MSZP’s Gergely Bárándy “debates”: Self-inflicted wounds

Fidesz politicians, who until very recently refused to debate their political opponents, suddenly developed an appetite for political discussions with politicians of MSZP. I haven’t noticed the same eagerness to exchange ideas with Gábor Vona of Jobbik or Bernadett Szél of LMP. But the Fidesz top-drawer strategists allowed Szilárd Németh to shout his way through a discussion, if you can call it that, with Zsolt Molnár of MSZP. Mind you, for that disaster I largely blame Egon Rónai of ATV, who seems to be utterly incapable of keeping order in his studio.

A great deal more was expected of a debate between Gergely Gulyás and Gergely Bárándy, which took place last night at ELTE’s Law School at the invitation of the school’s Political Science Workshop. Bárándy is the MSZP caucus’s “legal expert.” He is a 41-year-old who, after finishing law school at Péter Pázmány Catholic University in 2000, worked as a lawyer in the law office of his grandfather and father. Considering that he was a relative latecomer to politics, he made a remarkable career in MSZP. He became a member of parliament in 2010 and 2014, both times from party lists. I personally find him rather dull and his speeches in parliament uninspiring.

Gergely Gulyás, on the other hand, stands apart from the average Fideszniks. He is what Hungarians call a true “úrifiú,” a young gentleman both in looks and behavior. Like Bárándy, he comes from a family of lawyers. He also attended Péter Pázmány Catholic University’s law school, graduating five years after Bárándy. He joined Fidesz at the end of 2005 and also made a remarkable career in his party. By now he is the leader of the large Fidesz parliamentary delegation, deputy president of parliament, and Fidesz’s legal expert in general. He is intelligent and articulate and is very quick on his feet. He is ready to engage in debates with others and usually comes out on the winning side, even with reporters as well prepared as György Bolgár. He is like an eel; he always manages to support his party’s positions no matter how indefensible they are. At the same time, he gives the impression of someone whose views are moderate. He condemns extremism and vulgarity, which are often exhibited in Fidesz circles.

Photo: Magyar Nemzet

So, when I heard that these two men would face each other in a debate, I anticipated a huge Gulyás win over the less eloquent and less coherent Bárándy. Well, the debate turned out to be something no one was prepared for. According to Magyar Nemzet, it was “a convivial conversation” between two people who have known each other for a long time and who have spent considerable time together on the legislative committee of the parliament. As Gulyás remarked, they know each other’s legal positions through and through. Still, I was not prepared for Gergely Bárándy’s performance. He offered a public confession of the sins of his own party. “Even a Fidesz politician couldn’t have done better,” as Index’s journalist who was present put it. He described his own political side as something “dreadful” and said that he perfectly understands outsiders’ low opinion of the left. He “wouldn’t even entrust his dog to these people.” Gulyás exhibited bafflement at his opponent’s total political ineptness.

Once Bárándy was in the swing of things, Gulyás decided to toss him a bone by introducing the magic word “Gyurcsány” into the debate. How is it, he asked, that after eight years in opposition MSZP is still under the influence of the leader of the Demokratikus Koalíció? What followed was more or less what I expected because I always placed Bárándy in the left wing of MSZP and therefore suspected that he was no admirer of the liberal-leaning Gyurcsány. Keep in mind that István Nyakó, MSZP’s spokesman, was just sacked by Gyula Molnár because his sarcastic remarks interfered with the current MSZP-DK negotiations, and therefore the last thing MSZP needed was a barrage of verbal insults on the chairman of DK by an important MSZP politician. But this is exactly what happened. Bárándy announced that he would be very happy if Gyurcsány would step back and wouldn’t insist on being on a common party list.

It is hard to fathom why Bárándy brought up a common list and Gyurcsány’s presence on it because, with Botka’s resignation and the beginning of negotiations between MSZP and DK, this issue is no longer on the table. He got himself so wound up that during the Q&A period, when most of the questions were about the state of MSZP and the other opposition parties, he kept repeating his opposition to Gyurcsány. Bárándy must have realized that this incredible performance would be deemed unacceptable by the current leadership of MSZP because a couple of times he jokingly told his audience that he will deny some of his remarks and hoped that he would not be quoted out of context. For example, when he talked about the absolute necessity of having a leftist party, “whether it will be called MSZP or something else.” This afternoon Klub Rádió reported that Gergely Bárándy now insists that the statements that were attributed to him were never uttered or, if they were, they were not accurately described. Well, he will need a better explanation than that. Not so much to the public but to his comrades.

