Blunder after blunder on the left

When I woke up this morning and took a quick look at the latest news, I found stories about a murder and an abandoned baby. Nothing of import seemed to be happening politically, so I figured I’d have to turn to one of the subjects I put aside for no-news days. But then, about five hours later, I learned of two events that will most likely have serious repercussions for the future of the democratic opposition. One was the forced departure of Szabolcs Kerék-Bárczy from the Demokratikus Koalíció; the other, an interview with Gyula Molnár on HírTV regarding MSZP’s policy on “compulsory quotas.”

Szabolcs Kerék-Bárczy’s departure from DK

When Kerék-Bárczy joined DK in 2013 it was a real coup for Ferenc Gyurcsány because he came from the moderate right. Although his political career began in Magyar Demokrata Fórum (MDF), after 1998 he became the chief-of-staff of István Stumpf, who headed the prime minister’s office in the Orbán government. Later he served as an adviser to Foreign Minister János Martonyi, and in 2001 he was named consul-general in Los Angeles. He stayed in this position even after Fidesz lost the election in 2002. Between 2007 and 2010 he served as the spokesman of Ibolya Dávid’s moderate, right-of-center, by now defunct MDF.


For the last three years he has been an enthusiastic supporter of DK. If he had any doubts about the direction in which DK was heading, it was not at all obvious. But then came today when he published an article in 168 Óra titled “Paradigm shift!” in which he described the generally sad state of the opposition and offered his solutions. Support for the left, he wrote, hasn’t changed substantially in the last six years and, to win the next election, “the democrats would need between 500,000 and 1,000,000 new voters.” The Orbán government doesn’t enjoy the support of the majority, but the left cannot win “with its present structure.” The parties don’t trust each other and the electorate doesn’t trust them. The leadership is the same as it was in 2014, and if remains the same, failure is guaranteed.

He pointed out that competition among the parties of the left hasn’t resulted in any one party breaking loose from the pack. They are only taking votes from each other. The rivalry among the parties only deepens the gulf between those who are destined to cooperate. The strife caused by this competition alienates the moderate “middle.”

So, what is Kerék-Bárczy’s answer? It is his conviction that elections can be won only from the middle, which for him means “the moderate conservative, conservative-liberal community,” without whom there can be no victory.

Before I continue, I want to make it clear that I consider criticizing one’s own party’s decisions a perfectly legitimate, most likely even useful enterprise. But for an insider to publish a “tell-all” party-bashing article is another matter entirely.

So, let’s see what the DK leadership found so objectionable. First of all, Kerék-Bárczy accused members of the democratic opposition of not even wanting to win the next election. He let the public know that on DK’s own board there are people with different visions: (1) Fidesz can be beaten. (2) DK will be the largest party on the left. (3) DK can’t elect more than 15-20 people to the next parliament. “Putting these three together is absurdity itself.”

In his opinion DK’s strategy is fundamentally faulty. It first wants to be the largest party on the left. Once this is accomplished, the party will turn toward the middle in the hope of electoral victory. According to Kerék-Bárczy, this strategy has already failed. “It occurred to many of our members that our strategy doesn’t serve a 2018 victory but that only a couple dozen of our leaders will manage to receive parliamentary mandates.”

It didn’t take more than 20 minutes for DK’s board to decide that they no longer want to see Kerék-Bárczy in the party. Several called him a traitor. The pro-government media was delighted. On the left journalists reported Kerék-Bárczy’s departure from DK without comment. was the only exception. It described him as one of the greatest political survivors of the post-1990 period who now is leaving the sinking ship because “it just occurred to him that the opposition will not win in 2018.” They also insinuated that perhaps he is hoping to become an ambassador somewhere thanks to his earlier position as consul general during the Fidesz administration.

Gyula Molnár is mighty confused

Last night, in an interview that lasted only about five minutes, Gyula Molnár got so mixed up that we have no idea where his party stands not just on “compulsory quotas” but on the whole refugee crisis and Viktor Orbán’s policies. I suggest that those who understand the language take a look at the interview. His key message was that “in legal terms we consider the referendum superfluous and from the point of view of Europe risky. But if the question of [compulsory quotas] ever comes up, we are ready to support the government in its fight against it.” The interviewer almost fell off his chair and reminded Molnár that, in that case, his party’s position on the issue is identical to Fidesz’s. That response so confused Molnár that he started piling contradictory remarks one on top of the other until one could find neither rhyme nor reason in the whole confused mess. At one point he argued that the money spent on the referendum could be spent better, for example, on giving it to the soldiers defending the border. But a few seconds later he condemned the very fence the soldiers were defending. It was a communication disaster.


