MSZP’s László Botka in Brussels

László Botka has become a superbly self-confident man since he received overwhelming support from MSZP’s delegates to the party congress less than a week ago. At the press conference he gave in Brussels, he identified himself as “Hungary’s candidate for the premiership.” To clarify his status, at the moment at least five politicians are vying to replace Orbán: Gergely Karácsony (Párbeszéd), Lajos Bokros (MoMa), Tamás Lattmann (representative of civic society), Gábor Vona (Jobbik), and László Botka. These are just the declared candidates, but if at the end each opposition party has a separate party list, even Ferenc Gyurcsány, as leader of DK, might be one of the challengers. This, of course, is just an aside to show that MSZP isn’t paying much attention to reality. They are in a state of euphoria, which might not be warranted. In fact, several opinion pieces appeared lately describing Botka as the man who will oversee the total disintegration of the party. Or, a more charitable opinion, in a couple of years no one will remember who László Botka was.

I’m not so pessimistic, but I’m watching with growing concern the MSZP candidate’s moves. For example, I find it an annoying socialist habit to fight Fidesz by trying to appease its voters with the slogans of Fidesz itself. Socialist politicians should have learned by now that this kind of strategy leads nowhere.

Here is one example. The Hungarian public has heard nothing else in the last seven years but that the European Union is on its last legs. And yet we have ample evidence that the great majority of the Hungarian public is still pro-EU, despite the massive anti-EU propaganda. So, it would be logical to have an election campaign resting on the slogan: “Either Europe or Orbán.” To launch such a campaign, however, would require a full embrace of the Union. One shouldn’t be uncritical, of course, but for Botka to say, after arriving in Brussels, that he is “watching the performance of the European Union with apprehensive criticism” is not exactly a good beginning. What followed was no better. Botka announced that a significant number of citizens had lost their trust in the democratic institutions of the EU, which in turn is responsible for the upsurge of populism. I wish politicians would consider the truth of their political rhetoric before they open their mouths. Does Botka really think that a lack of trust in democratic institutions led to the rise of populism? It is enough to look around the world, from Russia to the United States, to know that this assertion simply cannot be true. After that introduction, to say that he is “deeply committed to the European Union” sounds hollow. Moreover, some of his suggestions to “solve” the crisis could have been uttered by Viktor Orbán himself. This is not the way to distinguish yourself from your political opponent.

Prime Minister Candidate of Hungary

Let’s take another example. The government media discovered that not only would László Botka be in Brussels. George Soros also stopped by for a short visit before flying on to Budapest. What a great opportunity for the kind of journalism practiced in Orbán’s Hungary. The M1 TV station announced that “László Botka and George Soros will negotiate on Wednesday.” Magyar Hírlap published as front-page news that “At last Soros and Botka will find each other in Brussels.” Practically all government papers carried the same news, insinuating some secret cooperation between MSZP and George Soros. What does a good politician do in a case like that? Does he keep insisting that he has never in his life met George Soros? Does he excuse himself by emphasizing that he has never been a beneficiary of Soros’s largesse and that MSZP has never received any money from “the financial investor or his circles”? Surely not. In fact, if he were a brave opponent of Viktor Orbán, who has been demonizing George Soros, he would simply brush aside the whole issue as a typical example of primitive Fidesz propaganda and say that whatever dirt they have been throwing at Soros is undeserved and disgusting. But, no, the brave socialist candidate is afraid that perhaps Fidesz-infected citizens who really think that Soros is the devil incarnate will not like him if he defends the founder of Central European University.

The most important meeting that István Ujhelyi, a MSZP member of the European Parliament, secured for Botka was with Frans Timmermans, who is well versed in Hungarian affairs. Timmermans is one of the most resolute critics of the Orbán regime, and therefore I’m sure it was unnecessary to convince him that “the socialist party and the democratic opposition are interested in the restoration of the rule of law.” What is more difficult to decide is what Botka meant by his request that “the Orbán government should be punished and not Hungary.” How can that be achieved? Viktor Orbán and his government represent the country, so whatever “punishment” is meted out to that government for any infraction will unfortunately affect the whole country and its population. Botka’s request was a timid response to the accusation that the opposition is lobbying in Brussels against its own country. Such pious pronouncements will not change the opinion of Fidesz supporters about the opposition’s alleged unpatriotic actions.

