Bernadett Szél hopes to be Hungary’s next prime minister

Although Bernadett Szél’s name can be found in scores of posts on Hungarian Spectrum over the years, I don’t think that I ever devoted an entire post to this popular female politician, the co-chair of LMP (Lehet Más a Politika/Politics Can Be Different). Well, now that LMP formally announced that she is the party’s choice to run for prime minister, it is time to assess her candidacy. Although Szél is a very attractive contender, one must keep in mind that LMP has consistently refused to consider cooperation with any other political party. LMP, led by Bernadett Szél, is planning to win the election single-handedly.

The forty-year-old Szél has an undergraduate degree in economics (2000) and a Ph.D. in sociology (2011). She is an excellent debater who has delivered some notable speeches in parliament. She is quite capable of silencing her opponents. She is perhaps best known as the most eloquent and resolute opponent of the extension of Hungary’s nuclear power plant in Paks. Unlike most of her colleagues in parliament, she speaks both English and German well. She also seems to have an abundance of energy and, despite her many duties, has time for a daily run or some other form of physical exercise. So, unlike the present prime minister of Hungary, she is in excellent shape. She and her husband have two young daughters.

Of the current candidates for prime minister–László Botka (MSZP), Gergely Karácsony (Párbeszéd), and Gábor Vona (Jobbik)–Bernadett Szél is probably the most promising. Even her gender may be in her favor. Thirty percent of the electorate would prefer a female prime minister, and sixty percent of the left-of-center voters would support a woman over a man. There is a growing conviction, often expressed by men, that women are more inclined to reach compromise solutions and that therefore Hungary would be better off with a female prime minister. I’m not at all sure that Bernadett Szél is the prototype of that compromise-ready woman since she has repeatedly expressed her total rejection of all politicians who had anything to do with politics before 2010. But still, judging by her accomplishments and talents, I believe that she would qualify as a very good and most likely popular candidate. With a party behind her with about 4-5% support of the electorate, however, it is unlikely that the name of Hungary’s next prime minister will be Bernadett Szél. Unless, of course, she is ready to strike a bargain.

Source: 24.hu / Photo Dániel Mátyás Fülöp

Despite the party’s low poll numbers, Szél and LMP are dead serious about winning the 2018 Hungarian national election. Their first move was to get Ron Werber, an Israeli campaign strategist, to serve as LMP’s adviser. Werber used to work for MSZP, and his greatest accomplishment was MSZP’s victory in 2002 against all odds. From that point on, Werber became Fidesz’s bogeyman, the “conductor of hate” as they called him because of his negative campaigning style. I don’t know what kind of advice Werber has given Szél so far, but Werber and Szél seem to be a good fit. She has confidence in him, and Werber considers Szél “competent and someone who knows what she is talking about.” Werber apparently talked with both MSZP and DK but finally settled for LMP. The media would love to find out how much LMP is paying the Israeli adviser, but for now we must be satisfied with Szél’s claim that Werber’s advice is pro bono.

According to Magyar Nemzet, before the party’s announcement of its candidate for the premiership LMP hired Závecz Research to conduct a poll to assess Bernadett Szél’s chances against Viktor Orbán in a hypothetical two-person race. It turned out that four-fifths of socialist voters would support Szél. As far as Jobbik voters are concerned, the support is not that overwhelming, but the majority (54%) would vote for LMP’s candidate. This is especially significant because one would have assumed that a Jobbik voter in this scenario would vote for Orbán, but in fact only 20% would commit to the Fidesz candidate. LMP also wanted to know what would happen if the electorate could vote for prime minister separately. How would Szél fare? At this point, even before the announcement of her candidacy, Szél would get 29% of the votes to Orbán’s 44%. All this shows considerable support for Szél, but, of course, the problem is that the next election is not shaping up to be a two-way race.

Bernadett Szél has given several interviews in the last few days, but perhaps the most detailed one, as far as her ideas are concerned, was conducted three days ago by Attila Kálmán of 24.hu. Her message is straightforward. She decided to run because, just like the majority of the electorate, she can no longer endure “the total chaos” that exists within the opposition. In this interview she presents herself as the embodiment of LMP’s program, which is ready, but soon she will also tell the voters what she will do in the first 100 days of her administration. She is categorical when it comes to other parties on the left. Creating a unified voting bloc would be a “Frankensteinian construction,” after which they would be unable to govern. Members of this Frankensteinian construction “time and again forfeited the trust of the people in the last thirty years and therefore they shouldn’t be entrusted with the future of the country.” She promises “to shutter the past and revitalize the country.” But Bernadett Szél ought to realize that one cannot close the past because history is a continuum, nor can one drastically change a country at will. Still, despite her shortcomings and in a different electoral system, she would be a very promising candidate. Unfortunately, she has to measure herself against Viktor Orbán in an electoral system that he devised to his own advantage.

