Gathering clouds: The opposition parties take a common stand

This afternoon the leaders of the democratic opposition parties held talks in the wake of Viktor Orbán’s announcement yesterday that he was the one who ordered the ministers of his cabinet to withdraw all government assets invested in bonds issued by the Quaestor Group. Since the meeting ended only about three hours ago, I could find only one commentary on the event. It was by Dániel Bita of Népszabadság who, if I interpret one of his rather convoluted sentences correctly, found it less than successful. I am, on the other hand, more charitable, especially since András Schiffer, co-chair of LMP who up to now has consistently refused to cooperate with the other opposition parties, decided to attend.

Today’s meeting was called by József Tóbiás, chairman of MSZP, which is in itself fairly remarkable since it was Tóbiás who shortly after the lost 2014 national election declared that “never again” will MSZP cooperate with any of the other parties. The socialists will go it alone and will single handedly win the next election. Of course, since then MSZP was forced several times to accept the assistance of DK which supports, for example, the MSZP-nominated Ferenc Pad in the Tapolca-Ajka election.

Fairly late last night MSZP released a communiqué titled “The government is in crisis, it is time for the opposition” in which Tóbiás called on “the representatives of the opposition parties” to meet at 1:00 p.m. in the parliamentary office building. Jobbik could hardly wait to express its willingness to join the other parties. It took Gábor Vona, the party chairman, no more than half an hour to announce that “naturally they will join the others [but] they expect Fidesz to be represented at the gathering.” He added that they “will also have to discuss the role of the socialist governments in the brokerage scandal.” They want to know about “the business relationships that did exist and perhaps still exist between leftist politicians and the corrupt leaders of the brokerage firms.” Tóbiás goofed. Surely, he didn’t mean to invite Jobbik, but he was sloppy in composing his invitation.

Tóbiás had to get out of this sticky situation. This morning MSZP released an explanation. According to the press release to MTI, the party said that all “democratic parties indicated their willingness to participate” but they didn’t think that Jobbik’s presence at the meeting would be appropriate because “Jobbik at such a gathering would only be a power broker for Fidesz.” According to MSZP, Jobbik, which is financed from abroad, is neither patriotic nor democratic, and it is certainly not an opposition party.

The following people attended the meeting: József Tóbiás (MSZP), Ferenc Gyurcsány (DK), András Schiffer (LMP), Timea Szabó (PM), Viktor Szigetvári (Együtt), and Anett Bősz (LP). The only person who was missing was Lajos Bokros, representing MoMa, a moderate conservative grouping, perhaps because it is “movement,” not a party.

At the meeting there seemed to be unanimity among the politicians that Viktor Orbán should leave Hungarian political life. According to Tóbiás, Viktor Orbán should simply resign. Barring that, at the very least he should ask for a vote of confidence. Tímea Szabó held a similar position, adding that if Orbán does neither then she will submit a declaratory resolution for the dissolution of parliament and for holding early elections. In addition, some of the participants added Péter Szijjártó and György Matolcsy to the list of those who should follow Viktor Orbán as undesirable political figures.

Tímea Szabó, József Tóbiás, Anett Bősz, András Schiffer, Viktor Szigetvári and Ferenc Gyurcsány

Tímea Szabó, József Tóbiás, Anett Bősz, Ferenc Gyurcsány, Viktor Szigetvári, and András Schiffer

Viktor Szigetvári is convinced that Orbán is guilty of insider trading, which is a criminal offense, and therefore he is longer fit to be the prime minister of the country. However, he was pretty vague about what to do if Orbán does not resign, which is all but certain. He came up with the shopworn remedy of creating a parliamentary committee to investigate Viktor Orbán’s role in the Quaestor scandal. Unfortunately, Hungarian investigative committees are not like the Watergate committee whose hearings eventually led to Richard Nixon’s resignation. Orbán will simply not show up and that will be the end of it.

András Schiffer also thinks that Orbán “is morally unfit to be the prime minister,” but he concentrated on amendments to be offered by the opposition parties to a Fidesz draft proposal that is designed to financially assist those who suffered heavy losses as a result of the bankruptcy of Quaestor.

What Gyurcsány said or what kinds of plans he entertains under the present circumstances we don’t know because he was the only politician who gave no interview after the meeting. He said only that the meeting was “pleasant and constructive,” which the reporter of Népszabadság interpreted to mean that DK’s chairman found the gathering pretty useless. Although it is true that no definite road map emerged from this first meeting, the very fact that all the democratic parties were ready to sit down and discuss a common strategy is a step forward. The next few days will tell us whether any concrete steps will be taken after this exchange of ideas.

