New MSZP leadership: New strategy and tactics?

While the whole world, including readers of Hungarian Spectrum, are preoccupied with the most unfortunate decision of a slight majority of the citizens of the United Kingdom, an important domestic event has taken place that may change the political landscape in Hungary. Today MSZP delegates from all over the country gathered in Budapest to elect a new leadership. The stakes are high: will the new officers be able, together with other democratic forces, to build a political force capable of successfully competing with the flourishing and self-confident Fidesz under the iron fist of Viktor Orbán? Now that the congress is over and almost all the more important leaders, including the chairman of the party, have been replaced, MSZP has another chance to demonstrate that it can be one of the leading democratic forces in Hungary.

A few days ago, while discussing the Hungarian national football team, we talked about “the players’ lack of self-confidence and will to win.” Someone in the course of the discussion remarked that one could say the same thing about the non-Jobbik opposition to Viktor Orbán’s government. It was this exchange that came to mind when I was reading some of the comments made by the four candidates for the party’s chairmanship in the last few months. For example, there is a strong tendency in MSZP to indulge in self-flagellation. What a total misunderstanding of politics. That is the job of Fidesz, not MSZP. Such statements as “we are unable to escape from quarantine until we face our past” (Tamás Harangozó) don’t inspire much confidence. Or, also from Harangozó, the MSZP supporter learns that by remaining in power between 2006 and 2010 the party went against the wishes of its electorate. I guess they should simply have thrown in the towel and resigned. Or, “MSZP by now is not the party that the people trust with the leadership of the country.” Then why should anyone vote for them? József Tóbiás, the chairman who just lost his position, is no better. What about this for inspiration? “MSZP must understand that we are not a big party.” And yet, he says, “on the left there are no competing parties. There is only one party, which is called MSZP.” Well, if MSZP itself is not a big party and it has no competition on the left, Viktor Orbán will have a very, very long tenure. Tibor Szanyi is a true democrat: “MSZP must get rid of the left-liberal little parties.” Instead, he generously offers a place for all democrats under MSZP’s umbrella.

I left statements by Gyula Molnár, today’s winner, to last. He is, as opposed to his mealy-mouthed comrades, a combative sort who back in 1999-2000 wanted “to take up the kind of political tactics characteristic of our opponents.” This is something that the left in general has been unwilling to do. Molnár, because of his forced absence from politics between 2010 and 2016, has a great advantage. He doesn’t bear any responsibility for the things that went wrong with the party in the last six years. Among the candidates Molnár is the only one who doesn’t think that MSZP can single-handedly defeat Fidesz in the coming elections. I think he puts his finger on the problem when he claims that “the rejection of cooperation [with the other parties] is good for only one thing. To leisurely build the party with the result of losing the election.” A few days later he complained that “MSZP committed the left’s classical mistake: when we are in opposition we want to build the party, not win elections.”

Photo: MTI

Photo: MTI

So, I really think that with the election of Gyula Molnár a new chapter opens in the history of MSZP. At least now, I think, there’s a chance. The chairman of the board, László Botka, mayor of Szeged since 2006, was also replaced by István Hiller, chairman of the party between 2004 and 2006 and minister of education between 2006 and 2010. Hiller’s lead over Botka was surprisingly large. Hiller received 201 votes against Botka’s 134. This very poor showing by Botka who, according to Medián, is the most popular socialist politician in the country, is something of a mystery. Only a few days ago there was talk of Botka as a possible prime minister one day. Now the word is that Botka’s retirement from national politics, at least for the time being, is pretty certain.

We will not see much of József Tóbiás either because he announced his intention to resign from his post as leader of MSZP’s parliamentary delegation.

There were two rounds of voting. From the start Molnár was leading with 121 votes against Tóbiás’s 99, Harangozó’s 67, and Szanyi’s 45. However, since Molnár didn’t have 50% + 1 of the votes, a second round took place where Molnár won 121 votes against Tóbiás’s 99. There will be three deputy chairmen: István Ujhelyi (262 votes), András Nemény (234 votes), and Nándor Gúr (197 votes). I’m pleased by the good showing of Ujhelyi, one of the two MSZP EP members, whom I think highly of.

We know relatively little about what the candidates for the various posts had to say for themselves because the congress was held in camera. I’m relying here on a short description that appeared a few hours ago in 168 Óra. Predictably, Tóbiás tried to convince the delegates that the present course is successful and should be continued. As we know from the outcome, he wasn’t convincing. Harangozó promised that he will be a reliable and hardworking chairman, and Szanyi offered himself as “the captain” of the ship in these troubled times.

Molnár talked about “the fear in our soul. We are afraid to change, we don’t dare to risk. It would be nice to have a messiah who is not afraid of Viktor Orbán. But we can have a general only if there is an army behind him. As [Gyula] Horn said, with bowed head one cannot see far. One needs a new program, new tactics.”

