Harmful politicians in the Hungarian democratic opposition

It’s time to vent my wrath against some of those politicians who allegedly want to win the 2018 election and free the country from a semi-autocratic leader who has introduced an illiberal political system in Hungary.

A couple of days ago György Bolgár invited me to outline my ideas about what the democratic opposition should do to put an end to the rule of Viktor Orbán. Among other things, I emphasized the need for one large opposition party, which would necessarily mean the disappearance of those parties that have only minimal support. As it stands now, none of them would receive 5% of the votes, so any ballots cast for them would not only be a waste but would boost Fidesz’s electoral position.

There are some very good people in these parties. People like Ákos Hadházy (LMP), Gergely Karácsony (PM), Tímea Szabó (PM), and Péter Juhász (Együtt) would be real assets in a large left-of-center party. But others should disappear from the political scene because they are obstacles to any kind of joint action and mutual understanding. The two most prominent people in this latter category are the chairman of Együtt, Viktor Szigetvári, and the co-chairman of LMP, Bernadett Szél. Szigetvári accuses MSZP of being in bed with Fidesz and wanting to lose the election as the result of a secret pact. Szél just assured Fidesz of her party’s support for the anti-refugee referendum and, while she was at it, joined the anti-Soros chorus of Fidesz.

Let me start with Viktor Szigetvári. Back in March 2014, just before the election, I wrote a critical article about him. For years, ever since he graduated from college, he was affiliated with MSZP in one capacity or another. He served under Péter Medgyessy, Ferenc Gyurcsány, and Gordon Bajnai. Because he was one of the organizers of the 2006 MSZP election campaign, he acquired the reputation of being an election guru with a magic touch. But, as his efforts in the 2014 election campaign showed, a magic touch was not enough. In 2013, after he left MSZP, he became co-chairman of Bajnai’s Együtt-PM which, despite promising beginnings, today has the support of only 1% of the electorate.

I freely admit that I have been following Viktor Szigetvári’s political career with growing concern. He appears on ATV frequently, and each time he lessens the chances of a unified democratic opposition. He tries to discredit and undermine the two larger parties, MSZP and DK, and puts himself forth as the only man who could engineer a democratic opposition victory in 2018.

Szigetvári’s latest foray into backbiting was an interview with András Hont of HVG where he said that “Együtt has an existing hinterland and an intellectual radiance which might not be as large as that of a party with 40% support” but the party isn’t tainted by those who were discredited in the days before 2010. Of course, Szigetvári conveniently forgets about the large role he played in the service of that “rotten regime,” whose other participants should be banished from political life.

Behind Viktor Szigetv'ari: "For Hungary"

Behind Viktor Szigetvári: “For Hungary”

The whole interview was full of contradictions. On the one hand, Szigetvári is convinced that only someone who had nothing to do with political life prior to 1990 can unseat Viktor Orbán. On the other, he indicated in the interview that his great hope for the premiership would be László Botka (MSZP), who came from exactly the kind of family Szigetvári talks about so scornfully. Both parents were MSZMP members; Botka’s mother was one of the founders of MSZP, mayor of Szolnok, and a member of parliament. And surely László, given his family background, was a member of KISZ. He became a member of MSZP at the tender age of eighteen.

László Botka is Szigetvári’s hero. The most popular MSZP politician who, due to some mysterious internal party conspiracy, was prevented from setting the agenda of MSZP for the next two years. Since MSZP blackballed Botka, the only conclusion one can draw is that the socialists don’t want to win the election, Szigetvári insists. Well, in my opinion, there is a more plausible explanation for Botka’s failure at the last party congress. It was well known inside and outside the party that Botka wouldn’t be willing to cooperate with anyone, especially not with Ferenc Gyurcsány, whose party, the Demokratikus Koalíció, cannot be ignored as a factor in the present political constellation. My take is that the representatives who voted for Hiller instead of Botka were thinking in terms of the inevitable electoral failure if MSZP tries to run its own slate in the 2018 election.

Szigetvári himself also wants to meet Fidesz head-on, and it was at this point that he revealed his true position. “We will not sacrifice our community on the altar of ‘Down with Orbán!’” This is as clear as it can be. It doesn’t matter what Viktor Szigetvári says, it is not the politicians of MSZP and DK who want to lose the election for some unfathomable reason. It is Szigetvári’s politics that will weaken the forces of the democratic opposition and help Viktor Orbán remain in power, perhaps for decades.

