László Botka is forging ahead, leaving others behind

As I was collecting material for today’s post on Ferenc Gyurcsány’s five-page letter to László Botka, a headline in the government propaganda site 888.hu caught my eye. It read: “Gyurcsány has written a love letter to Botka.” I don’t know about others, but for me a line like this can prompt strange associations. Out of the blue János Arany’s “Mother of Matthias” popped into my head: “Szilányi / Örzsébet / Levelét megirta: / Szerelmes / Könnyével / Azt is telesirta.” But the loving, tear-soaked letter Mátyás Hunyadi’s mother sent to her son, incarcerated in Prague, was not left unanswered. In fact, a black raven brought the answer back in record time. Gyurcsány’s letter, on the other hand, if one can believe Tamás Harangozó, a MSZP member of parliament, “was tucked away in a drawer set aside for all forthcoming letters and messages from Ferenc Gyurcsány,” never to be answered.

The letter was addressed to László Botka with copies to Gyula Molnár, party chairman, István Hiller, chairman of the board, and Bertalan Tóth, leader of the party’s parliamentary delegation. A couple of days after the letter was sent, Ágnes Vadai, one of Ferenc Gyurcsány’s deputies, made the letter public.

Why did Ferenc Gyurcsány decide to approach Botka again when Botka has made it eminently clear in the last six months that under no circumstances would he be on the same ticket as the leader of the Demokratikus Koalíció? Botka believes that Gyurcsány is still such a widely disliked political figure that his mere presence on a common list would mean the loss of perhaps half a million votes or more. There is no question that when pollsters ask respondents about the popularity of leading politicians, Gyurcsány is normally at the bottom of the list. On the other hand, there is no opinion poll on which we can rely to ascertain whether Gyurcsány’s presence on the list would have such a negative effect on the chances of the democratic opposition in next year’s parliamentary election.

About a week ago Gyurcsány managed to get hold of Botka, who again reasserted that under no circumstances would he sit down and discuss any kind of cooperation between MSZP and DK as long as Gyurcsány insists on being on the ticket. However, he added, perhaps Gyurcsány could write him a letter.

Those who listened to the two or three interviews Gyurcsány gave since this telephone call will not find much new in this letter. Still, in a letter one can be more nuanced and precise than in an interview. Moreover, as the saying goes, “verba volant, scripta manent” (spoken words fly away, written words remain), and therefore I think it was a good idea for Gyurcsány to spell out exactly what he has in mind. The text of the letter can be found here.

The general tone of the letter is polite, stressing the ideas and goals they share, but is critical when it comes to Botka’s steadfast refusal to talk to the representatives of the other parties. Gyurcsány objects to Botka’s belief that he is “the only one who knows the correct strategy” and that anyone who disagrees with him is interested only in acquiring a parliamentary seat instead of defeating Viktor Orbán and his regime. Botka wants the other parties “to join” him, while the other parties want “to work with him.” Gyurcsány calls Botka’s demands a “diktat.” Such an attitude “is alien to the western, European political culture that we represent,” he wrote. Botka’s strategy of forcing the other democratic parties to join MSZP reminds Gyurcsány of Fidesz’s tenacious efforts to subdue all the other parties on the right. Surely, a democratic party can’t possibly imitate Fidesz’s cruel political methods. Imitating Fidesz is not becoming to “our side.” In addition, Gyurcsány considers such a strategy ten months before the election “suicidal.”

The rest of the letter is mostly about the philosophical and technical problems of having the common list Botka insists on. If there is a common list, argues Gyurcsány, then Botka cannot have the exclusive leading role “because there are others around the table.” Neither Botka nor anyone else “has the right to say who should represent a given party on the common list.” This is the internal affair of the parties. “We can’t give up this right; we don’t want to give you such a right, just as you wouldn’t give us the right to say whom MSZP should put on the common list.” The democratic opposition cannot behave like Fidesz. If we use the “politics of ultimatums, the citizens might think that we are going to do the same once we are in power.”

And here comes the most hard-hitting part of the letter. “I left to last your wish that we support your candidacy for the premiership. We would gladly do so if we were wholeheartedly convinced that we are placing the fate of our country in good hands. But that is not the case. You have to convince us of your suitability. That you want to be and can be the kind of prime minister who is in possession of all the virtues necessary for the task.” And, he continues: “It is not enough to be clever, one needs wisdom.” To drive the point home, Gyurcsány writes that “in recent months we have not been convinced that you are ready to lead the country well. But we can still be persuaded.”

