Negotiations drag on, but there are a couple of bright spots on the horizon

Those who think that the most important task of the opposition parties is joint action and cooperation because otherwise there is no chance whatsoever of removing Viktor Orbán from power are pretty desperate. And angry, very angry. They express their deep frustration with politicians’ “selfish” behavior. They accuse them of caring only for their own careers. They charge that politicians seem to disregard the true interests of the country and place party politics ahead of the common good.

Many ordinary Hungarian citizens want to get rid of not only Fidesz but all opposition politicians as well. Their irritation is understandable. On the surface what people who follow politics see is a never-ending series of negotiations between MSZP, the Hungarian socialist party, and Demokratikus Koalíció, a liberal-democratic party. These two parties are considered to be “large parties” with their 10-12-14% share of the votes. The third largest party with about 7-8% of the votes is LMP, a green-anti-globalist party, which refuses to cooperate with anyone. In addition, Hungary has at least four or five even smaller parties. In all vital matters, like the restoration of democracy, the reestablishment of checks and balances, and the revamping of the electoral system, these people are of one mind, but when it comes to dividing up the political terrain, they are unable to look beyond their own narrow interests. At least this is the general perception.

I know that the situation is pretty grim, but I would like to point to a few hopeful signs. While news sites report on the real difficulties weighing down the negotiations between MSZP and DK, one can easily miss a couple of indications that behind the scenes small steps are being made toward some understanding.

Let’s start with the MSZP-DK negotiations over the division of the 106 electoral districts. For the longest time we heard that the negotiators were very close to an agreement. It was only a question of days. But then, weeks went by and there was no resolution. MSZP announced that they would give details of the final agreement with DK at their congress, scheduled for December 9. As might be expected, the congress must be postponed because it is unlikely that negotiations can be concluded prior to that date.

It is hard to tell who is responsible for the sluggish negotiations. According to Ferenc Gyurcsány, one of the three DK negotiators, the three politicians representing MSZP don’t have the authority to make decisions on the spot. They have to go back to the party’s “presidium,” some of whose members accuse the negotiators, especially Gyula Molnár, chairman of the party, of being too soft. And they accuse DK of treating their party in a high-handed fashion. Some of them complain that Gyurcsány and Company are too aggressive and suspect, most likely not without reason, that DK wants to be “the only force” on the left. On the other side, Gyurcsány likes to remind his former comrades that they are no longer in a position to dictate terms as they did four years ago, with pretty disastrous results.

Apparently, some of the socialist leaders are so unhappy with Gyula Molnár that they have raised the possibility of removing him from the post of chairman, or, if not that, at least replacing him at the negotiating table with someone else. Fortunately for the socialists, that politically suicidal idea was dropped, especially since Molnár is, according to reports, anything but soft and consistently defends MSZP interests. For the next round, however, the socialists will be returning to the negotiating table with a much tougher attitude. The negotiators’ hands will be tied by prior decisions of the presidium. Such an arrangement is long overdue; after all, this is how the DK negotiating team functions. The DK presidium, for example, instructed the three negotiators that a common party list, which is at the core of MSZP’s demands, is out of the question.

The tug of war over a common party list shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who follows Hungarian party politics. I should point out that, with the exception of MSZP, no opposition party wants to merge its votes into a common party list. DK, Együtt, and Párbeszéd are ready to divvy up electoral districts among themselves even if they are not entirely satisfied with their lot, but by insisting on separate party lists they can at least measure their nationwide support. On the other hand, MSZP, with its shrinking base, would like to bury its declining numbers in a common list. Four years ago DK suffered when MSZP insisted on reserving for MSZP politicians what later turned out to be an excessive number of places at the top of the list. DK most likely would have done a great deal better if its leaders had insisted on a separate party list.

This is where we stand right now. The socialists insist on a common list, and the party’s negotiators are bound not to agree to the DK position. In addition, there are a couple of districts that DK would like to have but MSZP is not ready to release. All in all, not too promising.