The interview stirred up quite a controversy, but Szigetvári is not the kind of man to back down in the face of criticism. He accepted an invitation from Olga Kálmán of ATV to elaborate on the accusations he had made in his earlier interview. There he tried to explain the inexplicable with miserable results. Those who know the language should take a look at that encounter.

And now let me turn to Bernadett Szél’s performance at the 27th gathering of the Fidesz-inspired Bálványosi Nyári Szabadegyetem (Bálványos Summer Free University). It is no longer held in Bálványos/Cetățile Păgânilor. It moved to the larger Tusnádfűrdő/Băile Tușnad, so nowadays they call the event Tusványos. Every year Fidesz invites the leaders of the parliamentary caucuses of the opposition parties for a friendly chat with the Fidesz top brass, but last year only András Schiffer of LMP showed up. This year his former co-chairman, Bernadett Szél, also accepted the invitation. Neither Jobbik nor MSZP went.

Bernadett Szél and Lajos Kósa discussing the migrant issue

Yesterday morning I read an MTI news item from Tusványos. Lajos Kósa (Fidesz), Péter Harrach (KDNP), and Bernadett Szél (LMP) were having a friendly chat, mostly about the refugee crisis and the referendum. Kósa went on and on as is his wont about Hungarian sovereignty and that only the citizens of Hungary can decide who can settle in the country. No one from the outside can force Hungary to do anything. “I can invite anyone into my house but I won’t allow my neighbor to make such a decision.” Pope Francis is correct that we have to help our brethren, but “we should be the ones who decide the form of assistance.”

Bernadett Szél chimed in. According to her, “migration and immigration have always been within the competence of the member nations in the European Union and they must remain there. No nation must succumb to blackmail.” Therefore, Hungarians must vote “no” at the October 2 referendum. As you know, MSZP, DK, Együtt, and PM have urged their followers to boycott the referendum while Gábor Fodor recommended that the followers of his liberal party vote “yes.” Until now, LMP had said nothing. Szél finally clarified what most people had already suspected: that despite all the noise they make in parliament on other matters, LMP is not a serious opponent of Fidesz. In fact, LMP, with its refusal to cooperate with others, is an enabler of Fidesz’s political agenda.

And if that wasn’t enough, she decided to say a few ugly words about George Soros. LMP rejects Soros’s meddling in Hungarian affairs. It is unacceptable that some influential person from the outside tells us what the right attitude or position is in certain matters. He should be spending his time in other endeavors instead of giving advice in the matter of immigration. The Pope couldn’t be left out either. According to her, politicians misinterpret the Holy Father’s words.

Ákos Hadházy, who replaced András Schiffer as co-chairman of LMP and member of parliament, is an excellent man. Just like Péter Juhász of Együtt, he is doing a tremendous job unveiling government corruption involving EU funds. Quietly but fairly persistently he has talked about the necessity of “common thinking” and “discussion” among the democratic parties. But Bernadett Szél intervened and said there is no change in policy: LMP will go against Fidesz alone in 2018.

Gyula Molnár, after learning about Bernadett Szél’s shameful performance, announced that MSZP will have nothing to do with LMP. Szél won’t be upset. She has more powerful frenemies on the right.

July 23, 2016
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András B. Göllner
Guest
The biggest barrier to the defeat of Orbán’s autocratic machine is Hungary’s political culture, and the inability of ANY of the democratic opposition parties to focus on fundamentals. They all want to run without mastering the ability to walk. Successful mass political parties have one common attribute: The ability to work hard, to establish and manage institutionalized, professional and active communications networks, in all of the electoral districts. of their country. 25 years after the collapse of Communism, there is still only one politician in Hungary, sad to say, who understands how mass political parties work, and that politician is Orbán Viktor. Bokros, Juhász, Szél, Szigetvári, Bajnai, Tóbiás, Molnár, the kibitzers of the old SZDSZ, and, yes, even Gyurcsány himself, are remiss,. Unless they change their approach, they are destined to bite the dust rather than the sweet taste of victory. To this day, the Hungarian democratic opposition, and the Hungarian left-liberal intellectual elite, is unable to recognize what it takes to build lasting relationships at riding levels, how to listen and lead, how to communicate effectively in the era of post-modern politics . A few may have mastered the latest political marketing techniques, but all are lacking the recognition… Read more »
Guest

@András B. Göllner
July 23, 2016 10:14 pm

Hear, hear!

I said the exact same things as long as four-five years ago on this forum, but was firmly shushed at the time by some fellow commenters as a “defeatist.” Well, as they say, common sense is not very common.

How things change . . .

