László Botka’s fight against the liberals and for the “melósok”

After about a month of total silence László Botka finally seems ready to take center stage and begin his election campaign in earnest. The opening salvo was a long interview he gave to Népszava in which he declared war not just against Fidesz and the Orbán government but also against the “small liberal parties” on the democratic side. Which parties is he talking about? All the parties on the left with the exception of MSZP.

Initially Botka promised to visit all of these parties with the exception of the Demokratikus Koalíció, whose chairman is unacceptable to the MSZP candidate. Botka began his “negotiations” with LMP, which I found a strange choice given LMP’s negative attitude toward joint political action. I have since come to believe that his choice of LMP as the first party to visit was intentional. After what he had to know would be a rejection by LMP, he could stop the “unity game,” which in his opinion led nowhere in 2014 and will certainly lead nowhere in 2018. He decided that he will go it alone and will “hold negotiations” with the electorate. Talks with other parties are “just a waste of time.”

Botka was adamant from the very beginning that Ferenc Gyurcsány must remove himself from the political arena and that the leaderless Demokratikus Koalíció should simply follow his and MSZP’s lead. I doubt that Botka ever seriously believed that Gyurcsány would oblige. Indeed, in no time Gyurcsány said that he has no intention of leaving his voters, who just reelected him chairman of DK.

So, two possible allies of MSZP–LMP and DK–were removed from the list, leaving only “the small liberal parties.” After this interview, however, it is unlikely that the politicians of these parties will be willing to negotiate with Botka about anything.

Throughout the interview Botka did his best to discredit “the small liberal parties” in every way possible. He expressed his great disappointment over the fact that the liberal politicians, who had been very encouraging when he first announced his candidacy, soon cooled toward him. In his interpretation this means that “they don’t believe in victory in 2018 and they got frightened.” This behavior of the liberal leaders prompted him to change strategy and give up negotiations altogether. He is not afraid, he believes that victory is possible. And that’s why he “doesn’t want to come to an agreement with the liberal party leaders who are stuck in their own selfish interests.” He will negotiate only with the voters. This, of course, is sophistry. One could come up with many reasons for their reluctance, among them Botka’s attitudes and his somewhat dictatorial ways. For instance, it was his imperious style that cost him his position as chairman of MSZP’s board last summer.

Botka continued his attack, accusing “the small liberal parties that exist at the border of being and not being” of actually wanting to maintain the current political setup. They want to get a few seats in parliament as part of the opposition, but they don’t want to remove the Orbán government. Therefore, the liberals, Jobbik, and Fidesz have the same goal: the maintenance of the status quo. MSZP is the only party that wants change and actually represents the interests of the people. Even so, Botka made an effort to seem marginally conciliatory: “my door is still open, but I will not put a comma where a period must be placed.”

I believe this is straight talk, and therefore for the time being any cooperation among the parties of the democratic opposition is over. Each party will campaign alone. MSZP launched its campaign in Miskolc, formerly an industrial city in the poorest region of the country. It was once a socialist bastion but has been under Fidesz leadership since 2010. Also, it was in this region that MSZP lost a lot of voters to Jobbik. So, starting the MSZP campaign there made a lot of sense.

MSZP’s campaign slogan is “Justice to be done, the rich will pay.” Some newspapers interpreted this slogan to mean that Botka’s final goal is “income equality,” which he denied in the interview. Still, his heavy emphasis on the disparity between rich and poor gave that impression and apparently frightened some people. Even the reporter who interviewed Botka in Népszava asked: “So, then you will draw a sword against the rich?”

The slogan may be overly aggressive, but given the poverty that exists in Hungary, Botka’s emphasis on improving the living standards of the poor and helping the lower-middle classes with tax breaks is a good strategy. There’s no question that the flat tax introduced by the Orbán government must be abolished.

