Total disarray among the democratic opposition parties

A few months ago I started a folder called “Opposition Parties: Dissension and Unity.” Well, by now the unity which a few months ago had a small chance of becoming reality can safely be buried. The fairly promising negotiations on the left fizzled out. After a few negotiating sessions only four political groups were still at the negotiating table: the socialists (MSZP), Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Demokratikus Koalíció (DK), Párbeszéd (Dialogue) led by Gergely Karácsony and Tímea Szabó, and former Finance Minister Lajos Bokros’s MoMa, which he describes as a “movement.” Együtt (Together) of Viktor Szigetvári and Péter Juhász refused to have anything to do with the others even before the negotiations began, and the participation of LMP (Lehet Más A Politika) was never a possibility. Then, on February 14, Szabó announced that Párbeszéd was leaving the negotiations because the others were not committed to holding primaries, which is an important part of the party’s program. A few days later Bokros announced MoMa’s withdrawal from the negotiations. A faint hope still remained that at least the two largest parties, MSZP and DK, would be able to work out some kind of an arrangement.

That hope disappeared when László Botka, the socialist mayor of Szeged, formally announced his decision to run as MSZP’s candidate for prime minister. Up to that point the person of the candidate for prime minister hadn’t been discussed at all among the parties, and therefore there was a certain amount of surprise mixed with ill feelings when MSZP acted as if the candidate was a fait accompli. At a large MSZP conference Botka gave a forceful speech with a decidedly left-leaning political message, which may have sounded attractive to the old socialist base, but it was the death knell of any cooperation between MSZP and DK. Botka in no uncertain terms announced that as long as Ferenc Gyurcsány is heading DK no understanding between the two parties is possible.

DK’s reaction was restrained. Zsolt Gréczy, the party’s spokesman, announced that they had sent DK’s party program to Botka and they were waiting for Botka’s call to discuss issues concerning the coming election. They waited and waited, but Botka had no intention of talking to Ferenc Gyurcsány and his party.

Botka, after returning from a trip abroad, approached LMP, and not surprisingly he returned empty-handed. LMP has remained steadfast in its resolve never to enter into political deals with anyone. I understand that Botka offered something quite enticing to LMP in exchange for the party’s support of his candidacy. According to rumor, Botka offered to cede half of the districts in Budapest to LMP, where the leftist-green party is strong. No dice. Ákos Hadházy, Bernadett Szél, and Péter Ungár, who happens to be Mária Schmidt’s son, refused. I assume Botka was hoping to replace DK voters with those from LMP. So by now it looks as if MSZP is planning to take on the Orbán government alone since neither LMP nor the smaller parties, like Együtt and Párbeszéd, are willing to support Botka, and Botka is unwilling to cooperate with Ferenc Gyurcsány.

Today, at DK’s congress, Ferenc Gyurcsány formally acknowledged that his original idea of a common list is dead. Despite the attacks coming from Botka, Gyurcsány refrained from attacking MSZP’s candidate. The gist of his message was “perhaps there are many flags but the camp is one.” The democratic opposition must agree on one candidate in each district against Fidesz’s nominee. Because running against each other would be truly suicidal.

The answer to this proposal was prompt. Imre Szekeres (MSZP), former minister of defense and an influential member of the party, accused Gyurcsány of either not knowing what he is talking about or knowingly suggesting “the impossible.” He claimed that separate lists and common candidates are incompatible. He gave a long list of reasons why this is the case, although I remember that during the negotiations such a solution was discussed.

László Botka didn’t wait long either. He told Index only a few minutes after Gyurcsány concluded his speech that he “doesn’t want to get involved with the debates of the ever increasing number of small liberal parties.” It was an arrogant response considering that, according to a January poll, among committed voters 10% of the electorate would vote for MSZP and 7% for DK. In his place I would be a tad more cautious. So, as it stands, all parties will be facing Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz alone. This is a sure way of handing an electoral victory to Orbán even though a significant majority of the electorate thinks that the present government and Fidesz are leading the country in the wrong direction.

