The Hungarian socialists in turmoil?

Perhaps the most telling sentence on the state of the Hungarian Socialist Party came from its chairman in an interview he gave to Inforádió on August 7. In the interview Gyula Molnár tried to be upbeat. The public clash between László Botka, the party’s candidate for the premiership, and Zsolt Molnár, one of the top leaders of the party, is now behind them. Zsolt Molnár and László Botka have made peace, and the decision was reached to follow the party’s initial strategy, the lynchpin of which is the retirement of Ferenc Gyurcsány from politics. The chairman sounded upbeat until he uttered the following sentence: “I’m already afraid of the results of the August opinion polls.” Molnár’s fear is well founded. There is a very good possibility that the clash between the two well-known MSZP politicians will further erode the dwindling support for the socialist party.

MSZP’s leadership will not change strategy. As long as the politicians and the membership of Demokratikus Koalíció (DK) insist on Ferenc Gyurcsány’s presence on a common party list, there will be no collaboration with DK. Perhaps it was Gyula Molnár’s interview that inspired DK to publish an open letter to László Botka. Ágnes Vadai, one of DK’s vice-chairmen, posted it on her Facebook page. I assume DK is trying to make sure that the public will place most of the blame on Botka because of his intransigence concerning the person of Ferenc Gyurcsány. So Vadai stressed DK’s attempts to come to an understanding with Botka, though she emphasized that the DK community will not accept him as the leader of the joint opposition without the presence of its chairman. As she put it, “DK is not for sale either with or without its chairman.” Vadai ended her letter by saying: “You accepted the leadership role. If you’re successful, it will be to your credit, but if you fail, you will have to shoulder the blame.” Vadai added that if Botka rigidly adheres to his present strategy, he will place the democratic opposition in an untenable situation.

László Botka wasn’t impressed. First, he made fun of “the followers of Donald Trump’s Twitter politics,” meaning Vadai’s choice of Facebook as a vehicle of communication. Second, he indicated that he has no intention of changing his mind on the subject of Gyurcsány’s presence in the political life of the democratic opposition. His answer was a paraphrase of a line from a Szekler story. An old couple is sitting on the terrace. The wife turns to the husband and complains that he never tells her that he loves her. The old Szekler says: “I said it once. If there is a change I will let you know.” This story might capture one aspect of the Szeklers, who are known for their reticence, but it was impudent under the circumstances. It showed the arrogance for which Botka is becoming known nationwide. Moreover, a day later Botka accused Gyurcsány of not being a man of democratic convictions. Otherwise, Gyurcsány would support him, because he is the one who “proclaimed the strategy of victory” which will remove Viktor Orbán’s government.

Given these unfortunate events, observers of the political scene on both sides of the aisle have become convinced that Gyula Molnár’s fears of a serious loss of support will force MSZP to drop Botka, who hasn’t shown the necessary political finesse or a willingness to keep communication open with the other democratic forces outside of MSZP. Government publications began to speculate that Botka’s days may be numbered. Earlier there had been voices suggesting that Gergely Karácsony of Párbeszéd would be an attractive alternative, but I can’t imagine that MSZP politicians would be ready to entrust a non-party member with that position. A couple of days ago Figyelő, the once highly respected financial weekly which has since been purchased by Mária Schmidt, Viktor Orbán’s court historian, came up with a replacement in the person of Ágnes Kunhalmi.

Source: nyugat.hu / Photo by Bálint Vágvölgyi

The 35-year-old Ágnes Kunhalmi has popular appeal that MSZP hasn’t really exploited. She was designated the party’s education expert. She does appear frequently in the media, but always strictly in that capacity. This is surprising because in the 2014 election Kunhalmi showed what she is capable of. Gábor Simon, an MSZP old-timer, was MSZP’s candidate in Budapest’s 15th electoral district (Pestszentlőrinc-Pestszentimre/District XVIII). Only a few weeks before the election Simon was accused of money laundering and was arrested. The party in the last minute replaced Simon with Kunhalmi, who in a spectacular campaign lost by only 56 votes. The Fidesz candidate’s slim margin was due to several phony parties with misleading names being encouraged by the government to enter the race. There were at least three such “social democratic types” of parties on the ballot (SZDP [67], MSZDP [52], Szociáldemokraták [128]). Later, when the democratic forces had problems finding a candidate to run against Fidesz-supported Mayor István Tarlós, I thought Ágnes Kunhalmi would be a perfect candidate. Instead, Lajos Bokros ran in the last minute. Although he is not a popular politician, he did surprisingly well, getting about 35% of the votes.