Hungarian “melósok” received Balkanic wages

The question is whether this kind of program will make a difference as far as MSZP’s current poor showing in the polls is concerned. Will the party be able to garner enough support to win the battle with Fidesz on its own? Will this program resonate with the skeptical, disillusioned millions who right now don’t know where to turn? Will Botka’s program attract another one million voters the party needs to be competitive? If yes, Botka’s dismissal of the “small liberal parties” might not have been too hasty a decision. But that is a big “if.” What if the half a million or more non-MSZP voters on the left are turned off by Botka’s high-handed manner and refuse to support MSZP?

Botka’s success or failure depends on what happens to MSZP after the announcement of a strategy that moves away from the “third road” strategy of MSZP over the past ten to fifteen years. Will a social democratic program aimed at capturing the vote of the physical workers whom he called by the slang expression “melósok” be enough? There were millions of “melósok” prior to 1990, but today the description is dated, recalling bygone days. Still, perhaps the promise of a better life will move the apathetic uncommitted voters.

March 16, 2017
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Member

1. Of course, if Botka/MSzP’s strategy were to work, it would be welcome.

2. But it is unlikely that a non-ecumenical strategy will work.

3. Botka/MSzP’s impatience with opposition party divisiveness, selfishness and intransigence is justified — but his own party too is guilty of it; it’s doing the same as the others, but with the biggest start-up weight.

4. Sanders-socialism is of course the best music to my ears. (I don’t think it’s “populism” in the usual sense: it’s socialism.)

5. But whether Hungary’s shallow electorate will embrace it is another question — also hedged by whether the gerrymandered electoral boundaries, foreign vote, biassed electoral laws, Orban media control, and Orban’s corrupt electoral oversight still even allow the possibility of an opposition victory.

6. Botka’s riding rough-shod over Gyurcsany and the fragmented opposition does not augur well.

7. If a slogan is to work, the modern incarnation of “from each according to his ability to each according to his need” is better replaced by something more like “let the fortunate help in proportion to their good fortune.” Though less catchy than “let the rich pay,” it may be more palatable, and a bit harder to parody.

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Istvan
Guest
In general I am hostile to Bernie Sanders because of his purposeful lack of understanding of the interrelationship between US hard power, I.e. military power, and economic power in the world. While he makes important points on the expansion of income inequality in the USA, he has no understanding of the importance the leverage of our military power has to our economic power. In general Trump is politically and emotionally unstable, but he is unfortunately correct on the need for a significant infusion of funding into our military industrial complex as we enter into the era of robotic and cyber warfare that will be very expensive and complex. The question is where does that money come from, Trump’s answer is from the social welfare supports of our nation inclusive of health care, environmental protection, public promotion of the arts, and many other aspects of his budget (https://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget ). I believe the highest income brackets of our nation have to pay for this, Senator Sanders wants to tax this sector too, but his transfer would be towards programs to promote income equality and social leveling. Sanders is fundamentally a pacifist, and he lacks a pragmatic understanding of how much of the… Read more »
Member

@Istvan is clearly honest, intelligent, well-informed, and well-intentioned. He has only one major blind spot, but it is a huge one.

petofi
Guest

@ Istvan
“..of the fictions created…”

Now, now Istvan–you proud military boy. Please stop perpetuating the myth of the benevolence of the military. We know that the 60’s saw the itching of military intervention–Cuba, Vietnam. In Vietnam, the generals managed to drag the country in. That was mightily profitable for the ‘military-industrial’ complex (remember Eisenhower?), was it not?. Of course, there was some minor domestic brouha because of it, but who cares? The ‘complex’s factories in southern California were humming for quite a few years. What’s more, the wastefulness of military spending is legendary. Cutting social spending, increasing military spending…all the while making massive tax concessions to the uber wealthy (who already beat most taxes) is the recipe for disaster.

But in the time of Trump–our very own Nero–it all seems OK.