What are the chances of a spectacular resurgence of MSZP at the moment? Róbert László, the electoral expert of Political Capital, a political think tank, considers such a Phoenix-like revival of the party unlikely. So do I. It carries too much baggage, and its politicians are singularly untalented. Gyurcsány, who is talented but tainted, is more realistic. His goal is to build a middle-sized party, gaining maybe 15% of the votes. That would give the party a good chance of forming a parliamentary delegation (frakció in Hungarian), which it currently lacks.

Otherwise, all commentators consider the appearance of Momentum politically important, but talking about this new group, as some of the “political scientists” do, as a serious threat to MSZP or DK is a mistake. These young people did an admirable job collecting signatures for a referendum on hosting the 2024 Olympics, but building a party from scratch in a few months is a well nigh impossible task. They may, however, be able to move the apolitical younger generation, especially in Budapest and other larger cities. In the countryside their chances are very poor.

Gyurcsány, and whether he was being honest or not is beside the point, said that he is happy for the emergence of the Momentum group, to which the spokesman of Momentum answered that “Momentum is not happy for Gyurcsány.” No wonder that many people compare Hungarian opposition leaders to kindergartners fighting over the toys lying around.

Péter Pető, former deputy editor-in-chief of Népszabadság, wrote an opinion piece in 24.hu with the title “Only one may remain: The war of Botka, Gyurcsány, and Momentum.” It is a thought-provoking piece, although Pető goes overboard in assessing the political weight of Momentum. Pető is no admirer of Botka, whom he calls “a media partisan” who shirks from being tested in a political struggle with real opponents. “The mayor of Szeged is unwilling to go into battle with Gyurcsány, who was reelected as the chairman of the party with 98% of the votes…. Botka’s game … gives him an opportunity to show whether he has what makes Gyurcsány an important politician: the killer’s instinct.” Pető then gives a couple of scenarios of Botka succeeding in making a deal with LMP or the other two small parties, in which case he thinks that Gyurcsány will have to face a very serious challenge, which may end his political career. “But the problem is that Gyurcsány is at his best in precisely this type of situation,” Pető concludes.

Of course, it is possible that more sober voices will come forward, but at the moment MSZP, LMP, Együtt, and Párbeszéd have declared their intention to face the big bad wolf alone. DK is waiting, but at the moment I don’t see any willingness to cooperate with Ferenc Gyurcsány and by extension with the Demokratikus Koalíció. Viktor Orbán must be feeling very good.

March 4, 2017
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Member

So ironic. The real villain is Orban. The one villified by Orban is Gyurcsany, who tried to reform the opposition and was betrayed for it. And the opposition joins Orban’s ruse against Gyurcsany. One can’t help thinking that all parties are getting exactly what they deserve — except Gyurcsany, who is getting far worse than he deserves, and Orban, who is getting far better. I don’t credit Orban with having consciously created this cacophony: Orban is just a “Clever-Hans” demagogue channeling the mentality of the Hungarian electorate via “facilitated communication”.
comment image

Member

But who cares about a lilliputian punk like Orban when the real thing has managed to slither into the White House?
http://edition.cnn.com/2017/03/04/opinions/trump-conspiracy-theories-zelizer/

Judit
Guest

I can’t but totally agree with you. Instead of creating a strategy against Orban,the real villain, the opposition parties use almost all their energy to vilify Gyurcsány as if he was the major enemy of Hungary. Meanwhile Orbán can sit back and order coffee. Incredibly tragic…

wrfree
Guest

Nice image up there. Viktor could come off there not only as Lilliputian but Brobdingnagian. In a twist I can conceivably see Viktor uttering this line to all the West which was said by the Brobdingnag king to Gulliver who was extolling the virtues of his England to him. I’d think Vlad of the Rossiyans would echo the sentiment.

‘ I cannot but conclude the Bulk of your Natives, to be the most pernicious Race of little odious Vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the Surface of the Earth’

Member

Orban’s dentist is part of the nomenklatura – he is the head of a sports association, receives billions of forints of taxpayers’ money, etc.

http://hvg.hu/itthon/201709__triatlonszovetseg__orban_fogorvosa__ironman__ki_birja_tovabb

Guest

Is this kindergarten or should one conclude that in Hungary one of the necessary conditions to become a politician is to besome kind of psychopath?

