A new strategy or a new man is needed to lead the anti-Orbán forces

It’s time to take stock of the state of the democratic opposition after an MSZP gathering over the weekend where László Botka, the candidate to lead MSZP’s election campaign, introduced his team, what he calls the “new alliance.” Before anyone gets too excited, this “new alliance” doesn’t mean an agreement with the other left-of-center parties. Between January and now Botka has not managed to convince one party, with the possible exception of Gábor Fodor’s Magyar Liberális Párt (MPL), to support his strategy, which consists of a common party list and a division of the 106 electoral districts among the participating parties. One of these parties could be the Demokratikus Koalíció (DK), but only if its chairman, Ferenc Gyurcsány, is not included on the party list. Not surprisingly, DK is not ready to accept outside interference in its internal affairs and refuses to accept the arrangement. While DK, according to all the opinion polls, could garner enough votes to become a parliamentary party on its own, the other three small parties– Együtt (Together), Párbeszéd (Dialogue), and MLP–couldn’t. Neither Párbeszéd nor Együtt is inclined to accept the kind of MSZP leadership Botka is offering. So, as it stands, MSZP is still alone, with dismal polling numbers.

So, what is this new alliance? As far as I can tell, it is a poor substitute for a joint electoral campaign. As Magyar Nemzet observed, Botka has given up looking for political allies and is satisfied with individuals who until now had been helping the smaller parties. One man who has switched to Botka’s side is Zoltán Komáromi, a family doctor who worked with Együtt on the party’s healthcare program. Another is István Szent-Iványi, a former SZDSZ member of parliament who was named ambassador to Ljubljana on January 25, 2010, i.e. a few months before the 2010 national election. To everybody’s surprise, Szent-Iványi wasn’t removed from his post by the new administration. In fact, the Orbán government left him in Slovenia until the end of his term five years later. He then disappeared from the political scene for a while, only to show up as the foreign policy expert of  Gábor Fodor’s liberal party. A third person who is ready to join Botka’s team is Ferenc Büttl, an economist and a member of Párbeszéd. Another supporter is László Andor, an economist who was EU commissioner for employment, social affairs, and inclusion between 2010 and 2014. I would call him a socialist although he might not be a party member. A somewhat surprising addition is the former CEO of the internationally known organic demonstration farm that was sold to Fidesz oligarchs, who has been battling the action in court ever since. The newest supporter is the president of the National Association of Pensioners. Botka also named three people to stand as candidates in individual districts without consulting anyone.

Apparently, Botka’s great hope is Gergely Karácsony, chairman of Párbeszéd, who is currently vying for the same post as Botka. A couple of weeks ago he joined the MSZP hopeful in Szeged where he made some ambiguous remarks about his relationship to Botka. At the time, I wrote: “This gathering had one bright side…. Gergely Karácsony, chairman of Párbeszéd (Dialogue) and his party’s candidate for the premiership, promised his cooperation with László Botka. I chose the word ‘cooperation’ carefully because I don’t think that ‘support’ would properly describe Karácsony’s message. In his speech he said that those who would attempt to remove Botka cannot count on him because he is ‘willing to struggle alongside László Botka for a just and fair Hungary.’”

In that post I expressed my hope that Karácsony’s words might give a psychological lift to Botka’s flailing campaign. Well, I’m afraid that that hope has been quashed by László Botka himself, who in his eagerness to show results misread or misrepresented Karácsony’s remarks. Karácsony, who was invited to join the MSZP bigwigs to hear Botka’s ideas on the “new alliance,” learned only from Népszava that he was supposed to be responsible for the cultural aspects of Botka’s program. Karácsony decided not to attend the MSZP gathering, and this morning on ATV’s Start he explained why not.

The media is full of stories about a very serious division within MSZP over the efficacy of Botka’s strategy. Magyar Nemzet, which is normally well informed, seems to know that the majority of the party’s leading lights are skeptical about Botka and his new alliance and are urging him to change tactics. But so far Botka is unmovable. According to leaked information, some of the most senior MSZP leaders asked Gyula Molnár, the party chairman, to start negotiations with the leaders of the other parties. Vasárnapi Hírek, a socialist weekly owned by former party treasurer László Puch, suggested getting rid of Botka altogether if he is unable to produce tangible results.

I’m sure that most observers consider the present situation quite hopeless, but I’m a bit more optimistic. Enthusiasm for László Botka and his solution has completely evaporated, and liberal and socialist papers increasingly find his treatment of the other parties unacceptable. So, I assume that soon enough there will be so much pressure on Botka that he will have to move in another direction. If not, Gergely Karácsony could always be a compromise candidate. He is a great deal more popular than Botka–a soft-spoken, compromise-ready politician. He is the kind of man whom Hungarians, who are longing for some peace and quiet, might find to be just what the doctor ordered.

