László Botka’s resignation ends a nine-month ordeal

Yesterday I promised that I would return to the national consultation on the Soros Plan since last night’s post contained only a short introduction and a translation of the propositions and “infoboxes.” But breaking political news intervened. Around 9 o’clock Budapest time, hírtv.hu reported that László Botka had thrown in the towel. He is no longer MSZP’s candidate to lead the country after 2018.

Some MSZP party officials claim that Botka’s resignation was totally unexpected. As 24.hu put it, MSZP leaders are “stunned and paralyzed.” They described it as something that came as suddenly as a bolt of lightning from the clear blue sky. Sorry, folks, I can’t believe this version of the story. The handwriting had been on the wall for some time. And since last Wednesday, when Medián published its disastrous numbers indicating that MSZP’s popularity among active voters had dipped below 10%, Botka’s fall was inevitable. On that day I predicted (admittedly not in writing) that Botka would resign within a week. To continue the agony would have been foolhardy.

László Botka announces his resignation / MTI

Who is responsible for this inglorious end to an initially promising candidate? If you were to believe László Botka, the answer is simple: everybody except him. In his version of the story, Fidesz sent its agents to unseat him, while certain MSZP “forces” gave up the struggle to get rid of the present regime and either didn’t support him or actually undermined his efforts. He mysteriously referred to “the political mafia that has enmeshed all the democratic parties,” including his own. But Botka is mistaken. Most of the blame falls on his shoulders.

Initially I was enthusiastic about Botka’s candidacy. He was a very successful politician, serving as the long-time mayor of Szeged, a large city by Hungarian standards. Soon after his appearance on the national stage, however, I began to have doubts. Serious doubts. I couldn’t fathom how somebody who is supposed to gather all the left-of-center forces into a coherent whole and who therefore has to begin negotiations to that end could announce at the very beginning that he would not negotiate with a leading politician in that camp. It was also hard to understand why Botka courted LMP time and again when, if there was one party that couldn’t be convinced to cooperate, it was LMP.

In the first two months or so MSZP’s support moved up a couple of percentage points, and Botka’s own popularity one month reached or perhaps just surpassed that of Orbán. But soon after, things started to change. The number of MSZP voters kept shrinking along with Botka’s popularity. At that point a talented politician should have taken stock of the situation and seriously considered a change of strategy. But not Botka. The worse the situation got, the more he insisted that his “winning strategy” was the key to success.

I have no idea about the inner workings of MSZP or, for that matter, of any party, but surely one would expect the leadership in such a situation to sit down with the candidate and talk things over. Perhaps I’m unfair and in actuality the party bigwigs tried to convince him that his ways were leading nowhere. Perhaps he was adamant and they were caught in a situation from which there was no good way out. Botka several times accused certain people in his own party of all sorts of sins, but if the party leadership was guilty of anything, it was giving Botka a blank check at the very beginning. The members of the presidium (elnökség) and the board (választmány) should have known that his refusal to deal with Ferenc Gyurcsány would not float. Or that his arrogant comments about the smaller parties would not endear him to the leaders of these groups. But I suspect that these two decision-making bodies themselves were split on strategy and that therefore time was wasted on fighting among the leading MSZP politicians.

The fate of MSZP is up in the air. Some analysts foresee a rupture, resulting in some MSZP leaders, especially from the Budapest party center, leaving the party and moving over to DK, together with their voters. Others wouldn’t be surprised if MSZP simply disappeared, the way SZDSZ ceased to exist in 2010. Its voters might scatter all over. Some might decide to vote for LMP, which is clearly trying to attract left-leaning voters. Jobbik might also pick up voters from MSZP. Whatever the eventual scenario, these three parties are bound to profit from the incredible weakening or even possible demise of MSZP.

