Election predictions and fallout from the Botka-Molnár controversy

You may recall that after Viktor Orbán’s performance in Tusnádfürdő/Băile Tușnad I wrote that my “overarching impression” was that Viktor Orbán is afraid. I based this opinion on his “extended and continuous self-aggrandizing,” which made me suspicious that he is not as self-assured as he would have us believe. Therefore I was somewhat surprised that a few days later Ildikó Csuhaj of ATV and András Stumpf of Válasz, who rarely see eye to eye on anything, agreed that Viktor Orbán’s self-confidence has never been greater. He was genuinely relaxed and justifiably satisfied with his accomplishments.

Lately two well-known political scientists came out with their assessment of the current political situation, with special attention to possible outcomes of the 2018 national election. Somewhat surprisingly, both Gábor Török, someone who maintained fairly good relations with Fidesz until recently, and Csaba Tóth of the liberal Republikon Intézet described the mood in Fidesz as apprehension concerning the forthcoming election. Viktor Orbán is afraid that Fidesz may not have an absolute majority, preventing it from forming a government.

I’m sure that readers of Hungarian Spectrum would view the scenario described by the two political scientists as outright impossible. After all, we have been doing practically nothing else but bemoaning the sad state of the left-liberal opposition, whose chances were further reduced after László Botka’s intemperate attack on Zsolt Molnár. But Török and Tóth approach the issue from the other end of the political spectrum. They have been paying attention to the changes that have taken place in Jobbik.

Török’s interview with Magyar Narancs is still not available. Magyar Narancs, which is a weekly, comes out on Thursday, but it published a short excerpt from which we can glean the main outline of his thinking. His claim is that the political situation today cannot be compared to 2014 when the so-called “center field of force” (centrális erőtér) still existed. This center field of force meant that Fidesz positioned itself in the center of the political scene between two irreconcilable political forces, a left-liberal and a far-right one. This political combination could assure Fidesz an absolute majority, even with 35-40% of the votes. Now that Jobbik has moved toward the center, Jobbik voters are more likely to vote for a left-liberal candidate and vice versa as long as they manage to defeat the present government. Opinion polls corroborate such a willingness for cross voting. Consequently, as things stand now, Török explains that Fidesz may lose 40 electoral districts, which would mean that it would come up short of the necessary 100 seats for an absolute majority. In that case, Orbán will try “to buy” some members of parliament, try to find a coalition partner, or, most likely, have a snap election within three months.

Tóth also concentrates on Jobbik. As opposed to the left, Jobbik “is capable of strategic thinking” and, unlike MSZP, is unified and speaks with one voice. He also stresses that it is a misconception to think that in order to defeat Fidesz one needs a single strong opposition force because of the possibility of cross voters in the new circumstances. In Tóth’s scheme, opinion polls indicate that the left-liberal opposition in Budapest is stronger than Fidesz and that 10-15 electoral districts could be won just in Budapest. Jobbik could easily win 10 districts nationally, and the liberal-left opposition could add another 10 districts in the larger cities. That would be enough for Fidesz not to have an absolute majority.

Tóth also talked about the Botka-Molnár controversy as far as the liberal-socialist opposition’s chances in Budapest are concerned. Keep in mind that Republikon Intézet is also a polling organization, and therefore Tóth has been looking at polling data as well as voting patterns in the past. The conclusion Republikon Intézet drew was that the left-of-center opposition can win only in individual districts where DK is strong and therefore the cooperation of MSZP and DK is a must in Budapest. As far as the person of Ferenc Gyurcsány is concerned, it is true that he is the most unpopular politician on the left, but even if Botka succeeded and excluded Gyurcsány from participation, “Fidesz would place Gyurcsány” behind any cooperation between DK and MSZP, even if on the local level. His conclusion is that “making the democratic forces free of Gyurcsány is impossible,” and therefore Botka’s efforts in this direction are misguided. Moreover, the numbers don’t support Botka’s strategy, because it was MSZP that lost voters and not the Demokratikus Koalíció.