September 18, 2017
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Member

Botka is working to help the re-election of Fidesz and the viktor, but unless he is on their payroll, he does not even know it. Botka is a thoroughly unsavory, divisive, inept and dour man, who would only be useful in any society, if he was a simple day laborer under very close supervision. (Like being in a chaingang)

petofi
Guest

Karacsony is a proven liar who can’t be trusted to keep his word.

Member
“Gergely Karácsony could always be a compromise candidate. He is a great deal more popular than Botka–a soft-spoken, compromise-ready politician. He is the kind of man whom Hungarians, who are longing for some peace and quiet, might find to be just what the doctor ordered.” I must disagree with your view on Hungarian electoral proclivities in 2017. The only way to persuade the videkis to abandon Orban is to give them a fire-and-brimstone, rabble-rousing leader. The majority of them do not respond to mild-mannered compromisers, especially given the widespread notion that Fidesz will take revenge against anyone who votes against them. All of this presupposes that there will be a fair election in 2018. As in 2014, it will be “free, but not fair.” If Orban sees a realistic chance that he will lose, Fidesz will find a way to modify the electoral law. In a truly desperate situation, Orban and his ex-MSZMP cronies can surely find a reason to declare a state of emergency and cancel the vote until further notice. Orban will office in one of two ways: When he decides to hand over the reins to his anointed successor, or in a pine box. Moreover, I have… Read more »
wrfree
Guest

Tough situation all around as the leaders and parts of the electorate respond with a silent obeisance to someone who has reversed into a Magyar Putin… real hard.

Fidesz has really pushed its ‘command’ politics pretty far since the olden days of ‘democracy’. At this point whatever Fidesz wants it gets. Unfortunately the opposition doesn’t have that luxury since they cannot command anything outside of themselves nor within. Time for them to reflect on their path to achieving some sort of success. And the crux is within.

Since they in essence represent democracy in action they must be better in decision-making within conflict and uniting diverse opinion. They do not exist in a ‘command’ political setup. Anything they hope to achieve can only come about through compromise. A strong leader as a magnet who understands the competing interests of course is a given. Anything that rotates has a string center. Anything less than this will not do the job.

wrfree
Guest

…let’s make that ‘S T R O N G center..👍

Petofi
Guest

Such troll-like nonsense on Karacsony.

The best candidate Hungary could’ve had was in 2014 but the opposition refused to unite behind Bajnai…Hungary’s last chance at a competent PM.
Now, he’ll never come back because he knows that the Fidesz mobsters and their silent partners (MSZP-ers) will make dog meat out of him…

Marty
Guest
“Compromise-ready” ie. pushover. My god, every leftist’s first instinct is to compromise (like Gyula Horn did with the Catholic Church – which basically killed MSZP in rural regions) because they naively think that they can neutralize their adversary and they are just lazy to struggle to hold tough fideszniks accountable (who own the prosecution, courts, control many in the leadership of the MSZP etc.). Karacsony’s Zugló “achievements” show that he is a weakling who give in to pressure. He has no vision or character. He is the epitome of the “centrist” politician who is unable to inspire voters. Karacsony is kind of a more modern “szoci” ie. bland, characterless, wavering, lacking charisma but a bit more human, up to date version. But his biggest problem – and this is deadly in politics – is that he has no party (political base) of his own. Karacsony would serve at the pleasure of a divided MSZP leadership (which is financed by Fidesz). Since he would lack any political base he would have no choice but to do whatever the szoci leadership 8as advised by their paymaster Fidesz) would tell him to do. Without a real, disciplined, opposition party with a nationwide network… Read more »
Observer
Guest

Karàcsonyi may be “soft-spoken, compromise-ready (and) the kind of man whom Hungarians, … are longing” for, but if Orbán looses the elections he will start a cold civil war.
Would G.K. and the current opposition harden to the task and close the ranks for a fight? Would the likes of G.Fodor, M.Haraszty et al come back with their theories and ideologically self inflicted polutical blindness to hamper rather then help?

Jean P.
Guest

“…if Orban looses the elections he will start a cold civil ware.”
This is why legal action against him must begin as soon as he is out of office. His legal selfimmunisation is too far out to be respected.

Petofi
Guest

Impossible for Orban to lose an election: as Stalin said, it’s not who votes that’s important; it’s who counts the votes…

Observer
Guest

Jean

This is what I mean, and more. Would GK harden to the task and the democrats close ranks in battle? Will the G.Fodor, M.Haraszty et al come again with their theories and self inflicted political blindness/impotence to rather hamper than help ?