In my opinion, the most important event of the meeting was the decision to hold a mass rally organized by the democratic parties on April 11, the day before the Tapolca-Ajka by-election. This means that these parties are no longer afraid to show themselves and take a leading role in anti-government demonstrations. At the last big demonstration on March 25, although the parties could show their flags and logos, MSZP did not take advantage of the opportunity. Only MoMa and DK flags could be seen. Now MSZP seems eager to come out with their red carnations. Moreover, the civic organizers, as was demonstrated on March 15, no longer mind the presence of parties. All told, given the public mood, the rally should be a great success.

Fidesz interprets the opposition’s gathering of forces as a “petty power struggle.” The left “acts as if they had absolutely nothing to do with the socialist brokerage scandal although they were the ones who allowed financial corruption to flower in the last decades.” The problem is that this old “socialist brokerage story”–especially in light of the close relationship of the government, Fidesz politicians, and men close to Viktor Orbán with Csaba Tarsoly, CEO of Quaestor–is no longer believable. Fidesz has been in power for the last five years, and it was Fidesz-appointed officials who were supposed to make sure that financial institutions operate in a lawful manner. But the Hungarian National Bank allowed Quaestor, even when it was on its last legs, to issue 60 billion forints worth of bonds.

This morning Gábor Horn, the former SZDSZ member of parliament who was the intermediary between his party and the Gyurcsány government, was interviewed on ATV’s early morning program, Start. He compared the situation of the present government to that of the socialist-liberal government back when it became obvious that the government would not be able to survive much longer. Although, Horn said, Orbán is a “more talented survivor than Gyurcsány,” he now has to admit that Viktor Orbán is in big trouble. A caller to Klubrádió, however, described Orbán as being as slippery as “a soaped dolphin.” It is still quite possible that the great survivor will escape this scandal unscathed.

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Paul
Guest

Good to see MSzP is still alive…

I don’t think Orbán is going to lose too much sleep over this meeting, but if the April 11 rally is successful, then I think he’ll start to worry.

If the opposition, as weak and disorganised as it is, can get more people (voluntarily) out on the streets than Fidesz can manage with all its money and organisation, then Orbán will start to realise that he is losing the game.

Paul
Guest

Blimey – not only an optimistic post from me but I even forgot to put ‘opposition’ in quotes!

exTor
Guest

On the first full day of spring (March 21st) I submitted “… can Fidesz win without Viktor Orbán?” for group comment, however my question did not surface (for some reason) for a couple of days.

I will reask the question. If –unlikely as it might be– the current Fidesz-led government is brought down and Viktor Orbán is prevented from again leading Fidesz, can Fidesz win another election without Viktor Orbán?

Paul
Guest

It depends on how quietly he goes and what effect it has on the party.

If he disappears quietly and the party stays unified, they could easily win again. If he fights and the party fractures into factions, then it’s less likely (although still possible, given the appalling state of the opposition and the strength of Jobbik).

A more important question might be, if Fidesz did lose the next election, what state would a new government find Hungary in, and would they be able to govern the country, let alone try to bring about any sort of recovery?

Alex Kuli
Guest

A very simple answer: No. Not as a unified political force, at least.

Fidesz is not a political party in the traditional sense of the word. it is Orban’s private club. Fidesz’s entire structure is built around one man’s ability to issue diktats. Take that away, and the whole building collapses. It is no coincidence that Orban has not faced a single leadership challenge since Fodor back in 1993.

If Fidesz had any kind of identifiable ideology, it might be able to survive after Orban’s fall. Someone else might be able to take over the reins. However, there is nothing behind Fidesz except unprincipled opportunism.

spectator
Guest

Exactly!
I would even add that it rather a sekt than a party – it counts ond blind faith and nothing, but – apart from this I entirely agree!

This is the whole point, and this point would need as much publicity as it can possibly get, and hope that at least the usual few percent of the people will listen..!

Member
These opposition members cannot get their priorities straight. Illegal activities in finances are NOT POLITICAL issues. They simply have to prosecute the viktor, Szijjártó and Matolcsy under the Securities Rules and also under the BTK Penal Codes. Forget parties and politics. Hire dozens of private investigators, buy the time and space in the leftist media for communication, declare a State of Emergency to suspend the Constitution, stating that the Government is criminally corrupt, the Attorney General is an impotent Fidesz lackey and move to exclude the police, the TEK and the Intelligence Services. The opposition can set up a tribunal and a popular militia and call for general strike at the same time. This may lead to serious confrontations and people finally have to show what they want more, the viktor and his corrupt mafia thieves or a new, more democratic and transparent Government. I think, if the opposition doesn’t do it now, if the viktor stays on and smears this series of high crimes away, with, among other things, token gestures as canceling the Sunday closing, “making the people happy”, retaining his power, the next time the Hungarians want to change the Government, they will have to do it… Read more »
István
Guest