Soon after Kunhalmi’s name surfaced in Figyelő, the government publications were full of the news that “the dissatisfied MSZP leaders have already found the successor to Botka.” Origo seems to know that Kunhalmi, who is the chairman of the Budapest MSZP, is less than happy with László Botka’s decision to name József Tóth, the successful mayor of District XIII, as a kind of coordinator of the Budapest campaign, which under normal circumstances would be the job of the Budapest MSZP leadership. Yesterday Gyula Molnár denied in an interview on “Egyenes beszéd” of ATV that there is any intention of replacing Botka with Kunhalmi. In fact, their relationship is close. The party, including Kunhalmi, stands behind Botka. Moreover, MSZP will not change its initial strategy. MSZP has already chosen its 106 candidates for the 106 available electoral districts, though, he added, that can still be changed. In this scheme the other opposition parties would have a slim chance of winning any of the left-leaning districts.

Kunhalmi said that the election campaign will be in the hands of the Budapest Election Committee, which will be under the supervision of the Budapest MSZP leadership, which she heads. She and her team will, however, work with the party’s central leadership, with László Botka and with József Tóth. She added that she finds Tóth’s appointment an excellent idea because “there is a need to engage all successful left-wing politicians who can give new hope and impetus to Hungary after the long period of darkness under Fidesz.”

All of this optimism sounds too good to be true. Let’s wait for the polls, which will be coming out in late August. Perhaps, after all, the strategy will have to be changed and, with it, the person who will lead the team.

August 11, 2017

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42 Comments on "The Hungarian socialists in turmoil?"

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petofi
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Kunhalmi appears to be a good-looking broad: Botka looks like death warmed over.

exTor
Guest

Jesus, petőfi, what do Kunhalmi’s looks
have to do with anything ??? Now I’m
going to read the article to see if
you had any legitimate reason
–a rarity with you– for such
a sexist disparagement.

MAGYARKOZÓ

petofi
Guest

@ exTor

“disparagement”–no, no, m’boy, that was a pure compliment. I like the lady’s looks. If you thing that the ‘look’ has no importance in the age of TV, that’s your disillusion.

Btw, neither Eva (who commented) nor my wife, who read my comment, thought it disparaging.
(Please adjust your political correctiveness settings…)

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘look’ in the importance in the age of TV’

On the mark. It’s beautiful news from beautiful people! The more photogenic the more believed. Just check out newscasters. They will never break the tv camera lense..😎

Aida
Guest

A great deal. Looks matter. The PC crowd want to deny this because of course there are beautiful people and ugly people. That undermines their belief that no one should enjoy any unearned advantage or suffer any undeserved punishment. Pretty thought but a load of non sense.

If I want to go out with a woman I would chose an ugly one? Only crazy people would do that or those who stand no chance with the pretty ones.

The succession to Churchill went Eden, predestined and then to Macmillan. Both good looking men. The brilliantly clever R A Butler was sidelined, inter Alina for being very un photogenic, to put it mildly.

Botka is not a good looker, though he has height but no charm. Kunhalmi has brains, looks and charm. Who would you prefer as your PM?

Aida
Guest

Sorry, “alia” not “Alina”

Member

Viktor Orban looks like a force-fed goose these days, but Hungarian women still swoon over him. He proves that good looks are not decisive in electoral politics.

Aida
Guest

Not decisive, but it can be a factor. Politics is competitive and succes has many components. It is not like a running competition where what matters is who runs faster, even if the winner is not the most popular.

Ferenc
Guest

You mean something like this?comment image

Ferenc
Guest

Why republish so much of Fidesz media suggestions for other parties?
Those media are operating like cooks stirring in somebody else’s cooking pot! And they don’t do that to improve the other’s stew… I think this is only helping Fidesz, and that’s not what you and most of us here want.
Personally I have my reservations for Botka and some of by him appointed special assistants (Toth!), but can’t yet (!) see a successful leader of opposition in Kunhalmi. Her best role at this moment is what she’s doing now (and not what is suggested by opposite forces), supporting the by her party elected candidates/leaders.
Furthermore I suggest Gyurcsany to, if he hasn’t done this yet, see himself in a mirror clearly in the eye and ask himself what is best for his country and what are his options and possible role in that.
Then have a good, preferably unannounced, meeting with representatives of other parties, in which all really try to agree a common strategy, because that’s what’s needed!!

