000 people who cheered him on, and a few weeks later Medián registered a 14% approval rating for his organization. But from there on it was all downhill. Attila Mesterházy seized the initiative and suggested immediate negotiations with all the parties and former eminent politicians on the left. It was at this point that Gordon Bajnai, most likely on the advice of his former chief-of-staff, Viktor Szigetvári, decided to postpone negotiations. The rest of the story is only too well known, and there is no need to repeat it here.

Most commentators are burying Gordon Bajnai as a politician. In fact, many of them suggest that his failure is largely due to the fact that he is not a politician but a technocrat. They talk about his inept moves. Zsófia Mihancsik, editor-in-chief of Galamus who rarely minces words, blames Bajnai for “ending up exactly where we were in 2010.” According to her, he “stepped back into the nothingness, he ceased to be a counterweight, even if a minimal one, and handed full powers to Mesterházy.” The title of her short piece is “Congratulations to Gordon Bajnai.”

In this game most people see Attila Mesterházy as the ultimate winner. Someone who first managed to get rid of Ferenc Gyurcsány and hence remained his party’s only authoritative voice. And then came his next victim, Gordon Bajnai. However, according to one analyst, there is still one more possible victim–Ferenc Gyurcsány, who by joining the Mesterházy-led formation will find himself in the same corrupt socialist party that he left two years ago. Surely, the commentator, Zsolt Zsebesi of gepnarancs.hu, is no friend of the socialists and its chairman. His Mesterházy is a schemer and a power-hungry man who has been wanting to be prime minister ever since childhood. According to him, Mesterházy loves power as much as Viktor Orbán does. But what is worse, he writes, is that Mesterházy, other than being good at jostling in the intra-party power games, has no other redeeming qualities. He has no vision and no competence when it comes to becoming the next prime minister of Hungary.

Árpád W. Tóta, a witty commentator and sharp observer, goes even further. He recalls in his opinion piece that an economist complained just the other day that the democratic opposition cannot offer anything more than a return to the pre-2010 world. But, Tóta continues, such a program would actually not be bad at all. The problem is that this crew within the socialist party is a great deal less talented than their predecessors. Gyula Horn, László Kovács, Ferenc Gyurcsány were ready for victory. Mesterházy is the only one who seems to be at a loss. (Actually Tóta, who sprinkles his writing with four-letter words, said something stronger than that.) His final conclusion is that the socialists, by trying to distance themselves from the infamous “last eight years” (2002-2010), are committing a folly. They can win only by identifying themselves with those years and should be glad  if they are not judged by the last three and a half years.

I must say that I have a better opinion of Mesterházy than those from whose writings I just quoted. Mesterházy seems to have managed to keep the party together which, considering the devastating defeat they suffered, was quite an achievement. Any comparison with Viktor Orbán, of course, is ridiculous, but having Mesterházy at the top of the ticket is certainly not a calamity. The only question is whether he can run a successful campaign that results in a change of government. And no one knows that yet.

Perhaps the most interesting comment came from Gábor Török, a political scientist whose comments usually annoy me because they are insipid and wishy-washy. One cannot pin him down on anything. But last night he made a good point on his blog. His argument goes something like this. For the time being Mesterházy seems to have won, but it will be some time before we know what his fate will be in the long run because, if the joint opposition forces lose the election, it can easily happen that he will be blamed for the failure. That his personal ambition was too high a price to pay for another four years of Viktor Orbán. On the other hand, for Ferenc Gyurcsány it is a win-win situation. He won this round and, if the new formation headed by Mesterházy loses the election, he will be declared a prophet, an excellent politician whose advice should have been heeded.

I should also say a few words about the PM contingent within the Együtt-2014-PM alliance. PM stands for Párbeszéd Magyarországért (Dialogue for Hungary). The politicians of PM are the ones who broke away from LMP due to András Schiffer’s steadfast refusal to cooperate with other democratic parties. Some of these people swore that they would never cooperate with Ferenc Gyurcsány. And now, here they are. Katalin Ertsey, a member of LMP’s caucus, even today can repeat with disgust that her former colleagues in the party “lie in the same bed with Gyurcsány.” Yet the PM members are ready to cooperate because they rightly point out that times have changed and it would be most irresponsible not to do so.