I have to say I deeply dislike any discussion of insurrection in relation to the Fidesz government. If the Russians could use Ukraine’s revolt in November 2013, on the eve of the ninth anniversary of the Orange Revolution, when the Yanukovych government’s announcement that Ukraine will not sign a Free Trade deal with the EU sparked protests across central and western Ukraine, as a basis for invasion similarly it could happen in Hungary. Really is there doubt that Orban would call his good friend Putin for support if his office was surrounded and Terrorelhárítási Központ was nearing collapse?

Only in the situation where the opposition makes significant gains against Fidesz and the PM begins to use repressive force should there be discussion of insurrection. There is a long way to go before that point is reached, if it is reached. Urban warfare is a horrible thing and should not be treated as an option unless as an absolute last resort, let us all hope Budapest never sees it again in our life time.

googly
Guest
Istvan, please calm down, there aren’t enough Russians here to justify an invasion, and if Russia wants to start a war with NATO, it won’t use Hungary as the flashpoint. Besides, whose airspace would it use? I’m not saying that it couldn’t happen in some distant future scenario, but if there were a violent revolution this year or next, the biggest worry is civil war, since there are plenty of armed right-wingers who would love to start killing liberals in the name of saving the Orbán dictatorship. Besides, Orbán doesn’t need to use force, he owns the entire government and wrote the constitution to keep himself in power forever. He’ll let the opposition win the next election, then keep them from being able to govern. If people wise up and change the constitution, he’ll take his ill-gotten gains to a friendly country (Romania? Ukraine? Turks and Caicos?) and retire. If I’m wrong, then violence is inevitable, and will probably be ended by the EU.or NATO (like Kosovo and Bosnia). If he weathers this storm with his popularity intact, then he can weather anything, and will be here for a generation. That’s when Russia would step in, once the revolution begins… Read more »
georgi
Guest
googly, please don’t make the mistake, that no, this is too much, Orban surely wouldn’t do THAT. I had heard that a 100 times right after 2010, by 2014 most people I know resigned to the fact: Orban would do any and all things necessary to stay in power, however crazy or illogical that action may sound. I for one have no doubt that he would call in his Russian friends (who have an interest in keeping Orban in power, though they would be equally happy with Jobbik gaining more influence). In fact I’m certain that Russian advisors have been actively helping Orban and his security apparatus (TEK). Orban has always been paranoid, but now he’s crazy about security and one has to learn from experts. It would not be an attack by Russia (Russia never does that), but legally a friendly supply of “humanitarian aid” to “the request of the legitimate government” perhaps by a private security firm (a Russian Blackwater) not even a state actor. The Russians will sort out the legal situation and as long as the Hungarian government doesn’t tell NATO that it’s under attack, NATO will not act. So, yes, I have no doubt that… Read more »
googly
Guest
georgi, I didn’t say Orbán wouldn’t call in the Russians if he felt the need, I was mostly saying that he doesn’t even begin to need to, and won’t for many years. Calling in the Russians would be too foolish even for Orbán, in the short term, since of course NATO would figure it out very quickly. If Hungary were to leave or be forced out of either NATO or the EU anytime in the next few years, there would be an unstoppable revolution/civil war that would require a Russian invasion to end it (like in 1956), like the Maidan except far more violent. As I said before, Russia could not get flight clearance to send that many troops in, and there’s no land route until Ukraine becomes a reliable ally again (probably not going to happen in the next few years). Of course, all of this could be changed if Jobbik decides to become a Fidesz ally, but then we would lose a lot of foreign investment and EU funding, and the economy would drop like a stone. For now and the immediate future, Orbán needs to at least pretend to be part of the West. Sometime later, he’ll… Read more »
Member
The way to (and from) an electorate’s heart is through its stomach @gybognarjr, the frustration is understandable, but it is wrong (and futile) to call for armed insurrection (i.e., civil war!) while a large enough majority still supports Orban, willingly, at the polls. With Orban’s media control, dirty tricks, plus (let’s admit it) the cluelessness and defensiveness of his patriotic public support, the only way to bring the electorate to its senses is if they really begin to feel the economic bite of their folly. If (applying Professor Scheppele’s insightful proposals) the EC formulated existing, punishable infractions as evidence of systemic abuses that will provide the legal grounds for effectively cutting off funds by deducting enormous penalties (of the order of the size of the entire current handout) at source; once that happened, no amount of demagoguery from Orban about “performing better” and “reducing utilities bills” and “national defence” would keep carrying weight with the increasingly penniless voters (even if the personal coffers of Orban and cronies keep growing by ripping off the little that’s left). What the opposition can and should do is focus their efforts on publicly exposing amd legally pursuing Fidesz malfeasance (there’s a growing and apparently… Read more »
petofi
Guest

The picture: what a bunch of self-inflated windbags, happy to play the political game while watching the bleeding of their fellow citizens. Of course, they had to be ‘seen’ to be doing something so they called this useless meeting. The only missing Trojan is Mesterhazy.