Guest

Re: ‘Successful mass political parties have one common attribute: The ability to work hard, to establish and manage institutionalized, professional and active communications networks, in all of the electoral districts. of their country’

Absolutely and perhaps that should be the minumum considering the increasingly complicated and harsh political battlefields parties fight each and every day on. It’s a difficult slog akin to bloody trench warfare.

To Mr. Gollner’s fine post I would additionally suggest success in the opposition is also predicated on being cognizant of ‘self-interest’. In politics there are two. One is for the long range position of the country. The other refers to the ‘self’ when it comes to motivations. Apparently the opposition has these goals convoluted to the extent that they clash just too too much. Cooperation should be thought of more rigorously in light of highly charged egos. At bottom it’s not about them but the country and the people.

Alex Kuli
Guest

You nailed it, Andras Gollner.

When Eva brought us the opportunity to ask Gyurcs a question, I asked how he expected to rebuild a democratic opposition without a strong “ground game,” as very similar to what you outline in your post. His response was pure politicianese. I was quite disappointed.

Stephen Saletros
Guest
Perhaps this page should be called the Balogh or Baloney Page. I see constant attacks on Prime Minister Viktor Orban by a leftist elitist who now sees fit to determine which Parties and Politicians should be participating in an anti Orban alliance and who should just forfeit their rights to participate in a democratic process to consolidate opposition! What arrogance! Is this truly the spectrum of Hungarian thought? I expected more diversity of opinion and not a page purporting to be “The Hungarian Spectrum” but simply a vehicle for anti Viktor Orban propaganda. Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been a real leader in protecting Hungary from a radical Islamist incursion into Hungary and the rest of Europe! His first responsibility is the security of the Hungarian nation and people and from what I have seen he has performed his duty in a courageous praiseworthy manner! Finally, the Hungarian people will decide the so-called “Refugee” issue by referendum. The Hungarian people and not elitists like Eva Balogh and Angela Merkel must decide the fate of Hungary. Would any sane person open their door to people who we cannot vet and do not share our values, but instead have values and beliefs… Read more »
Member

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1956
Guest

to saletros: who praised and befriended the islamist leaders, in iran, turkey, syria, lebanon in an earlier time?
fidesz and their ally, the jobbik.
while russia weaponized the ordinary citizens in syria, iraq, afghanistan, and sub-sahara, orban created a human tragedy on the southern borders.
the victims are the refugees, and the eu nations .

petofi
Guest

” …and do not share our values…”

And what VALUES would they be?

Please list them and give their historical source.

Guest

“What arrogance! ”

When was discussing the merits of politicians elevated to arrogance?

Sleepingdancer
Guest

You sound like a payed Fidesz troll. Any own ideas?

Rozsi
Guest

I do not agree with S. Saletros , but why are people “trolls” if they have a different opinion?

I had no problems understanding what values he referred to, so for anyone not understanding it, he meant Judaeo-Christian values vs. Islamic values.

Observer
Guest

@rozsi
It’s a political struggle here, make no mistake, perhaps not for the very sensitive .
We usually offer supported arguments here, while for most part these trolls or fideszniks just repeat the current slogans, lies or “interpretations” of the regime. Nothing new, no own ideas, no data.
Why waste time and effort to disprove yet again for XXX th time a shallow lie or nonsense like “it’s Gyurcsany’s fault”.
And since I hate Orban and fideszniks, for an idiotic slogan the poster may get my simple appraisal “idiot”. Let the readers judge.

PALIKA
Guest

Eva provides us with invaluable information and insights that not many of us would have the time or ability to find and interpret. It is inevitably a presentation from her political start point which by and large we share. The position in Hungary is rather more nuanced. The solution is an exercise in the possible which is for politicians and their supporters.

The comments here may represent a political struggle which is not for the faint hearted. There are many shades of this argument. Ignoring a stupid troll is not a sign of agreement. It maybe however a good opportunity to let off steam too good to miss. Take Rozsi’s lead and resist the temptation. Those who do not and descend to the troll level devalue themselves and the cause they represent.

For a live example look at the present issues in the British Labour Party and how they are dealt with. I am not a supporter but will regret its disintegration and more so it’s replacement by an intemperate rabble representing no one except a bunch of noisy violent activists.

Rozsi
Guest

I can’t speak for others, but I don’t find it offensive is someone defends Gyurcsany or Orban ; only Vona is indefensible 🙂

What I did find highly offensive, was the gratuitous opening sentence “Perhaps this page should be called the Balogh or Baloney Page.” – for me, it raises flags about giving too much weight to that person’s opinions on any subject, so it is a helpful guide to the writer’s credibility

On the other hand, I may now have become “a troll” or even much more sinister , since I seem to have offended a poster by using the term “Judeo-Christian values”

So I shall ignore the remark and agree with you : “Let the readers judge”

Guest

“Judaeo-Christian values”

You mean like killing all your Jewish compatriots as the Hungarians did?