After the congress closed, Molnár gave a short press conference in which he said that he will subordinate everything to the preparations for the 2018 elections. He also emphasized that “only one single challenger can defeat the Fidesz regime,” which means that he is open to negotiations with the other democratic parties. Compare that to László Botka’s speech at the congress in which he announced that “there is life after Gyurcsány and Orbán.” One cannot ignore and insult DK which, as far as electoral support goes, is not too far behind MSZP. Anti-Fidesz voters want cooperation, not strife. I wonder whether Botka’s poor showing has anything to do with his rigid attitude toward other parties on the left.

Fidesz’s “congratulations” to the winners of the MSZP election says a lot about what kind of people the opposition faces. Immediately after the first congratulatory sentence, one reads that both Molnár and Hiller held important positions during the “Gyurcsány era.” In fact, Hiller helped Gyurcsány become prime minister. In any case, it doesn’t matter who the chairman of the party is because MSZP will continue where it left off: “the socialists want to carry out Brussels’ plan of forced immigration, continue their pro-immigration policies, and cover up their corruption…. The new chairman, Gyula Molnár, already indicated that he wants to strengthen the Gyurcsány coalition, which already ruined the country once.”

I hope Molnár will find the right tone to answer such “congratulatory” notes from Fidesz.

June 25, 2016
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PALIKA
Guest

These are all old tried and tested people who have the smell of political death around them. Botka replaced by Hiller. Another political failure. It’s musical chairs. Whilst I wish the defeat of OV, these people have no realistic prospect of achieving it.

I do not have Eva’s experience of Hungarian politics, so whilst I do not share her judgment on this, I hope she is right and I am wrong.

webber
Guest

” these people have no realistic prospect of achieving it.”
It is getting to the point where people will vote for ANYBODY as long as that person is not in Fidesz. That’s the mood, as I judge it, in Budapest now. It will be the mood outside of Budapest very soon (already is in some regions, judging from by-elections).
With the exception of Jobbik, anyone would be better than Fidesz now.

pappp
Guest
Just a note. I came across some basic stats about Brexit. Basically, the over 50, rural, white English men voted overwhelmingly for Brexit, the majority of women for Remain, London, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol for Remain, and under 48 years of age for Remain (under 24 it was actually 80 percent for Remain). This is exactly the constituency of Fidesz although there are many MSZP voters among the elderly. Orban himself is one of them, it’s no surprise that he and his image of the folksy football-crazy sausage maker cater to them. While I agree that there is huge discontent in Hungary, it is an equally huge mistake to underestimate the conservativeness and anti-elitism (meaning the intellectuals and experts who tell them that they have to accept gays and gipsies because this is now the proper behavior etc,) of this constituency. White man, especially the uneducated, the working class are pretty upset and they need to vent their anger. Fidesz gave them this opportunity. Moreover Fidesz disposes over close to a million ethnic Hungarian votes, Fidesz is spending – under the title entrepeneurship development – 50 billion forints on Voivodina alone (on maybe 150.000 votes). MSZP and its democratic opposition… Read more »
webber
Guest

You forget that Fidesz has become the establishment against which the dissatisfied are angry..

Also, you are repeating yourself. You said all that already, perhaps under a different name.

Finally, I have to note that you are doing a perfect Fidesznik impression again.

pappp
Guest

I’m an anti-Fidesz person who doesn’t especially like the Hungarian left-wing, that’s true. I don’t sympathize with the leadership of the leftist parties though I respect some like Juhász Péter for his relentlessness or Benedek Jávor. I listed some questions (yes with the same arguments) under today’s post also because I just don’t believe that the left-wing has the cojones to force Fidesz into surrender or submission. For Fidesz the strategic goal was to obliterate the left-wing while keeping some Károly Peyer-inspired parties who could be controlled, and who could be presented as evidence of an existing opposition – and that was accomplished (the Orban system is in place, entrenched). For the left-wing the goal is always somehow to compromise. No matter how corrupt Fidesz is and we are in a African style kleptocracy now MSZP at al would always be willing to compromise. I don’t see a vision and the toughness to accomplish it. Which is OK in Germany where few things needs to change from one election to another, but in Hungary…There is no copyright for arguments so I can use with what I agree.

webber
Guest

Of the professions and organizations in Hungary, people seem to hate politicians and politicians most of all.

2010 was about people being angry with the left, for all sorts reasons. Those who say people liked Fidesz, and voted “for Fidesz” are wrong, in my view.
I believe 2018 will be about people’s fury with Fidesz. They won’t like the left. They just hate Fidesz more.

Anyway, most people are for Hungary, not for this or that party.

I guess you are a former Fidesz supporter, who has been disgusted. You are not alone. There are a lot of young people like that. Some of them will be voting for the left, just to get rid of this cancer.

webber
Guest

I meant to write “politicians and political parties most of all” above. I typed too fast.