Since my piece on the Botka-Molnár controversy was published yesterday I had the opportunity to listen to a couple of interviews relevant to the subject. One was by László Botka himself on Olga Kálmán’s “Egyenesen” on HírTV. In my opinion, it was a disappointing performance. Botka has only three or four sentences, which he keeps repeating over and over, even within the same interview. Otherwise, he is devoid of any vision. Anyone who’s interested in the interview should visit HírTV’s website.

Here I only want to point out something I found amusing, I guess because I have an interest in questions relating to language. Botka desperately tried to wiggle out of accusing Molnár of betrayal (árulás). After all, ‘betrayal’ is a strong word, and Botka’s use of it is widely considered to be politically damaging. Added to his discomfort was Kálmán’s disapproving tone while questioning him on this point. How did he try to get out of this sticky situation? This is the relevant passage: “After democratic discussions on political strategy a decision was reached and a few weeks later a socialist politician questions that decision. One cannot really find another word but betrayal because he divulged a common decision.” The poor man must have been desperate because, although it is true that “elárul” means both “to divulge” and “to betray,” “árulás,” the noun he used, can mean only one thing–“betrayal.”

Equally amusing was István Ujhelyi’s interview on ATV’s “Egyenes beszéd” yesterday. He also had a fairly lengthy conversation with György Bolgár on “Megbeszéljük,” a call-in show on KlubRádió, on Friday. Bolgár stressed the seriousness of Botka’s accusations and said that he hoped that Botka has proof to support his contention. Ujhelyi, who is perhaps the strongest supporter of Botka in the party, assured Bolgár that Botka is a man who doesn’t talk through his hat. He must have tangible proof. What about the others Botka alluded to, asked Bolgár? Ujhelyi answered that he was certain that after Botka returns from his vacation he will make public the “background information” about other possible traitors in MSZP.

By Monday this conversation, which took place a couple of days before, had become an embarrassment because it turned out that there was no hard proof of any “betrayal.” Moreover, the party bigwigs decided that all that talk about betrayal was damaging to MSZP. So, now Ujhelyi had to explain his words away. Luckily for him, András Sváby, one of the new anchors of “Egyenes beszéd,” was pretty clueless when confronted with Ujhelyi’s revised version of his conversation with Bolgár. Ujhelyi insisted that the only thing he said in the Bolgár interview was that “if there are people [in the party] who hold notions different from the official decision concerning electoral strategy Botka will put an end to their games.” It was really pitiful to watch the man, especially since I used to think highly of him as a hard-working member of the European Parliament. He is a decent man caught in a party machinery that has lost its way.

August 2, 2017
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sunyilo12
Member

One criticism that truly holds water on the EU bureaucracy: it is slow and unimaginative. There have been unending debates about ways and means to step up against illiberal governments that clearly go against the values of the Community. While setting complicated processes into motion such as Article 7 a much better alternative could be to provide “Compensatory funds” for parties shut off from publicity by their own illiberal governments. Thinking about something like EU-wide television channels providing equal access to governing and opposition parties with a quality international staff that does not put up with the BS populist parties feed their population with.

A key problem with politicians like Botka, Molnar Zs, and others is the lack of self-awareness in public discourse. FIDESZ has shut off any such channels with a shrewd purpose. EU may be more efficient to fight authoritarian governments with reopening these channels than by coming up with convoluted administrative countermeasures that face uncertain legislative path as Article 7 does.

Guest

sunyilo12

Very good suggestion about creaiting EU channels to air proper discourse between different political parties in the member countries.
As for Orbán feeling more self-assured, it is precisely because of the EU’s inability to enforce its own laws regarding democratic principles, that VO is feeling so chirpy.

When a Hungarian citizen is dragged to the ground by her hair for criticizing the government and the EU just looks on, with a few mild reprimands, Orbán has rightly judged that the Brussels law-makers are completely ineffectual and have no means by which to also be law-enforcers.

He knows he can confidently laugh all the way to the bank, with his pockets bulging with the rewards of being a member state.

exTor
Guest

TV EU ??? At first read, it sounds like an EU propaganda tool, which would be easy to demonize by the likes of an Orbán, sunyilo12.

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A television network that espouses EU values sounds good on a certain level, however how would it function? How many languages would it have to utilize to ‘get its message across’? This sounds like Democracy TV European Union, a modern-day version of Radio Free Europe, that US antiSoviet propaganda vehicle, which later merged with Radio Liberty to become RFE/RL.