Neither Botka nor the others to whom the letter was addressed answered Gyurcsány. Tamás Harangozó must have received the job of summarizing the MSZP reaction to the letter. “We don’t want to spend any time on this subject. We set aside a drawer where we are going to collect his letters, messages, and all his other political schemes in the coming months.” He reiterated that with Gyurcsány one cannot win an election. Botka doesn’t want anyone on the list who held any major political position before 2010. He claimed that Gyurcsány is the symbol of everything that led to the devastating defeat in 2010.

I hope that soon enough we will have opinion polls on the population’s reaction to the Botka-Gyurcsány duel. Although the following two online polls are definitely not scientific, they do indicate that not all left-wing voters are enamored with László Botka’s ideas and style. ATV asked whether Botka is right in demanding that Gyurcsány not be on the list. Over 8,000 people participated and 68% said no. Blikk’s results are even more interesting because the readership of Blikk is a politically mixed crowd, and yet the answers were favorable to Gyurcsány. “Gyurcsány or Botka? For whom you are rooting?” The results were: Ferenc Gyurcsány, 48%; they should cooperate, 20%; both should get lost, 17%; László Botka, 16%. The number of respondents was 7,526.

Finally, I would like to call attention to a couple of sentences in the letter which might be of  interest as far as Gyurcsány’s thinking about a possible scenario after the democratic opposition wins the election, which, as we know, is a very long shot. As for the election itself, he would like to have one candidate in every electoral district standing against the Fidesz and Jobbik candidates. He would like to have individual party lists. And he definitely hopes that DK will garner enough votes to become a “coalition partner” in a future government. Parties may have different views on many details of a future government program, but these differences don’t have to be discussed now. What will happen to pensions, for example, can be discussed after the victory. “We will arrive at good compromises as coalition partners do all across Europe,” he added. A perfectly acceptable solution, indeed widely practiced, but I have the feeling that, given the Hungarian political culture, it is unattainable at the moment.

June 7, 2017
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exTor
Guest

My sense from months ago is that Ferenc Gyurcsány is Éva’s preferred candidate. I’m also partial to him, but only somewhat. I feel that Gyurcsány is damaged goods. The Hungarian electorate will not forget his 2006 Öszöd admission of lying to the public and it will not forgive him.

On the eve of the British election, where Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party seems to have a chance, László Botka smells a change in the EU wind.

In the United States, Bernie Sanders (who is to the left of Hillary Clinton) could have beaten Donald Trump. When he did not get the nomination to represent the Democratic Party, many of his supporters leapfrogged over Clinton to vote for Trump, which suggests that Sanders supporters were less ideologically bent than personality-motivated. Clinton was seen, rightly so, to be too much like Donald Trump, namely too tied to big corporate interests. That view was (and is) correct.

Perhaps there is some personal appeal for Botka amongst the electorate. The fact that he leads the MSZP is also a positive factor. Notwithstanding Jobbik’s Gábor Vona, Botka is the biggest opponent to Viktor Orbán.

László Botka knows it.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Istvan
Guest
er tor the analogy to Senator Sanders voters in the primary who voted for Trump is intriguing, but mistaken. In the State of West Virginia Democratic Party primary Exit Polls showed that 44% of Sanders primary voters would vote for Trump in November and that turned out to be correct. But the truth was on the jobs issue Trump and Sanders interestingly had many of the same positions. They were not exact opposites on that issue. The positions of Sanders and Trump on jobs in the coal industry were very similar as this NY Times article shows https://www.nytimes.com/politics/first-draft/2016/05/05/bernie-sanders-pledges-to-keep-jobs-in-coal-mining-areas/ Sec Clinton failed to address the issue of basic industrial jobs or indicated those workers needed to be retrained for highly technical jobs. The issue for the Sanders voters who went for Trump was not at all based on personality, but rather on jobs. Trump and Sanders both appealed to many white working class people with less than college educations for similar reasons. It was driven by the decline white working class incomes over the last two decades in the USA. Sanders did also appeal to some other very different voters, those who deeply oppose our wars in the Middle East and… Read more »
Member

Shame on @exTor and anyone else who alludes to Gyurcsány “lying” at Öszöd. Those are the calumnies of Orbán you are echoing, and demonstrating how deeply Orbán’s demagogic vilification of Gyurcsány has succeeded in penetrating the psyche of the entire populace, including the democratic opposition. Botka’s imperious tone is an Orbán legacy too. The future looks dim for Hungary…

Observer
Guest

Hear, hear.
Compared to Gyurcsany’s ONE SENTENCE (taken our of context and purpose) the Orban mafia has built its regime on an field of lies and they keep coming every day.
What are you guys talking about.