Istvan
Guest
My goodness Petofi when have I ever talked about the “benevolence of the military.” We kill people for a living whether Russian, Chinese, or American. I agree over charging for military related items is rampant in the USA, Russia, and probably in China too but I haven’t read too much about that. I could explain why I think that is so, but this is probably not the place for such a discussion. I think my comment on the Trump strategy for increasing military expenditures is consistent with your statement about cutting social spending, on that level I am unclear if you are disagreeing with me. I advocate for greater taxation of high wealth and income bracket individuals in the USA to pay for this build up and said so. I don’t agree with my many of my fellow conservatives that such taxation will necessarily discourage investment or enterprise in American to significant degree. I think that is a neoconservative myth based on very narrow data relating to increased investments for short intervals based on high income bracket tax cuts. Stevan my perspective is not unique within military and intelligence circles in America, if you read someone like Col (ret) Andrew… Read more »
wrfree
Guest

Re: Trump as ‘our very own Nero’

And the reign hasn’t even started😎

Of course he sees courting the military as advantageous when it comes to the core of his policy of making ‘America great again’. He also knows they are perhaps crucial in ‘Emperor-making’.

With Istvan’s remark of some ‘turning on him’ already it may not bode well for the future as regards goals and policy. The ‘Praetorians’ usually are pretty adept in ‘cut and thrust’ politics which is going on. They arguably do have the power to take down the Trump Principate if not being attended to.

webber
Guest

I would not expect a damned thing from any Praetorian guard. In America the separation of politics and the military is pretty deep, and is set in the Constitution. Much as I despise Trump, I would be horrified if the military became politically active. This separation is vital to democracy, in my view.

Roderick Beck
Guest

The US spends enough on defense, Istvan. And your beloved military has made stupid decisions like betting on aircraft carriers, which are regularly sunk in war games. Not to mention the F-35 fighter.

Roderick Beck
Guest

More redistribution politics is not going to solve Hungary’s growth problem. It is true that the highest tax rates are faced by Hungary’s poor because they lose their benefits if they work. But the reality is that Hungary’s per capita is low.

webber
Guest

Botka is certainly right about one thing (if not more): Low wages are a very hot topic in Hungary. There is massive dissatisfaction – rage even – that ordinary working people are unable to make a living wage.
And the rich in Hungary just now = political elite and their families.

Guest

You’re right of course – but the typical Hungarian’s reaction to this seems to me:
I also want to be part of the rich – don’t care about my neighbours!

wrfree
Guest

Maybe when things come to this things can happen.These I’d say are the kinds of individuals that need to vote. 😎

https://youtu.be/WINDtlPXmmE

Observer
Guest

Webber. Istvan

Spending on the military has a very small multiplier effect, ie. very low returns in the economy, compared to most other areas.

In Hungary there are huge reserves to be mobilized next to and before taxes: corruption, inefficiency and incompetence: cut corruption = +3-4% GDP until 2020, ineff/comp +1.5-2% at least. Hungary can be booming by 5-6% avr growth now, which can become sustainable 2-4% after the large EU subsidies end. Theoretically. First and necessary conditions: put the Orbán maffia in jail and seize/crush their interests to set a deterrent/example and a new course/standards (but don’t hold your breath on these).

A progressive income tax and some form of wealth tax would be good, in sync with Europe to cut evasion.

Istvan
Guest
In terms of actual jobs the US military industrial complex creates about 11,200 jobs for each 1 billion appropriated by the government. For each 1 billion spent on education about 26,700 jobs are created. So Observer is correct on the job level for sure. But because of the leverage of military power the US generates massive income in finance due to the dollar being the world currency, it also generates a very large export arms industry. In 2015 the last with good data the U.S. accounted for 36 percent of worlds arms exports, followed by Russia at 12 percent. In fiscal 2015, U.S. arms sales to foreign governments exceeded $47 billion. The entire Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Hungary was worth about 121.72 billion US dollars in 2015. The purpose of US military power of course goes beyond job creation and profits it goes to the controlled stability of the world order that allows trade to take place that often benefits the USA. None the less a lot of profit is generated by military expenditures in the USA. Those of us that live to talk about also have pretty good military retirements and educational benefits. But Observer is correct there… Read more »
Observer
Guest