Ladies….and Gentlemen….Hungary is in the hands of a man cut from the same cloth as Mugabi.
Has he given up power?
No.
All this is doing is making Vikkie salivate for a little fight. He’s loovvving it.

Even if there should be proof that the ‘boulevard kacsa’–Szijjarto–received a % cut on the money he invested for the Foreign Ministry–something that would fell any civilized government–Orban would stay on; and keep Szijjarto, to boot!

Viktor the O ain’t leavin nothin’–there’s too much still left on the table.

Hajra Magyarok!!
Eat of the fruit of your just desserts…

Dieter
Guest
My bet is that Orban will survive and by the time any new government comes to somehow investigate this matter (though of course Pater Polt’s tenure lasts for at least another 10 years or longer, until such time as his successor can be elected with 2/3s majority) the statute of limitations will have run or he will be pardoned by Áder Janos in the meantime. Orban (and GFG, Lánczi, Tellér and other ideologists) have a deep contempt for those who think that there is any reason why any politician would have to resign or would have to be sacked. They look down on Nixon with pity, the poor guy was set up by his faux-righteous colleagues who could play democracy and sacrifice him. Orban and his people will most certainly not commit the same mistake. They will stonewall, lie, use the entire state apparatus and media to advance their case and will not give up and will fight until the very last bullet. Giving in to communists is not an option. What people need to understand is that Fidesz is not a party in a traditional sense. It is Orban’s personal property, just like the underwear he’s wearing. Orban’s not… Read more »
LwwiH
Guest

We seem to forget that OV still has almost a 2/3 majority in parliament. On what basis would he even consider or feel pressure to resign? Worst case for him, this is an irritation, a distraction that slows him down a wee bit. This doesn’t mean that it’s not a huge opportunity for the opposition… yet all we can expect is that the liberal opposition will once again trip and fall on their sword.The only group out there that looks like a real party, and hence a viable opposition is (shudder) Jobbik. They really put up a pleasant wholesome family picture in their media campaigns. It’s all just like apple pie!!! They look like the neighbors everyone would want to have. But even they will have to wait until the next election and who knows what things will look like by then.

Gyuszi-the-cabdriver
Guest

Jobbik will help Orban if push comes to shove. Jobbikniks won’t let the “commies-liberals-urbanites-jews” back to power, that’s for sure.

Member
@LwwiH, it’s precisely because of Orban’s bogus 2/3 majority and his not-so-bogus voter support that the EU pressure has to be on the Hungarian voter, by cutting off the EU handout that is financing Orban’s malfeasance. Otherwise the EU is simply subsidizing both financial corruption on a colossal scale and the destruction of democracy and the rule of law. Simple causal chain: Euro subsidies fund Hungarian votes for Orban. Cut off the Euro subsidies (using the Scheppele strategy) to cut off the Hungarian voter support for Orban. A new democratic government that inherits the disastrous mess created by Orban’s kleptocracy can then immediately be given a palpable boost by restoring the EU subsidy and vigorously collaborating in Interpol pursuit of Orban and his cronies trying to make off with their booty. This is the strategy the EU and the democratic opposition should all get solidly behind. Orban will just get more desperate, aggressive, and impulsive, making more and more mistakes (as he is doing now), accelerating his ouster by the electorate (or perhaps even earlier, by the disgruntled members in his party that still have some residual ethics and are increasingly appalled by the completely unrestrained banditry to which Orban… Read more »
nwo
Guest

Like others, I don’t see Orban’s position is really under threat. However, it is clear that the Government’s action prior to the Quaestor b’k and the disclosures subsequently have been possibly illegal and certainly incompetent. I suspect any further revelations about Szijjártó’s involvement and prior knowledge may put his position in danger. What surprises me is that those “investors” [including relatives of my wife] have not yet come out more forcefully on the street. What I imagine could become dangerous (for the Govt) is the negative revelations on this scandal continue to leak out AND the impact of the Sunday shop closings begin to affect adversely people. This would make for a HOT spring in Hungary.

petofi
Guest

In civilized states–and Hungary, of course, is at the other hand of that spectrum–the investment of government funds, or pension funds, is under strict guidelines. Why not in heroic Hungary? But let’s not kid ourselves, the whole state was structured to allow the maximum space for manipulation–it’s the Hungarian nature; the Hungarian way. Even that grand imposter/poseur, Gyurcsany, in his six years in power, never thought to allay the manipulative powers of government by protecting workers from undeserved dismissal.

