As promised, I am returning to the large socialist gathering in the László Papp Sport Arena where, according to those who were present, all seats were filled. What you have to keep in mind is that most of the attendees are the core of the MSZP activists. Their job is to organize the campaign on the local level. My friends who attended the gathering were duly impressed by MSZP’s ability to mobilize so many people. They were struck by the enthusiasm and determination that seemed to have gripped these activists.
The people who reported to me about their impressions are not MSZP activists. They are members of a small group of outsiders who were invited because of their political roles in earlier times. Therefore, their enthusiasm reflects a genuine satisfaction with Attila Mesterházy’s performance and MSZP’s organizational ability. They considered the event “professional.” From what I saw of it on video, I detected a lot of American influence. Although some reporters made fun of the “log cabin” video introducing Attila Mesterházy, I thought that it was well done and most likely effective. After all, people know relatively little about him.
According to one of my eyewitnesses, the introductory speeches covered practically all the topics. He was worried that Mesterházy would not be able to add much to them. He didn’t have to fear. Although Mesterházy’s speech was a little too long, it was well structured. First, he gave a succinct assessment of the last four years in which he covered all the major topics dealing with the workings of the mafia state. Second, he outlined his ideas about the future after the election. It was practically an outline of a government program which first and foremost will concentrate on strengthening the trust of foreign politicians and investors in the new Hungarian government. He promised to stop the kind of legislative practice that was introduced by the Orbán government. He pledged a more just social policy, a better quality of life, strengthening the middle classes, and greater mobility. The basis on which all of that can be achieved is a sound educational policy. Last but not least he talked about the need for the restoration of the rule of law. He added that some people don’t seem to realize the importance of a democratic state, but without a strong democratic structure there cannot be real freedom and real prosperity.
Mesterházy promised to take strong action against extremists and extremism, and he insisted that all the illegal and shady affairs of the Orbán government will be investigated and persons found guilty will be punished.
At the end of the speech Mesterházy walked over to Gordon Bajnai, Ferenc Gyurcsány, and Gábor Fodor and shook hands with them. At this point came a standing ovation which showed, in my opinion, that it wasn’t only DK supporters who demanded joint action on October 23 but MSZP followers as well. Another sign of satisfaction with the new unity was the enthusiastic reception Gábor Kuncze received. All in all, it seems that supporters have no problem with the new coalition.
But now let’s look at how some reporters saw the event. András Pethő of Origo noted that until now only Fidesz called the MSZP politicians communists, but now MSZP leaders are returning the favor. For example, Mesterházy referred to Viktor Orbán as Bolseviktor. Actually, the communist label fits Fidesz better than it does the socialists. Hungarian socialists are not the ones who nationalize everything in sight. He also noticed that in Mesterházy’s MSZP there are entirely new faces and the great old ones were no longer sitting in the front row. On the other hand, Origo’s reporter found Mesterházy’s speech old-fashioned and far too long. Index‘s reporter was still preoccupied with Gyurcsány’s role in the campaign. He kept asking the participants to guess how many votes he will bring and how many people he will deter. Otherwise, the reporter for some strange reason decided that “Mesterházy’s weapon against Orbán will be Paks.”
The relatively new Internet site, 444.hu, was its usual flippant self. It started its coverage with: “Someone should think twice before voting for Attila Mesterházy because if he becomes the prime minister, his ‘state of the country’ speeches will be very long. This is the most important message of MSZP’s meeting Saturday.” And what follows was no better. The whole article is depressing with its supercilious and, let’s face it, stupid remarks. And then some people are surprised that the Hungarian public is full of cynical characters for whom nothing is important or sacred.
The assessment I enjoyed most was that of Ágoston Sámuel Mráz, director of Nézőpont Institute, which is an indirectly Fidesz financed think tank and polling company. He tried to be “scientific” and talked about Mesterházy’s “tactical mistakes.” One of them was that he invited Zoran Milanović, the social democratic prime minister of Croatia, to attend and to speak at the meeting. After all, Croatia has its differences with Zsolt Hernádi, CEO of MOL, who is being sought by Croatian prosecutors on bribery charges. According to Mráz, Hungarian public opinion is solidly behind Hernádi and therefore inviting Milanović was a mistake.
According to Mráz, Mesterházy should be more cautious and shouldn’t talk so openly about himself as the next prime minister of Hungary. He should be more modest because, if he loses the election, he will be responsible for the defeat. Mráz finds Mesterházy’s claim that the socialist government’s economic affairs were in order in the spring of 2010 “incomprehensible.” With this statement Mesterházy “included himself among the failed left-wing politicians.”
While one of my sources specifically mentioned all the friendly gestures Mesterházy made toward Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gábor Fodor, Mráz, following some of the reporters’ mistaken information, claims that Mesterházy never mentioned Gyurcsány’s name and “looked through him.” Clearly, these media servants of Fidesz are trying to sow dissent in the newly unified opposition, but I don’t think that they will succeed. Only yesterday Ferenc Gyurcsány advised his fellow politicians not to react to every accusation Fidesz comes up with. The best thing is ignore them. Mráz closed his analysis with these words: “Mesterházy with the campaign opening that was designed for him risked a lot. His predecessors, who may well be his successors, acknowledged all that with visibly mixed feelings.”
A friend of mine told me that he thinks most people underestimate Mesterházy’s political acumen. Let’s hope he is right.