Another abortive attempt at forging a united democratic opposition against Orbán

While some conservatives are showing a willingness to join forces with the “democratic opposition” parties, the situation on the left is still in disarray.

My hope was that, with the retirement of László Botka, negotiations among the left-of-center parties would become a great deal easier. In a very limited sense, the situation did change for the better. MSZP and DK agreed to sit down again and discuss ways in which they could cooperate. This was certainly a positive step; after all, MSZP and DK are the two largest parties in this camp. Apparently, negotiations concerning the allocation of individual candidates in the 106 electoral districts have been proceeding well. We have been assured that an agreement will be reached soon.

The smaller parties are still looking for ways to distinguish themselves as separate entities with their own distinctive characteristics. They thus refused to join the talks. One such commonality, something their leaders consider to be a plus, is their “purity.” Their politicians have always been in opposition and therefore, they claim, they are superior to those who dirtied themselves in the political arena before 2010. LMP, Együtt, Párbeszéd, and Momentum view themselves as members of this group. When it came to negotiations, however, it turned out that organizing a “new pole,” as Péter Juhász of Együtt named the group, faced insurmountable difficulties. LMP and Momentum currently insist on entering the political fray alone. It is hard to know what Együtt and Párbeszéd are planning to do. Of course, if all these parties put up their own candidates, the failure of the opposition in the 2018 election is guaranteed.

Another problem on the left is the lack of a candidate for the premiership. MSZP lost its candidate when Botka left the campaign and DK never designated one. Párbeszéd has named Gergely Karácsony, but, let’s face it, Párbeszéd has only a 1% share among active voters. Regardless of how attractive and popular a candidate Karácsony is, his chances are close to nil.

It seems that there are plenty of people around with some connection to politics and politicians who are ready with advice. The latest name to surface was Péter Balázs, foreign minister in the Bajnai government. He is a more than respectable candidate. He would be excellent and, as of yesterday, he was willing to become a candidate if the majority of the parties would support him. But he stressed that under no condition would he be the candidate of MSZP and DK alone, as was originally reported.

Péter Balázs

Balázs had a distinguished career in the ministry of trade and, later, in practically all the governments after 1990, with the notable exception of the first Orbán government between 1998 and 2002. A lot of analysts greeted Balázs’s willingness to serve with great enthusiasm, and for perhaps a day it looked as if the forces of the left had found a desirable candidate. Although Gyula Molnár, chairman of MSZP, denied that he or anyone else from the party had approached Balázs, the normally well-informed Magyar Nemzet learned that MSZP was hopeful that the “negotiating proceedings” will accelerate as a result of Balázs’s indication that he is ready to talk. But it didn’t take long for Ferenc Gyurcsány to repeat that, as far as he is concerned, DK will not be a party to either a common list or a common candidate for the post of prime minister. At this point Gábor Török, the well-known political scientist, wrote on his Facebook page: “This was expected. With this step MSZP arrived at the edge of the precipice.” Within a day we learned that DK was not the only fly in the ointment. None of the parties was ready to stand behind Péter Balázs.

Gyurcsány’s first interview after Balázs’s affirmation of his interest was with Ildikó Csuhaj of ATV. It was during this interview that Gyurcsány stated that DK’s negotiations with MSZP are “not about a common list and not about a common candidate for the post of prime minister.” The party wants to arrive at an agreement on the candidates for the 106 electoral districts, but that is the extent to which DK is prepared to go. During the course of the conversation Gyurcsány recalled an essay he wrote in Népszabadság after the 2014 election in which he discussed the long-term future of the democratic opposition. He is still convinced that one day all these smaller parties will unite in “a big, open democratic party.” But this is not a program for 2018. The formation of such a party may take four or perhaps even eight years.

After this interview he explained the position of DK’s leadership in greater detail. For a common candidate for the premiership, one would need a common list and a common program. Although the programs of MSZP and DK have many features in common, on many questions the two parties don’t see eye to eye. For example, DK disagrees with MSZP on the voting rights of dual citizens living in the neighboring countries and on a return to the practice of giving pensioners an extra month’s stipend. A candidate for the post must represent a common program, which at the moment doesn’t exist; moreover, it is unlikely that the two parties will ever agree on all issues.

­HVG talked to a socialist politician who is convinced that DK wants to be the leading party on the left and wants to ruin MSZP. But, he said, Gyurcsány overestimates his party’s strength. The same politician admitted, however, that “MSZP in its present form is finished and that after the election reforms must be introduced.” On the basis of past experience, MSZP politicians should know that parties usually don’t revive after a state of marasmus. No reforms can help at this stage. I think he is right in believing that the DK leadership is convinced that they might become the strongest party, surpassing MSZP, on the left. From the trends of the last few months, their hopes are not unfounded.

