Ferenc Gyurcsány, the mafia state, and the future of MSZP

Today Ferenc Gyurcsány, the former prime minister of Hungary and chairman of the Demokratikus Koalíció (DK), released a 20-page political pamphlet, gave a few interviews, and delivered a 45-minute speech, shown live on ATV. Instead of trying to summarize his political program, titled “Hungary of Many” (Sokak Magyarországa), I will focus on a couple of points that struck me as significant.

The title of the pamphlet is telling. Gyurcsány is convinced that people didn’t vote for Fidesz because they wanted to live under a regime of “Eastern despotism” but because they saw strength in Fidesz as opposed to the left, which proved to be weak. Gyurcsány would like to bring together liberals, social democrats, and moderate conservatives because all these people have something in common: a desire to put an end to Orbán’s regime and to live in a country with an effective government that would serve the majority of the people instead of the select few.

This is not a new message. What is new is that, after a lot of hesitation, Gyurcsány seems to have accepted Bálint Magyar’s description of the Orbán regime as a “mafia state.” As far as I know, he is the only opposition politician who has fully embraced Magyar’s concept. But that is not the only common thread in their thinking. Gyurcsány’s ideas on education also seem to echo Magyar’s. He cracked a few jokes about Orbán’s stuffing sausage while he doesn’t know what a “password” is. He elaborated on the essential role of computers in education, which would be a return to Magyar’s reforms between 2002 and 2006. Of course, one could ask why he buckled under MSZP pressure to relieve Magyar of his post and name István Hiller as his successor. Hiller, by the way, was praised by Orbán in his chat with the students of his former dormitory as the only talented politician on the left.

Gyurcsány offered an assessment of MSZP’s situation. As anyone who follows the Hungarian media knows, MSZP is in a serious crisis. Something of a palace revolution is underway. From what one can piece together from interviews with MSZP politicians who have pretty well disappeared from active politics, it looks as if under Attila Mesterházy’s chairmanship a conscious decision was made to push all the leading members of the older generation out of the party. I guess the new, younger politicians around Mesterházy believed that the older greats of MSZP were responsible for the party’s loss of popularity. Support for the party, they hoped, would soar once people saw all new faces running MSZP. Well, it didn’t work out that way. In fact, the party’s popularity has fallen. The MSZP parliamentary caucus, with very few exceptions, is comprised of inexperienced and unknown members whose performance, admittedly under adverse circumstances, is substandard.

Gyurcsány’s essay and speech were timed to coincide with the fourth anniversary of the founding of the Demokratikus Koalíció, but I’m sure that MSZP’s sorry state was also a serious consideration when it came to timing. In his essay Gyurcsány buried MSZP in its present form. As we know, the current thinking of the MSZP leaders is that the road to success lies in returning to truly “left” policies. Gyurcsány is convinced that they are wrong. A turn further to the left is not what Hungarians want. He also doubts MSZP’s ability to provide a candidate for the premiership who has any hope of winning because, as he put it, “ever since 2002 all successful prime ministers came from the world outside of MSZP.” In the last 15 years the socialists have been unable to attract or to produce a politically mature, suitable candidate for the post of prime minister. The appearance of PM, Együtt, and DK offered real competition, which will “make the transformation of our side more intensive. The final goal is unification, and the party of the future will barely resemble the MSZP we know.”

And now let me move on to a pretty dramatic conversation between Ferenc Gyurcsány and György Bolgár on Klubrádió’s “Let’s Talk It Over.” Bolgár began the 15-minute conversation by questioning the wisdom of Gyurcsány’s forceful call for unity. It might turn the other politicians on the left against him, warned Bolgár. After all, he is such a controversial character. Wouldn’t it have been better to remain quiet? he asked. Gyurcsány, who has been asked this kind of question many times before, even by Bolgár himself, normally answers in a measured way. But not this time. He lashed out at Bolgár. In his opinion, a democrat cannot possibly question the right of a politician to express his thoughts. He is the leader of a party that has about half a million voters. His followers want him to talk about the ideas that motivate them. When Bolgár brought up politicians like Viktor Szigetvári and Gergely Karácsony, who might be turned off by the hyperactive Gyurcsány’s latest political move, Gyurcsány responded that he didn’t care what Szigetvári or Karácsony think or say. He accused Bolgár of joining those who are sowing discord among the politicians of the left. In his opinion, this is a sin because with such an attitude they only lend a helping hand to Viktor Orbán’s regime.