In addition to Timmermans, Botka also met with Marita Ulvskog, vice president of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament. She is also the vice-chair of the EP Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. This meeting was logical given Botka’s emphasis on a truly socialist agenda for MSZP, as opposed to the more centrist or even Third Road approach of the party under Ferenc Gyurcsány. The very low wages in Hungary and the lack of employee protection is truly appalling, and since 2010 the situation has only deteriorated. For example, the total destruction of the power of unions is a relatively new development. What I don’t understand, however, is what Botka was driving at by pointing out “the incredible inequality that exists between member states” as far as the level of wages is concerned. Currently, it is Jobbik that is in the midst of a campaign for equal wages for equal work in all member states of the European Union. Anyone with a modicum of knowledge of economics knows that this is utter nonsense. It is one thing to support the creation of a union-wide social network, but complaining about small or medium-size member states “being powerless to defend the interests and wages of employees of multinational companies” is simply unfair, at least as far as Hungary is concerned, where employees working for multinational companies are better off than those who work for the “patriotic” Hungarian oligarchs.

At home Botka stepped on quite a few toes in the last couple of days. I have no idea what he had in mind when he answered the question of whether he would consider placing Gordon Bajnai, an economist and businessman who proved to be a popular and very effective prime minister in 2009 and 2010, on a common list of politicians of the opposition parties. He said: “Under no circumstances would I place Gordon Bajnai, János Kádár, Mátyás Rákosi, or Miklós Horthy on the list.” What on earth prompted Botka to utter this nonsense? Soon enough Bajnai placed this witty retort on his Facebook page: “I would ‘like to reassure the worried public that I have no desire to be placed either on the list of MSZP or on those of MSZMP, MDP, or even the Peyer Pact.” For those unfamiliar with these acronyms, MSZMP was the communist party under János Kádár between 1956 and 1989; MDP was the party of Mátyás Rákosi between 1948 and 1956; the Peyer Pact was a political arrangement between the Bethlen government and the Hungarian Social Democratic Party in 1921.

I don’t know, but Botka’s first few days are not promising. Popular reactions on Klub Rádió, ATV, and Hír TV are mixed, but there are many who don’t like Botka’s attitude. Let’s hope he and his party realize, and quickly, that this is not the best way to win the hearts of voters.

June 1, 2017
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The biggest problem is that MSZP is still trying to appease Fidesz-voters (who by now don’t make up more than 25% of the entire population) – who of course would never vote for a ‘commie’. This is the typical, age-old leftist approach which is always about apologizing at its core (‘bocsánat, hogy élek’). It’s in MSZP’s DNA. They can’t help it, they are just softies who always opt for the mutyi rather than taking up the conflict. Nothing changes. MSZP – just as other leftist parties often don’t – does not dare to be decisive about anything for fear of offending some constituency. But this is no way to lead and no way to win.


A primitive thinker trying to replace a primitive thinker… sounds like win!


This is not the way to distinguish yourself from your political opponent.
The obvious (at least to me …) thing for MSZP is to show real alternatives to what the Fidesz lunatics have been doing – all the corruption must be eliminated!
Doesn’t Botka care about this, or is he somehow implicated in it – like some MSZP leaders?
Take back the country and its assets from the likes of Hábony, Mészáros (meg szár come to mind …), Vajna, Orbán’s family etc!

First I (also) have some reservations about Botka, his remark about unequal wages seemed done only to cut short Jobbik’s campaign and the one about Bajna just incomprehensible. But overall if I could vote, I would seriously consider giving him my support. Regarding his “the Orbán government should be punished and not Hungary”, I think that’s very simple, he would like EU funding to be suspended as long as Orban rules, and of course this would ‘punish Hungary’ also, but only temporarily. Now onto the M1 news reporting. I have previously ( expressed my suspicions about the Hungarian Reuters reporters. And to my astonishment in I saw video recordings of the ‘fence’ interview in May.31 M1 news, of course those were custom cut for Fidesz anti-Botka propaganda. But how did they get that video, haven’t seen it anywhere else, and if supplied officially by Reuters to M1, does Reuters accept M1’s cutting? I hope that Reuters and Botka both publish the whole video and file complaints against M1 for untruthful journalism. MSZP is boycotting already, and why would Reuters not join! For who likes to watch the M1 cutting: (item at 4-8min). PS: I also consider it very peculiar… Read more »
Joe Simon

Hungary needs a strong, united, democratic opposition to take over from FIDESZ. A change in government should be welcome by now. The MSZP is a has been, so is Gyurcsány. Orbán will probably prevail again, as there is simply no one else.