Gyurcsány’s scheme is simple. If the democratic opposition wins the election, the party with the largest support will name the prime minister, who in turn will try to form a coalition government. One reason for DK’s reluctance to have a common list is the party’s bad experience at the 2014 election when MSZP allowed only very few DK members to be high up on the list. As a result, DK was very badly underrepresented and MSZP overrepresented in parliament.

Gyurcsány at the moment claims that it is out of the question that he would be the next prime minister, even if DK emerged as the strongest party after the election. “DK would consider someone else. Cooperation is easier when we don’t commit ourselves to one particular person.” A few months ago his ambition was to achieve a 13-15% share and have a fair-sized parliamentary delegation. In that case, he saw himself becoming the head of DK’s parliamentary delegation, which would allow him to display his oratorical and political skills. Whether he would be satisfied with only that much if DK emerged as an important political factor, I doubt. For the time being, however, we don’t have to worry about such an outcome.

October 26, 2017
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Eszti
Guest

I find this so deeply upsetting- parties on the left bicker while the country has been taken over and neo-feudalised. Don’t they understand that the worst outcome is not compromise on issues like overseas voters but a continuation (and thus escalation) of the status quo? Clearly not… it’s all about their own personal egos. Completely disgraceful.

dos929
Guest
The underlying problem in the whole pre-election process and the ‘united opposition’ is the very election system that was ‘cleverly’ changed, manipulated and controlled by the regime. With reality, there is absolutely no hope that the opposition parties, united or not, will be able to unseat Orban and the FIDESZ from government. When the rules of the ‘game’ have been twisted so much that no matter what it favours the regime, there are no ‘democratic means’ left in an undemocratic and unjust system to win a fair election. Only the naïve can hope and believe that a peaceful and democratic process can wrest the power from a tyranny, even if so many argue that this is not yet a tyranny, just marching towards it. Yes, this march is going strong in the past 8 years, and since there is no definable line, which can state that from this side of the line is not yet a tyranny because it starts only from the other side of the same line; yes this is a tyranny… In my opinion Hungary crossed this line a long time ago, and learning from past and present history it must be acknowledged that no matter what… Read more »
Farkas
Guest
I see two fundamental problems. One is the splintering of the left into a myriad ineffectual fragments, each led by its own Lilliputian and narcissistic little Führer. Given that the Hungarian left has devolved into an undisciplined rabble, under these conditions the prospects of winning against Orbán are nil. The second is that even if the left did manage to pull off an electoral win in 2022 or 2026, the constitutional machinery and country-wide support networks that Orbán had put in place during his years of misrule will guarantee that an electoral win by the Hungarian left would have gained them nothing but a poisoned chalice, as post-election the country would have essentially become ungovernable. After all, as Orbán so ‘eloquently’ put it in 2004, “the nation cannot be in opposition.” This would suggest that some pretty hard thinking outside the box would be required on the part of the Hungarian left to make any realistic headway whatsoever against Orbán, and at the same time neutralize as far as possible Jobbik too. Logic and plain common sense would indicate that instead of the Lilliputian squabbling among themselves, they should all go for a government of national salvation made up of… Read more »
Marty
Guest
If Fidesz wins 2/3s of the mandates in Parliament (for which Fidesz needs to amass about 40% of the votes cast, Tarki’s polls published today say Fidesz has close to 60%!) there wont be any 2022 or 2026 (in a political sense). Already the situation is more than precarious (no funding, no media etc.) but if Orban will have full legal power again to do absolutely anything he may imagine he surely won’t allow even these small chances for the opposition. 2018 is thus the last chance of the opposition – alas even Tarki’s polls published today show that Fidesz is indeed gaining ground while the opposition is stuck. The trend is clear even if we contest the exact findings: Fidesz is indeed becoming more popular – of course the system is not a democracy and Fidesz has the means to become popular while the left-wing doesn’t even offer anything. This technocratic government you mention is a pipe dream that goes completely against the very logic of politics which is that politicians must have real, grassroots organizations behind them and real popular support to be effective. It will never happen. Only real, popular politicians can defeat Orban. Moreover the current… Read more »
Farkas
Guest

@Marty
October 27, 2017 7:09 am

Na ja.

What an unholy mess!!

A genuine Hungaricum: how to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, time after time after time after time after time . . .