Magyar Narancs was not kind to Molnár when it published a short opinion piece titled “The chairman of MSZP bravely squeaks from the pocket of Fidesz.” In the paper’s opinion, either Molnár thinks that there will be no compulsory quotas and therefore it matters not what he says or Fidesz bought him. But, they added, there is a third possibility: “this man is an imbecile.” In normal circumstances what Molnár says wouldn’t make any difference, but “in a referendum campaign it means canvassing for the nay votes, in other words, for Fidesz, or more precisely for Viktor Orbán. But what else can be expected from the head of the largest opposition party?” The “head” here has a special meaning, of course. Magyar Nemzet also interpreted Molnár’s confused message as MSZP’s attempt at “jockeying.”

Finally, let me add a few observations. I understand that Facebook is full of condemnations of MSZP’s latest blunder. Just because Fidesz has been successful with its xenophobic messages and its harsh, un-Christian attitude toward people escaping war and hunger, the MSZP leadership shouldn’t assume that it could boost its support by joining Viktor Orbán’s pack. On the contrary, those who oppose the government might just shrug their shoulders and say, “Why should I vote for MSZP? After all, both are cut from the same cloth.” Or, perhaps even worse from the point of the party, MSZP supporters will decide that DK’s message on the issue is much more straightforward, simple and consistent. The message of MSZP on this issue was always murky, but by now if I were an MSZP voter I really wouldn’t know what my party’s stance is on the issue. There are times when I think that the majority of the politicians on the left are total nincompoops.

September 1, 2016
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Gyula Bognar Jr
September 1, 2016 8:55 pm

I think Kerék-Bárczy is 100% right. I congratulate him.
The so called opposition in Hungary is just collecting salary, but does not have the ideology and the wherewithal to gain the trust of people who do not want the Fidesz regime.
The MSZP lost its relevance, they should close doors as they have no worthwhile politicians among them. They simply collect their money, which the Fidesz allocates them in return for keeping their mouth shut.

September 1, 2016 10:54 pm

It’s quite ridiculous how people buy into the notion that politics in Hungary is run in a reasonably modern-that is to say, ‘correct’-fashion.
In fact, it’s a fixed game in the typical Hungarian way: the politicians deal among themselves while the electorate is totally deluded into thinking that there is a competition of ideas for their vote. There is not. It’s fairly generally known that MSZP and Fidesz has ‘cut up the take’for the last 20 years regardless of who was in power. But with Orban, the game has changed. The payoff is still there but I’d guess its much reduced and those on the take–meaning mostly all the members in opposition seats–must do what is asked of them. It reminds me of the opening scene in Godfather I…”I will do this for you but sometime in the future I will require a favour of you-” And Hungarian politicians are fine with that. Why wouldn’t they be? Is there salary in any way
in keeping with the salary structure in the land? No. They’re happy to be ‘in the game’ and collecting their inflated salaries and expenses.

September 2, 2016 8:40 am
Re: ‘It reminds me of the opening scene in Godfather I…”I will do this for you but sometime in the future I will require a favour of you-” And Hungarian politicians are fine with that. Why wouldn’t they be? You know you indeed touched upon a fundamental in politics and really there’s nothing wrong about it. But the fact is Magyar politics is a quagmire since for the majority in power the (Godfather and cadres) the love nothing but to have those accepting ‘favors’ since it further weakens those who accept the terms. Lying in bed with’em then becomes a killer if one expects to challenge. Of course we can then see ‘nincompoops’ in action. If the political scene in the country is a for argument sake a supermarket there are many different brands vying for sales. One brand seems to have the ‘shelf space’ which oh they certainly ‘pay’ for where eventually they then get the kickbacks both from the supermarket and ‘consumers’ themselves. Anybody expecting to challenge the leader certainly has to understand what their up against not only among their competitors but those who buy the latter’s product. So if there is no definable strategy to persuade… Read more »
September 2, 2016 2:23 am

The thing with Gyula Molnar I guess is that he has no vision, he himself doesn’t really know what he wants. And that’s a problem in politics.

As to Kerék-Bárczy, Gyurcsany probably figured – wrongly it turned out – that K-B was a catch with his MDF/Stumpf background when this background also indicated that he was unreliable and probably undisciplined. His very quick rise into diplomacy and his trust by Stumpf (Fideszniks never trust outsiders unless they are members of the security establishment) also indicates to me that K-B was/is probably an intelligence officer and as such he will never be loyal to any party.

September 2, 2016 3:41 am

KB intelligence whatever!? Where did u get this from?
KB was very young the time you’re talking about, speaking English when few did,. Reward it was, the consul in LA position, but out of politics. (compare, Sijjarto, a message boy in Budapest then, advanced better).
KB is honest, maybe too much for a politician, and most of his findings are right although the article way of delivery was rash (undisciplined ) just as the DK reaction.

Molnar’s interview was a communication blunder indeed. A couple like this and he may just as well retire to back office work if not out altogether .
Oh my…

September 2, 2016 7:18 am

I also agree with Kerék-Bárczy & Gyula Bognar. Your article and Gyula’s comments make the point perfectly.