Is this the same Joe that we’ve had here for some time?
Hungary needs a strong, united, democratic opposition to take over from FIDESZ.
For once I agree with you!


When we lived in Senegal, Abdulaye Wade lived around the corner. I used to say,”he looks like he eats babies for breakfast.” Botha looks like that, too.

Botha will be a thief, and a liar like Orban, but a less deft ruler.

But something else, now…

Say a prayer for the planet–Trump has withdrawn from the Paris Accords. Here’s a priceless Trumpism: “I was elected
as the President of Pittsburgh not Paris.” Who can argue with that?

Just put pictures of the planet on your walls: for the present, the beautiful orb as pictured from space; for the future, a picture of Mars…


‘Globalisation means many other countries are asserting themselves and trying to take over leadership. Please don’t ask Americans to let others assume the leadership of human exploration. We can do wonderful science on the Moon and wonderful commercial things. Then we can pack up and move to Mars’. Buzz Aldrin

Trump on the Accords has to be a ‘Buzz-killer’. Not only is he flirting with putting us back to the Pleistocene but the vision expressed in the rejection doesn’t give much in working further with red dust, dunes and rocks to perhaps save ourselves with a new home as our planet dims away in space. With his attitude to science POTUS looks he won’t even give us a chance to get the hell out out of here as we slowly asphyxiate ourselves.

And Botka..looks to be not a very charismatic or innovative politician. A cookie-cutter from the Magyar playing field.
Chess player? If one is used to winning it comes to pass that wins are always the result of apprising a situation and using new combinations in play within a constantly changing board. Playing by rote then is just an easy way to lose. Flexibility and not making stupid mistakes helps too.


About former Senegalese president Wade (from wiki): “Wade’s presidency (2000-2012) was marred by allegations of corruption, nepotism and constraints on freedom of the press and other civil liberties.” but also “Wade is considered among the rare African leaders who are committed to democracy.”
Currently Botka isn’t known to be as you foresee him (liar and thief), so why would he become such?
For Trump, best will be to send him into space (one way ticket only, no return), where can look for another planet (B) to live on.
Even OV stated to be in shock after djT’s decision, probably he doesn’t have a ‘Climate Change’ specialist (yet), who can come up with the idea for a ‘Climate Change Fence’ around Hungary…

OT-PS: how long did you stay in Senegal, any good stories to tell about living there?


Living in Senegal:

One thing I remember is that most roads/streets where in need of repair, but the ever resourceful Senegalais would put thumbtacks in the crevices and were waiting, roadside, all equipped to fix the flat tires.


Well, the roads under Orban are certainly in need of repair. The locals have not yet caught on to the thumbtack trick, so don’t go advertising it about, please.


Bad roads in Senegal, have you been in Gambia then?
Some 25 years ago I travelled from Casamanche (south Senegal) into Gambia (to Banjul). The roads in Senegal were OK, then we crossed the border (actually don’t remember if there was any border control), and the road was terrible, our driver had to slalom around the pitholes, reall this terrible, never seen such a road before. But then the most annoying thing, to me at least, was that the whole road was sidelined with billboards for all sorts of western products (targeted at UK tourists), you couldn’t see the nice surroundings anymore. It made me start singing:
Ain’t singing for Pepsi, Ain’t singing for Coke, I don’t sing for nobody, makes me feel like a joke!! (Neil Young – This Notes For You)


Thanks for that! Neil is also a hero of ours – and he’s a Canadian ….

I recently had a conversation with a Magyar couple hailing from the Déva region of Erdély, Romania. The wife (the main speaker) and the husband were clearly very affected by the events of the Ceauşescu regime. What was salient was their antiRoma and antisemitic bigotry. They identified as rightwing, a contrast to my leftwing orientation. This couple now lives not far from me in Csepel, Budapest. The wife conceded that Viktor Orbán may be bad [ie: corrupt], but all politicians are the same. She then brought up László Botka, whom she characterized as being [perhaps] equally as bad as Orbán. I didn’t get her reasoning, however. She said that perhaps the best thing would be to not vote in 2018, which (to me) would at least be semipositive. Syrian refugees were brought up during our conversation. The Syrian situation intersects Botka and his take on the EU. Botka knows full well that most Magyars are antiSyrian in the sense that they dont want them in the country, a fact that Fidesz has capitalized on by advocating against EU refugee quotas. It is in Botka’s interest to play tentative with the European Union, for (notwithstanding the generally positive Hungarian populace’s feeling… Read more »

In a week there will be a general election in the country of my birth. It seems that Jeremy Corbyn has been moving up in popularity with respect to Theresa May, who is being tremendously savaged by Captain SKA with Liar Liar, which is increasingly popular on YouTube [linked above] where the piece increased its viewcount by 220,000 in 10 hours yesterday.