Member

Talking with people who’ve spent time around Kunhalmi, I get the impression that she is not competent, and that it’s fairly obvious to people around her. And I’m not just talking about her bizarre laughing fit a few months ago (although that is part of it).

If the government media is supporting her candidacy for prime minister then I imagine they are doing it tongue-in-cheek.

By the way do you know who really looked like death warmed over? Gyula Horn. But he was in my opinion the best PM we’ve had so far since 1989.

Member

I have the same impression from my various encounters with Kunhalmi. However, I believe her incompetence stems from youthful insecurity and a lack of good advisers, not general stupidity. If she could surmount these problems, my opinion might change.

@Petofi – She is hot, and uses her looks to her advantage.

Ferenc
Guest

To me she still looks too much like a ‘Barbie’, needs to show more real life in her looks!

Aida
Guest

The passage of time will sort that out.

Guest

In what kind of fantasy world do these people live?

With all main media now under Fidesz control the political situation in Hungary seems hopeless – unless something really bad wakes the people.
Like:
No more money from the EU …
A fall of the Forint …
Another million people leaving …
A breakdown of the Budapest metro and/or the Pacs atomic reactors …

PS:
Just returned from Germany after the big storms hit Western Hungary. It was remarkable how efficiently the roads had already been cleaned up of large branches and whole trees – the men with the chainsaws had worked really hard, but the roads themselves were not in better condition, not enough money for that …
Regular people do their best but the system is rotten and corrupt – will this ever change?

Bastiat2
Guest

Since socialism has produced North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela, to name but a few, why bother with a line of politics that has failed dismally systematically wherever the place on the planet?
Ludwig von Mises demonstartaed as early as 1923 in his book “Sozialismus” that socialism cannot work.
I am always astonished that people still think it can work.

wrfree
Guest

‘Socialism is a form of government under which too many adults and not enough children believe in Santa Claus’. Anon

‘We should have had socialism already, but for the socialists’..B. Shaw

There are always reasons why something aint ‘working’. 😎

Member

The MSZP hardly governs as a socialist party. If you want a more classic form of socialism, look at Fidesz.

wrfree
Guest

I don’t know. Might as well call it the best word we can find… Communism. The opp is down and out for the count, the media is virtually bagged, the ‘public’ servants ‘serve’ themselves and self-censoring is alive and well. Help yourselves if anything is missing.

If classic socialism is a so-called’ success they must have bad tailors. And nobody asks why are there are gaping holes in everybody’s pockets? The ‘coin’ sure looks its always jingling around in we know who’s pockets. Same old same old.

Ferenc
Guest
petofi
Guest

Bernie Sanders

Btw, keep track of the FBI investigations of Sander’s wife.

Methinks they’re doing a ‘Chappaquiddick’ on Bernie well before the next presidential primaries…

petofi
Guest

MSZP members ‘conferring’…

When I read this, I couldn’t help visualizing some flies ‘conferring’ over a pile of shit…

wrfree
Guest

Boy those flies must think they’ve got political taste, eh? 😎

Member

“In the 2014 election Kunhalmi showed what she is capable of… The party in the last minute replaced Simon with Kunhalmi, who in a spectacular campaign lost by only 56 votes.”

Pestszentlorinc-Pestszentimre has been a left-leaning district for years. No savvy MSZP candidate should lose there.

As far as 2014 goes, I don’t recall Kunhalmi doing anything in particular to galvanize people around her candidacy, aside from putting up posters. If she is going to lead her party, she needs to learn basic campaign techniques.

Guest

Re “Socialists”:

“Pure Socialism” may well be unattainable because of human weakness and this is probably the reason why in most European countries we have “Social Democrats” whose story is full of successes – whether Germany and Austria or Sweden and Britain.
So or little Fidesz fascist troll “Bastiat” is fighting against windmills when he talks about the errors of Socialism.

PS:
Maybe that’s another rason for MSZP’s troubles – they are still identified by many people as the “new improved MSZMP” – like our German “Left” (Die Linke) which is proud (?) of being the inheritor of the KPD, SED (East Germany) and DKP (West Germany) – which I could never understand!
Even as a revolutionary student 50 years ago I found the DKP people strange and crazy in a way – never liked them.

Jean P.
Guest

Wolfie you are right in pointing out that socialism in the socialdemocratic version has been a huge success in Northern European countries. You mention Sweden but you might as well have mentioned Scandinavia which includes Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and the Faroe Islands. Finland whose majority doesn’t speak a Scandinavian language is a honorary member of the club.

Member

Spot on. Been in Scandinavia almost forty years, so I know. : )

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