MSZP’s campaign kickoff: Mesterházy in the limelight

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.

Source: news.yahoo.com

Source: news.yahoo.com

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.

Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Istvan
Guest

I watched some of the video László Papp Sport Arena, I thought the discussion of “municipal autonomy” and very significant budget cuts at the local level was a wise issue to campaign around. These cuts impacted many people’s lives including members of my own extended family. But here is the problem, some of these cuts to education are recommended cuts from the IMF. For example in its 2013 report on Hungary the IMF stated as a goal “containing spending at the local government level, where savings can be found after the centralization of health and education spending.”

So the MSZP which is also running on a platform as Eva states of “strengthening the trust of foreign politicians and investors” must in order to restore municipal autonomy and education funding defy at least to a degree the IMF. Yet from what I heard and read I could find no clear plan to confront the IMF about its budget cutting dictates in relation to local government functions. The rhetoric is good but the reality might be that an MSZP coalition government might restore some autonomy but no money to provide the services these local entities need to provide to the people.

Istvan
Guest

See http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2013/cr1385.pdf The report is formally called “Hungary: 2013 Article IV Consultation and Third Post Program Monitoring Discussions—Staff Report; Informational Annex; Public Information Notice; and Statement by the Executive Director.” There will not be a fourth post program report because the IMF released Hungary after this report, see http://www.imf.org/external/np/sec/pn/2013/pn1338.htm
So the reality is in its final report the IMF called for education and health care centralization with expenditure restraints. This is inherently not the policy the socialists are calling for.

Mr. Paul
Guest
“A friend of mine told me that he thinks most people underestimate Mesterházy’s political acumen. ” This might be true especially in the “értelmiségi” circles. During the past few years people Like Konrád, Heller and other influential figures severly discounted Mesterházy’s political abilities. I think Konrád’s famous word’s were talking about the dual bycicle “There needs to be a person who takes charge, leads the way, and another one to stand behind him and pedal (In Hungarian, “Egyiküknek kormányoznia kell, a másik pedig tapos)”. In this metaphor he selected Mesterházy to the role of supporter a background figure to stand behind the prime minister, Bajnai. Then only just a few weeks ago I sensed a stronge message coming from some of the same circles, and Bitó László, Radnóti Sándor and others that after Bajnai resigned his position as candidate, Mesterházy ought to do the same. They would rather put a complete unknown up as the candidate a “someone else”, rather than Mesterházy! It seems clear that they wanted to avoid Mesterházy at all costs for some reason. But just imagine if 1.5 years ago everyone had just accepted Mesterházy as the leader of the opposition instead of all the infighting… Read more »
An
Guest

Istvan: Orban paid back the IMF loan (and very proud of that, too), so what the IMF said in that publication has no relevance whatsoever. Unless MSZP wants to take out another IMF loan. Or the country goes bankrupt again and the next government will be forced to do so (with Orban’s economic policies, there is a good chance for that).

Andy -- choices
Guest

At this stage I’ll take Mesterházy without being finicky, the opposition arrriving so late with their decision.

What troubles me is the ‘works’ – that mass – the gear mechanism – of the engine that’s supposed to propel the candidate to the ‘win’.

Fact is that I’ve left the workplace – the working world – so maybe its partly my approach or lack thereof, or the lack of eagerness at collaborating with others. I never liked the process at the workplace but it was bearable in most countries.

But collaborating with others in HUNGARY? The working-world in this country is POISONED with pre-judgments, and attitudes that I would term negative, often evil, non-cooperative, spiced with inter-personality conflicts, maneuvers of all kinds, to a degree I’ve not found anywhere else.

So, whereas under normal circumstances my interest would be to assist the opposition’s campaign, in reality, except for voting, I will just stay out of it.

Istvan
Guest
An that is not exactly how it works. If the platform of the MSZP is driven in part by developing good relations with foreign investors then the various prescriptions of the IMF are critically relevant and somewhat complex. I do like you attitude of defiance towards how the IMF makes social policy expenditure recommendations however. They base it on a percent of the nation’s GDP and they apparently believe that Hungarian expenditures in relation to education are adequate using that metric. By the way while Hungary is out from under the IMF loans its bond rating is still pretty bad. Moody’s assigned a Ba1 rating to Hungary’s Exchangeable Bond maturing in 2019, with a negative outlook. This means that the debt of Hungary currently is what is called Speculative grade (junk bonds) and for example a US pension fund legally could not invest in such bonds. They pay a lot of interest to investors for the risk of buying these bonds. So the MSZP has to explain how it would pay for increases in local budgets in order to fulfill its goal of having good relations with foreign investors. We can blame Orban for this, but a new government has… Read more »
petofi
Guest

“…and for example a US pension fund legally could not invest in such bonds.”

And who really cares? It should be fairly clear by now that that particular investment house in the US buying up Hungarian paper with great great confidence and glee is probably being funneled money from Putyin to support Matolcsy/Orban and the Forint.