One more item that is only tangentially related to Bernadett Szél’s candidacy. ATV’s famed program, “Egyenes beszéd” (Straight Talk), has gone through some fundamental and unfortunate changes. First, at the end of last year the anchor of the program, Olga Kálmán, left the channel and started a new program called “Egyenesen” (Straight) on HírTV. “Egyenes beszéd” was taken over by Antónia Mészáros and Egon Rónai, both seasoned and outstanding reporters. Then, unexpectedly, Mészáros left to become managing director of the Hungarian section of UNICEF. After a few weeks of total chaos, when assorted people tried to replace Mészáros and Rónai, who was on vacation, a new setup emerged: one week Zsuzsa Demcsák, formerly of TV2, is the anchor, and Egon Rónai runs the show the next week. Her first week’s performance doesn’t bode well for the future.

Here is one example. Bernadett Szél was Demcsák’s guest on September 4. The new anchor turned to the candidate and said something like “you know there will never be a woman prime minister in Hungary.” Later, she tried to convince Szél that she is on the side of women and of course would be delighted if one day a woman became prime minister, but the harm was already done. To add insult to injury, she asked Szél what her husband thinks about a female prime minister. Of course, she profusely apologized for the question, but for some strange reason she thought it was relevant.

It is a good thing that there are not too many Zsuzsa Demcsáks in Hungary. To me it is a pleasant surprise that the electorate doesn’t share her views.

September 11, 2017
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petofi
Guest

She’s witchy.

I’ll take Kunhalmi any day. Easier to look at-

Aida
Guest

I like both these ladies. Whilst sexism is a dirty word these days its absurdity is easy to demonstrate. Who would deny that we all prefer to look at someone easy on the eye? Since sex is a basic human activity the unconscious reaction of most is to attribute marks for attractiveness. it is a factor in daily life, but it must not be expressed for fear of offending PC sensibilities.
Still I find it difficult to see how a leader of a small party can win unless her party makes huge advances between now and next spring. What chance of that? Is she is Macron?

Guest

Are some men still afraid of strong women aka “witches”?

You know that in the good old times that was the typical method to get rid of an emancipated woman – declare her a witch and let the Catholic church (or some American religious fundamentalists – remember Salem?) torture her and burn her on the stake …

Istvan
Guest

I am confused by Bernadett Szél’s so called wage correction program that is supposed to cost $5.6 billion US dollars and would supposedly rapidly fix the wage crisis in Hungary. I do not understand this proposal, is it some type of state wage subsidy or what?

I also saw today in the news that LMP was supporting the limited rather timid two day strike by workers for the retail chain Tesco in Hungary that want a wage increase 25%. That seems simply insane, I mean is Tesco making that kind of money in Hungary to be able to afford that type of a wage increase? From what I can see Tesco PLC is only operating with a profit rate of 1.7% internationally, in general the rate of profit in retail internationally is very weak.

Lastly LMP’s green revival program for Hungary seems less than realistic, does Szel really think that proposal will ignite the imagination of the masses of Hungarians? It is about as realistic as it is that the Paks Nuclear Power Plant deal with Russia will work out in Hungary’s favor.

exTor
Guest

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I spoke with a neighbor about Tesco and the strike situation. He wasn’t quite certain, however he feels that the reason that there isn’t a nationwide Tesco strike is due to how the Tesco stores are franchised in Hungary, suggesting that certain stores have union contracts that differ from contracts in other stores.

The Csepel Tesco is owned by Tesco-Global Zrt [Budaörs], which may also own other Tescos. The local Tesco is not striking (for now, if ever).

My neighbor also said that there has been a steady diminution of worker rights from the getgo, in other words, from 1989. The idea is/was to weaken workers to preclude labor unrest.

Below is soccerball that was sold by a Tesco.

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MAGYARKOZÓ

exTor
Guest

HUNGARY better-spelt
and better-depicted.
MAGYARORSZÁG.

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MAGYARKOZÓ

Guest

The heat is on!
http://www.spiegel.de/politik/ausland/ungarn-angela-merkel-macht-im-fluechtlingsstreit-druck-auf-ungarn-a-1167200.html
Auf die Frage, ob dies heiße, dass Ungarn die EU verlassen müsse, sagte die Kanzlerin: “Das heißt, dass eine sehr grundsätzliche Frage Europas berührt ist, denn Europa ist für mich ein Raum des Rechts. Wir werden beim Europäischen Rat im Oktober darüber reden müssen.”
Loosely translated:
When questioned whether this means that Hungary has to leave the EU she said: That’s a very basic question – Europe is based on law …
Actually Recht is more than just a law, it’s the basic idea of justice …

Ferenc
Guest
Member

Merkels statement followed a series of opinion pieces in the press and statements of politicians (e.g. minister of justice Heiko Mass), that appeared since Orbáns’ Friday interview, many of them in the headlines.
The common opinion in the debate was:

If member states start to ignore law and judgements of the ECOJ, the EU can bury itself.