Istvan

The factors/arguments of leverage, stability, world currency don’t apply to Hun or any small, relatively poor country.
All these can do in the short term is to stimulate investment and local consumption (ideally of domestic products). The most direct tool for this is to increase consumer spending in the lower/lower-middle class. Step one of many.

Roderick Beck
Guest

I honestly don’t think you have a clue about why Hungary grows so slowly. A lot of it is Hungarian over-regulation and bureaucracy as well as stifling social taxes and terrible demographics. Also there is cultural package.

A simple example is building construction. Hungary requires far more permits than necessary and nearly twice as many as Austria. Since most of you have never run a business you have no idea what are the real impediments to economic growth.

Observer
Guest

Roderick B
My “inefficiency” category covers your point (we can’t develop this huge topic here).
And I know the conditions – been over 10 years in business here. It is not not only the written rules, but also the unhelpful, sometimes antagonistic attitude too.

webber
Guest

Observer – ??? Why did you mention me? I didn’t say a damned thing about spending on the military.
Raising wages in Hungary, now, is a GREAT political program, and one that is wholly in line with traditional socialist politics. MSZP could push for that, hard, and get votes.

To give you some idea of how ridiculously low Hungarian wages are: Despite the fact that Fidesz recently increased wages in higher ed, Hungarian university teaching staff earn much, much less than their peers in Serbia (not to mention W. Europe). In some cases, after tax Serbs are earning roughly double what Hungarians earn. So, a Hungarian associate prof. could immediately improve his or her salary very significantly by moving to Novi Sad and teaching in one of the Hungarian programs at the university there.

Since the university pay scale is set by the government in Hungary, this is Fidesz’s fault.

(otherwise wages in Serbia stink),

Observer
Guest

webber

Yours was the note on wages, not military spending. And don’t worry, I have good knowledge of the absolute and comparative level of wages and taxation in Hun.

Roderick Beck
Guest

Redistribution of income will not raise the average Hungarian standard of of living. It is a poor country. Hungarians keep running down the redistribution road.

webber
Guest

I agree. But raising the minimum wage, immediately, would benefit a lot of people. I think it could be doubled without causing serious economic disruption.
The private sector already pays significantly more – particularly intl. corps – and it is only predatory local “bizniszmen” who employ the poor at the minimal wage.

Observer
Guest

Roderick B

Redistribution of income DOES and WILL raise the average Hungarian or Piresian standard of of living.
Not alone, but with other measures, as I noted above.

wrfree
Guest

OT: quote of the day

‘Take it seriously. We cannot trust Russia. We should never trust Russia’.. Nikki Haley

And Donny and the illiberalists treat them as a friend. Looks like our Ambassador is settlin’ in up there on the East Side in a ‘most dangerous place’. That South Carolina lady is getting the measure of it.

Guest

OT The post-diplomatic age

1. At the traditional photo opportunity in connection with Angela Merkels visit to the White House Trump refused to shake hands with Merkel.

2. The Turkish government is screaming Nazi, Nazi, Nazi at Holland and Germany in all media because they were not allowed to come and preach dictatorship to Turks in these countries.

Istvan
Guest

Yes the handshake thing was amazing, I don’t know if President Trump is losing his hearing or he is goofy. All is not right with my President, it gets more scary daily. Poor General H.R. McMaster (Trump’s National security adviser) he has his hands full with President Trump, he is a very smart man but he is in one hell of a bad spot trying to work with Trump. McMaster’s book on how the US got deep into Vietnam is a masterpiece and was widely read by all military scholars. But like General Powell his brilliant intelligence may be overshadowed by working for a President who makes really bad choices and for whom he has to cover for.