This idea is a nonstarter, a transparent intrusion of national sovereignty. I think, however, that a fund to support news sources might be doable, even though it does not seem that dissimilar to a DTVEU. Who’d get money? Leftwingers? Neutralists? Rightwingers?

The Andrea Ladó hairpull incident had nothing to do with the Orbán government, time4change. It was committed by a private citizen who happens to be a Fidesz supporter, to whom Szijjártó later gave the boot. Europen Union condemnation of the Hungarian government for that incident would be politically inappropriate.

MAGYARKOZÓ

sunyilo12
Member

ExTor,
Thanks for your feedback. I don’t think your arguments about national sovereignty are much relevant. Keeping an EU together as a value-based international community this day and age may require out of the box initiatives that are legal. Since Fidesz has been pushing the envelope for many years now why could not EU do the same? Even if they provide an unbiased access to airwaves across the EU to governing and opposition parties, if they run their programs with professional staff as opposed to characters dominating the Hungarian state controlled media, that would be an infinitely better platform for immature opposition politicians to hone their skills and appeal to the Hungarian population. Also as I suspect, cable companies in Hungary are mandated (or incentivized at minimum) to carry state television channels why couldn’t do the EU the same?

I’m not aware of any legal obstacle for such an initiative and it might be a lot more effective than fighting the bumpy road toward pushing through an Article 7 resolution.

Aida
Guest
This piece is quite fascinating, Eva. On the one hand the analysis of the likely outcome of the next election is truly intriguing and might well explain Orban’s reported concerns. As for the left we now see pollster confirmation that Gy is the most unpopular politician of the left. At the same time you highlight the divisions in the left and in particular within MSZP. There are alleged traitors who betray the Party in various ways, including doing deals with Fidesz. Your piece confirms to me at any rate that the ultimate “traitor”, and I do not like the term, is Gyurcsany himself. His continued presence in politics is divisive and is likely to be one of the underlying causes of the left’s impending defeat. No DK and MSZP pact is possible even without Gy that would not be attacked as his handiwork. Even as one of Gy’s admirers surely you now see that Gy is a key figure in Orban’s strategy to defeat the left. Margaret Thatcher had Arthur Scargill, the militant miners’ leader to help keep her in power. In the light of this is it not the case that Gy’s professed opposition to Orban’s regime is rather… Read more »
exTor
Guest

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“Now that Jobbik has moved toward the center, Jobbik voters are more likely to vote for a left-liberal candidate (and viceversa) as long as they manage to defeat the present government. Opinion polls corroborate such a willingness for crossvoting.” [paragraph 4]

Not sure what “as long as they manage to defeat” means here, Éva. Maybe you should have writ “… in hopes of defeating the present government.”

If it be the case that Jobbikers would countenance jumping over Fidesz to vote further left than Fidesz, then maybe my impression that Jobbik is a party of unmitigatable/unreconstitutable racists is mistaken.

Perhaps Jobbik is (for many) the antiFidesz party. Perhaps Jobbik is not just a party comprising registered racists, people like Csanád Szegedi (once a Jobbik attackdog until he discovered (a perhaps irony of ironies) his Jewish roots) and Krisztina [“Magyarország a magyaroké.”] Morvai.

Given that one’s position with respect to the politicial center presumes a certain mindset, I find it difficult to believe that someone somewhat left, someone presumably with a modicum of liberal values, would even consider voting for Jobbik in the absence of an agreed-to strategic-voting bloc. I could, however, believe that a Jobbiker could vote moderate-left.

Liars where red Nikes ???

MAGYARKOZÓ

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘difficult to believe …….would even consider voting for Jobbik’

I’d be curious on what Toth would predict would be the synergy between the left and Jobbik then if Fidesz doesn’t win a majority. The left presently isn’t so hot in managing coalitions of their own in the henhouse. And then all of a sudden the foxes come along saying hi?