László Botka’s most enthusiastic supporter was István Ujhelyi, one of the vice chairmen of MSZP and the party’s representative in the European Parliament. I have always thought highly of Ujhelyi and could never understand why he was such an ardent follower of Botka. Yes, I knew that for many years he had represented Szeged in parliament and therefore his backing of Botka made sense, but I thought he was a good enough politician to realize that his favorite was heading in the wrong direction. Unfortunately, Ujhelyi believes, along with Botka, that Botka’s fall was due to the disloyal MSZP leadership. He even talked about a coup against his friend within the party. Ujhelyi therefore decided to resign from his position as vice chairman of the party. At the other end of the spectrum, Tibor Szanyi, the party’s maverick who is also an MSZP member of the European Parliament, spared no words about the cowardice of Botka and his attacks on his own party. These kinds of squabbles can be expected to continue, inevitably leading to the further weakening of the party. All in all, the prospects are grim for the once powerful MSZP.

October 2, 2017
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Member
Without proper time on hand, I cannot dwell into the demise of the MSZP, the article describes and explains it excellently. I would only add my guesses, since I don’t know the facts how the political parties work in Hungary, yet I see that they behave today the same way as they always did in the last 200 years. I think, that in every party, there are embedded Fidesz agents, as well as there are or were MSZP agents in the Fidesz party before. The Fidesz employs now the Secret Service and their own spies and has its ears and perhaps eyes in every important room (bedrooms too) in Hungary by now. They set out to destroy the larger opposition parties to the point where they become totally powerless. In the Hungarian language this tactics is called “slicing the salami” it comes from the time of the Rákosi dictatorship. He destroyed all the other parties, until there were none. As in Agatha Christie “And there were none”, that is the US title. (The English title was “Ten Little Niggers”, the change for us is obvious.) On the other hand, for the MSZP and for any other party, that is not… Read more »
Farkas
Guest

The implosion of the MSZP may well be good news for the DK and a confirmation that Gyurcsány may well have been quite right with his stubborn insistence on remaining center stage in Hungarian politics. With former MSZP members flocking to DK, it might become possible for DK to reach beyond the left-liberal intellectual bubble in Budapest and establish a presence in country towns and the countryside, which would be a precondition to becoming competitive in Hungarian elections.

Observer
Guest

The hard lesson of Botka’s failure (I.e. drop in the polls) may clear the way for more co-operative approach by MSZP.
Their PR officer resigned as well, which opens an opportunity for change in the lackluster performance to date.
A stronger and intelligent leadership won’t harm either, short of a magic wand.

dos929
Guest

The moment that the MSZP turned against Gyurcsány they signed their own demise. It was just a question of time… And Orban very cleverly used the ‘divide and conquer’ policy to destroy every meaningful opposition party on the left, with the single exception of the DK. Perhaps most political leaders have some corruption background without which they couldn’t have risen to the top, but Gyurcsany may be the single decent significant party leader. Botka just would have become another Orban, the signs of which were obvious early on. As to the LMP’s Szél Bernadette, she seems to be a decent politician, but not necessarily having the experience and requirements of the tasks required of a PM. Perhaps there is still time for the democratic opposition to come to their senses and present a united force, but time is running out for them and for Hungary as well.

Observer
Guest

LMP, Szèl and Hadházi

They are very presentable opposition figures and doing great work, but all is brought to nill by the their refusal in principal to co-operate in the elections. The result is/will be subtracting and throwing to the wind 3-5% of the opposition vote, exactly what Orban needs.

Clear party identity, breaking with the past, etc. explanations don’t exculpate the sin of eventually forgoing the last opportunity to get rid of the mafia regime and of allowing the latter to continue the rape and pillage of Hungary.

Member

It is surprising that Botka, who by all accounts has been a successful manager of Szeged, should demonstrate such a lack of political acumen on the national scene.

Botka’s first mistake was accepting the prime ministerial nomination for 2018. He should have known that this election was unwinnable for the MSZP, with or without a united front. It is like a general leading an army into war armed with slingshots and pocket knives. A canny politician would have waited until the moment was ripe, and work to ripen it in the meantime.