Alex Kuli
Guest
I am a bit unsure as to whether Molnar is the right person to lead the MSZP, or the united opposition, to victory. His record as Ujbuda mayor is hardly stellar. I have not-so-fond memories of two open-air dance clubs on either side of Petofi Bridge, Zold Pardon and Rio, both of which were operated by baldheaded men and frequented by drug dealers. The rumor was that Molnar was getting kickbacks from both operations. While this was never proven, it is a shame Molnar let them operate unfettered, especially after Zold Pardon’s thugs refused entrance to a couple of Gypsy men. It turned out one of the men was an employee in then-PM Gyurcsany’s office and sued the club. I also wonder whether Molnar can inject new pride into the MSZP. From all appearances, he was ashamed of his party membership when he unsuccessfully ran for re-election as District 11 mayor in 2010. Molnar’s campaign ads did not use the MSZP logo and didn’t even mention that he was the Socialist candidate. The only bit of red on the campaign flyer was a small heart, a symbol of his love for Ujbuda and its environs. The principal colors were blue,… Read more »
webber
Guest

Mild correction: Zöld Párdon’s thugs refused entrance to a group of Gypsies among whom was one (or two?) of MEP Viktória Mohácsi’s sisters. One of the girls in the group was hit (or kicked?) by the thugs resulting, as I recall, in fairly serious injury (broken ankle?).

Very good of you to bring that up – honesty is needed here if the opposition is ever to straighten itself out.

Observer
Guest

What does this episode have to do with the assessment of the MSZP’s leadership or with the many years’ performance of Molnar as district mayor?
The troll got the better of you?

BTW Episodes like this happen pretty often in Budapest, but they haven’t been used by party media to insinuate involvement of political rivals.

webber
Guest

Mistreatment of minorities is always, always worth recalling, and should be recalled correctly. Roma were murdered in those years. One of the victims was a little boy. And the authorities where he was murdered tried to cover it up as “smoke inhalation.” A hole the size of your fist in the back of a five-year-old (I believe that was his age), “smoke inhalation.” That, too, should never be forgotten. Wouldn’t you agree?

I did not bring up alleged kick-backs to Molnar. Alex did. Ask him. I have never heard of them.

Have no idea whether Molnar did a good job as district mayor. My district has, and has had an MSZP mayor for a long time now. He is doing and has done a great job, and was never accused of corruption, even by Fidesz.

Observer
Guest

Webber,
Treatment of minorities, drugs are serious issues, but have nothing to do with the Molnar /MSZP issues at hand.
The mentioning of these together, even if unrelated, or as “rumor” or “unproven” is a subtle manipulation, as every communication or marketing guy will tell u.
And this is my point re the unfortunate AK post, fidesznik or not (but rather yes).

webber
Guest

I assure you, A.K. is certainly not a Fidesznik. Éva can confirm this as well, I am sure.

Observer
Guest

OK point taken.

So it will be critique of the posts only, no ref ad hominem.
And hopefully we shall not have to think that “with friends like this who needs enemies”

Alex Kuli
Guest

Webber – I did not recall the incident with Mohacsi’s sister. The one to which I am referring is when two Roma men were turned away at the door. Maybe these were two separate incidents?
In the case to which I am referring, the attorney for Zold Pardon was none other than Andras Schiffer. Small world.

webber
Guest

You are aware, I hope, that the attorney for defense is not generally a friend of the accused?

Or do you think that lawyers are in cahoots with their clients?

Generally speaking, they don’t even know one another, until the accused person approaches a lawyer.

Even the guilty have the right to a defending attorney, you know.

There was a boycott of Zöld Párdon after the girls were beaten – and it was def. women.

Observer
Guest

@Alex K, aka whoever

It seems you haven’t received the agitprop script yet, hence you have nothing to say about Molnar except for the nonsensical disco club story. We’ll wait, surely you’ll be back in different aliases when the parrot commando script reaches you.

“In my view, the MSZP is damaged goods..” , yeah,… not perfect, but washing away the rotten, noxious Orban load is a first priority. Orban delenta est.

webber
Guest

Alex Kuli is not a Fidesznik. And he is one of the few people here writing under his own name.
He may dislike MSZP. Why not? A lot of people have good reasons for disliking that party.
I am sure he would agree with you that getting rid of the Fidesz govt. should be first priority. He does not believe that MSZP can do it. So what? It’s a defensible position.

Observer
Guest

Eva,

The font of the posts has been pretty small, smaller than the comments’ even. Larger would be easier to read.

The terms “left” or “on the left side” are somewhat misleading in the Hungarian political context. The “democratic” or “democratic side” are more precise, as we have a single party run quasi fascist dictatorship and others, who want to bring back democracy.

Observer
Guest

@Alex K

Sorry, I withdraw the “script” bit. The rest stands.

pappp
Guest

Pista Hiller is loved by Magyar Idők, the Fidesz party mouthpiece which otherwise specializes in character assassinations.

http://444.hu/2016/06/26/olebe-vette-es-babusgatta-hiller-istvant-a-magyar-idok

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