Member

exTor: “Not sure what “as long as they manage to defeat” means here, Éva”

I guess Eva means the district level. The district winners make 106 out of 199 seats in piarlament.

tappanch
Guest

“Asked about the difference between dealing with the Polish leadership and Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Juncker said: “Well, I’ve got a caring relationship with Orbán. We talk regularly, I see him regularly — even if it’s not always made public — because I think I do not want to lose Hungary.” He didn’t make the same pledge about Poland, or even mention it.”

http://www.politico.eu/article/jean-claude-juncker-upbeat-and-ready-for-a-fight/

Juncker nurtures a “caring” relationship with Orban…

Istvan
Guest

Jean-Claude Juncker needs to go into extended detox for his alcoholism. If President Trump has a profound personality disorder along with other mental health problems, Juncker exhibits numerous problems associated with being an aging alcoholic. Alcohol-related dementia is indeed a terrible thing and no doubt Orban who grew up around numerous depressed alcoholics in rural Hungary where he learned how to humor them rather than confront them. Hungary has always belonged to the group of nations characterized by high alcoholic beverage consumption and it is still one of the leading liver cirrhosis mortality countries in Europe and in the world. Orban knows how to play to the problems of a drunk.

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘personality disorder with other mental health problems’

A few days ago I managed to stumble in on a news discussion among some who are in the mental health field. One piped up with his opinion that considering Trump’s behavior of late he had ‘stage 4 brain cancer’. Juncker, Trump, the fellows in NK and Russia, looks like it could be a pathological political perfect storm as they all seem to be spinning themselves out to extremes. Europe , Magyarorszag and the world looks like it needs good doktors rather than politicians.

Member

The kind of personality disorders in question, if we talk about Trump and Orbán, like narcissistic and antisocial (psychopath) personality disorder, unfortunately don’t make the pationts suffer but rather us.

Juncker: “I see him regularly — even if it’s not always made public — because I think I do not want to lose Hungary.”

This is the standard speak of EPP politicians:
With Orbán you can talk.
Hungary makes compromises like with the Media law and judges retirement law.
Poland is the real bad state.

I could explode, if I hear this.

Ferenc
Guest

Juncker “cares” about OV/Fidesz, because of both being member of EPP. The Polish PiS isn’t, they are/were together in ACRE (Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe), which is/was headed by the British Conservative Party.

exTor
Guest

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Offtopic, but hey, so what. We cant all be from New York.

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/01/opinion/mario-cantone-mooch-scaramucci.html

Check out this 2-minute vid of Mario Cantone doing an awesome takeoff of Anthony Scaramucci. [2017 July 21 – 2017 July 31, Communications Director, White House] Alterego meets realpolitik. Mooch signing off.

Can we hope for similar following Orbán’s nonmajority win next April?

MAGYARKOZÓ

wrfree
Guest

I have to say we here are in a comedic golden age! Each day there is more and more ‘hulyeseg’ to go around as the ‘goodfellas’ act out the script.

So how are the ‘Marios’ in Magyarorszag? They should have a surfeit of stuff to satirize about and keep Magyars laughing their butts off. I do not get Magyar tv so I can’t get an idea on the er… ‘vic level’. Probably the best time to be a comedian. They’re pretty much the best when it comes to going right to the heart of ‘tragedy’.

Jean P.
Guest

Samuel Beckett’s play “Waiting for Godot” is a puzzle. Godot never turns up and who is he anyway. The play has been interpreted in many different ways on the scene and it has been used as the framework for satire. The lastest example is “Waiting for Godot’s replacement of Obamacare”.

Beckett never gave a clue to the identity of Godot but he denied that he is God. I shall here launch a new theory about the identity of Godot. The twice occurring o in the name put me on the track. If Godot isn’t God he is Soros.

I hope to receive two tickets as compensation for the use of my idea if a Budapest theater decides to stage “Waiting for Soros” as a burlesque tragedy or whatever.

exTor
Guest

Let me get this straight, Éva. DK opposes giving “voting rights [to] those who do not live in [Hungary] on a permanent basis”, hence so do you.

Please elucidate. What are your reasons for this position? I presume that it’s to limit the numbers of people likely to vote for Fidesz.

A so-called nonresident who is a citizen of a country cannot be deprived of the right to vote. That is worldwide.