The “left” is truly in trouble. Say what you want about Gyurcsany’s good intentions during his 2006 oszodi speech, or that Fidesz cynically and mendaciously distorted his message. The hard fact is, his premiership was a failure. He is one of the least popular politicians in the country and a large majority of Hungarians will not vote DK under any circumstances so long as Gyurcsany is at the helm.

For whom will anti-Orbanites vote? These folks are lost in the wilderness for the foreseeable future.

wrfree
Guest

Re: ‘For whom will anti-Orbanites vote?’

The left for argument sake just might go out and buy some extra shoes and take random walks among the electorate then ask and listen to find out some answers. A little knowledge can enable them to go perhaps from ‘Don’t Know’ to ‘Can-do’. It would be apparent that before they can hustle votes they have to have a keen sense of the minds floating around within their midst.

The parties of course need to hang up the internecine quarrels if they want to make any semblance of a plan to work for them. Throwing sand around in the sandbox should be made passe. They’re under the big tent now. Question is what kind of show do they want to put on after Mr. B’s ineptness?

Member

Yeah. The left could do grassroots, but they don’t like to. It’s a pain in the butt. They have their excuses all polished and ready to go. I have heard them on many occasions.

Observer
Guest

Alex

Mantra for mantra:
Gyurcsàny’s premiership was not a failure, but was successfully libeled such by the Fid propaganda, remember the “It’s Gy’s fault” poster campaign.

Any failures there were as much MSZP ones, since many of the stalwarts, who felt their positions threatened by the young and energetic leader, undermined his leadership; remember Gy’s idea to clean the parties financial support and the role of L.Puch?

The elections are theoretically winnable, although not with the current squabbling which leaves many voters without clear choice, as u mentioned.

Member
I understand your anger, but you must understand that there are many legitimate reasons for considering Gyurcsany’s premiership a failure, like Medgyessy before him. Fidesz does not control the minds of all MSZP critics. I would argue that the elections are not winnable at this stage, not even on a theoretical level. Fidesz has changed the laws to allow an American-style “get-out-the-vote” campaign on election day, and Fidesz alone has the wherewithal to conduct such a campaign. Even worse, Fidesz uses this type of campaign to exercise coercion on voters. Many Hungarians depend on the government for their daily bread, much moreso than in the USA. When the mayor’s office calls and says, “Hey, Pisti, it’s five p.m. and I noticed you and Magdi haven’t voted yet. It would be a real shame if you guys missed your chance to participate in our great democracy…” then Pisti and Magdi know what is expected of them. Moreover, Orban is genuinely popular in most of the country (ex Budapest). The left has neither the organization nor the funds to attack his dominance, and the current campaign-finance laws make such an eventuality unlikely by April 2018. Top it all off with the fact… Read more »
Observer
Guest

Alex

There is never anger in my comments, nor I take offense.

I always challenge the GyF lied, his gov was a failure or the bad pre 2010 period statements as these are largely empty, learned phrases coming from Fid. I can count on my hand the cases when some valid arguments were brought up.

All governments, even the best, make mistakes, but the negative H psyche revels in the latter, media, opinion leaders and dem party leaders included, witness Borka’s parting shots.
But this is not the place to have this discussion. Let’s agree to disagree.

Member

I meant anger at the people who repeat Fidesz propaganda as if it were fact. There is that, isn’t there? 😉

Observer
Guest

Not anger, but cold hatred, yes, I’m somewhat ashamed to admit.

Member

Alex, I think (feel) that chemistry was the 1st major problem. We may disagree but when I saw him 1st tendering for that job, he was so much unattractive and hideous, full of internal tensions.
This is like either falling in love or never see again.
Stepping back was a good move of him! It can be considered on his favour.
And the agony of MSZMP-MSZP is hopefully over.

Member

Now we have Fidesz-MSZMP.

