The following paragraph from an interview Ferenc Gyurcsány gave Somogyi Hírlap, a paper serving Kaposvár and the County of Somogy, has created quite a stir, mostly in the right-leaning media. Since there have been many, most likely purposeful, misinterpretations of what Gyurcsány actually said, here is a faithful translation of the controversial paragraph. This was Gyurcsány’s answer to the reporter’s question about cooperation among the opposition parties.
First we must wait until we find out what happens at the [forthcoming] congress of MSZP where four very different types of politicians will vie for the chairmanship. It is also not immaterial where MSZP will be by next spring. How self-confident they will be. I’m certain that there will be some kind of joining of forces before the next national election, even if not the kind that existed in 2014. But it is also possible that regardless of what we do or say the people—just like in Tapolca and in Salgótarján, in the former from left to right and in the latter from right to left–will vote for the candidate they think is most likely to succeed [against Fidesz]. Thus, a situation may occur—something Viktor Orbán hasn’t thought of—that left-right cooperation will take place over and above his “central power” scheme. It can happen that three large blocks are formed–the left opposition, Jobbik, and Fidesz-KDNP–but that none of them gets the necessary 50%, while they cannot form a coalition openly. Let me add that I wouldn’t be at all happy about such an outcome, but at the same time I cannot preclude the possibility of such public pressure that the current opposition forces will have to cooperate for the sake of dismantling the two-thirds laws. There is the possibility that the current political system will have a very strange end.
The Hungarian media is very Budapest-centric. Few journalists in the capital pay much attention to what appears in the provincial press. However, Gábor G. Fodor’s notorious new internet news site, 888.hu, immediately picked the story up from a far-right site called spiler.blog.hu. Both declared that “Gyurcsány would forge an alliance with Jobbik,” 888.hu adding that “things grow together that belong together.” Magyar Idők also indicated that Gyurcsány would work together with Jobbik and sarcastically added that “perhaps they could form one big party,” attracting voters from the entire political spectrum. “Gyurcsány would have a lot to talk about with [László] Toroczkai. Political success is guaranteed.” Toroczkai, the far-right leader of the Youth Movement of the Sixty-Four Counties, was an active participant in the destruction of the Magyar Televízió’s building when Gyurcsány’s Balatonőszöd speech became public. Válasz’s article ran under the headline: “Hang on, Gyurcsány embodies every anti-fascist’s nightmare.” The author of the article is pretty certain that nothing will come of such cooperation because both MSZP and DK said far too often: “Never with Jobbik!” However, he admitted that the last few by-elections showed that voters can create grand coalitions on “the theory of anybody but Fidesz.”
On the other side of the political spectrum there is deathly silence. No one wants to say anything about Gyurcsány’s assessment of the present political map of Hungary. I found only one blog, László Zöldi’s medianapló.blog.hu, that found this particular passage from the Gyurcsány interview important and thought-provoking. He can’t quite understand why no one explored the subject further with him, although Zöldi has heard at least two subsequent interviews. He simply can’t understand the silence. He even suggests that there may be topics the independent Hungarian media simply doesn’t want to talk about.
Indeed, it is a sensitive topic because in the last few years the strength of the various political blocs hasn’t changed substantially. As long as this constellation remains, Fidesz’s chances of winning the next election and perhaps even several more are good. On the other hand, there is the very real problem of Jobbik’s ideology and the democratic opposition parties’ determination not to cooperate with a neo-Nazi party. Gábor Vona’s announcement to get rid of some of his deputies was initially interpreted by many, including myself, as a move toward the center, but Vona’s candidates for the vacated positions hold views just as extreme as those of the party leaders he wants to dismiss.
Gyurcsány is actually not the first politician to talk about some kind of an arrangement between the left and Jobbik. Gergely Karácsony (PM), today mayor of Zugló (District XIV), brought up the idea of a short-term coalition of the opposition parties (MSZP-LMP-Jobbik) back in December 2011. At that point Karácsony was still a member of LMP. The Fidesz government was in the middle of working on a new electoral law. What the public could learn about the details convinced Karácsony that the law would greatly favor the government party and that even if MSZP and LMP faced the government party together they would not be able to get rid of the Orbán government. His suggestion was to forge an alliance among the three opposition parties for the sole purpose of breaking the stranglehold of Fidesz’s two-thirds majority rule. The goal of this alliance would be a minimum program that would remove the worst features of Orbán’s political system, including naturally the electoral system. After the essential changes that would restore the democratic functioning of the government were made, parliament could be dissolved and new elections held. The outcry on the left after this interview was so great that the idea was immediately dropped.
Of course, the political atmosphere today is very different from the one in which Karácsony made this suggestion, which sounded bizarre after only a year and a half of Fidesz rule. Today, however, we have a situation in which several by-elections have shown that the electorate is indeed ready to vote for the candidate who is most likely to succeed against Fidesz. Left-wingers are ready to vote for a Jobbik politician, while disappointed Fidesz and Jobbik voters are ready to cast their votes for a socialist. If such trends continue, one can easily foresee the kind of situation Gyurcsány talked about. And then what? The democratic opposition must have a viable game plan.