I would understand this happening directly after the fall of “Communism” – but after almost 30 years of “democracy”?

My wife alternates between laughing and crying when reading the political news on her smartphone …
@Stevan:
No, it’s notO alone – there must be something in the Hungarian water …

Guest

A bit OT – but fitting:
Ten journalists left Origo (the online news) or were kicked out – Origo will be another Fidesz propaganda outlet.
http://bbj.hu/business/ten-journalists-leave-government-leaning-origo_129638

Member

Let’s make two assumptions: First, that the 2018 election is winnable by the opposition, and second, that the Orbanites don’t write new laws that make it impossible for anyone but Fidesz to win.

Can anyone imagine these clowns running the country?

Momentum spokesman Gergo Papp’s quip about Gyurcsany may seem infantile, but it makes more sense in context of the entire quote: Papp was criticizing Gyurcsany’s performance as prime minister and blamed him for giving Orban an opportunity to exercise unfettered power starting in 2010. These are legitimitate critiques, even though Papp’s choice of words was regrettable.

In a sense, Momentum’s challenge is similar to the one that confronted Fidesz in the first half of the 1990s: Adult voters look at them and say, “Sure, we like those crazy kids, but are we really willing to trust them with political power?”

Momentum’s climb will be steeper, however: The corruption tools that Fidesz used to build its war chest are no longer available, and the university-level youth organizations are dominated by Jobbik and Fidesz. I wish them luck.

Judit
Guest

You can be jolly sure that the Orbanites are already in the middle of creating new twists in the election law so that they can win another 2/3. So, much ado about nothing.
The election is a foregone conclusion.
I wish I wasn’t right.

Member

From my vantage point, it looks like they won’t have to create any new twists. If multiple opposition parties compete against each other, the seats in Miskolc and Veszprem will almost certainly fall back into Fidesz hands. After that, the only thing Orban has to worry about is a handful of competitive constituencies in Budapest.
2/3 is definitely within reach.

Observer
Guest

Alex K
These are not clowns, but thieving, corrupt to the bone fascists and they ARE literally running the country, as their own backyard.

petofi
Guest

Discourse on beating Orban is so much wasted breath.
A new Fidesz majority is being hatched.

Orban leaves when Putin tells him, not before.

pappp
Guest

Imre Szekeres, the archetype of the totally corrupt, gray, post-communist, devoid of any principle party functionary is still at MSZP? I can’t believe it.

Although we do know that Laszlo Puch the similarly shady party treasurer who deals with Fidesz all the time still calls the shots within MSZP.

MSZP also recently voted Janos Barabás to become a deputy of Istvan Hiller (the current head of the választmány) who (ie. Barabás) is a former secretary of the last communist Central Commitee. He was also deputy head of the all-important “agit-prop” (agitation-propaganda) department of the communist party for six years during the 1980’s.

What on earth these people think? That undecided voters in Zala county or Bács-Kiskun or Vas county or Hajdú-Bihar will vote for these corrupt post-communist dinosaurs? It’s beyond pathetic.

Member

“What on earth [do] these people think? That undecided voters in Zala county or Bács-Kiskun or Vas county or Hajdú-Bihar will vote for these corrupt post-communist dinosaurs?”

What evidence is there that voters in Zala county or Bács-Kiskun or Vas county or Hajdú-Bihar think?

[And what is the point, again? That MSZP is as tainted and malign as Fidesz (or even close, if Pintér’s blackmail files were ever “luxated” [or whatever the jargon is])? Again, if not, then what is the point? Next to mindless Gyurcsany-hatred, the pet agitprop prop of Orban is mindless commie-phobia. And the proof of its revolting efficacy is that even those who oppose Orban (or think or pretend that they do) simply echo his set-pieces. Dasselbe in grün.]

David North
Guest

I don’t think anyone doubts that Ferenc Gyurcsany is a clever political operator. But the bottom line is, as Laszlo Botka implied, that he is simply a hindrance to the left. I do not know anyone in my community who thinks that any opposition of which he is a leading light has a cat’s chance in hell of defeating Fidesz. People just can’t forget the lies and deceit.
Moreover, Gyurcsany is largely responsible for creating the fissure on the left by going off and forming his own party when he was sussed out.