MAGYARKOZÓ

Member

I see, but Hungary ain’t worldwide. Hungary is a duck pond. : )

exTor
Guest

The horse is already out of the barn, Éva. Do we know how many ethnic Central European Magyars have actually obtained Hungarian citizenships?

Besides the right to vote, what actual benefits potentially accrue to foreign ethnic Magyars? What incentives are there to being a Hungarian citizen?

Your philosophical position that “those, even if they are citizens, shouldn’t make important political decisions about the country in which they dont have a real stake” can be countered on many levels, primarily that one cannot determine the worth of another’s ‘stake’.

It would be nigh impossible to police a citizen’s permanence of residence. I understand your stance, however it is (or it verges on being) antidemocratic. It certainly would not fly in the EU.

I think that we have to concede to Fidesz its voter gain with respect to Romanian Magyars. DK will have to figure out how to somehow nullify the extra votes that Fidesz is likely to gain from the outside Magyars.

DK’s position will be deeply unpopular with Hungarians and with Romanian (and other foreign) Magyars.

MAGYARKOZÓ

exTor
Guest

Thanx Éva. I’m surprised by your last point, namely that most Hungarian Magyars dont support outside Magyars. If I extrapolate, since the majority does not support “voting rights of those who dont live in the country”, since it “support[s] citizenship”, then the majority would be in favor of stripping the citizenships of outside Magyars.

Stripping citizenships is the only way to restrict foreign voting. Cant have one without the other.

Last question, what “other financial benefits” do outside Magyars get?

MAGYARKOZÓ

Jean P.
Guest

“… one cannot determine the worth of another’s ‘stake’ (in Hungary).

You have a stake in Hungary if you pay your taxes there. Otherwise not. Giving representation without taxation is one of Fidesz’ many crimes.

exTor
Guest

Cant say, wrfree. I’ve been here a half decade and I still dont have a television, which I only see when I go over to a relative’s, as I did Tuesday, where I learned (watching RTL news) that a 100-year-old temp record had been broken (likely in Budapest). Major heatwave happening here.

I watch a lot of YouTube stuff, where I keep up with US idiocy, thanx to Seth Meyers, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, etal. Speaking of idiots, see, it seems that the SFB-in-chief is priming to blow up the Korean peninsula.

I’ll have to pass your question on to the HS readership more familiar with ‘magyar televizió’ than I.

MAGYARKOZÓ

wrfree
Guest

You know I’d suggest you can tell a lot about a society by the approach to humor. Skewering the ‘servants’ of the people should be an art of freedom.
I’m wondering though if ‘funny’ in Magyarorszag is now considered sedition.

Metzger
Guest
This is not representative but very interesting. On 444.hu whose readers overwhelmingly hate the government and is considered the most liberal or leftist site (its journalists are almost all consider themselves one of the two) by far the most liked, shared story today was Jobbiks proposal to restrict the voting right of those who are illiterate. This may go agains the human rights discourse but its overwhelmingly popular among the general public. Illiterate people are considered too primitive to be able to form a reasonable opinion about the public affairs and thus their votes can be purchased easily by the government and their minds influenced by propaganda. Of course it goes unsaid that gipsies would mostly fall into this category. My point is that in my circle of acquaintences many middle aged, urban life long liberals who only voted left or liberal now consider voting Jobbik simply because it seems to be the only quasi credible opposition power and they hate Fidesz so much they would do anything to attain that. But they also gave up on the left as it is just way too corrupt (in the sense that voting MSZP equals voting for Fidesz since MSZP is kept… Read more »
Mihaly
Guest

Gyurcsány became so impopular because of the vilent demonstrations scened by Fidesz and the bad luck that he was the PM when the financial crisis hit the world economy. If Fidesz would have won in 2006 the demonstrations wouldn’t have taken place and it would have been Orban who was the PM during the crisis. Fidesz would have lost the 2010 elections and Gyurcsány would have been PM since.
It’s pretty ironic that winning the 2006 elections is the worse thing that could have happened to Gyurcsány.