WWikktorr
Guest
Mr. Paul, I think you are mistaken. Had Mesterhazy been chosen as the candidate of the unified left a year and half ago, he could have been character-assassinated (even though arguably he was the preferred adversary of Fidesz). Fidesz only knew that Bajnai was surely too risky for them so they destroyed him, but they would have done that to Mesterhazy as well in a year and a half. Now it may be too late for that until April 6. Whatever some intellectuals wanted (according to the media) has no relevance. Those days are long over. Nothing is decided by intellectuals these days, this completely misunderstands how politics works even on the left, and I am not even an insider. It is a media myth (but it perpetuates and nicely fits the right-wing narrative of the Jewish/liberal conspiracy myths) that Heller etc. meet Bajnai and then convince Bajnai of something. That totally misunderstands how Bajnai behaves. Bajnai already thought of something (accepting Gyurcsány and the united left lead by MSZP) and he is a rather polite fellow who will accept an invitation of some intellectuals once in a campaign period of say two years. That is all. I do believe… Read more »
sunyilo12s
Guest

Istvan :
See http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2013/cr1385.pdf

Istvan :
See http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2013/cr1385.pdf The report is formally called “Hungary: 2013 Article IV Consultation and Third Post Program Monitoring Discussions—Staff Report; Informational Annex; Public Information Notice; and Statement by the Executive Director.”

Istvan,

I concur with what Eva said: you misunderstand something unless you try to confuse the discussion on purpose. By 2013, or in 2012 for that matter, both health care and education were already strongly centralized so such recommendations as you claim would not have made any sense. In addition, IMF has been making recommendations on “what to do” and not on “how to do it”. Third, inefficiencies of centralized health care and education must be known to anybody growing up in the 20th century and certainly the best to IMF policy makers. So admittedly not reading the linked documents, I don’t believe what you say.

An
Guest

@Istvan: IMF analyses and recommendations are only pieces in the mix of analyses foreign investors look at when they decide to invest in a country. From that aspect, the rating agencies you mentioned, for example, have a lot more influence.

Another thing is that we really don’t know the recent numbers… just how much Orban saved by nationalizing education (taking away the running of schools from the local governments). Centralization usually saves money in theory, but a lot depends on how it is implemented. Given the level of corruption, improvisation, and incompetence in the Orban government, they may not have saved much money at all.

Lastly, when financial organizations like the IMF recommend centralization, they talk about centrally running the budgetary and managerial operations of the education system, not about centrally micro-managing schools (like centralizing the curriculum, or centralizing the hiring of school principals and teachers, what the Orban government also did). There are professional and pedagogical decisions regarding the everyday running of schools that can be made locally even if the financing is centralized.

whoever
Guest
Well spotted Istvan! The fact that Fidesz is following the IMF line *through their own methods* whilst publicly telling them to get lost has been absent from a lot of consideration of Fidesz’ supposedly more autonomous policies. Unfortunately for the MSZP, the crisis has continued across Europe, with even (relatively) strong growth in GDP rates often failing to translate into prosperity, and the supply of credit for investment remains extremely low in many cases. Given this, the climate for foreign investment in Hungary won’t suddenly improve with a change of government. The crisis has continued – it’s in a different phase now than it was when Bajnai was PM – but there is no indication of a quick return to, say, the rates we saw in 1994-1998. Even Slovenia, a country lauded by some Hungarian economists, has recently stumbled into a form of austerity. In a nutshell, the MSZP programme could be described as a detailed and somewhat worthy attempt at denial. The macro-economic model simply may not support the planned investments, and with the EU in a state of political flux, it’s not clear that the relief in Brussels generated by a centre-left victory would result in concrete changes.… Read more »
trombitas
Guest
Istvan, with all due respect to him, thinks that investors are perfectly informed and behave rationally. Not really, and exactly the still ongoing crisis showed that they are anything but rational and they certainly are under-informed. I do not think that the rating issue seriously has ever crossed the minds of any party, what investors may think. Hungary pays a certain (high) level of interest and investors are expected to be happy with that. If they demand a higher interest, we will pay that. But no government will hurt its voter base just to get into a higher grade, to be able to save 150 basis points for a couple of years (ie. until the next elections). Until now that kind of thinking was successful, as investment banks killed each other for the business of being able to sell yet another 5 bn EUR-worth of Hungarian government bonds. If we get into investment grade that will be ok, but I don’t think any government will seriously work on that. Also, MSZP will not have to explain how it will pay for anything. They can do it in many ways and in Hungary during the budget process all chapters are open.… Read more »
Guest

At least a shimmer of hope – so there’s a good chance to take away the supermajority from Fidesz at least.

And now for something totally OT:

We have fond memories of the Papp arena. We were at a concert/show by Roger Waters there a few years ago: The Wall!

Not only the concert was fantastic – also the international audience was the happiest (and best behaved …) I’ve ever seen – a mixture of old and young from all over Europe and everybody extremely friendly and in a good mood! It really reminded me of my hippie days …

If only everybody in Hungary and Eastern Europe generally were like these people!