Guest

In a way it is a good thing that Erdogan showed his true colours – the idea of having Turkey as a member in the EU is a bit far fetched …

Wait, why then do we have Hungary as an EU member?

Member

MELÓS

I was curious, whether this word is related to the one I know:

MALOCHE

I found the common hebrew jewish origin:

MELÓCHE
(http://www.zsido.hu/ujelet/archiv/u990712.html)

The german Maloche, which is also my fathers word for hard work, is mainly used in the Ruhrgebiet (Kohlenpott).

It was brought there after WWII from the expellees from Oberschlesien, which is now Poland, and the people there- one of them was my father – took the word from polish Jews.

Funny, that it is known in Hungary, too.

Guest

Actually that word was already used in the 18th Century – but only by special groups. Re usage in general German you’re right – I also heard it from workers in the “Ruhrpott”.
https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maloche

Member

Did You know the word as a southern german man ?
In the Pott it is very common.

Guest

Probably as a student – there was a mixture of people from all over Germany at my university and the newspapers/magazines also liked to use this type of “slang” words.
Every one of us did “malochen” during the summer holidays – we needed the money. First I worked in the summer at Mercedes Benz, later at IBM, that was of course not as bad ..

Member

Three steps to do:

1. Remove Orbán
2. Restore democracy
3. Do politics (action against poverty (cancel flat tax), health care, education…)

Botka and his rusted old party concentrate on 1 and 3. I think there are no topics any of the other parties wouldn’t agree.

For Point 2 ‘Restoring democracy’, which includes changing the election laws, a broad coalition is needed (2/3).

It doesn’t seem, that Botka is willing for the necessary cooperation.

I don’t know whether he will be succesful. May he be the hungarian Schulz!

I personally would happily vote for the MSZP-candidate in my district, if the small parties were involved.
But without, there is a bad taste, because I prefer voting for smaller parties, the bigger ones (if You can call MSZP that) mostly tend to populism.
This I don’t like.

petofi
Guest

A benevolent dictatorship is not a bad thing, especially when you have a people who haven’t the faintest idea of the responsibilities of Democracy. Hungarians know only of ‘advantages’, and how to outdo their neighbours in getting them.

Like I have said before, get that Finn with all the a’s in his name and make him in charge of the country for 10 years.
Then you might get some where.

A Hungarian as leader of the country? A recipe for disaster.
It’s been proven: look at the track record…

Roderick Beck
Guest

Clearly the Socialist position is more empty rhetoric. Hungary needs a pro-business program, not more redistribution of income or more state capitalism. Neither the Left nor the Right has shown any real competency in managing Hungarian growth.

webber
Guest

Roderick, the socialists need to win votes. Calling for an increase in wages is a good, socialist way to win a lot of votes.
The rest is merely academic until and unless there is a change of government.

Istvan
Guest

Off topic but amazing to me. Yesterday President Trump’s public comments to Chancellor Merkel indicated he might be expecting Germany to pay the US money for its years of not expending 2% of GDP on defense, see https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/18/us/politics/donald-trump-angela-merkel-germany.html?_r=0 If that is his expectation what would he want Hungary to pay? Also it appeared Trump found taking years to get to the 2% expenditure level was unacceptable to him. All very astounding and further evidence that we here in the USA have a mad man as commander and chief of all US military forces.

webber
Guest

OT – for those who still think Gyurcsany has a chance to win over the Hungarian electorate: In a very recent interview on ATV’s show Egyenes Beszéd Gyurcsány bragged that last year alone he “paid 460 m. forints in tax. More than Botka will earn in his entire life.”
Botka is the Socialists’ candidate for Prime Minister. It is clear that Gyurcsány looks down on him for being a “loser.”
Gyurcsány said he earned that money. He is proud of it.
I’m sorry, but how did he become so very wealthy originally? Can someone remind me?
The man brags about his enormous wealth, while the majority of Hungarians are struggling to pay the bills. And he despises another political leader for not being as wealthy as he is – for never being able to earn as much in his lifetime as Gyurcsány paid in tax last year.