Member
I see your point, Mihaly, but creating alternative pasts is a very tricky business. I often get people telling me, “if your father hadn’t left Hungary in 1945, you’d speak Hungarian without an accent” or “you’d be a Fidesz voter.” Really? If my father hadn’t left Hungary in 1945, he would never have met my mother, so I wouldn’t “be,” at all. Had Fidesz won the 2006 election, they would have inherited the economic mess created by the Medgyessy-Gyurcsany administrations. They would probably have launched a smear campaign against the former commies, rightly blaming them for the deficit situation. Everything else is anyone’s guess. Would Orban have become prime minister, or would he have handed the mess over to Peter Akos Bod? If Orban had become prime minister in 2006, how would he have tackled the economic imbalances? Would he have imposed austerity measures, or blown the debt through the roof? How would he have handled the 2008 financial crisis? Would he have gone for the IMF loan? Would his propaganda gurus have found a clever way to convince the voting public that the MSZP-SZDSZ was responsible for the 2008 crisis? Would he have hidden the debt numbers under a… Read more »
Mihaly
Guest

Of course you are right that there is no way of telling what could have happened. In this case I am pretty sure things would be very different then they are now. The reason is that for four years long between 2006 and 2010 Fidesz didn’t show anything in parliament – they even walked out when Gyurcsány was speaking- and the only argument they had was that the government is incompetent. Helped by the 2008 crisis, the government did get in trouble at an accelerated speed. A huge amount of voters only voted for Fidesz because they had enough of the current government, not because Fidesz had convinced them with any plans.
With the negative tone Fidesz has and always had they can only have success in time of crisis and they were very much helped in 2008. And how Fidesz will handle a real crisis we will see. There will be another one for sure. Since employees are selected on loyalty rather then competence and the focus on enriching themselves rather then governing it’s not difficult to predict how that will be done though.

Member
Many of my colleagues respect Gabor Torok’s talents as a political analyst and professor. I have never seen him in the classroom, but I frequently disagree with his analytical work. The example in Eva’s article is no exception. The problem with university types is that many of them (not “all,” Eva) make pronouncements about the state of public affairs without actually coming into contact with the public. The proverbial “ivory tower” is particularly isolated in Hungary, where the culture of academic snobbery fosters an attitude of “How DARE you question my ideas? I have a DEGREE!” Another problem is particularly prominent in Hungary and among Trump sycophants in the US: “If the sum of two numbers equals 2, then those two numbers MUST be 1 and 1, because that supports my argument.” They ignore the fact that the sum of 2 can be reached with any combination of non integers, irrational numbers, transcendental numbers, and permutations thereof. I suspect these two phenomena are at work in Torok’s comments to Magyar Narancs. (I cannot know for sure, because the full article is not available online and I am not currently in Hungary to purchase the magazine.) According to the excerpt available… Read more »
exTor
Guest
Given modern television and access to YouTube videos, many of which have political content of a sophisticated nature, the illiterate can form ‘reasonable’ opinions. Not stupid, they merely have less info capability. The Jobbik position, if it be true, is a reactionary position that flies in the face of its ‘soft’ move, namely to the left (toward Fidesz). The position to deprive illiterates of the right to vote is racist, because it will likely mostly affect the Roma, as Metzger points out. It smacks of the same racism that deprived blacks of the right to vote in the American South in the 1960s. Banning illiterates from voting would never pass into law and, if it did in Hungary, it would be challenged by the EU. The Jobbik position seems to be a reaffirmation of Jobbik’s earlier racist posture, perhaps now meant to quieten restiveness amongst the Jobbik masses. Metzger makes the interesting point of liberal friends, ones with left mentalities, considering voting for Jobbik because of severe antipathy toward Fidesz. This mirrors to some extent what happened in the US, where many young Bernie Sanders supporters paradoxically voted for Donald Trump because they hated Hillary Clinton. Some ‘double haters’, as… Read more »
Istvan
Guest

This idea seems to be circulating in Hungary and elsewhere: “This mirrors to some extent what happened in the US, where many young Bernie Sanders supporters paradoxically voted for Donald Trump because they hated Hillary Clinton.” Graham K. Brown from the University of Western Australia did an extensive analysis of that theory, it can be read here https://grahamkbrown.net/2016/11/14/did-the-bernie-bros-cost-clinton-the-election/ In general professor Brown finds little statistical evidence that significant numbers of younger Sanders voters pulled the lever for Trump.

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