However, Péter Juhász, a civic leader who organized large anti-government demonstrations on the Internet, refuses to be on the same ticket with Gyurcsány. But that is not his only problem. He also rejects joining a ticket that is headed by Attila Mesterházy.

I always considered Juhász muddle-minded. I can’t understand how it was possible that Juhász didn’t notice until now that there was a very good chance of Mesterházy’s becoming prime minister if the Együtt-2014-PM-MSZP coalition happens to win the election. Because according to the original agreement the head of the list that receives the most votes will become prime minister. And there was never any point in time when Együtt-2014-PM was anywhere near MSZP’s popularity. Then what are we talking about? In any case, my reaction is: good riddance. I found Juhász a detriment to the cause.

And finally, Mandiner, the conservative site run by mostly young journalists, decided to devote a whole article with lots of pictures to Gyurcsány. It was supposed to be funny and whole thing was written in an ironic style. They included a video from the great MSZP campaign demonstration on Heroes’ Square and Andrássy út in 2006.

Of course, I saw this video earlier. In fact, I think I watched the whole fanfare. But it is an entirely different experience to watch it today, eight years later. The comparison between the self-confident MSZP in 2006 in the middle of the campaign and now is really staggering. I thought I would share this video with you to see the contrast and the sad state of the party today. Can it be revived? And if yes, how? And by whom? Or will it die and will something else come in its place?

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lib consy
Guest

Socialist candidates can not win ever in Hungary again.
Their base is getting old.
The young people will search for a serious liberal conservative candidate.(a new dr. Rassay Karoly)
The Jobbik will try to derail all candidates.
Hopefully, they will derail more the orbans, than the opposition of the orbans.

petofi
Guest

Does one care if the socialist MSZP survives? The problems of Orban’s Hungary are so great that all politicians wishing to return the country to a civilized, parliamentary, democracy have to join together to prevent a dictatorship and the loss of the rule of law in the country. The political philosophies of the different parties should be put aside. That is to say, that all politicians–and I include Bokros and Fodor here–should be asked to join as well. It is time for something rare in Hungarian political life–selflessness.

Perhaps, Bokros would be best to lead this Coalition Of Hungarian Parties For A Democratic Future.

I can imagine a monster rally with the following on the dais to rally the crowd, perhaps in this order:
Sanyi, Fodor, Bekesi, Mesterhazi, Gyurcsany, Konrad, and to be finally called to end the rally…the leader of the coalition–Bokros.

And speeches like hammer blows in the temple of the would-be dictator…

Michi
Guest
I am reminded by William Goldman’s remark on Hollywood: Nobody knows anything. The difference in self-confidence on the left is astonishing, however. The video is indeed from another era, never to return. But what the future holds for MSZP or us, I dunno. Fidesz may still in my opinion lose the elections as well as of course win it and minor differences in popularity will be magnified in the new election system. It’s impossible to tell, though Fidesz’ win at present is much likelier for a host of reasons. The left seems unable to recruit people and especially younger people. Fidesz can recruit because it has a nation-wide power network which credibly offers positions and carreers and its ideology is much more attractive during times of crises, when the economy is stagnating (as we know from history when there is a financial crisis, European people tend to vote for right wing parties and not for left wing parties). In a way Fidesz is quite successful on a small scale, although it fails on a greater, national scale: within the Fidesz-system there are consistent rules, outcomes, results, tested loyalty is, after a lot of work, rewarded, disloyalty is severly and without… Read more »
petofi
Guest

@Michi

“Recruiting young” is a misnomer: the Hungarian young know the score–they will flock
to who rewards them. Fidesz has made it clear that a pure tribal system exists in Hungary–you show loyalty and you get jobs and promotions; everyone else is marginalized.

Past. left wing corruption had to do with self-aggrandizement. They worked on a personal corruption level. Orban has been much more ambitious: he has totally perverted the system to ‘tribal’ means and ways. The ‘young’ have picked this up immediately and act according. Ethical/Moral behaviour has never been a strong suit in Hungary.