I don’t know the reasons for this outburst, but I suspect that Gyurcsány believes that this is the right time to reassert himself publicly, either because of the discord within MSZP or perhaps because he has been getting closer to an understanding with some of the opposition politicians. If the latter, Bolgár’s criticism was not well timed.

What MSZP’s leading politicians will think of “Many for Hungary” I can well imagine. However, the party is in bad shape, and even the staunchest socialists have to admit that Gyurcsány’s decision to leave MSZP and establish DK was a terrible blow to the party. MSZP has to rethink its shrinking place among the opposition parties.

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observer44
Guest
About Gyurcsany’s paper. Sadly it is not his best. He has always been a unique figure of Hungarian politics, and in this respect he is almost the only one to publish detailed papers about his own understanding of Hungary, the state of the left or other issues. The problem is that this actual piece of intellectual work lacks real novelty. Forget the nuances of the party system, think big. And there is nothing big. This is just a smartly written collection of the contemporary clichés of the Hungarian left. Clarifying certain issues but forgetting to answer the real dilemmas: what kind of capitalism wants he to offer? What about rising wage and wealth inequalities? What about the non-radical but relevant criticism of the heritage of the decade of transition during which Gyurcsany himself became rich? So this time the former PM wrote something but forgot to say anything. And the funniest is how he thinks that he can reach out to the center. Sadly, he cannot do it any more. He should just kill the MSZP but he is unable to do it. He does not have half a million voters, according to the trustworthy Median poll from September, the… Read more »
MusicLover
Guest

I do find it rather depressing to see the suggestion that Bolgár (who I generally regard as a pitiful excuse of a journalist) has some sort of duty to help the course by not asking certain questions or uttering particular criticisms. We rightfully excoriate the government press for doing this and yet seem to expect the other side to do it themselves…

There was a time when I was a Gyurcsány fan and I think there is no question he is the most intelligent political figure since the transition. But he proved unable to manage either the country or his party, and he now strike me as a bloated egotist still dreaming of a return to power. Which is just not going to happen, and given his track record as PM, should not be allowed to happen.

Spillie
Guest

Gyurcsány for me is the best alternative for the post of prime minister.He changed in my opinion a lot after 2006.But Fidesz did a lot of character assassination:for them he is the most serious enemy.He is a real fighter and never will give up.He need to row against the wind.
All the other opposition party-leaders need to step back when they hope for a better future
for the Hungarian people:that finally after 25 years they will get a better live.Really helpless they are.Fearing and loathing.

Istvan
Guest
I will get to Gyurcsány in this comment by way of the refugee crisis. Germany may expel up one third of recently admitted refugees because they have been denied asylum. There will be so many expelled that Germany is now considering using military transport planes to remove them. See http://www.dw.com/en/germany-considering-use-of-military-aircraft-to-deport-refugees/a-18794777 Merkel’s open door policy is closing slowly apparently because the country simply lacks the capacity to accommodate the influx. Germany has cut the flow from Austria creating a crisis in that country. Austria’s minister for foreign affairs and integration, Sebastian Kurz, told Ö1 radio yesterday he was not against building border fences, which Hungary has done, saying that secure borders are needed. See http://www.thelocal.at/20151023/austrian-minister-calls-for-fortress-europe The remarkable nature of this statement by the Austrians should not be underestimated, because they were among the harshest critics of Orban’s fence building just a month ago. Orban unfortunately is looking like an evil genius with his fences. The EU asylum policy is crumbling due to the flow of refugees. I am terribly afraid that Gyurcsány is politically howling in the wind because Orban’s politicized defense of Hungary’s borders has been shown to work in the face of what is happening around Hungary right now.… Read more »
Member
Make no mistake. It was never the intention of Germany to keep all the refugee claimants. Never-ever Germany suggested that. They are simply speeding up the process to remove false claimants. The difference between Hungary and Germany is that in the later the intention is to let them in and then decide, while in Hungary the intention is to not let them in, let them freeze in the cold, etc. and put any red tape in the way to make sure that even bonafide refugees have no chance. “We are clearly committed to integrating those who are worthy of protection,” Thomas de Maizière, Germany’s interior minister, said on Thursday. Those who are not, he added, will have to leave. The legislative changes would add three new countries – Kosovo, Albania and Montenegro – to a list of mostly Balkan nations deemed “safe” by the German government. Local authorities have started to shunt asylum-seekers from such countries into special centres where the goal is to process their claims and return them to where they came from as quickly as possible. [….] The moves are aimed primarily at migrants from Balkan nations. In the first eight months of 2015, Germany received 257,000… Read more »
PALIKA
Guest