Guest
nyerni fogunk
Guest

I have some ideas what Fidesz will say about the reasons of the weakening of the HUF…You will not be surprised too much, I am afraid.

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

nyerni fogunk :
I have some ideas what Fidesz will say about the reasons of the weakening of the HUF…You will not be surprised too much, I am afraid.

That’s an easy one. As everybody knows, the true nemzeti rate is displayed at every CBA outlet, and it’s 286Ft. 🙂

Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
Rogán yesterday laconically said: well, currencies go up and down. Yes, but that down? This is quite serious.

Wait until it goes down to either 320 or worse.

tappanch
Guest
The tax policies of the Orban government 2009; 2013; HUF change in % taxes from companies: 16.66%; 16.25%; +13.3% direct taxes from people: 33.07%; 23.32%; -18.1% indirect taxes from people: 50.27%; 60.43%; +39.6% Together 100%; 100%; +16.1% Taxes/total government revenue 73.4%; 64.7%; non-tax items in revenue 26.6%; 35.3%; +75.1% inflation, measured by CPI +17.2% nominal change in GDP +14.2% Observations: 1. The net result is a substantial increase in indirect taxation (which hurts the poor more as a % of their income) and a substantial decrease in direct taxation (only the richest 1/4 of the people benefited from this) 2. Since the nominal GDP in HUF has gone up by only 10.1%, we can see that the policies of the Orban government has pulled up the weight of the taxes. 3. The revenue side of the state budget has increased by 31.8% in the same period, I guess mainly due to the increased support from the European Union. 4. The real, inflation adjusted GDP has DEcreased. Sources: http://www.napi.hu/print/574545.html ahkungarn. hu/fileadmin/ahk_ungarn/Dokumente/Wirtschaftsinfos/HU/Statistik/Konjunkturdaten_hu.pdf
tappanch
Guest

Correction: Since the nominal GDP in HUF has gone up by only 14.2%, ….

Guest
tappanch
Guest

Conflict of interest, Hungarian style

Quiz. Who is he?

The same oligarch is

1. general director of the Hungarian State Treasury (AKK),
2. owner of the private bank Szechenyi at the same time (!),
3. partial owner of the credit union Körmend és vidéke that went bankrupt a week ago.
4. owner of the pro-Fidesz media empire consisting of HirTV, Magyar Nemzet, Lanchid Radio.

He is also
4. friend and business partner of former Fidesz treasurer Simicska,
5. participated in defrauding Volkswagen in 1990, that cost 69 million DM to the National Bank MNB and Hungarian taxpayers in 1993

Mr. Paul
Guest

Tappanch I think some of those are different people though, I am about 99% certain that the owner of HirTV is a different person than the head of the AKK.

1 and 3 are the same person likely 2 too. Point 5, I’ve never heard of and I’m convinced 4 is someone different.

Paul
Guest

Jean P :
Black day for the forint.
http://www.portfolio.hu/en/fx/the_biggest_forint_slumps_of_the_past_few_years_in_one_chart.27292.html

But every time the forint looks like it’s going down the toilet it recovers. I’ve lost track of how many ‘black day for the forint’s we’ve had over the last 5 years (including several posted my me!).

The problem is that the health of the forint isn’t directly related to what Orbán is doing to the economy. It’s value is almost entirely based on how ‘the market’ sees the world – and all ‘the market’ cares about is making a profit from speculating – i.e. gambling. The forint can equally well stay strong when Orbán is doing insane things, or collapse when he’s doing nothing.

The end result is that Orbán can then, quite accurately, claim that the exchange rate is nothing to do with his policies – no matter how suicidal they are.

If there’s any logic in the system, eventually Orbán’s financial chickens must surely come home to roost, but I suspect it’s not something to hold your breath whilst waiting for.

Paul
Guest

By the by – I’ve just had the ‘official’ Fidesz line they are feeding their supporters (via my wife). Apparently, there is no problem with the Paks deal, it’s just the Russians continuing with the arrangement to ‘look after Paks’ that they’ve always had.

So that’s all right then.

tappanch
Guest

@Paul
“But every time the forint looks like it’s going down the toilet it recovers.”

It is the strength of the bloated US stock market, not the forint.
S&P is up by 0.5%, so EUR/HUF is up only 0.2%.

When the S&P tanks, the forint will dive too, faster than the Polish zloty, for instance.
MNB will not be able to stop this.

tappanch
Guest

You can check the list of registered parties for the election here:

http://valasztas.hu/hu/ovb/index.html

The counter is at 38 today.

So many parties and so little democracy…

tappanch
Guest

Watch out. Even this early list has troll in it.

31. EGYÜTT 2014 PÁRT – fake I think
6. EGYÜTT – A KORSZAKVÁLTÓK PÁRTJA – the genuine opposition party

How will the voters know, which party is real, and which party is a Fidesz dummy?

tappanch
Guest

Ethnic Hungarians without Hungarians address do not have to pay postage when they mail their vote from abroad.

http://nol.hu/belfold/ingyenesen_postazhatjak_szavazataikat_a_hatarontuliak

wpDiscuz