Sackhoes Contributor
Guest

It’s futile to speculate about who “won” in the opposition scramble for leadership. They all failed and they are handing the victory to Orban and Fidesz on a silver platter.

Guest

I still don’t get it …

Why wasn’t there a renewal of the political landscape in 1989 like in other Eastern countries?
Or was it just Fidesz – which later turned into that “conservative”, but in reality just power hungry moloch?
Maybe now in 2014, 25 years later, after the lost elections (yes, I’m sute they’ll lose – they’ll be lucky to prevent another super majority …), there will be a chance for a democratic new beginning – with a new programme and new people!

Ervin
Guest
‘I find him a detriment to the cause.’ What is your cause, dear Eva? My guess is that your topmost priority is to defeat Orbán at any cost. This brand new coalition, which clearly has nothing in common apart from the blind desire to oust Orbán, the idea of which you have touted for some time, will fail miserably. It plays from Orbán’s score sheet. After defeating it resoundingly, he will once again face an impotent opposition in Parliament, united by fear and frustration and unable to present a clear political program. This is the Democratic Charta all over again, which ultimately destroyed SZDSZ. But back then I could still vote for SZDSZ, which said things I found reasonable. Hate and fear are not reasonable. I will not vote for a conglomerate held together by hate and fear. Your cause is not my cause, something you probably don’t mind too much, but it has no chance of winning, which you probably care about. What is my cause then? Well, good governance seemed like a good idea to start with in a society torn apart by ideology. Bajnai had a clear message and I was happy that I would have a… Read more »
Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest
@wolfi: everywhere political macro-ideas have very long lives, and a change in institutions doesn’t mean a change in long-term trends. In the case of Hungary, numerous continuities beetween the Horthy and Kádár eras have been pointed out, some of which have also resurfaced since the beginning of the present century. For instance, that political debate and big business should be the priviledge of a small group of people; that the effects of Trianon could, one way or another, be reversed or at least compensated for; that the countryside was morally superior to the big city; that the country should neither be fully anchored to the ‘West’ nor the ‘East’, etc. It is far from being an isolated case in Central Europe. The long-term problem is, the country’s former experiences that could be invoked to disrupt those continuities are often buried far back in the past, hence OV has an easy time pretending that these traits are those of an ‘eternal Hungary’ of sorts. The short-term problem is that OV also has a field day playing the ‘strong wise leader’. It’s probably much too late for that, but I think the opposition would stand a better chance by organising a public… Read more »
Guest

A bit OFF. There is nothing more on Earth that agitprop.hu has not accused the opposition politicians of. They will have to look into the extraterrestrial for new inspiration.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/space/10560418/Former-Canadian-defence-minister-Aliens-among-us.html

Obviously: Meszterházy, Bajnai and Gyurchány are aliens in disguise.

Kllkllk
Guest
Ervin, it is important to note that this particular leftist unity does not make a difference, as no combination of the present opposition offering is significantly better than the other in my view. They will and would have likely failed anyway. And just as before there still exists for them a minimal chance of getting over 50% depending partly on how much Jobbik will take away from Fidesz, how many people will eventually vote etc. — although a new government with less than 2/3s will quickly kill itself under Orban’s unparalleled political machinery which will work finely from the opposition. So, given that no real ‘new hope’ (person, idea etc.) has emerged from the leftist opposition in the last four years, I would think this coalition seems just as good as any for a leftist/liberal voter. There is still LMP (which may or may not get in of course) for those who oppose both Fidesz/Jobbik or this leftist grouping. Perhaps time is just not yet ripe for a fundamental change. We will see. As to Peter Juhasz, his image is that of a righteous human rights activist, and probably he is good in that role. Party politics, however, is inevitably… Read more »
Ervin
Guest

Kliklik, apparently nobody in Hungary is at home in the world of politics apart from Orbán, or if we restrict it to the world of democratic politics, nobody at all. What I would regard, at this stage, a step forward would be if the voice of reason returned to Hungarian politics. Questioning Orbán’s policies on the basis of good governance would be a rational discourse. In the present situation I see no real possibility of aiming any higher. Let’s face it, we are now likely to see another four years pass in Parliament without a single intelligent or coherent sentence being spoken. Accusations and insults will continue to be traded about the past and the passions will be running high. And the economy will continue to suffer. Of course, there is the theoretical possibility of this new formation winning the election. In that case, MSZP will find the centralised power structure irresistible, with no incentive to return to the distribution of power.