Observer
Guest

David North
Pls enough with the GyF-is-a-hindrance to whatever. You seem to move primarily among fideszniks.
I would love to see DK really being the only hindrance to the united front of all democratic parties. Where is it? We just read here that not even the 1% dem parties want to co-operate with each other. This why Hungarians have no democratic tradition whatsoever, as Orban put it, they understand only force.
If L.Puch and Szekeres count in MSZP no wonder they don’t want DK (GyF replaced Puch at the coffers and Szekeres is rumored to had leaked the Öszöd speach).

Re your very suspicious “People just can’t forget the lies and deceit” What lies and deceit?
You mean many people can’t forget they swallowed the Fid
propaganda at the time and in the current deluge of lies and deceit cum orgy of corruption they feel like damn fools.
Finally, MSZP’s Puch & co withdrew from behind GyF leaving the character assassination to Fid and then pushed GyF out. In my circles many say no to GyF and then proceed to say that yes he has all these qualities …. but. Many others are supporting him. Unfortunately the other DK notables are not so notable.

aida
Guest

The sad fact is that David North and incidentally Botka are both right. Gy is no doubt an excellent fellow and has lots of experience. He has been a serious hindrance to the unity of the left’s anti Fidesz success. He is like Hilary Clinton, a loser, and in his case a divisive character who fails to recognise that if he wants to achive a change of regime he must quit and dissolve his party. No doubt after a resounding victory for Botka he could be rewarded with a job as ambassador somewhere. If he does not understand that no divided opposition can ever win then he will perpetuate OV’s rule. Is that what he wants? Maybe, but I do not think so. He can never help any opposition party win. Never.

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘kindergarteners fighting over toys…’

Very apt as they fight and throw sand in the sandbox. Perhaps if all involved take the position that as representatives and and as future potential representatives they ideally should reflect what considerations drive the electorate and execute the best they can. It’s probably a start at least since arguably they are the receptacles of the electorate’s hopes and fears. It is there then in that activity that they just might come to the grips with developing the valuable and obvious cooperation needed to defeat Fidesz.

Jon Van Til
Guest
In the concluding chapter of my co-edited book, THE HUNGARIAN PATIENT (CEU Press, 2016), I mused that Hungarians, mired as they are in a one-party system, might think about an alternative to focusing on the defeat of Fidesz electorally. The argument goes as follows: “(I)f the powers that be offer only one party—join it. Or, as the folk expression puts it, ‘If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’ If a political system produces only one party capable of being elected—and that is Fidesz in its time and place—it is at least theoretically plausible for masses to flood into its membership, seeking to make it responsible to the country as a whole. The example of the American Tea Party (movement) and its capture of the Republican Party is a case in point.” And, more recently, the assault on the Democratic Party by a citizenry enraged by Trump provides another example of how citizens can powerfully affect the direction of a political party. I would not expect the leaders of the many badly outnumbered oppositional parties of Hungary to choose such a path, but a good number of their members might. And wouldn’t it be fascinating if the energies Momentum seems able… Read more »
Observer
Guest

Jon V Til
Haven’t read your work, but it is a well known syndrome that under steady pressure/oppressing with no clear prospects of liberation people surrender or coopt, nothing new here.

When did you last see in Fid a “commitment to serving the needs of its country’s population”, 1994 perhaps?
And what happens when a mafia is “revitalized” by, say the assension of a younger and even more ruthless godfather?
(I’m available as a consultant for such books, it’s easy money for me).