Sokak Magyarorszaga is the slogan. Not what you quoted. It means Hungary of the many.

Guest

Sorry to say this (sorry for the country) but I still don’t see any opposition politician of Gyurcsany”s calibre around. This kind paper should have been written by the leader of MSZP. Too bad they miss the person who is able to write such.

I agree so much that as long as voters don’t sense strong leadership and vision on the other side they will not vote for the “left”. Tobias, Mesterhazy, Schiffer and Szigetvari simple don’t cut. Especially against such a crafty fox and bare-knuckle no mercy hitler-type maniac like Orban.

OT: I don’t think that there can be a debate whether a country has right to protect its borders (especially if it coincides with Schengen borders) and direct those who want to enter the country to the official entry points.

Member

I agree. It sad but at this point the only “qualified” politician in Hungary is Gyurcsany. My father who supported the MSZP in the past refuses to vote for them since they thrown Gyurcsany under the bus. I think many ex-MSZP supporters feel the same.

petofi
Guest

re: migrants/refugees

I don’t know who designated Europe as the ‘off’ place for all refugees.
If refugees should be doled out to countries, why isn’t the UN taking the lead and spreading the refugees worldwide? There should be a quota system that UN member countries should volunteer for. And all suitable UN countries–by suitable I mean those who can afford it–should be included; nay, obligated to take part, like Saudi Arabia, Japan,Kuwait, Switzerland, Dubai, Russia ….etc.

Why is the Judaeo-Christian idea of Charity being taken advantage of and plundered?

Guest

Re: Gyurcsany and the mafia state…

The analysis is right on. Perhaps his thinking has crystallized for him the fact that if the country is going to change at all in its ways an opportunity needs to be given to those in the middle who by nature can go with either side in a Goodfella mafia state to reevaluate their positions relative to the governing ‘tribe’.

And on that he’s sure dealing with the ‘many’ in Magyarorszag who arguably can be considered getting rooked. Thing is he needs to be a very good salesman and has to remember the medium is the message if he wants that shift to go through. But maybe realities will also help. Taking accounting of what is going on is probably the first step in changing behaviors and perceptions. In any case, Mr. Gyurcsany’s got a tough road ahead when you have to deal with entrenched Petey’s and Pauley’s hanging around the political feed troughs slurping up as much as they are being fed.

bimbi
Guest
It is most appropriate to have this discussion on 23 October on the 59th anniversary of the events of 1956. We should remember that not so long ago the country, together, used to commemorate and celebrate that revolution but it was Viktor Orban who transformed the date into a party political event by insisting on a Fidesz meeting in place of making common cause with his fellow-Hungarians – selfish, partisan and divisive – and so 23 October remains today. And then nine years ago there was the Fidesz/Fradi riot that led to their assault on the TV building… One must with sadness agree that Mr. Gyurcsany faces an uphill struggle in unifying the parties of the left and in presenting to an electorate, bought off with unceasing propaganda and mostly petty reductions in utility fees, a coherent and attractive plan for the restoration of democracy and of civil fairness in Hungary. Let it not be forgotten that no one under the Gyurcsany government feared for his position in the work place because of petty party ideology, yet today that is exactly the position of many – including civil servants, teachers and hospital workers. The media in Orban’s Hungary have been… Read more »
caciki
Guest

What a difference a decade makes.