Ferenc
Guest
OT – 84 years ago “We are concerned not merely with the technical problem of securing and maintaining peace, but also with the important task of education and enlightment. If we want to resist the powers which threaten to suppress intellectual and individual freedom we must keep clearly before us what is at stake, and what we owe to that freedom which our ancestors have won for us after hard struggles. Without such freedom, there would have been no Shakespeare, no Goethe, no Newton, no Pasteur and no Lister… Most people would lead a dull life of slavery… It is only men who are free who create the inventions and intellectual works which to us moderns make life worthwhile.” Quote from Einstein’s last speech in Europe, he gave on 1933.Oct.03 in the Royal Albert Hall, London. I think it is of relevance for the world of today at large and very very relevant for the current situation in certain EU countries… More details and infos at: info with videoclip – https://www.royalalberthall.com/about-the-hall/news/2013/october/3-october-1933-albert-einstein-speaks-at-the-hall/ full transcript – http://www.cara.ngo/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Einstein-Speech-Albert-Hall-331003.pdf info about cara – http://www.cara.ngo/who-we-are/our-history/ PS: From the moment of Einstein’s arrival in the U.S. in 1933, he was placed under FBI surveillance by J.… Read more »
Istvan
Guest

Einstein was a social democrat therefore not just Hoover disliked him, but the majority of conservative Americans saw him as UN American. We investigate lots of people here, probably Eva has been investigated at one point or another, I know I was by military intelligence following the Zoltan Szabo-Conrad spy affair. It goes with the territory here.

Ferenc
Guest

OK, Istvan it was just a PS, hope you enjoyed rest of my comment incl.links to more details etc.
But may I conclude from your comment that (from ca.1933 till 1955) the majority of conservative Americans saw
-as UN American: Einstein and civil rights groups
-as (real) American: Ku Klux Klan and other white terrorist organizations?
… let’s avoid making America UN(real) again …

Istvan
Guest

Yes to a degree I would agree that the majority of conservative Americans saw the KKK as more American than Einstein during that period of time. I would actually extend that time line forward to at least 1966. The Vietnam war and the civil rights movement changed the conservatives here, so William F. Buckley an intellectual icon of conservatism really changed his perspectives on this during that time. See http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/05/13/william-f-buckley-civil-rights-215129

Ferenc
Guest

OT – 2017.Oct.03
It is about a your ago I discovered this blog, in the aftermath of seeing those ‘big blue billboards’ and understanding (flabbergasted!) the texts produced in the name of the HU government.
Therefore I like to state:
“If we want to resist the powers which threaten to suppress intellectual and individual freedom we must keep clearly before us what is at stake, and what we owe to that freedom which our ancestors have won for us after hard struggles. Without such freedom, there would have been no Liszt Ferenc, no Petőfi Sándor, no Eötvös Loránd, no André Kertész, no Rubik Ernő, no Puskás Ferenc…. There would be no wifi, no metro, no protection against epidemics, no Nepszabadsag, no mobiles, no culture and no enjoyment of art for all… Most people would lead a dull life of slavery…. ”
(paraphrasing Einstein’s 1933 speech to actual HU situation)comment image
André Kertész – Untitled, children reading (1915, Esztergom)

Guest
Thanks for this, Ferenc! Btw, today’s a holiday in Germany (totally forgot about it, being in Hungary right now): Day of reunification, October 3, 1990 That was also totally unexpected! And now I have the chance to tell my story (again): At the end of October 1989 my first wife and I went on holiday to the USA – there was a very good offer for the flight from Düsseldorf to San Francisco. So on the day before the flight we took the train to Düsseldorf and went to a bar in the famous Altstadt (where they also serve dark Altbier …). The waitress switched on the tv and the news came on: An earthquake in San Francisco, the airport is inoperative … The next morning at the airport we were told that we could fly to Los Angeles, they would change the car reservation and reserve a room in an airport hotel for the first night if we wanted and we agreed. The next morning, looking at the smog and the line of cars slowly moving into LA we decided to go East into nature – after visiting all the highlights, from Lake Havasu via Vegas to the Grand… Read more »
wrfree
Guest

Hopefully. If it happens though it will bring up even more challenges to be faced after the euphoria fades away. This arguably happened in the years in Magyarorszag after the Wall went bye bye. Nascent democracy grew but for many reasons couldn’t hold. When ‘wars’ are won it brings on the hard work to be done in the aftermath of getting a victory.