But there is some news that might lift the spirits. This morning Népszava reported that, according to their sources, Ágnes Kunhalmi, the most popular socialist politician, will be heading the MSZP list. This report was later modified to read that Kunhalmi will be “the face of the socialists’ campaign.” Even putting Kunhalmi forth as the “face of the campaign” is welcome news and should help MSZP recover its standing somewhat. It was a real shame that Kunhalmi was relegated to dealing with matters of education only and wasn’t used as a general spokesperson for the party, while real third-rates represented MSZP in public over the last four years. In 2014, at the time of the Budapest municipal election when the democratic opposition had trouble finding a mayoral candidate, she looked like an obvious choice to me. I think she might have surprised us. The idea didn’t occur to anyone.

Ágnes Kunhalmi

The other piece of promising news is that negotiations seem to be going on among DK, Együtt, and Párbeszéd, and it looks as if they see eye to eye. They have lined up against MSZP, charging that MSZP is dragging its feet. Péter Juhász of Együtt complained that MSZP keeps sending messages but refuses to sit down to negotiate. So, the three parties demand the start of talks with MSZP. The trouble is that MSZP apparently refuses at the moment to sit down with all three parties at once, which is a rational decision on their part. As it is, the socialists feel threatened in a one-on-one situation with DK, and they certainly don’t need two other parties to deal with.

And finally, we often hear that LMP and Momentum are adamant in their refusal to talk to other parties as partners in the forthcoming national election. They will win the election alone, they claim. But, behold, there is a small by-election that will be held on December 10 in the town of Solymár, a suburb of Budapest. About two weeks ago it was reported that the locals found an independent candidate who will be supported by MSZP-DK-Együtt-Párbeszéd-LMP. Yes, LMP. This is a first, as far as I know. And the story doesn’t end here. Yesterday Momentum announced that it will join the others in support of the democratic opposition parties’ candidate. I should add that Jobbik will not take part in the election.

Perhaps there are still grounds to hope that reason will prevail and there will be a united front on the left. According to experts on the current electoral law, as long as there are only three candidates (Fidesz, United Left, and Jobbik), the left actually has a chance of winning the election.

December 1, 2017
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Ferenc
Guest

RE: “four years ago, with pretty disastrous results”
I was for more than 5 years out of HU matters and am now for almost 1.5 year following closely again all things HU.
I recently have read/heard the above quote many times, know the results, but not what really went on before and who/what can be convincingly blamed for the poor (unexpected?) result almost 4 years ago.
Can somebody in short describe the ‘traumatic ’ happenings before the 2014 election?

Ferenc
Guest

Data for those Dec.10 elections: Solymar 6th district
*2014.Oct – municipality elections:
Solymar 6th district: Fid&Co 62% / MSZP-DK 28% / Jobbik 10%
Solymar total: mayor and all 8 districts won by Fid&Co (with 50 to 77%), the three left-over positions through the ‘compensation lists’ one each to MSZP-DK, Jobbik and Egyutt-PM
*2014.Apr – parliamentary elections:
Solymar 6th district (part of Pest County 2nd district – Budakeszi):
Fid&Co 58% / LMP (Szél!) 8% / Jobbik 9% / MSZP&all others 25%
note: not fully sure if districts same as for municapality, but total for Solymar is also 8

So if the combined opposition is able to seriously contend with (or even beat, but don’t hold your breath…) Fid&Co in this district, that could be an indicator for the real strength of the combined parties (against individual results in actual polls)

Ferenc
Guest

PS: turnout for the two elections shows very big difference
2014.Oct municipality – 368 of 1027 is 36%
2014.Apr parliamentary – 747 of 987 is 76%

Observer
Guest

Ferenc

Note that Fid played with the campaign/advertising rules until the last moment to make for a short campaign and low participation. The bogus parties and advertising restrictions were intended to slant the field their way too.
The participation in 2014 was 61.2% – the second lowest after the 56.2% of 1998 when Fid won.
This is why the 2014 election was not a “fair election”.

Guest

Well, voter participation in Hungary has been generally low after 1989 – much lower than in real democracies like France or Germany. Is there a statistic that shows which groups vote (old vs young e g,city vs countryside)?