Hungarians only present the veneer of civilization–in truth, they are of the Hun hordes of a thousand years ago…tribal to the core.

So, in the present situation, the archetypal Hungarian will dismiss all Fidesz wrong-doing with a simple rationalization. “So, what’s new? Atleast it’s not the jews stealing us blind. Atleast these are our own.”

googly
Guest

Speaking of Jews and the Sunday closings, I just realised that observant Jews (what few there are here in Hungary) are in real trouble. When can they shop? If they work all week, and can’t shop on Saturday for religious reasons, what are they expected to do? Do all their shopping at convenience marts? This Sunday closing law is anti-Semitic!

Thomas
Guest

“t is still quite possible that the great survivor will escape this scandal unscathed.” Sorry, it is not only possible, but it is 100% sure.

Guest

99% and far from unscathed.

Member

Orban’s perceived impunity is as much of a sham as his words. Once the spell of his words is broken (and circumstances will break it, even if the Hungarian voters are too enthralled to see it), it will be discovered that he was just a (wicked) Wizard of Oz all along.comment image

spectator
Guest

Wicked – yes! – but hardly a wizard, mind you!
Otherwise the whole problem would have been disappeared overnight, or best even, it would have been teleported to Gyurcsány’s doorstep.

The Viktor is rather a clumsy magician, but he counts on his might and its working.
Nothing as sophisticated here as in the world of Oz, its only the old, down to Earth – o’ pardon: green grass – of Felcsút public house manners, nothing else.
“I’ll tell what the truth is”, or “come out and make it up, or else”

So far it works.
But I’d like to remind everyone that it quite awhile it worked to Ceaușescu too…

Member

The Fidesz Formula

Agreed; just wicked. But the WoO was not a wizard either. It was an illusion. Here the illusion owes its success not to Orban’s mental powers (which are indeed quite stunningly limited) but to the reliable, predictable and manipulable credulity (and apathy) of the populace — and, let’s admit it, their pettiness too, ever-ready to fall for a self-flattering justification for misjudgment, failure and worse.

Ceaușescu’s was a police state; but so far Orban can hold his faithful in thrall just by appealing to their vanity and ever-readiness to see themselves as victims of malign outsiders, come what may.

Webber
Guest

Stevan Harnad,
I agree about the potential effect of cutting EU funds, BUT…
Call me paranoid, but I do believe this government might use the EU decision not to fund the M4 highway (because of a suspicion of price-fixing) as an excuse to take oodles of money from Simicska, and possibly do worse to him. Doubtless he is guilty, but he was untouchable when he was their man helping run their machine.
I quote “If the EU’s cartel suspicion proves to be true in the construction of M4” (IF! Ha!) “the government will make the companies involved pay for the sanctions.” (story below)
We’re talking about a project budgeted at 110 billion forints. Simicska could be ruined if they hit him with fines that size.
It’s a classic Chicago move: Trust only the corrupt. They can be blackmailed. If they, nonetheless, turn against you, crush them by revealing some aspect of their corruption.
http://index.hu/belfold/2015/03/26/soha_nem_is_volt_eu-jovahagyas_a_110_milliardos_m4-esen/

Member

So what? When the handouts stop the edifidesz will collapse.

spectator
Guest

Johnny comes late – or did anyone else stumbled upon this blog (sorry, it’s only in Hungarian) and I may have missed the reference?

In my opinion it worth check upon. (Even if it’s only for a hope, that someone else angry too over there and don’t want to buy the Orbanian crap on face value, even have the guts to stick out.)
Actually I’ve managed to find a name associated with the text, what really matters however is the honest passion. There are other issues as well, if you are at it. Have a good read!

Here you go:

http://nyugatifeny.blog.hu/2015/02/19/fideszes_sztarok_ezt_akartatok

steve397
Guest

Three or four days ago I made the comment that the Qaestor scandal is, surprisingly, not blamed on Jews or Israel. I now report that a Mr. Racz has taken up the idea in commenting on a Facebook entry (https://www.facebook.com/mihaly.dudok.50) and is indeed blaming those peski cionists.

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