Limbo
Guest

The two allegations can be both true at the same time. MSZP is full of crypto-fidesznik operators (and hapless third rate politicians) and also Botka was a very bad politician.

MSZP will not disappear. Fidesz has a great interest in keeping MSZP as a brand and as a zombie organization alive. Munkáspárt the pseudo-party of the IMO-graduate Gyula Thürmer is still alive and well although these days it takes away few votes from the left. MSZP will be a great vehicle for political adventurers financed by Fidesz to cause further chaos on the left for years if not decades.

Limbo
Guest

HVG just had a good article about this.

“Fidesz will not let MSZP die”.

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20171003_Nem_engedi_meghalni_a_Fidesz_a_szethulloban_levo_MSZPt

Guest

From my experiences as a German I’ve always thought that it was very silly to continue MSZMP as MSZP – a new beginning with a new name would have been much more sensible!
I’ve followed the German “Left” from its beginnings in the West 50 years ago . Yes, I’ve known some local Communist politicians that long, we tried to work together as students – but it was impossible! These guys were so far off – I still remember how in the early 80s they tried to convince me that East Germany would soon overtake West Germany …

So any “connection” to the good old times should be deleted and a new start be made – retiring the older MSZP politicians and “dividing” theyounger ones amongst DK, LMP etc might even be a good idea … 🙂
Good riddance!

Member

When MSZP started under Rezso Nyers, you could not simply transfer your membership from the communist party. You had to officially apply to join the MSZP.

In hindsight, MSZP’s big mistake was becoming the “legal successor” to the communists. However, this was not an obvious mistake at the time. The MSZP inherited a wonderful party infrastructure with everything from office buildings to beer gardens. And as we saw in 1994, many Hungarians were nostalgic for communism. Another plus in the MSZP’s favor.

I have argued that if the MSZP is the legal successor to the MSZMP, then Fidesz is its ideological successor. I do think this explains much of the fanatical devotion to Orban in the countryside.

Ferenc
Guest

OT
Question (to Eva first of all, but open to answers by everybody with historical knowledge in this case):
I read that the Csongrad county will be renamed to Csanád county. Haven’t got a clue of the behinds of this, but somehow feel a ‘1920’s’ relation.
So what’s the background, who pushed for this chance, why and what could be positive in this change?

Member

Ordeal is an excellent phrasing! Maybe torment and some other synonyms will do, as well. I think, nothing to be done with this party. That was it.

Limbo
Guest

The ordeal for MSZP and the entire left-wing is just beginning.

Andras Hont has a good analysis on HVG.hu.

LMP is also rumored to be financed by Fidesz (we know that Fidesz helped LMP during previous campaigns) and Momentum maybe too (its genesis is quite murky to me to be honest).

Fidesz won long ago. There’s no way out.

Ferenc
Guest

OT
Just saw a short clip from the happenings in Ocseny.
A local could say (in the microphone) what was on his mind: “They say on TV: hate them, because they are terrorists. They rape children and women, and cut everybody’s throat. And now somebody wants to bring them here? So who is lying?”
Dear dear man, just think, isn’t it clear yet that THE Hungarian public/state TV is LYING!!! And that using YOUR money!! To indoctrinate/manipulate/abuse your very brain in their own favor (incl.OV&Co’s pockets)!!