Since the debate was not open to the public, few newspapers reported on it. Figyelő was the only pro-government paper I could find that carried the news. The article was written by Tamás Pindroch, a devoted pro-Fidesz journalist originally from the far-right Magyar Hírlap who then had a short stint at Magyar Idők. He was delighted because he believes that MSZP politicians like Mesterházy, Botka, Nyakó, and Bárándy are working for a renewed MSZP that will emerge after the party’s electoral defeat next year. The number of people, he wrote, who think that the greatest encumbrance on the Hungarian left is Ferenc Gyurcsány is growing. These people realize that he must be removed in order to have a robust Hungarian left. “One thing is sure; the left-wing cleansing process which didn’t take place in 1990 may begin after 2018. Better later than never.” Of course, Pindroch is not really worried about MSZP’s renewal. What he is hoping for is the further weakening of the left by warring factions within MSZP before the election. And looking at the latest polls, the leadership of MSZP is succeeding admirably. According to the latest opinion poll, in the past three months MSZP has lost 4% of its voters. Among active voters they stand at 13% as opposed to DK’s 9% and LMP’s 6%.

I can more or less understand that MSZP regional leaders, like Ferenc Kurtyán from Szekszárd, haven’t been able to grasp the present Hungarian political reality, but that one of the shining lights of the party, the great legal expert, commits such a political blunder is unfathomable. What kinds of nincompoops run this party? How can you let any politician engage in a debate without sitting down with him and agreeing on the talking points? MSZP’s ineptitude simply boggles the mind.

October 19, 2017
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petofi
Guest

I talked to Gulyas once: a real true believer. Goebbels would’ve been proud of him.

He is totally deluded with non an ounce of integrity–a true Hungarico!

dos929
Guest
Just a reminder to the ‘Speech at Öszöd…’ by Gyurcsány in 2006, in which he called the attention to the ills of the MSZP and called for a change in behaviour and direction of the party. Instead of taking note of the essence of the speech they turned on Gyurcsány, and we know what the result was. Perhaps no politician is 100% clean by the time he or she arrives at the top, but Gyurcsány was the single one on the Hungarian political scene who admitted his mistakes and subsequently resigned. However, the witch-hunt that followed him ever since by the FIDESZ and the LMP, not to speak of the MSZP, is a complete farce. Based on innuendoes, absolute lies and the likes, those in the hope of political power and position made it a routine of Gyurcsány-bashing to the point that the very same person having the most integrity amongst the Hungarian elite has lost his trustworthiness. The end result is that the MSZP, once the true representative of the left, has lost its credibility not just outside the party, but within as well. The MSZP instead of gaining or re-gaining support is losing members so fast that its… Read more »
Marty
Guest
Background: Hungarian education provides the least mobility for disadvantaged kids in the EU. Hungarian education basically exists for the elite to reproduce itself. The students at ELTE law school overwhelmingly come from the rural elite which often economically means only a (Hungarian-level) middle class existence since rural teachers or land registry department heads don’t make that much money. The parents of the students are teachers, lawyers, prosecutors, doctors, nurses, engineers at the local heating plant or water company, bureaucrats at the municipality. They are mostly people of modest means as in rural places a rich lawyer is a very rare outlier and most of these people are employed at state-related entities. Yet status wise they belong to the elite. They are also conservative-leaning, though quite pragmatic. They are orderly people, they plan ahead, think about their kids education (often send them to parochial schools which have an increasing lock on the education of the rural elite), they play by the rules. They have no tolerance for unruly gipsies who spend their welfare checks within three days of receiving it, unkempt migrant or liberal revolutionaries intending to change their way of life. But what these people have absolutely zero tolerance for… Read more »
Guest

@Marty:
My wife’s young ones and their friends are not like this – they read Englsih news and use the social media and laugh about the “Borniertheit” of the ruling class. But it may well be that you are right re the majority – but that means that petofi here is right:
totally deluded with non an ounce of integrity–a true Hungarico!
And this missing integrity will mean the loss of democracy for Hungary (well, most of it is already lost …) in the long run and the destruction of Hungarian society- back to the class system of Horthy!

The “others” in the EU look at what’s going on in Hungary and don’t know whether to laugh or cry …

petofi
Guest

@ wolfi7777

The fact is that democracy is not for Hungarians. For starters, there is no cooperative tendency in the whole society. The only hope is an elightened despot. But Hungarians are like a pack of wolves–they attack the weak, and the odd spotless one. Note how they twisted Gyurcsany’s meaning in 2006. Of course, only a weakly educated populace could be made to swallow Vickie’s interpretation…