The above said, it is a fact that Orban’s campaigns of brazen lying has achieved the desired effect and GyF is unpopular, but so are all leading Socialist. The polls are also misleading as the popularity of DK slowly, but steadily grew (and probably is still growing as many people would not admit openly such a preference).

Under the Fidesz lopsided electoral law there is no other way, if at all, to unseat the regime, but for ALL opposition parties, Jobbik Included to co-operate in one way or the other to field a single candidate against the gov one in every electoral district.

Member

…but, far, far more important: until and unless the US succeeds in ridding itself of the foul taint of Trump the future looks dim for the whole planet…

Grant Boyd-Gibbins
Guest

Totally agree about Trump – complete disaster, but far less politically able than Orban, or Gyorcsany, for that matter, and hopefully the GOP will soon distance themselves from him, maybe Comey will be the catalyst.
I have always felt that Gyorcsany was very unfairly treated, after his speech about lying. After all, lies are stock in trade for almost all politicians, and for one of them to admit it struck me as refreshing, in an unexpected way. The fact that this has caused him to be banished shows that people would rather not be aware of the lies they base their opinions on. Ergo “I’ll support you provided you don’t admit you lied to me” just strikes me as naive and gauche.

petofi
Guest

Their is something sulfurously foul–(acknowledgement to Chavez)–
about the rise of Trump…to nominee…to president.

wrfree
Guest

And perhaps Comey’s testimony at the hearings today one day soon will be said to presage his downfall. Doors could be opening to the smell of rotten eggs.

Lies, firing, the Russians, collusions, Hillary, the Attorney General, Comey, the FBI, obstruction of justice, Flynn and last but not least Trump as POTUS. The straw who stirs all the drinks.

Have to say we sure have an ‘energetic’ POTUS. But the old boy doesn’t look to interested on the actions on the ‘Russian’ end. He’s more interested in ‘loyalties’.

old1956
Guest

Teasing a bit, Trump is my Gyurcsany. The opposition propaganda is out to ruin Trump.
Cobey is the most dishonest guy.
He could not catch one active measure agent, but makes polarizing opinionated statements.

LwiiH
Guest

Gyurcsány Is damaged goods and given the state of the press today there is unfortunately very little chance of rehabilitation. This argument over lists make it even more evident that party lists are anti-democratic. The reverse the lines of responsibility away from the electorate to the party leadership. And that is just plain and simply wrong.

Member

“Damaged goods”: Is that some sort of explanation of something? The “damage” was to Hungary, and the source of the damage was Orban’s mendacious hate campaign (against “lying”!)– in what has since grown into a (winning) signature strategy of Orban’s Kleptocracy: mobilize the national penchant to lay blame on and vilify individuals or groups for whatever happens to be the magyar malaise of the day. Everyone has been damaged by that — Gyurcsány among the most unjustly.

I don’t know what the remedy is, but it certainly is not to keep dispensing and swallowing more of the same. What needs “rehabilitation” is the Hungarian psyche.

wrfree
Guest

Two places, Oszod and Tusnafurad, two visions of a political community and apparently two reactions by the electorate. Mr. Gyurcsany told it like he saw it. He paid for it. Mr. Orban. He told it like he sees it. The electorate looks as if they will certainly pay for it.
But at this point the latter perhaps still have to understand that the truth will also hurt with that Tusnafurad ‘vision’.

Member

exTor – Botka doesn’t “lead” the MSZP. The party is led by Gyula Molnar, a politician of brittle backbone and weak vision. His strategy for getting reelected as Budapest’s District 11 in 2010 was to disavow all links to the MSZP and pretend he was running as an independent. He still managed to lose. Questions about corruption during Molnar’s mayoral tenure remain unanswered. If Molnar, as party chairman, is helping Botka build his campaign, God help him.