Ferenc
Guest

Democracy possible in Hungary?
Today [2017] the following quote hit me like a hammer:

“Today [1989] there are also observers, not just Jews, both at home and abroad, who fear that the democratic center here will only be a weak transition to an extreme, to a right wing or a leftwing extremism. They feel that communism here is not the alternative of liberal democracy because it has little precedent, but a nationalist state in which the spirit of the Horthy era is being reborn.” — George Konrad / Konrád György (1989)

Quote from Konrad’s essay ‘A Magyar-zsidó számvetés’, published late 1990s in a compilation of his essays written between 1985 and 1997. I got the translation of the book as a present from a friend during my stay in Hungary, read it more than 10 years ago and now wanted to read it again.

PS: original essay (in 3 parts in Hungarian) at http://www.szombat.org/archivum/magyar-zsido-szamvetes-1989 (quote is in beginning of part 2)

Ferenc
Guest

Correction, sorry copied google translation, which looked not bad and didn’t check it, so here a better translation:

“Today [1989] there are also observers, not just Jews, both at home and abroad, who fear that the democratic center here will only be a weak transition to an extreme, to a right wing or a leftwing extremism. They feel that for communism the alternative here is not a liberal democracy, because it has little precedent, but a nationalistic state in which the spirit of the Horthy era is being reborn.” — George Konrad / Konrád György (1989)

wrfree
Guest
Considering Magyarorszag today it would appear that democracy as such cannot be as favored as compared to some sort of creaking new assemblage taking into account the Horthy and Kadar eras. These eras appear to offer some considerable comfort in a nostalgia where things were ‘right’. And VO as magician has been creating the montage relentlessly under the guise of ‘democratic’ puffery all the while playing with smoke and mirrors. ‘When you live under a dictatorship, you imagine that with a change in regime even the leaves will turn green. If the country is a closed camp and the Iron Curtain has no cracks, your room is a cell. Once the Iron Curtain crumbles, you look at your room and say, ‘Time for a little remodeling’. Konrad.. ‘The Melancholy of Rebirth’ And Magyarorszag sure has razed down the house in the last one. They’re doing a clear overhaul of the buildings. And in this Potemkin democratic village there are ‘parties’ and something that can be called ‘the Party’. But the ‘parties’ don’t seem to working well and we’re back once again where things revolve around ‘the Party’. Konrad, in the earlier days when the Wall came down and democracy looked… Read more »
Petofi
Guest

If there are no shortcuts and cheating within the system, Hungarians will not go for it–

Member

That is truly eye-opening. Thanks for sharing.

Guest

Reading about all those egocentric (should I say narcissist?) politicians on the left makes me wonder about Hungary’s political future or rather it makes me sure that Fidesz will continue “governing” until some kind of bitter end …
Even the crazy things that they’ve been doing (refugee campaign, friendship with Putin etc) and are still doing (products discrimination against Hungary, Soros!) won’t help – they just make everybody outside Hungary laugh and wonder about the sanity of Hungarians!

Meanwhile in the real world people in Hungary struggle to make ends meet, doing two or three jobs …
A really bad sign:
Corruption and cheating your customers and your workers seems at a new high level – my wife hears so many horrid examples …

Guest

Again rather OT but maybe important re Hungary’s future:
Just found two articles on BBJ which gave me food for thought re the economic development of Hungary – it looks not too pretty!

The U.K.’s planned 2019 exit from the EU will trigger a massive return of citizens to Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and will likely boost local real estate markets …
https://bbj.hu/analysis/cee-labor-force-to-return-from-uk-colliers-predicts_138879
But where will these people work – and for what wages? They can’t expect similar amounts of money to what they were paid in the rich West …
And the Jobbik idea of a “Wages Union” is obviously ridiculous. Even if wages were raised less then the foreign companies would react like they did in other areas where production was moved to “cheaper” countries.
On the other hand:
Electric vehicles need 60% fewer parts than traditional vehicles. Given that 30% of Hungarian industry is based on producing car parts for German vehicles, the expansion of electric technology represents a considerable risk to the Hungarian economy …
I didn’t know that the percentage was so high!
https://bbj.hu/business/electric-cars-may-hurt-hungarian-industry-says-analysis_138955
So Hungarian workers will “live in interesting times” I fear!

Istvan
Guest

Well Wolfi when we add to this the possibility that over the road truck drivers could be massively eliminated by automation eventually see https://www.trucks.com/2017/02/13/self-driving-trucks-us-europe/ then the dynamics of the problems ahead are indeed evident.

wrfree
Guest

Re: the doctors

If they can interview the electorate namely the patients..

‘Mi a problema?’
‘Hol faj?’
‘Mennyi ideje van ez a panasza?’
‘Volt korabban ilyen panasza?’
‘Mennyi ideig utazik?’

The last one will probably clinch the type of treatment.

Andrew James
Guest

Reading the vitriol below, I’m not surprised the opposition is in such a mess. Is there not one decent candidate among all of them? Makes Theresa May look like Mother Theresa of Calcutta!