This is a competent candidate? This is a man who can win over the Hungarian electorate????

aida
Guest

You might also like to ask how his wife’s grandfather came to live in and later to own the property occupied by them on Rozsadomb

Guest

At least he pays his taxes …
And he made his money before he went into politics afaik.

I’m not so sure regarding the Fidesz mafiosi – how did they make their money btw?

aida
Guest

The fact that he says he paid an amount of money as tax does not mean he has paid his taxes, although probably he did.

The interesting question is not when he made his money, but how. Do you know?

Guest

Tyrker would surely like to tell you …

aida
Guest

I am all ears

webber
Guest

Gyurcsány’s wealth came from wild privatization at the end of communism, and the start of the 1990s. All legal. All murky, though, and fairly disgusting to the average Hungarian who did not have the chances that (party) insiders did in those days.
Orban’s Daddy got his first quarry that way, too.

webber
Guest

Gyurcsány’s money is legal. No doubt about that. He got his wealth during the wild days of privatization, where high-ranking communists with good connections and good ideas were able to take over companies. Nobody has ever said what he did was illegal.

But it is more than a little stupid to brag about how wealthy you are in Hungary today. It is political suicide. It just reminds people of everything they already hated in the man.

Politically, he is arube.

Observer
Guest

Guys, some figures:

How many of the obsolete communist era businesses taken over then survived without big foreign injection of capital? OTP, MOL (with huge share issues), …what else? Even HunTelekom saw it’s shares go from 2400 to 430 now.

Re the GyF father in law property – a good villa, top location, worth 300-400 million today (improvement investment excluded). Compare this with the billions made by the Orban mafiosi.
Altus Ltd, the GyF company, never had any gov contracts – compare with all the Orban mafiosi who grew fat ONLY on gov contracts e.g. the Meszaros empire contracted 225 billion last year, at 25% profit = 56 billion in ONE YEAR.
GyF is worth less than 4 billion HUF.

aida
Guest

Rumour has it that GyF’s grand father in law moved into the property after the Communist state confiscated it from the original, owner. He occupied it with his family where the descendants still live. Somewhere along the way the property was purchased from the state. The price did not reflect the true market value, of course. This may be of course just fantasy

Observer
Guest

Not a fantasy, it’s basically true, but has little to do with GyF and it’s a small beer compared to the current corruption orgy.
Orban’s mafia is following in the steps of the communists – distributing the public wealth among themselves, BUT in unprecedented volume, i.e. hundreds of billions, and in all areas, e.g. from organized religion and sports to core economy.

Ferenc
Guest

Recent poll by Zavech

1.Who has the bigger chance to beat Orban?comment image

2.How do you feel about: since 2010 increased or decreased the aversion against GF in the Hungarian society?comment image

More info at http://index.hu/belfold/2017/03/20/hiaba_adozik_400_milliot_gyurcsany_botkaban_megis_tobben_biznak/

webber
Guest

The Gyurcsányistas will now say that all that is irrelevant. For them, he is still the best candidate, even if Hungarians don’t want to vote for him.

Guest

A bit OT:
Look at this:
http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/europaeische-union-junge-osteuropaeer-wollen-freizuegigkeit-aber-keine-fluechtlinge-a-1139656.html
The results of this questioning in one sentence:
Young people in the Visegrad countries are very happy about the freedoms that the EU brings them – but they want them only for themselves, not for others like the refugees.
What a sorry bunch (to paraphrase petofi)!

At least the majority of young Germans and Austrians aren’t as selfish …

PS:
This will probably published in Hungary as proof that Hungarians totally agree with the inhuman Fidesz policies there!

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