FreeWheeling
Guest

From the little personal information that I have come across from a connect young lady about Molnar, I would say that he is compromised to the fullest extent. I’m just an outsider, but some my acquaintances during the later days of the Gyurcsany administration he did not hold up himself to the highest standards, especially when Hungary was facing a leadership crisis.

petofi
Guest

@ exTor

I presume that you had a Canadian education…so how could you fall for the Orban brainwash about Oszod?

When I heard Gyurcsany’s Oszod speech, I immediately thought: ‘No matter what went before, this man can be trusted
by what he has said today.’ I’m quite stunned, now and before, that any straight-thinking individual would think ill
of what Gyurcsany had said. So silly. A politician has come
clean and urged his party to do the same. Only a Hungarian
mind could twist that into a shameful confession!

Observer
Guest

Hear, hear
It’s very enlightening to read his Öszöd 2 speeches. They are nothing like what the Orban propaganda painted them to be.

Guest

Yes, the bad part of this was that MSZP did not follow Gyurcsany!
It could have meant a restart for MSZP, but no – they just go on and on with all that ballast from Communist times, all the old people who have “Dreck am Stecken” from their activities before 1989.
The fact that Hungary did not see lustration should not be fogotten – there are these “corpses in the cellar” everywhere …

Guest

A bit OT re party lists at the election:

Has there ever been a large effect of the candidates on voting in the districts?
What I mean is:
In Britain or Germany it sometimes happens that a popular candidate gets muany more votes in one district than his party usually would get. This is especially obvious with the German system where the voter has two votes – one primary and one secondary where the secondary votes decide on the total number of seats that a party gets.
It is quite often the case that these votes go to different parties.
And from what I heard from my English family and friends it’s similar in Britain – the Libdems are hoping for this effect to work today …

aida
Guest

The UK system is complicated. In local authority and Parliamentary elections the first past the post system is in force. In each constituency or local,authority ward the candidate or candidates with the most votes is the winnwer. No lists or run offs. The result is that in Parliament it is rare to have a winning party with no overall majority.

In the devolved assembly of Scotland and in Wales as well as in the European Parliament the system is replaced by. Proportional vote system.

The British aversion to PR is all the more perverse because in all their ex colonial legislatures I believe they imposed PR systems and of course the German system was imposed by the victorious allies after 1945.

ambator
Member

I refuse to accept that Gyurcsany is ”damaged goods” and poison for the election. In fact, he is going to pull ahead of all the democratic opposition parties, because he is the only one who is consistently and strenuously representing his point of view and stands for the European democratic ideas.
As the campaign will roll on this fact will become increasingly obvious.
At the same time Botka is building on an unacknowledged lie himself, because he was also an un-indicted accomplice in the system he is accusing Gyurcsány of being guilty of. Sooner, or later that will be read to him.
All in all, I think that the undemocratic methods and the unwillingness to compromise are nothing less than proof positive of monumental hubris and moral bankruptcy of the socialists. I am convinced that after the devastating failure they will suffer at the hands of the electorate they will crumble and disappear at last, not a minute too soon and very well deserved.
Their epitaph should read:

”I have died many times, but never so bad.”

petofi
Guest

@ambator

I was a card-carrying member of the Gyurcsany fan club until I saw how he undermined Bajnai in the ’14 elections. After that, I thought him just fit to play the lead in Moliere’s, “The Bourgeois Gentilhomme”.

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘standing for democratic ideas’

There you go. The fellow is treated as if he’s got the plague. Such is that democratic pestilence. A seeming loner who is felt should simply wither away. From the looks of it the ostracizing of Gyurcsany symbolizes the broken shards of democratic government in the country. Lamentable and factual.

exTor
Guest
I did not allude to the 2006 Öszöd speech, I directly referred to it. Ferenc Gyurcsány, for whatever reason, made a very candid admission of lying, a deception that shamed him. I supported his candidness, however it led to, amongst other things, civil disruptions in Budapest. I did not allude to Gyurcsyány’s mention of lying, I specifically identified it. In the age of Trump, where the Donald covers facts with newly minted lies, such honesty as exhibited by Gyurcsány is the kiss of political death. Donald Trump does not acknowledge personal shortcomings. I’m not sure that the Hungarian public knows how much Trump is deeply disliked by the American electorate. The dislike of Trump can easily be reshaped in Hungary to a dislike of Orbán, for both act in similar fashions. Viktor Orbán did not have to slander [calumnify] Gyurcsány, he had already shot himself in the foot. The wound was obvious then, the scars of the wound exist now. In the minds of many, Gyurcsány is damaged goods, which is a shame, for he may be the best man for the job Orbán now has. Every national situation is unique. My point is that Hillary Clinton was seen by… Read more »
petofi
Guest

@exTor

You’re either a Russian Troll, or you’re doing too much weed…(your thinking has obviously suffered from something-)

aida
Guest

Do not get too excited. We are a broad church.