September 2, 2016 11:54 am

Teachers can now choose between two history textbooks only in elementary schools. Orban made it into the new 8th grade book.

Seven billion forints have already been spent for the 2024 olympic bid already.

Prosecutor Polt & “Voldemort”

Phantom investment to channel EU money to Orban’s friend Garancsi.

September 2, 2016 11:59 am

The Hungarian foreign ministry has given several billion forints to Orban’s relatives:

September 2, 2016 1:32 pm

Imho the whole political system in Hungary is a farce – just like in the other Visegrad countries which are so proud tobe able to claim: We are part of central Europe!

In reality they are a part of the Balkan and haven’t changed in the last 50 or 100 years!

Can’t they grow up?

To this should be added the obvious corruption everywhere – just look at the new examples that Tappanch gave. Hungary’s political system really is a kind of mafia system!


I just heard stories about corruption which I wouldn’t believe if I didn’t know the people who told me – who are totally frustrated by all this.
Another reason why so many left or want to leave Hungary …

September 2, 2016 5:26 pm
Wolfi you are totally correct in pointing out that the level of corruption and dysfunction in Hungary is mirrored throughout Central Europe. Russia too needless to say. Eva in an essay some time ago pointed to Romania’s National Anti-corruption Directorate (DNA) and its prosecutor, Laura Codruta Kovesi as a possible model for Hungary. The DNA secured convictions of 1,138 people, including 24 mayors, five members of parliament, two ex-ministers and a former prime minister, Adrian Nastase. More than 90% of its indictments led to convictions. Yet today I read a US federal court in Sacramento Ca, found Romanian businessman Dumitru Martin guilty of bribery. The Romanian has been prosecuted for having bribed a U.S. Air Force officer to secure a USD 10.3 million contract for his company at the Mihail Kogalniceanu US military base near Constanta. Martin’s company, Polaris Constanta, wanted to supply storage containers and other products and services to the U.S. Air Force base in Romania. At the end of September last year, Polaris M Holding paid USD 100,000 to a U.S. officer who was cooperating with the FBI. The money represented just an installment of a USD 1 million bribe the Romanian businessman was willing to pay… Read more »
Alex Kuli
Alex Kuli
September 2, 2016 6:36 pm

Folks, anyone who thinks the 2018 Hungarian elections are winnable by the “democratic left,” at this stage of the game:
1) Has not studied the Hungarian election law;
2) Has no clue about Orban’s ambitions;
3) Has no clue about human nature;
4) Is getting paid by one of the “left” parties to write such things.

With two years left to go to 2018, the best the “left” can hope for is to keep Fidesz and Jobbik’s combined parliamentary seats below ⅔ of the total. They should aim for that and set their sights on 2022 (if elections are still being held at that point).

September 3, 2016 7:19 am


if the democratic left does not think, is not 100% convinced that it can win it should bury itself immediately.

Starting from a defetist point victory is impossible indeed.

Conviction, pride, iron-clad determination – even in the face of criticism and headwind – are absolutely crucial. Voters feel your doubts immediately and they become doubtful too, it’s totally self-defeating.

Voters want fighters like Leonidas at the battle of Thermopylae not corrupt intellectual-types with bottomless self-doubt.

The voters hate Fidesz, they want to vote against him so the theoretic possibility is there.

Why the parties of the self-described left-wing cannot live with this opportunity is a complex question to which I don’t know the answer.

Alex Kuli
Alex Kuli
September 4, 2016 6:45 pm

I used to have that kind of idealism, too. Then I actually worked with a few people on the left.
Given the lack of progress over the past two years, saying “the left can win the 2018 elections” would be like a 300-kilo man saying he’s going to run the Boston Marathon next week. It simply is not going to happen.
There is nothing wrong with this same man going on a long-term fitness program so that he can run the marathon in a few years’ time. That’s what the left needs to do.

September 3, 2016 1:54 pm
During the Horthy regime I believe that there was an elected legislature but whilst the system provided for a large measure of freedom of expression the electoral rules made it impossible for any opposition party to win power. For example whilst in Budapest the voters were able to enjoy the luxury of secret ballots in the vilages voting was open and under the supervision of the “csendorseg” misleadingly translated as the gendarmerie. Nothing like that could have been introduced let alone tolerated at any time in modern France, The Orban regime represents some kind of consensus particularly when it comes to the introduction of a voting system that makes it virtually impossible for any party other than Fidesz and its allies to win an election. Take that together with the virtual impossibility to survive let alone prosper commercially if you are manifestly opposed to the regime. The system is reminiscent of the Kadar regime under which you enjoyed a measure of freedom of expression but without any serious hope of economic survival The gruesome reality of Orbanist Hungary is that it closely resembles a fascist state based on the rule of an antisemitic oligarchy. Short of some cataclysm do not… Read more »