Istvan
Guest
Marty worldwide various elites use educational systems to reproduce themselves. Only a relatively small percentage of youth in poverty are able to leverage public education systems to significantly advance their socio-economic life outcomes. In the USA we endlessly focus on people who pull themselves up by escaping poverty through education, really no better example than President Bill Clinton who rose from a poor Arkansas family to Oxford and beyond or President Obama whose immediate family was actually very poor. Much more typical is his wife Hillary who came from a higher middle class family and built on that foundation. Even President Obama’s wife came from the family of a Chicago city worker who was deeply connected to the Democratic Party machine and upon graduation from law school worked for a very politically connected law firm. Of course for racial minorities worldwide it is much more difficult. The situation in Hungary is not all that abnormal, I have seen it in Latin America, in Africa, and even in Vietnam ruled by a communist party where numerous party officals send their children to the west for university ( on Vietnam see http://foreignpolicy.com/2010/01/21/vietnams-new-money/ ). My own daughter’s military career advancement is due in… Read more »
Guest

My German friends and I discussed this problem and the German solution after WW2: Almost everybody of sufficient intelligence and diligence (Fleiß in German, a word you don’t hear so often nowadays …) could make it to university and get stipends if his/her parents were poor – several of my classmates wer the children of simple farmers and became profs or tachers, one the director of a naval academy.
Not to use the qualifications of these people is a kind of society’s idiocy – we need every intelligent/qualified person as you see in the USA where IT companies have to resort to asking people from India etc because they can’t get enough workers at home.
The Hungarian education policy is really stupid – there will not be enough qualified people and of those who make it a large percentage will always leave – Brain Drain …

Guest

“The late Arthur Finkelstein’s insight is fundamental: voters choose the corrupt between the corrupt and the stupid…”

Marty, do you subscribe to Finkelstein’s axiom: If you are corrupt you are not stupid?

petofi
Guest

There was nothing in Finkelstein’s playbook that the rotund little gypsy didn’t already know: Orban just used him to deflect the heat.

Marty
Guest
No, that’s not what I meant. For example everybody thinks MSZP is corrupt but nobody ever thought MSZP was smart. Fidesz is unfortunately smart, the party is well managed by modern methods eg. performance analysis, benchmarking, what have you. Of course when you have unlimited funds and you are The Party which people need to join if they want to have a career in rural places then it’s quite easy. But even when MSZP was popular and in power noone ever thought the MSZPniks were smart politicians. They were always hapless who could be fooled or purchased by Fidesz. People hold all politicians corrupt so (unless you are really credible like Corbyn or Sanders are) MSZP or Gyurcsany simply cannot attack Fidesz by saying Fidesz is corrupt. (It’s irrelevant that Gyurcsany wasn’t as corrupt as Orban is, Gy is a KISZnik cum billionaire so he’s by default corrupt in the eyes of the average joe). But when people decide who deserves power (the hapless or the smart?) and when they decide who would be better at protecting them from danger (like migrants or Brussels) then the consistent töketlenkedés (acting without balls while procrastrinating) and stupid antics count a lot for… Read more »
Guest

I didn’t ask for more of the same. My question was about the Finkelstein quotation which you called fundamental. To me it is a platitude based on the assumption that it takes only two sorts to make a world, the corrupt and the stupid.

Marty
Guest

I don’t really understand what you want from me. Personally I know the world is complex and I don’t believe that there are only two types of politicians. I only wrote about how average people interpret the world and in that respect the Finkelstein’s saying is apt. In other words I think Finkelstein understood how average joes thought.

Fidesz’s defining feature is that it’s corrupt, while MSZP’s is that it’s stupid.

Mind you this is very often the case with a junior party in an autocratic system. The challenger in an autocracy is in a very difficult situation for many reasons so it acts stupidly, its politicians lack discipline etc.

But at the end of the day people want a real government, politicians who can “lead”, whom the voters can at least acknowledge as good in something (maybe corrupt but still… strong/tough with the enemies of the nation/protects us from the hated multinational companies/ whatever bulllshit they attach to that politcian).

Stupid politicians cannot offer leadership – especially if they are also seen as corrupt and voters just can’t respect a “szoci” politician for anything at all.

Observer
Guest

Now you are off track listing some platitudes and gratuitous stereotypes from the old Jobbik set.

Observer
Guest

Marty

Inept politician is not necessarily a stupid person, often it’s the intelligent and moral ones that can’t grasp or don’t won’t to play the hypocritical and dirty games of politics.

Why did Bàrandy go there is not quite clear to me either, but not because of the audience, Gyurcsàny spoke a couple of times in unis with quite a success.