“The surefire way to get Hungarians sounding patriotic and cheerful is to ask them if they would like to emulate Slovakia, their much poorer, but reform-thirsty northern neighbour”.

Muhahaha, Slovakia these days is so far ahead of Hungary in every sense that it’s simply impossible for Hungary to even catch up to it. To compare Hungary to Austria is now beyond deranged.

http://edwardlucas.blogspot.hu/2006/04/for-real-afficionados-here-is-very.html

ER1956
Guest

caciki is a good yogurth dip.

agreed, most hungarians of slovakia are beginning to appreciate their luck to live outside of mad hungary.

Guest
Re: Bimbi’s allusion to ’56… It was a spontaneous revolution by those in the ‘kettle’ who had enough of the realities destroying their lives, souls and future within the country.. There was much hope before the door was slammed shut again but today in our look at a society in disarray and adrift on a precipice it would appear there has been a grave stumble. The machine’ appears as if it has co-opted minds.There was a ‘rotten system’ then how can it be now again? Back in the early 50’s some of the East Germans also threw stuff at Russian tanks. For sure there was no hope for them to win but the Russians got a calling card where some said ‘no!’. But years on it looks as if the seed of revolution there in that communist system indeed flowered to an extent that all of Germany is united today. And Germany has not descended to dabbling and trying out ‘a-democratic’ political setups. Just not so sure why Magyars don’t say ‘nem’ on some things. Far from me to be a psychologist of the national psyche but the real message of ’56 apparently hasn’t resonated after the decades. Perhaps the… Read more »
PALIKA
Guest
It is fascinating that there is apparently a body of opinion that represents the view that Gyurcsany has any future as a national or even political leader of substance. He is likable and very able. He is much the best on pure ability, personality and political ability. Unfortunately he is stuffed because of his speech at Oszod. Not even in a country like Hungary can he get away with the admissions he made then. I appreciate that in Hungary honesty has far less importance than clan loyalty. If he had been a politIcian in Western Europe he would have had to leave the stage as did Jack Profumo in 1963 when he admitted lying to the country. Remember him? Minister who shared a hooker with the KGB spy Ivanov. Gyurcsany is in my opinion unelectable. His party should have dealt with him after the speech by tossing him out. By not having done that they demonstrated lack of spine or principle and have paid the price which is the destruction, step by step of the MSZP. The party then showed that they stood for nothing except to hang on to the privileges of power. Pity, but their basic flaw was… Read more »
Bimbi
Guest

Palko,

You seem to have bitten into the propaganda richly spread by Orban & Co with respect to the Oszod speech. What Gyurcsany said was that ALL politicians lied and that it was now time for a new and honest beginning. The Orban/Fidesz smear campaign successfully (alas) branded only Gyurcsany as a liar, but some knew better then and we all certainly know better now after 5 years of the Mafia State of Fidesz/KDNP. Enormous effort went into that dirty campaign which dug deep into the depths of Fidesz power-grabbing dishonesty. Please don’t compare him with Mr. Profumo who, in response to a specific question lied to the British parliament. Sorry, there is no comparison here.

If Mr. Gyurcsany is not “electable” it is a question for the electorate (and not just of Palika) but if either he or someone else on the left is indeed unable to form a government the country will continue to be in the grip of Fidesz graft, lies and theft for years to come. Please don’t wish that on the country!