Nice set of values, troll!

James
Guest

Stephen Saletros,
As a non hungarian living here, I’m genuinely curious to understand what values are so worthwhile to protect? From what I can see, Hungarian values have resulted in a country that has an exceptionally poor standard of living, low life expectancy, widespread corruption and poverty, poor human rights, no gender equality, a developing world level health service and the list goes on! Only an idiot or gangster could want that to continue. Regarding a ‘radical islamist incursion’ I can promise you that no refugee – radical or otherwise – wants to stay in Hungary. They want to get to any of the vastly more civilised countries in Europe to the west or north and just need to pass through via the Hungarian border.

Observer
Guest

Spot on.

To fill in the pic of the national psyche
One can plough the Hungarian’s back, as long as the plow is “national” (nemzeti) – PM Pál Teleki
Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” – Samuel Johnson

Under the guise cheap, phony “patriotism” and maintaining a steady flow of hatred, the Orban mafia is sucking the blood of the economy and rotting the society while trying to hide the fact that Hungary has been sliding down lower and lower in poverty, corruption and isolation.
Therefor every patriot and friend of Hungary should strike at the Orban regime as they can to rid the country from this vermin.

James
Guest

It’s ironic. As a northern european outsider it seems very clear.
So if I were a radical islamist bent on destroying Hungary….I’d do nothing. Hungarians are destroying the country very effectively themselves and the most effective course of action is to leave them to it.
This concept that Hungary is under attack from outside is not only laughable but clearly without any evidence. Hungary is under attack from within, and the so called defenders are the ones doing the real damage.

petofi
Guest

Quite so.

Guest

As a Hungarian living in Hungary I cannot agree more with you James. So much true. Btw the same was described by Ady long time ago in 1905 (Magyar ugaron). 100 years gone and nothing changed. He was a genius…

PALIKA
Guest

Thank you. Great.

Observer
Guest

Spot on again. And it’s pretty obvious isn’t it? But masses of people don’t see it, don’t see it the same way: Yougoslavia (1990s), Turkey, Poland and now the US.

Istvan
Guest
Observer you are correct to note an analogy between the presidential candidacy of Mr. Trump and PM Orban relating to the immigrant fear factor. But the big difference is of course Orban plays the peacock game on NATO and the EU, but Trump simply wants to destroy them. Trump if elected will have real power to do things, while Orban is a great bag of wind in a tiny country with an obscure language that those of us on this blog love. Trump made that even more clear yesterday after Republican Senator Mitch McConnell made the following reassuring statement to our NATO allies: “Nato is the most important military alliance in world history. I want to reassure our Nato allies that if any of them get attacked, we’ll be there to defend them.” Trump responded by saying Trump Mitch McConnell was “100% wrong.” (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/24/donald-trump-eu-was-formed-to-beat-the-us-at-making-money ) I honestly can’t determine whether Hungarian Fidesz supporters who see the possibility of a Trump presidency as a positive development for Hungary as being more insane than many US military and veterans who are now supporting Trump. (His hostile comments about Senator McCane being a prisoner of war apparently having been forgiven.) There is another… Read more »
Istvan
Guest

Should be “McCain” a typo.

Member

Let us not forget that both Trump and Orban share a love and admiration for Mr. Putin.

Istvan
Guest

Trump thinks he is buttering up Putin with his compliments about his strong leadership. He has done this before in the bussiness world, but it won’t work with Putin he is the master at manuplative intrigue.

Observer
Guest
I share the A.Gölner point re lack/need for hard and professional work in organizing the parties. Although there are obstacles to that, primarily financial, LMP showed that it can be done on a small budget . Talking about LMP it is not clear where their small budget came from. The stepping down of Schiffer was a welcome development, but it seems there is a fundamental reason for LMP practically assisting Fdiesz in the most important moment of the elections. Orban must think the referendum very important if B. Szél has been pressed into assisting. Interesting how will the Szél Hadházi duo play out. G.Fodor should be added to the unhelpful (put it mildly) and undesirable. Since he’s been a proven failure as politician and had no following to speak of, I can’t see why is he still given so much media time. The most important obstacle in the unity game is the Hungarian psyche again – prickly and mindlessly individualistic and subservient at the same time, lacking in discipline even when serving. The only parties/organizations/leaders to survive are the centralized ones run by little dictators, one can observe this everywhere, e.g. professional associations, trade unions, NGO, parties, take your pick.… Read more »
Marc De Maesschalck
Guest

Szél

Guest

London Calling!