Marty
Guest
Reality and perception are two different things – but it is perception which is relevant in politics because nobody sees inside the head of an otherwise well-meaning, intelligent politician and certainly average voters don’t want to think too much about politicians. They see what they see and draw conclusions from those perceptions. This is how the game is played. Gyurcsany is a leader (basically sole owner) of his party, he can decide to do risky things. But Barandy is a mid-level politician who in any normal party wouldn’t have the freedom to attend a meeting like that and talk freely, causing embarracement to his party. If he doesn’t understand this after more that 10 years in politics he’s an idiot. He never was the sharpest tool in the drawer though. For a politician a meeting with people he/she doesn’t know is an opportunity to sell his party and he is there *solely*, I mean exclusively to sell his party – whatever the topic or the reason for that event. Barandy was under an absolute obligation to try to convince his audience that his party is strong, it is winning and is otherwise much better than the other party – even… Read more »
Guest

@Marty:
You’re strange in a way – Hungarians don’t seem to understand democracy it seems.
I would’ve fired him the next day if I were his boss.
The German constitution e g says explicitly that a member of parliament is only responsible to his/her conscience and his/her voters – there is no boss!
But democracy hasn’t reached Hungary yet it seems – will it ever arrive here?

Marty
Guest
I think you are confusing two things wolfi, he has that right as an MP if he was independent but as a member of a party he doesn’t. He basically gave up that right in respect of the party without which he wouldn’t be in the Parliament anyway. Barandy couldn’t get in from his district, he got in from the party list – he has no personal popularity “in the field”. A party is there in the Parliament exactly because it being a bigger organization it is more than than the sum of its participating individuals. The party is much more effective politically – but only if everybody behaves as expected (collective action). Barandy could continue to be an MP as noone can sack him from that position. But there is no place for people like him in a party. Basically a firing would’ve meant in such case that he would be taken off from the party list on the ballot for 2018 (though probably it doesn’t matter for Baranday, he wouldn’t gotten in anyway). A party needs discipline especially a few months before the election when every word has a significance. This is how a Parliamentary systems works (even… Read more »
bimbi
Guest

Today’s blog post really makes one think that all those rumours of Fidesz ‘plants’ and ‘sleepers’ posted in the MSzP ranks are likely true, and why not? After all, Orbán has every aspect of assuring victory in April 2018 covered – and then some! However, a period of trauma and self-appraisal for MSzP is long overdue and such a process can only be beneficial for the Left as a whole. The outcome for 2018 is not looking too rosy but then we know that the Orbán/Fidesz mafia government is going down the tubes in due course – and then the clean-up of the social, moral and political excrement left behind begins…

bimbi
Guest

Well now, doesn’t that show the weakness of faith-based educational institutions? Here we have Messrs. Gergely Gulyás and Gergely Bárándy both products of the law school of a religious-based university, the Péter Pázmány Catholic University, the one (GG) willing to swallow and regurgitate as gospel everything that his spiritual master and employer says and the other (GB) unable to do so in any degree at all, but neither able to exercise the least iota of self-respect and self-analysis before opening his mouth…

wrfree
Guest

“We sit here stranded, though we’re all doin’ our best to deny it”
― Bob Dylan

Too much of the past with its deleterious memories infuses the present. Dead ends seem to be comfy places nowadays as all the nitwits really on both sides of the fence take up residence. If supposed dreams are to be made out of all that it has to be difficult how any good can come when trying to influence future tomorrows. Leaders need to stop putting themselves on. Lack of insight will bury them.

petofi
Guest

Oh no! Not quoting Bob Dylan, are we?

(It irked me to no end that Dylan was chosen for the Nobel rather than Leonard Cohen who is many times greater as a literary figure…)

petofi
Guest

And of course, there’s nothing in Dylan’s withered works to match Cohen’s Hallelujah…especially as sung by K.D. Laing–

Guest

A bit OT:
Leonard Cohen has always been my favourite – I’m so sorry that I could never see him live.
My top song has always been “Bird on a wire” – it’s crazy in a way that totally different people like Joe Cocker or Joe Bonamassa (my wife’s favourite young blues singer – we’ve seen him live several times in Germany!) also chose to do this live …
Amazing!

Ferenc
Guest

indeed: Amazing!
best version I’ve enjoyed live was by the Neville Brothers.

btw: they had quite some cover versions on their setlist, a.o.from Mr.D but also a fenomenal “A Chane is Gonna Come” and their own “Yellow Moon”!! now listening and again shivers down my spine!!

Ferenc
Guest

comment image
Picture from the debate’s location (ELTE’s Law School – Political Science Workshop, picture from index.hu)
I’m sorry, but anybody can take anything which is said or supposed to be said there serious?

Istvan
Guest

The other day our esteemed host Eva told us in passing about the beating of Szabó Zoltan by a security guard at KFC in Budapest. Here is a little follow up on that story for those who read Hungarian. http://hvg.hu/kkv/20171020_A_KFC_szakit_a_biztonsagi_ceggel_es_fizet_a_megvert_indexes_ujsagiro_miatt

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