PALIKA
Guest
Bimbi, you are right that the voters decide who is elected and who is not. The task of removing a poor government is the function of democracy. It is impossible without a strong, viable opposition that can form a government. This is not the postion now in Hungary. There are many reasons. I do not swallow Orban’s propaganda. I do not even hear it or read it. I read NOL and Eva’s articles. Let me quote what Gyurcsany said as reported. English translation available on line. ” There is not much choice. There is not because we have f….d it up. Not a little but a lot. No European country has done something as boneheaded as we have. It can be explained. We have obviously lied throughout the past one and a half two years. It was perfectly clear that what we were saying was not true. We are beyond the country’s possibilities to such an extent that we could not conceive earlier that a joint government of the Hungarian Socialist Party and the liberals would ever do. And in the meantime, by the way, we did not do anything for four years. Nothing.” Rather unfortunate that he said it,… Read more »
spectator
Guest

Let us establish then the fact, as you quoted, Gyurcsány used plural all along in that speech: “We have obviously lied throughout the past one and a half two years.”

Let me remind you as well, that the speech was held in a “closed” environment to his party comrades. Not publicly, not to everyone.

Let me ask you then: do you take that he was telling the truth about lying, or lied about it? What was he supposed to be saying then, what would have been better?

In my opinion he wanted to change the MSZP to the better, – and wanted to shake them up – but it didn’t fit well to the taste of the majority of the party leaders, that’s why he split at the end.

What we can really agree on is that telling truth isn’t something what was a winner concept in Hungary, and we keep our traditions rather well…

Member

The interesting part is that everyone remembers Gyurcsany’ speech in a very foggy way, and everyone seems to forget Orban’s messages, and lies. How about Orban very much telling to the Amrican diplomats “Do not worry about what we say in order to get elected”?
Hungarians have a very selective memory, and Orban’s mafia also tries everything to erase the memory about Orban’s lies, and working overtime to discredit everyone else even if they have to come up with something.

petofi
Guest

@ Palika

re: Oszod

Orban did something rare in 2007: he confessed how abominably his party worked in the past few years. When he said ‘we’, he didn’t say ‘I’–he was gracious in including himself in the mis-steps of the government. He took responsibility.

It’s interesting how people continue to mis-read the essence of that speech. When I heard it back then–I believe I was sitting in a car–I thought to myself, “Well, if you couldn’t trust this man before, you can certainly trust him from this point forward because no true criminal would admit something like this and go back to sinning.”

And I was stunned to see and hear how Gyurcsany’s wonderful, self-sacrificing words were turned upside down and inside out, to berate him. This can’t be true, I thought, can’t Hungarians understand truth and honesty when they’re faced with it?

ER1956
Guest

compliments to petofi, man of logic!

Guest

When I, as an American, first heard Gyurcsany’s speech, my thoughts were “if only my government were so honest”. I completely agree with Petofi!

Guest

The torrent of lies issued by Fidesz/Orban on a daily basis has made Gyurcsans’s purported lies a non-issue. Those who still bring it up lack a sense of proportions.

spectator
Guest

Without having listened either Gyurcsány’s speech or his conversation with Bolgár, I dare say that he is perfectly right regarding Szigetvári or/and Karácsony – but whoever for that matter.
Is anybody any better, take the lead and surpass Gyurcsány, show up the country that you are the one! Being a “new” and “innocent” – pretend that everyone else, but Gyurcsány is – not enough anymore!
Far from it!

I also remember perfectly well when last time Gyurcsány stepped aside – for Bajnai – on that memorable demonstration, where the so called “democratic opposition” last time appeared together – and what came out of it?

Year long procrastination, internal conflicts and baseless claims, and at the end the big splash.

Would be about time that for once the real interest of the country would be the main issue, and not the next well/better paying job to the so called ‘politicians’ themselves!

And I – for one – absolutely sure, that even without Gyurcsány nobody else is up to the task at the moment.
A pity, but true.

Guest

Anyway G. became prime minister only in 2004 …
Not too much OT:

The German wiki on G reads as if it had been written by a Fidesz mafioso – ain’t that funny?
It differs in many points from the English …
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferenc_Gyurcs%C3%A1ny

What’s also interesting:
G’s German wiki writes about his father – Orbán’s wiki doesn’t mention that his father was high ranking in the Communist Party …
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viktor_Orb%C3%A1n

PALIKA
Guest

The problem with the quoted passage is that he is saying that they did nothing as a government of which he was the head to come to grips with the country’s problems. We did nothing, is his sentence. What he admits to is that they lied to cover up this fact. Do not forget he said this immediately following an election victory which he might not have won but for his lies. Maybe he regretted what he had done, maybe he had a bad conscience, maybe he wanted to change his ways. This is all to his credit. But it does not get away from the fact he admits he lied to win the election in 2006.