The answer is so obvious – it highlights the inexperience and egotistical nature of the opposition parties.

Simply:

Phase One – get together and evict Fidesz whatever it takes in an umbrella alliance – with everyone. It can’t be done without everyone. Refuse to take seats if it fails.

Phase Two – sort out a proper democratic process – agreed beforehand with new elections.

It takes co-operation that heretofore hasn’t existed.

Only when this realisation hits home will the opposition achieve anything.

In the meantime it’s just playground, juvenile squabbles.

petofi
Guest

re: ‘get together and evict’

Won’t work due to Hungarian characteristics:

a) fundamental laziness
b) fear factor
c) distrust of others
d) obsequious nature
e) safety in following and taking payoffs

Observer
Guest

@charlie

This two phase concept has been discussed for quite some time by the parties. No clear picture yet, mostly for due to the actions/factors set out by Eva.

Guest

I’m not claiming a monopoly on the strategy – many of us on here understand what is needed.

Many of Eva’s posters know from an ‘external’ perspective.

During Eva’s questions to Gyurcsány I asked Gy if he would form an alliance with Jobbik as an expedient necessity – and he said “no”. He sees Jobbik as neo-facists – which they are – and wouldn’t entertain the idea of a united front to evict Orban.

Without Jobbik on board forget it.

As I said before – sometimes you have to sup with the devil – just make sure it’s a long spoon.

If you can’t get together for ‘phase one’, even with Jobbik – forget the whole idea of ever getting rid of Viktorlae Orbanescu.

He will ensure this stasis ensures for as long as possible.

And so will the opposition.

Observer
Guest

There was a very good photo of Jobbik’s program of old , which was actually implemented by Orban His regime is destroying Hungary NOW Jobbik may or may not do the same later, so first things first. With the recent shift in Jobbik I also think that the two stage scenario should include them.

petofi
Guest

To think of Jobbik as an ally against Fidesz is to fundamentally misunderstand who or what Jobbik is…they are a creature of Orban/Putin. In Hitlerite terms, they could be approximated to the brown-shirts who were done away with when no longer useful.

Jobbik will never be useful in toppling Fidesz/Orban.

Observer
Guest

Never say never , least so in politics.
I don’t have privileged info to affirm anything. It’s worth a try though.

Guest

Completely O/T

The Russians have not been banned from Rio.

A complete cop-out by the IOC.

Preposterous.

So I will not watch any events whatsoever forming the DrugLympics. And turn off the news when ‘sport’ is covered.

I will keep an eye out for all billboard advertising and boycott any company that ‘sponsors’ the DrugLympics.

I’ve got Coca-Cola, MacDonalds and Bridgestone on the list already.

DrugLympics 2016.

Never to be forgotten . Sport has become so ugly.

PALIKA
Guest

You are absolutely right. The Russians are institutional cheats, as always. This time they have probably driven a nail into the Olympic movement’s coffin. What purpose does it serve? The original concept was the celebration of individual excellence and achievement. Competative nation states leading to a competition of pharmaceutical companies. Forget it.

The world as we valued it through our lives is falling apart. There have always been rogues but the mainstream was honourable. It is now reversed.

Guest

“There have always been rogues but the mainstream was honourable. It is now reversed.”

Did anybody see it coming?

petofi
Guest

If you were an IOC bigwig and were told that your option was leniency or a house delivery of plutonium…what would you do?

PALIKA
Guest

Is this the new world order? We are in a world run by Islamist fanatics and Russian gangsters? Not to mention international big business

Guest

And we can say they are going to be even more emboldened after the response Putin and his national sports associations got in the face of all that doping. Putin’s drinking alot of vodka today where once the ‘urine’ flowed. That guy is on a roll. And the ‘dopes’ in institutions acting to uphold integrity in Olympic competitions melt like jello in the blazing sun as they try to bring the bear to heel. Looks like shoveling s*** against the tide.

Guest

I see it a bit diffeently:

Every Russian who wins a medal at the Olympic games will be tainted – wasn’t (s)he involved in some doping scandal?

People everwhere will be thinking:
OK, they couldn’t prove it maybe – but still …

And maybe this was a big nail in the coffin for the Games – who is still interested in them anyway?
All financed by advertising – but the advertisers might stay away when nobody is watching …

I call it a Pyrrhic victory for Putin!