HiBoM
Guest

Ervin reflects my thoughts entirely, both in his general thoughts and his “ps.”

Tyrker
Guest

Ervin :
This is the Democratic Charta all over again.

Correct. Sans Kerényi of course.

wolfi:
Why wasn’t there a renewal of the political landscape in 1989 like in other Eastern countries?

That’s simple: because Hungarian commies were allowed to take part in politics after 1989 too. Erich Honecker was at least brought to court, Todor Zhivkov was even locked up. By contrast this guy helmed the Budapest branch of the Communist Youth Association from 1986 to 1989 and was a member of the Party’s Central Committee – and now he’s the one supposed to herald “change”:

Tyrker
Guest
HiBoM
Guest

You are a sycophantic supporter of Gyurcsány and it creates the impression that you are campaigning for him, even though that is probably not your intention.

Have you read Hont András’s piece about Gyurcsány in HVG?

petofi
Guest
@HiBoM re Gyurcsany….One thing must be said: no matter how hard and how many times the Orban bureaucratic machinery tried to railroad Gyurcsany legally, they failed miserably. Nothing has stuck. In Gyurcsany’s 6-8 years in power, the Orban machine has found nothing it could nail him with. In the realm of Hungarian, self-serving politics this is a great novelty in and of itself. So give Gyurcsany that credit: he has not defrauded the common purse during his tenure. That’s a great argument in his favor. In addition, he is passionate about the welfare of the country. I’m well aware that Gyurcsany loves the sound of his own voice and will speechify at the hint of an occasion. Since he speaks well, I would certainly rather listen to him than the jaundiced Kover. I think Gyurcsany would be an addition to any government, perhaps as Minister of Justice. My choice for leader was Bajnai but he seems unsure of himself in political waters. Perhaps Szanyi (if he’s found to be squeaky clean in the past) or Bokros would be best as Prime Minister. But certainly, people like Fodor, Bekesi and others like Angyan and Horvath would be great roll players in… Read more »
petofi
Guest

@ HiBoM 2

I believe you’ve once said something nice about me and it would be unkind to upbraid you now…but I believe that you have misused the term ‘sycophantic’.
Here’s an online dictionary definition:

“..a self-seeking, servile flatterer; fawning parasite.”

I don’t think any of those words describe Eva.

In my understanding, I believe she admires Gyurcsany’s passionate defense of the country. I do, too. Righteous indignation–not of the Kover type–is all too rare in Hungary. But perhaps he’s not the right leader at the moment. I have gone 180 degrees on Sanyi Tibor lately and believe he’d be good…if only we could be certain that he’s not tainted in past MSZP frauds. Along the line of honesty, my first choice would be Angyan. Now, how do we bring that about?!

Hegel
Guest

Petofi – my God wrote:
“Does one care if the socialist MSZP survives? The problems of Orban’s Hungary are so great that all politicians wishing to return the country to a civilized, parliamentary, democracy have to join together to prevent a dictatorship and the loss of the rule of law in the country.”

I would add that in today’s Hungary, there are two poles:

The Crooks vs. The Fools.

The sad state of the nation can be explained by a lack of knowledge.

The Crooks and the Fools are the majority, and I can not detect too much historical or sociological knowledge in them.

Gyurcsany, Niedermuller, Debreczeni of the DK display talent, knowledge and a lack of skill in the art of public relations.

At the end, even an Orban can reach the top, and stay there.

H H H
Guest

In blogosphere there is even a third pole: The criminally Orbanized dudes.

Why should a HiBom insult a scholar or just another mankind so rudely?