Check it out. Great beat, especially if you like reggae, as I do. It would be nice to see a similar American version for the 2018 US Senate elections. Whatever May may be in the lying department, she cant touch Trump.


It is not the country of my birth. It is my country of residence which I believed until last year was my home. For decades. May is absolutely on a par with Trump when it comes to lying. The song is not an exhaustive list. She lied about believing UK should remain. Now she is an unqualified Bexiteer. “Brexit means Brexit” is her famous phrase. Not one word of regret for having changed her mind, or admitting she was wrong. She did not believe UK should remain in the EU. It was expedient at the time to pretend. What does it mean when she says “No deal is better than a bad deal”? No one can understand what it means. Why? Because it is meaningless. It is pure crap. We know more or less what the former means. Think about it. No UK airline can fly into the EU or vice versa. Visa to visit any EU country. If you are there you have to pay for all medical treatment and medication. Tariff barriers on exports and on imports as per WTO. Duty on all the shopping you bring with you from your holidays. No cooperation in medicine, science or… Read more »

Rather OT:
A sign of things to come after Brexit?
On May 27 the IT system of British Airways broke – no flights from Heathrow or Gatwick all day and no info for passengers at all for hours! The BA people were totally helpless/useless/uninformed/invisible …

Now BA stands for “baggage anywhere” 🙂
I’ve read several reports on this – abject, abominable failure …

Friends, I will say it again: The MSZP has already lost the 2018 elections. Their only base of operations is in Budapest, Szeged and the Red Belt in and around Miskolc. Thanks to the single-round, first-past-the-post system in the constituencies, Fidesz is guaranteed to win all but perhaps 15 of the 106 individual mandates (that’s a generous estimate.) The Socialists theoreticallly might be able to make a dent in Fidesz’s domination of the list vote. However: – The MSZP has proven itself unable to capitalize on the CEU crisis or Orban’s efforts to destroy Hungary’s relations with the EU. – Even worse, the party has proven itself unable to capitalize on issues that are the bread and butter of politics – high taxes, low wages, corruption, shoddy education, deplorable health care. – Jobbik is absolutely obliterating the “left” in terms of voter outreach. At present, they are in the best position to soak up votes that leach out from Fidesz. Say what you want, Jobbikers understand the meaning of hard work. – The MSZP can’t afford a headquarters in Budapest. Why do we think they can afford a decent political campaign? I see no reason why current trends should change… Read more »

I agree Jobbik leads the way in voter outreach. Right now they have far surpassed even Fidesz in my opinion. So where do they get the money to put up all of their billboards. I am guessing from Russia.


According to Vona, Jobbik took out a loan. Take that for what it’s worth. We should also note that Simicska owns the billboards.


And if you follow the Fidesz propaganda – Simicska owns Vona …
These billboards are so crazy – it says a lot about how Fidesz looks at the “intellect” of Hungarians.
They must believe that Hungarians really are thick as a brick!


This is more complex. MSZP alone could never win – remember that Orban will spend enormous amounts in the run-up to the 2018 elections s (there is space for that in the budget). It will be the biggest such vote purchasing campaign ever. Moreover the economy is getting better (for the time being). Sure the growth rate is significantly below that of Romania, but many people can feel it. As a result, MSZP would have to offer some credible vision beyond offering more money. And that it is clearly unable to do.

CEU is just one of those issues which MSZP was afraid of. Soros is deemed “too controversial” by MSZP so the Socialists shied away from opposing Fidesz on CEU. Same with Paks2 or the Budapest Olympics (which by the way is still being built and planned but the projects are being realized not under the Olympics brand but as general investment in sports).

MSZP is wishy-washy, weak, the perennial softie with no vision. Such a party cannot win these day. Clear message and discipline are key and the Hungarian Left lacks both.

Michael Stewart

Eva – is it really possible to have a ‘full embrace of the EU’ wholehearted and uncritical when we have this news? Juncker selling the family silver as it were to keep the peace….and spitting on CEU….


Maybe this link works:
No need to subscribe …
Now Juncker is coming to help Hungary? Really strange – but haven’t we heard from Fidesz every day that Juncker is on his way out and not to be trusted?

Macron and Merkel will manage it …