The problem is that he is “damaged goods”. Orban’s opponents should forget him. He will not win them anything. Pity. But there is nothing you can do about it. I believe he is unelectable and probably a major political liability.

Latefor
Guest

Palinka,
They did “nothing” (poor Gyurcsany) – because they were supposed to do NOTHING. Isn’t that what uncontrolled FREE MARKET economies supposed to do? The markets supposed to take care of everything. The markets did NOT take care of everything and everyone. What were they thinking? (an ex-communist country, no experience with the free markets, etc. etc.).

Latefor
Guest

One more thing, there is a big possibility: had Gyurcsany done SOMETHING, today he would be in the same position as Orban! (Some of you on the H.S. would be belting him with a passion. Just brain storming :-))

Member

The Power of Negative Thinking

What is astounding about Orban’s pestilential propaganda and demagoguery is that it manages to insinuate itself not just into the minds of the patriotic partisans of Fidik, but even the opposition: All these independent-minded democrats — right here in the Hungarian Spectrum — falling reflexively for the shameless and utterly groundless smear campaign against Ferenc Gyurcsany, the only one with the stature, determination and integrity that could stand up to the kakistocratic calumnies and corruption of Orban’s mendacious machine. (Not that any one of the main opposition parties —- other than Fidesz’s neonazi Doppelgaenger, Jobbik — led by any of their members would not be infinitely preferable to Orban’s sordid cohort of sociopaths.)

And still quoting those excerpts from Oszod without the slightest glimmer of insight…

Mind-boggling…

german1971
Guest

FIDESZ can not fool me.
Unfortunately many Hungarians, even the intelligent ones accept the FIDESZ lies.
And many of us are falling into various other traps, Anti-American, Anti-Capitalist, Anti-Enlightenment….
Life is an endless mine field.
Try to shield yourself against all deceits.

Member

anti-Muslim!

PALIKA
Guest

For an objective and sensible comment on Gyurcsany please see today’s NOL.HU. Not exactly an Orban mouthpiece.

PALIKA
Guest
Eva, you can do much better than this. Are you saying NOL.HU is part of what you believe to be criminal conspiracy hatched by Viktor Orban? Or are you saying that I lack the capacity to judge whether an article is objective? Or that I wilfully misrepresent a patently biased article as an objective one to help give more credibility to a mistaken view and one you disagree with. Clearly there are many who read your articles and comments. It apparently does not suit your anti Orban campaign that anyone should remind your readers of Gyurcsany’s problems of credibility. The NOL.HU article makes the sensible point that he is an architect of the events that resulted in the Orban regime. But that is pretty complicated for most voters to swallow. They are much happier with the simple story, as many are, that Gyurcsany is a liar who cheated himself into an election victory. Maybe he did, maybe not and that he is an honest man who has been trying to reform the party of cheating apartchicks. I like him. I wish he did not carry the baggage he now does which I believe makes him unelectable. Finally, I feel sure… Read more »
PALIKA
Guest

Thank you Eva. Orban can only be ousted by the result of an election. His opponents will need not only a united front, if at all possible to put one together, but also a credible and preferably charismatic leader around whom they can unite. My point, put very simply, is that Gyurcsany is not that person. The difficulty is to find a leader who has the necessary qualities and no baggage. Even if he is free from the latter, one can always be generated. So it is better for the candidate not to emerge too soon.

pesti
Guest

Re Népszabadsag. Simicska has a few other of those “option” agreements (ie. the paperwork behind the fronting activities) like he had re TV2.

According to gossips Népszabadsag and bunch of other newspapers and magazines are included in one of these agreements.

So, although Népszabadsag is not exactly a government mouthpiece, it’s not a real independent leftist paper. Obviously the journalists know about the gossips and behave accordingly (Iliko Csuhaj etc.).

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