Sorry, the Orbanized HiBoms must be institutionalized, to teach them humanity.

buddy
Guest

And now here is M1’s nightly news programme telling us we should all be laughing at the opposition:
http://444.hu/2014/01/10/a-kozteve-hiradoja-elkepeszto-riportban-csodalkozott-ra-az-internetre/

Ervin
Guest

Eva, I am sorry I meant no disrespect in my comment: I never meant to imply that you were campaigning for a person or a party. But you never answered my question: What is this cause, to which Juhász is detrimental? I know the cause Juhász has been campaigning for, as he has never made it a secret: a political future in which the MSZP-Fidesz domination is defeated. I find this idea a very attractive one, and probably you do, too. In the next term Fidesz wll be in government, the opposition will be dominated by MSZP – a fairly safe bet – and the discussions in parliament will be highly emotional and irrational. In what way could the outcome have been worse? I still think it would have been better to have a small faction in parliament, which spoke a rational language and cared about the economy. It would have been something to build on for the future. As things stand, there is nothing to look for: sanity will have no representation in the House.

GabeGab
Guest
Honestly speaking I do not understand the whining of the Hungarian liberal media (including Galamus…) about this compromise. For month we have heard that against Orban we need a unified coalition or the opposition will be smashed again. In the same time other, liberal, or moderate right wing formations were not able to produce any statistically measurable groupings in the polls beside the three democratic parties. Is my point of view is too much “American” when I concluded that like it or not, but the primaries have been over and the winner is Mesterházy and his party? Yes, in this situation Bajnai and the PM have behaved as decent and honorable politicians making this hard decision. They understood that they have to withdraw some of their candidates if they do not want to face alternative DK candidates in each of their districts. They would have lost plenty of votes to the DK anyway. In the long run, this gesture may even be beneficial too them. Do not forget that this election will still be very likely unfortunately lost and the guy at the front will have to take the responsibility anyway. (Jávor even misspoke yesterday, that for them this is… Read more »
spectator
Guest

Sackhoes Contributor :
It’s futile to speculate about who “won” in the opposition scramble for leadership. They all failed and they are handing the victory to Orban and Fidesz on a silver platter.

So, if I get your message right, Orban is the winner, because he nave failed?
What a load of bollocks.
Or what would you call his performance in 2006, after he want away hiding for awhile, success?

If you just look at theirs performance only one significant difference jumping out:
Orban steals on industrial level and doing it much better than anyone from the others.
In this he hasn’t failed yet, it’s true…

spectator
Guest

He went away, – originally -not want away, sorry!

spectator
Guest

I still don’t get it, why everyone in Hungary stuck to the obsolete categorisation of left and right. If one try to look at ideologically, economically or politically, there is no parties with a clinically clean profile regarding just the classic left-right definition.

Not to mention, that being liberal and/or democrat has nothing to do with the left-right either, even if it occurs more frequently on the left, still far from exclusive.

I think it would be high time to drop this and go for democracy instead, before managing totally alienate the liberal conservatives or the open minded religious people, or even those few under-orbanized Fidesz supporters, who still remembers such words as honour and dignity, and insubordinate enough to think with their own head…

Btw, I listened to Bajnai today – wasn’t bad at all, – I’ve got the impression that I hear a honest, civilised European speaking..!
Not a seasoned politician, though, but still, a way over any orbanian crap ever!

oneill
Guest

“That’s simple: because Hungarian commies were allowed to take part in politics after 1989 too.”

Yep, and even up to the present day the Fidesz hierarchy is riddled with them,
Or, at least, that’s the conclusion I have come to after the likes of the (now) fascist scumbag Kover runs scared everytime it looks like the pre/1989 files may be revealed.

Guest

” the pre/1989 files may be revealed.” Will that ever happen in Hungary? It was one of the first things in Germany after 1989.

And now for something totally OT, but very nice – especially for a bookworm like me:

http://www.pozitivnap.hu/kultura-es-szorakozas/10-lelegzetelallito-konyvtar-a-vilag-minden-tajarol-kepriport

wpDiscuz