Farkas
Guest
@Marty October 27, 2017 7:09 am What a pathetic position to be in, twenty-eight years after the regime change, a regime change that for the first time in six hundred years or more of self-inflicted disasters had opened the way for Hungary and Hungarians to rise above their historic cycle of failure after failure, and become truly masters of their own destiny. Well, they had well and truly stuffed up that opportunity for good, with endless corruption and dissension, mindless hatreds without end, Lilliputian squabbling, and a complete inability to organize themselves even out of a wet brown paper bag. Unfortunately the key to Orbán’s political success lies in the mindset, mental propensities, myths and political comfort zones of Hungarians themselves, particularly in the provinces, and as long as these do not change, nothing ever will change in that country. What is certain is that the Hungarian left, or what remains of it today, left-liberals, socialists and greens alike, will never again have the capacity and agency to inspire those needed changes in the Hungarian mind. They never even tried these past twenty eight years, even when they had th opportunity to do so. The fact is that the left… Read more »
Guest

The crazy aspect of this and I have to say that I really don’t get it:
There are obviously clear thinking Hungarians – but these seem to have made the decision to stay out of politics because they see no chance there for changes to the better.

A good example is my wife (I’m so happy to have found her …) who worked many years for the önkórmányzat in Socialist times and did not become a party member though she was asked often. Therefore she did not have a career, stayed a lowly secretary who typed and actually wrote the letters for her bosses. Some of them were almost illiterate – but they had the red book …
She’s told me so many crazy stories of these days and it seems that nothing much has changed in the last 30 years …

Marty
Guest
“The fact is that the left in Hungary had unfortunately run out of ideological steam, and is today bereft and barren of all ideas and vision for the future of the country.” True. It’s a fundamental problem for the left-wing (one of many). The left-wing has serious problems all over the world but it’s not a necessity. Sanders and Corbyn are popular. Hell, Sanders is more popular within voters of Clinton than Clinton is – according to the latest polls. Also Macron probably could’ve won even with a more leftist stance and he is a leftist at least on paper. But there are a lot of problems going against the left-wing, really. And it’s bad luck also. If Gyurcsany resigned in 2008 (or earlier) with a snap election instead of allowing Bajnai and MSZP to carry out the restrictions (pensions cut) and preside over the financial crises (job losses) Fidesz might never have gotten 2/3s. If SZDSZ didn’t get in 2006 then Fidesz would’ve formed a government with MDF, also unlikely to have gotten 2/3s in 2010. It’s a lot of bad luck too for the left-wing and a lot of bad decisions. The thing is Fidesz couldn’t have wished… Read more »
Guest
In other words the so called “Eastern Central Europe” (which we Germans e g consider as Eastern Europe or even part of the Balkan) will stay the poorhouse of Europe for the foreseeable future, providing cheap workers for the developed EU nations and also a few academics and qualified specialists which will be happy to flee their home countries … And also the Westerners will continue to have cheap holidays at the Balaton – and even cheap women (sorry to have to say this – Hungary is prominent in prostitution and porn). So it’s understandable in a way that Mrs Merkel and her successors etc will not do too much – it’s the Hungarian people’s problem if they want to be ruled by Orbán and his kind of mafia gang. As long as the workers in the Audi, Mercedes and Opel factories continue to produce good products – why worry? Rather OT: Though my wife likes to cook (and does a great job there …) we sometimes go out for lunch or dinner (especially when we have visitors) and we’ve been served wonderful food at unbeatable prices! Around 50 to 60% of the German prices … So we usually have… Read more »
Marty
Guest

MSZP-DK cannot possibly defeat Fidesz in the individual districts. There are 106 such electoral districts and MSZP-DK are together strong enough to defeat Fidesz in maybe 15 of them – at best. But with the latest trends – according to which Fidesz almost doubled its popularity among pensioners and among the people of Budapest since the summer – even this not too ambitious plan is in serious doubt.

Marty
Guest

And of course when MSZP disappears or becomes much smaller than today its voters don’t necessarily end up with DK. They may vote for Jobbik as Jobbik is still much bigger than DK and is probably seen as much more likely to govern than DK is. This is why Simicska Jr. was so happy to see MSZP “humiliated” by Gyurcsany. But of course the happiest is Orban.

Istvan
Guest

There is no coming to grips on the Hungarian left with the problem of economic integration of Hungary in the economy dominated by Germany in the EU. It’s the only game in town for Hungary, the alternative is returning to full Russian serfdom. Orban promises something supposedly different, but delivers a Russian type Mafia state complete with oligarchs and the actual continuing hegemony of German capital with some bones thrown to the Russians like the Paks deal. The Russians see it as a transforming deal for their economy see https://sputniknews.com/europe/201705131053568868-hungary-paks-npp-breakthrough/

The Hungarian people currently prefer Orban’s illusions.

Member

“If all these parties put up their own candidates, the failure of the opposition in the 2018 election is guaranteed.”