PS:
And now I’m waiting for Tyrker to come up:
In the USA the voter participation is even lower!
What does that tell us?

wrfee
Guest

From stats I saw about 6 out of 10 eligible voters voted. I guess the other 4 were fed up with both candidates. And now that’s ibe if the things why we have a strange ‘out-lying’ one as POTUS , tearing up the globe and hanging out with the wrong guys.

Observer
Guest

We are comparing the Hun campaigns, the participation numbers in other countries are irrelevant, we can only compare with the trends there.

Ferenc
Guest

Going through Observers points
*Fid played with the campaign/advertising rules until the last moment
=>in a real democracy at least very questionable
*make for a short campaign (and expect low participation)
=>depend on how this was decided (I know Fid&Co had 2/3 majority), if democratic or not
*bogus parties
=>not democratic if set up influence elections, have seen several in results, BUT only with zero to very few votes, so finally didn’t have any serious influence
*advertising restrictions (intended to slant the field-Fid their way)
=>not democratic again, but influence not measurable

The participation in 2014 was 61.2%
=>but I suspect turn out of Fid supporters was maximum, so the question is why turn out opposition supporters was so low? I can hardly believe that this was caused by above points, so expect there to be other, more important reasons

This is why the 2014 election was not a “fair election”
=>2 of above 4 points indicate this, but not sufficient for full convincement, so other points further clarified and/or more points brought in order to fully agree with statement

Ferenc
Guest

PS: I have personally experienced the 2002 “kokarda” elections, and those weren’t fair either, caused by OV&Co in power, i.e.the use of the “kokarda” by OV&Co, state media reporting live from Fid rallies especially the main one in front of parliament, while not seriously reporting anything from other parties, etc.
BUT the end result was that OV&Co lost from MSZP and SZDSZ!!

So Observer, I believe your statement about “not fair elections” to be correct, but the arguments themselves are not convincing enough for somebody not having experienced the 2014 elections.

Observer
Guest

Ferenc
I’m trying to make my comments short – just to draw attention to an event or an aspect. Of course I can elaborate, but there are lots of material on the net and in HS here.
Re “unfair election” – mea culpa, here I just added the campaign manipulation, while the prime factors were gerrymandering, additional votes to the winner, illegal use of state media for party propaganda / suppression of critical media, unlimited public (advertising) funding of Fid media, etc.

After observing (and some involvement in) politics /economics for many decades one smell the rat from afar, e.g. here’s another opinion:
https://straighttalkusa.org/2017/11/30/open-letter-to-victor-orbin-prime-minister-of-hungary/amp/

Ferenc
Guest

Thanks for the reply and the link!!
Sorry to have been pushing you so much, I was playing the ‘devil’s advocate’, in order to get as clear as possible the 2014 happenings (without spending too much valuable time to investigate it myself)

Observer
Guest

“The very fact that they managed to get together is very important.”
Yes. I have been preaching for over a year now, that the dem parties should give their local organizations more latitude to negotiate and find the best local candidate against Fid, with the inclusion of Jobbik. And if the locals fail to agree the center can decide instead (a bit difficult with the MSZP charter rules).
In this pragmatic and democratic way there would be no need for a contentious general co-operation agreement with the Jobbik.

Ferenc
Guest

If you haven’t seen Kunhalmi Agnes at ATV (Nov.27) recommended to watch this interview at Egyenesen – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2NSyFVhjo8Q
At some point even Kalman Olga was surprised about her agitation, even recommended to watch for people understanding only a few words in Hungarian

Ferenc
Guest

sorry, ATV must be HirTV (of course…)

Ferenc
Guest

OT
Will there even be one word related to the following on HU public/state media?
News item: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P2pVI2qJ3lQ
Original interview: http://valasz.hu/vilag/ne-verjetek-szet-az-eu-t-uzeni-walesa-orbaneknak-126466 (unfortunately not for free)

Guest

Really OT but interesting:
Found this just now (was 21 days ago) – an interview in the NYT with the ugliest of the ugly bunch, Steve Bannon (incl video):
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/10/us/politics/steve-bannon.html