pappp
Guest
First, the opposition lacks a real grass roots base (this is an extremely important problem in the present election system). Plus Hungarians are anyway quite passive, neither civil nor political activism is usual or popular. Moreover people are very afraid. I find it inconceivable that people all over Hungary people would want to sign up to become Fidesz members to – essentially – troll Fidesz from within (plus given the admission criteria most newcomers wouldn’t be admitted or their membership would be terminated immediately when it became obvious what they intend). People are terrified of local top fideszniks whose party branch represents the local elite. Fidesz is essentially *the state* in rural areas. You can’t just troll the state when the local prosecutor, police head, tax administrators, municipal leaders, heads of schools, top local entrepreneures etc. are all one friendly bunch and all related to Fidesz – you can’t just go against them in Nagyatád or Szentes or Balassagyarmat, it’s absolutely out of the question. The structure and culture of rural life require absolute submission. You also misunderstand Fidesz if you think it’s just one party or that it is a party in the traditional sense: in practice it is… Read more »
Guest

You nailed it:
Fidesz is just a private enterprise of Orban’s.
Now the interesting question is:

What will happen to Fidesz after O?

Ferenc
Guest

A pumped up balloon let go in the air, pppffffffff…….

Observer
Guest

Jan V Til

Take note as this is spot on and more detailed than I put it.

Member

“Fidesz also is owned by Orban (just like DK is owned by Gyurcsany)”

This is one of the ugliest and most outrageous analogies I have heard. If @pappp is the voice of the rational opposition in Hungary, Hungary is well and truly doomed. @pappp is rather like the artificial-intelligence computer-programs when they (inevitably) come up against the frame problem and reveal that, although they seemed to be making sense and showing understanding for a while, it was all just a local, short-term illusion.

pappp
Guest

Dear Stevan, what I wrote is a fact. DK was established by Gyurcsany, it’s his special purpose political vehicle. He was recently reelected as chairman by 99% of the votes. He doesn’t have adversaries within the party just like Orban doesn’t have. People are in DK because of him, people vote for DK because of him and there will be no DK without him. Whatever happens in DK depends only on him. I guess he also helps the financing of the party in a major way.

Guest

What is a “special purpose political vehicle”?

pappp
Guest

SPV in business means a legal entity (vehicle) specially set up for one particular purpose (to own a company, for a one off transaction etc.).

Gyurcsany in a French or US system would be a presidential nominee but in Hungary he needs a party. He needs a party a bit like in France where the “insurgent” Macron set up his own party recently even though most voters only know his name and would vote for him as the president. For technical and other reasons however Macron must have his own party.

So DK is really a technical party behind Gyurcsany – but essentially DK voters vote DK only because of Gyurcsany. (Most DK voters I suppose would be hard pressed to mention any other DK politician).

Guest

“So DK is really a technical party behind Gyurcsany…”

What is Fidesz then? A technical party behind Orban?

pappp
Guest

Fidesz is of course much more than a party now.

But basically since 1994 when the last real internal election was held within Fidesz (Orban vs. Tamas Wachsler) Fidesz has been the technical operations of president (strongman) Orban.

Istvan
Guest

Eva’s analysis of Momentum being a Phenom largely among younger people within Budapest seems a very reasonable analysis. Apparently there was a general membership meeting of Momentum yesterday where only about 140 members voted unanimously to go national with party building. Andras Fekete-Gyor was the spokesperson coming out of this meeting and he has been discussed by Eva before.

Andras is a child of the new wealthy, since transformation, he went to a German-Hungarian bilingual school. There is an interesting interview with him in English that can be read here http://budapestsentinel.com/interviews/meet-andras-fekete-gyor-chairman-momentum-movement/ I would say he seems obsessed with his own cosmopolitanism, even to the extent of speaking German at home with his French girlfriend in an apartment owned by his wealthy father.

Like the younger people who turned out in mass to oppose Orban’s internet tax, the opposition to the Olympics was easy. It easy to be against something that appears irrational and a boondoggle, it is far harder to promote what you are for in the form of a social program.

Observer
Guest

Let me bet what will happen with Momentum – nothing.

webber
Guest

It’s possible that German is the only language he and his girlfriend share (what are the chances that she speaks Hungarian?), so I wouldn’t say that’s a sign of obsession with cosmopolitanism. Instead, it’s a sign of infatuation with a young lady (and vice versa).