At this stage, does anyone really think the failure is not already guaranteed? Barring an act of God, there is no way the opposition can set up the political machinery necessary to “get out the vote” on election day. Only Fidesz and possibly Jobbik are in a position to do so. And should God actually see fit to intervene, the Orbán-Rogán-Habony axis would pull all manner of dirty tricks to try to derail the Almighty’s plan. Imagine the successful national consulation about the “Isten-terv.”

The opposition is waging a 2018 campaign using 2006 methods. They need to understand that the game has changed and need to learn how they need to adapt their strategies. The 2018 train has already left the station.

Marty
Guest
Member

Orbán will not permit himself to be replaced at the ballot box.
Anybody dispute that?

Therefore participating in “elections” is playing the fascists` game, playing their rules knowing you are going to lose but hopeful for the pitiful bribes the regime has promised to throw your way if you at least help them to provide a veneer of democracy to the EU which continues to keep this wretched state afloat

Watching the “opposition” is like watching the various anti-Roman groups in “The Life of Brian”. They are all ultimately pointless because there is zero hope they can overthrow the system through their endless debates about topics that 95% of the population care nothing about. Promise the countryside a free bag of potatoes and you have basically won the election.

The only hope now is that the fat dictator makes such a monumental error of misjudgement that he manages to upset the applecart. He is no Putyin or Erdogan in that it does bother him what the civilised world thinks about him- typical videki inferiority complex and he *may* push it too far when he has been provoked.

Marty
Guest
“Promise the countryside a free bag of potatoes and you have basically won the election.” Right. But why on earth can’t the opposition promise that fucking bag of potatoes? Or bring the potatoes to people and distribute it? Spend 5m forints (cca. 16,600 USD) on it and distribute it. Potato’s price wholesale is about 80 forint per kilogramm (and this isn’t the cheapest type) that’s 62,500 kilogramm if you have 5m. 62500 people (families) may get a free kilogramm? Is this so hard? Of course you need 5m forints and that’s an issue for some parties. But or example Momentum spent 30m on a summer camp which was a total turkey, nobody attended. They should’ve spent that 30m on free goodies. The system is rigged, but that doesn’t mean an obligation to be an idiot and not promise anything. These one bit “politicians” simply don’t get it. A promise is not a promise as such but a message that you care about them. Orban will not make that error. He’s way too smart for that and even if he does, he has a huge room for error, after all he controls everything and his system is just normalizing and maturing.… Read more »
Istvan
Guest

The country boy Orban puts the EU into the world of the folksy with this comment “mozognak a nyulak a bokorban” – the rabbits move in the bush on the radio today. He was referring to discussions that are being held in the relevant committees of the European Parliament on refugee quotas. Or was he actually referring to this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geQ0p9FoxUQ by the way rabbit and Hare (Lepus europaeus) season is now open in Hungary. One can only wonder.

sunyilo12
Member

What boggles the mind is the complete lack of pragmatism from the the opposition parties as they approach the 2018 elections.

Case in point is the studio debate of Ferenc Gyurcsany, Bernadett Szel, and Gergely Karacsony on the RTL Klub program for which the link ito s here:
http://rtl.hu/rtlklub/magyarulbaloval/ellenzeki-osszefogas-sikerulhet

It did not take 24 hours for these parties to call each other out in personal attacks and name calling in a most self-destructive fashion.

Crying out loud, why can’t they agree to debate only policies on television but nothing on lists, PM candidates, or party lists? The only way they can convert voters is showing commitment to issues the voters care about – and the only way to lose voters is arguing over representatives/PM candidates/party lists. Yet they keep doing it!

Marty
Guest
Voters are smart. They may be uneducated, may lack information, they are sometimes a bit backward but they are smart and pragmatic. They want unity and order. They will not vote for such a bunch, a vote would mean a reward, an endorsement for doing nothing but bickering a decade. Orban years before he took over power in 2010 was 100% united and totally ready to govern (or at least that was his image). The lefties haven’t done shit in 10 years and are still not ready. Voters hate Fidesz but they hate the leftist bickering more. They can’t stand it. Voters are frustrated and they want decisions and action and don’t care about debates. The voters know that they couldn’t get away with such an appalling behavior for a minute in their community, workplace or private life. They are forced to be disciplined, they are forced to get along, swallow grudges and just get on with their lives, with their colleagues, bosses, neighbors. Only rich, out of touch, pseudo-politicians can afford do nothing but throw hissy fits. At least Orban is “defending us” and “doesn’t bother us with internal debates”. He is “a decider” who “gets things done” (“maybe… Read more »
blinkyowl
Guest

“The greatest strength of every government is the weak opposition. / Minden kormányzat legnagyobb erőssége a gyönge ellenzék.”

Juhász Gyula (1883 — 1937)
poet/költő

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