After the above clip there was an interview with Beer Miklós – watch the whole at http://hirtv.hu/newsroom/fopasztori-allaspont-1404664

Ferenc
Guest

Have watched last week’s M1 23hr news (only 15min, so bearable with skipping through the items…) and just googled the related newssite hirado.hu, my observations: not one second of public/state TV news time and only a short article about the resignation of Őcsény’s mayor, nothing else!!
Nothing about the happenings, no word from any of the government about it. Nevertheless was about half of all those M1 news broadcasts direct about or related to the ‘migration question’ (e.g.German elections decided by migration question, Timmermans in Riga’s Soros Auditorium speaking about the fence, the quota system, OV in Macedonia, etc., etc). That’s where the comments of the local man in the video above are coming from…

People working in international media and reading this, please have a serious look and check of the current Hungarian public/state media and report about this to your own audience. It has to be made internationally clear that what’s happening in HU is a disgrace for public media in all real democracies!!

Aida
Guest
I was born in Hungary during WW2. Members of my family were murdered. I would have been and my father if the Red Army had not arrived. I was there when Rakosi’s regime stole my father’s business and our freedom. I was there when our hopes for a better life were destroyed by a combination of political incompetence, sloganising and by the Soviets in 1956. I left. I have not been tempted to return to live there and since 2011 even to visit. No amount of tepertyu, libamaj or pretty girls would tempt me back. Why? Because the population of Hungary show signs of destructive flaws that should make us all stay away. We can, as we do, debate the issues here sometimes with great perception. We can of course make no significant difference. Who can? Hungarians in Hungary could. If they do not make the effort, they are the victim. Those of us outside are not in the regime’s target range. We will be safe from their fascism. The regime’s fascism and corruption will be contained and isolated. The process to do so has had setbacks by Brexit, Trump, the rise of so called populism and by a docile… Read more »
Guest

Aida, it must be hard for you!
I’m about your age, but was lucky to be born and raised in WestGermany – though up until the early 60s we also had our “clerical fascists” in government, but then the big change, so I can count myself lucky.
And at over 60 yearsof age to have found a partner (also born in WW2) in Hungary who thinks like is almost unbelievable luck!
We are so happy together, but we don’t know about her young ones’ future – ok being well educated they could find jobs outside Hungary but they don’t want to leave (unlike many of their friends) and are really frustrated when watching US or other news in English or talking with me …
Already my wife’s first visit in Germany and the way she was treated by my friends and family made her speechless – and the same goes for the young ones when they visited us …
But Hungary in general almost seems like a lost cause – the economy being propped up by the economic emigrants and the German car industry etc but many people as a kind of wage slaves, uneducated and unwilling to change …

Aida
Guest

Yours is a happy story, thank heavens. Mine is not too bad after a rough start. Maybe Hungarians will one day be willing to learn. But do not hold your breath.

Observer
Guest

To sort of corroborate some of your experiences – I was impressed by the Hungarian “merriest barrack” in the commie camp and knew little of the history. The specifics were masked by the dominant anti communist/Russian sentiment.
And then the Hungarians were given freedom, it came out it was a freedom to hate, to crowl back, to offend and oppress (in line with the traditions – Magyar ugar ).
We are not impresseed now and I would leave as an opportunity arose.

Aida
Guest

I hope you get your opportunity but the choice is not easy because it brings you up against serious challenges. They are not to be undertaken lightly. Good luck

Gabor Toka
Guest

Aida, you will be welcome back. It is not just tepertyu and libamaj, it is also Krasznahorkai, Attila József, black humour, innovative post-modern food, Amadina, Aggtelek, Márta Sebestyén, Kálmán Balogh, the Music Academy building, the genius of Ödön Lechner, Béla Tarr, Makám and Kolinda, the Kontroll Csoport, and a whole lot of other touching things. Yes, we can go away and be part of something bigger, but why not cherish the exotic in your roots, especially if it produces such amazing things (it still does)?

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