Observer
Guest

And pls,
There’s no point talking about what should be, if it is totally unrealistic, like the silly: OV and GyF should leave … or ..I want a magic wand, now!… or … Off with his head! Here’s the list…

Member

I would add to the list @JanVanTil’s “infiltration” fantasy… Only democratic parties can be improved by joining them. The Tea Party and Alt-Right just made the Republican party even worse (and that’s what they intended). Dictators need to be opposed and deposed, not “joined” them.

Observer
Guest

Stevan

JVT seems to have missed this crucial point too – Fidesz isn’t a party really, it’s run by a boss and a couple of lieutenants, the party members have no say in the decision making.
Party charter and rules submit to the boss orders.
Even the Fid MPs are kept in the dark, e.g. often dont know what are they voting for.
All cadres, down to local gov reps in the countryside, are hand picked or approved by Orban.

Guest

You’re absolutely correct! Look at my answer to pappp:
Fidesz is just a private enterprise of Orban’s.

petofi
Guest

Just a thought here about American politics (Hungarian politics is a dead joke)…

With all the leaks going on, why hasn’t Trumps tax returns
been outed?

Istvan
Guest

Trump files on paper only and used the same tax accountant for years, his name is Jack Mitnick. Mitnick worked for Trump and his father, Fred Trump, for nearly 30 years, from the 1960s until 1996. The IRS doesn’t have too many leaks so it’s not surprising really petofi.

What is surprising to me is that the conservative NY Times columnist David Brooks speculated Friday night on US public television that Trump may be trying to conceal money owed to Russians by not releasing his returns. There is a photo of Trump with his paper returns, https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/702894623761498112/photo/1

webber
Guest

Trump is concealing money from the Russians, for certain. We just don’t know the details.
http://www.eturbonews.com/5008/executive-talk-donald-trump-jr-bullish-russia-and-few-emerging-ma

webber
Guest

You want to know what’s in Trump’s tax returns? His son gave a clue back in 2009: D. Trump Jr. “…in terms of high-end product influx into the US, Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets; say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.”http://www.eturbonews.com/5008/executive-talk-donald-trump-jr-bullish-russia-and-few-emerging-ma

wrfree
Guest

You know with leaks, wiretaps, collusion, etc etc it looks the US is slowly rolling off the table when it comes to ‘Rossiyana’. If we’ll be hearing that ‘The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming!’ or always somewhere top of mind behind individuals in government there won’t be enough chum in the water to keep the sharks from eventually bloodying and destroying Trump with treason charges.

Guest

OT but very interesting imho!
Just found this re average net wage in the EU – from 2014 to 2016 Hungarians lost 12.8% according to this source which bases its info on wiki.

Hungary is now behind all the EU states except Romania and Bulgaria.
Tappanch – that’s for you to analyze, I don’t get it.
https://www.reinisfischer.com/average-salary-european-union-2016

Member

Dear Wolfi,
the data in the quoted article seems to be erroneous.

The net monthly salary in 2014 was
(148630+148536 +154495+156883+159651+155360 +155087+150186 +150409 +155529 +164552 +168943)/12
= 155688.4 HUF,

while the net monthly salary in 2016 was
(165565+165087 +175772+175874 +174322+172818 +170826 +171744+171475+174393 +190039+192053)/12
= 174997.3 HUF,

an increase of 12.4% in this two-year period, in FORINT terms.

The average yearly USD/HUF exchange rate, as calculated by IRS was
2014: 242.076
2016: 293.083

So the net Hungarian monthly salary was worth
$643.14 in 2014, and
$597.09 in 2016, a 7.2% decrease in DOLLAR terms.

From the same IRS calculation, EUR/USD
2014: 0.784
2016: 0.940

Therefore, the net Hungarian salary was worth
2014: 504.22 euros
2016: 561.26 euros, a 11.3% INCREASE.

(Of course these numbers are nominal, i.e. they do not reflect the inflation in Hungary)

Member

The article actually contains:
2014: 503 euros
2016: 570 euros, almost the same as my calculation.

However, the data for 2015 is wrong, so is the 2016/2015 -12.8% change.

Guest

Thanks, Tappanch – I might have found this myself …

Anyway, these “averages” are misleading – some people got nice raises (or gave them to themselves …) but others are still at the minimum subsistence level, it’s really sad.