One of the articles was of Heribert Prantl (Süddeutsche Zeitung), the best commenter in Germany and expert in law, democracy and rule of law.
He described Orbáns behaviour as ‘to take law in his own hands’ (Selbstjustiz) as a capital crime. And the answer must be Article 7.
And this exactly Merkel was talking about, when she mentioned to talk about Hungary on the summit in October.

But anyway, Orbán will give in. He is a coward; Eva was interpreting his interview right a few days ago. Orbán already respected the judgement. Of course he cannot say it directly after years of pretending to be the protector of Hungary.

Here is Prantls article (worth to read it (for those who understand)):
http://www.sueddeutsche.de/politik/ungarn-und-polen-ex-lex-1.3656408

Michael Kaplan
Guest

I wish the best for Hungary not only as a Hungarian American, but more important, as a human being. If Bernadette Szel is polling as well as this article suggests, let’s wish her well. She is competent and well educated. I loved the comment about Orban being out of shape. I laughed out loud. Thanks for the balanced article.

Member

Zsuzsa Demcsak, former lingerie model and sexy morning-show hostess, is a strange choice for what is supposed to be a hard-hitting news show. Even stranger that ATV should choose someone whom Gyurcsany picked as his government spokeswoman, who then had to turn down the job due to questions about her husband’s links to organized crime and her own blog comments that were interpreted as anti-Gypsy. Demcsak’s political sympathies are clear. Given her past experience, she is much better suited for a TV fashion show.

That said, I do not think Meszaros or Ronai have done a particularly good job at Egyenes Beszed, either. Olga Kalman succeeds because she comes off as a no-nonsense school headmistress. Meszaros and Ronai are more like genial guidance counselors.

Member

In my opinion, Kalman was once very good, but had in recent years begun to become somewhat stale and predictable (both to the audience and to interviewees) as well as a bit testy (that’s what others welcomed as school-marmishness). This might have been an effect of time, or of the deteriorating conditions at ATV, when the owners became more sympathetic to anti-immigrant sentiments and, who knows, more resigned to state incursion. Kalman is not back to her old self at HirTV either.

Demcsak does not seem to have what it takes, either intellectually or culturally. I prefer Ronai, despite his wishy-washiness and eagerness to be hail-fellow-well-met with everybody.

What is needed, of course, is an Oriana Fallaci in her prime (before she lost it). But she’s needed even more in the UK and the US and Germany…
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Aida
Guest

In a stratified society those who challange become part of the ossified system. The sharp witted interviewer becomes an unchallenged deity. No one will move to replac her because the system is based on respect for authority and not on competition. Hungary is a sad country as it has always been. It is too small to operate properly in part because there is no worthwhile activity outside the capital. Probably most small countries are similar.

Marty
Guest

Just a nice reminder. If Romania or Ukraine introduces a new law which is similar to the Hungarian anti-CEU law or such new law anyway goes against the interests of Orban’s ideology then there is a clear and inevitable retribution against such misbehaving neighboring country.

For example Hungary will veto the OECD membership of Romania and Croatia and will use the “harshest possible means” against Ukraine.

Meanwhile the Americans are defending their interests at CEU by “negotiating” (entering into some kind of a peacock dance) with Orban.

Orban and his people only understand tough, powerful measures.

They don’t get and don’t do diplomacy.

As a starter I would remove Hungary from the visa waiver program.

https://444.hu/2017/09/12/szijjarto-jonnek-a-legkemenyebb-eszkozok

wrfree
Guest

Re: Szel ‘striking a bargain’

If Ms. Szel does enter the political fray she might find that a great understanding of that ‘compromise’ may just put her in good stead with the electorate. It is evident the country has stalled with one- party rule and the consequence of a bitterness pervading the population and country.

If Szel can tap that bitterness and hostility and influence the electorate’s attitudes she could be on her way to becoming a resolute prime minister within the paternalistic country. And even if she doesn’t win she still would be an example of the ‘possible’ where dynamic and intelligent women could take their place in leading their country into the 21st as other countries have already gone that way already.

sunyilo12
Member

I have been impressed with Szel’s skills as tough-to-the-point orator/speaker. She has a lot more toughness than Kunfalvi yet don’t doubt her openness to compromises. Her success will depend a lot on how can she secure public speaking/debate opportunities in front of a broad audience – minimizing of which, obviously, is the main goal of Fidesz. Broadcasting three public debates on state television between her and Orban – as we doin theUS – might do the job.

Member

OT: Andy Vajna just acquired two regional publications and the Bors tabloid.

https://444.hu/2017/09/11/andy-vajnae-lett-a-bors-a-kisalfold-es-a-delmagyarorszag

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