It maybe that Gyurcsany’s generosity helps to keep this blog going, which might explain the rather exaggerated commitment to a politically dead individual who just refuses to accept that he is a liability.

Guest

“It maybe that Gyurcsany’s generosity helps to keep this blog going..”

Sounds like a Fidesz insinuation.

aida
Guest

If you thought for a few seconds you would rephrase the above post. The principal beneficiary of Gyurcsany’s continued political involvement is Fidesz Government.

Like him, as I do, or not, as huge numbers of Hungarian voters do not, he is a political liability and he helps to keep Orban in power.

In the UK there was an militant Miners’ militant leader called Scargill. Thatche flourished whilst he lasted.

Observer
Guest

aida

This notion of GyF being a liability is pretty speculative as the growing DK voter numbers show (see my note above). The fact that Fidesz keeps firing at him means that they realize the danger he still poses to them.

And if all the others on the dem side had reached agreement, then we could turn to GyF and ask him to oblige, but we see nothing like at all.

Guest

Gyurcsany’s generosity? I thought it was Soros’…

Guest

This was meant go be sarcasm although I realize some might have misread it. In any case, it’ll never cease to amaze me that Fidesz’ cheap trick to always designate an ‘enemy’ (Gyurcsany, the EU, the migrants, now Soros – I’m sure I forgot some) to draw the attention away from the main problems still works. Haven’t people figure it out yet? Sigh

exTor
Guest

From what I know about him, Ferenc Gyurcsány strikes me as a decent guy. Of course Fidesz lies about him, just as it lies about George Soros. Gyurcsány could probably make a good prime minister, however he wont get that chance. He is damaged goods. It is irrelevant how it happened, what is salient is the perception amongst a perhaps sizable portion of the Magyar electorate that has a problem with Gyurcsány.

A while back, I had a chat with a fellow I know from the gym here in Csepel where I pump iron. I said to Pataki –no relation to the former governor of New York– that I hoped he would not vote for Viktor Orbán the next time around. Referencing Ferenc Gyurcsány, Pataki said “Who else?”.

That’s Gyurcsány’s problem writ large. He’s yesterday’s man, the Rodney Dangerfield of Magyar politics, the man who “dont get [enough] respect”. It’s unfortunate, but it’s real, Fidesz real, which makes the point made by aida correct, namely that Fidesz benefits from the presence of Ferenc Gyurcsány as a candidate for 2018.

MAGYARKOZÓ

exTor
Guest

Notwithstanding her correct take on Ferenc Gyurcsány, namely that he has been damaged by his Öszöd speech and that he is a target (along with László Botka) for Fidesz’s 2018-reelection activities, aida was dead wrong to have suggested that Gyurcsány provides money to Hungarian Spectrum.

She [aida] should have known better. On what factual basis was aida’s supposition based? Most readers of this website recognize Éva Balogh to be a straightshooter who does not play favorites. Éva may lean in certain directions, however she is honest, perhaps to a fault. My only quibble is with her lenience toward certain outside posters, whose asses I would have kicked off this site quickly and without much afterthought.

MAGYARKOZÓ

aida
Guest

I asked the question. Eva answered it. The matter is closed as far as I am concerned.
If you think that it is not permissible to ask simple factual questions of people who play a public role, we part company. Too many years in Hungary?

exTor
Guest

You’re a tad too defensive on this, aida. One is permitted to ask questions, to be sure, but what you call a question was an accusation. Not one of your seven posts to this article has a question mark in it. Question marks, as you should well know, indicate questions. Right?

In your second post here, you said “It [may be] that Gyurcsany’s generosity helps to keep this blog going …”, which offended Éva, rightly so. [9:34 AM]

My point was that you should have known better than to impugn Éva’s character. You are, after all, not a Hungarian Spectrum newbie.

I suggest you deepsix your testiness, aida.

MAGYARKOZÓ

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