Marty
Guest
The left does NOT have a chance of winning under any scenario [given the current election ystem and the poll figures, even if adjusted a bit for historic Fidesz bias in the polls]. Out of the question. Anybody who says otherwise is either completely delusional or is working for Fidesz. For Fidesz has one overarching political goal now: prevent the left from cooperating with Jobbik by any mans necessary (including by spreading false hope to people who don’t or don’t want to get the necessities of electoral maths). The left and Jobbik together – provided that they between them agree on setting one individual candidate in each of the 106 electoral districts – DO HAVE a chance of bringing Fidesz below 50% of the mandates in Parliament. Luckily this is true even if LMP and Momentum have their individual candidates running in the local districts – many voters will disregard them and vote for that individual candidate which is “most likely to defeat” the local Fidesz candidate (the candidate on which the left and Jobbik agreed). In other words, the left must cooperate with Jobbik – there’s just no other way. The left and Jobbik obviously cannot govern but at… Read more »
wrfee
Guest

Re: ‘In other words, the left must cooperate with Jobbik – there’s just no other way’

You know when a builder builds a house he has to use real strong bricks… for obvious ‘crumbling’ reasons. A left/Jobbik alliance solution may look tactically nice initially but it has to mitigate to getting up an entire edifice which can house truly a government ‘by the people’ and not one of stifling and grasping cliques. I’d think the left surely has to trust each other first to get anywhere with the ‘people’.

Marty
Guest

As I mentioned Jobbik and the left cannot govern together.

But together they can deliver a mortal blow to the regime by forcing Fidesz to scramble for votes in the Parliament to even get a majority (a whole new experience after long years of omnipotence) and/or do a snap election but in a totally changed political environment (in which Fidesz is not omnipotent anymore and hopefully some fideszniks will start to leave the flock and break omerta). Fidesz under 50% would be a milestone. This is what the opposition can hope for at present – nothing more is even remotely possible.

The dilemma is thus very simple, dear wrfee.

If the left and jobbik don’t cooperate (I mean in the 106 electoral districts) Fidesz stays. Period.

What’s more Fidesz will stay with almost certainly 2/3s which allows Orban to literally and legally do anything and probably ensure that there will be no 2022 or 2026 in a practical sense.

If Jobbik and the left, however, end up cooperating (again I mean only in the local districts) they together can defeat Fidesz.

Which one do you choose?

wrfree
Guest

Marty
Your argument sounds convincing but the proof would be actually in the Jobbik-left pudding.

I just would suggest a cautionary note in the proposed linkup taking a line from Twain where he noted that if you ‘aim for the palace be careful you don’t drown in the sewer’. I’d think if they agreed on say ‘principles’ it just might mean they agree on nothing else.

Observer
Guest

Marty
Hear, hear.
The eventual cooperation doesn’t mean accepting/adopting each other’s ideology, giving up their own etc. Togethre they have primarily to bust the Orban mafia and return to a fair election system.
All suspicions, speculations or visions about the “danger” of Jobbik in power are just that, the Orban mafia state is a reality. Those fears seem ignore the fact that Jobbik would be only a partner in a coalition, compared with the fascist regime of one party, one banner, one leader, etc.

Member

Opposition?! You must be kidding. These losers will have no chance to remove Mr. Orban from power. He is way smarter and way more strategic than all of the ‘leaders’ at the opposition parties. It really is making me smile how disfuntional these people are.

Ferenc
Guest

Yeah, sure, you only forgot some, like OV is a ‘better’ lier, a ‘better’ looter, a ‘better’ illiberal, a better ‘un-democrat’, and so on.
Makes way to the question, how many the people in Hungary are really able to see that and think if they like what they see and consider OV’s way as a better future for themselves (and others…).
So you may be smiling now, let’s wait and see who’ll smile after 2018.April!!

Jean P
Guest

Chacun a son gout. I will smile when “Mr. Orban” is in chains for unprecedented theft.

Observer
Guest

Ferenc
The “Orbán is winning” panel is back, it seems.
Trolls aside, there is such a syndrome in Hun, the small thieves appreciate the “smarter” bigger thief, e.g. what is the “gypsy crime” of stealing an old bicycle from the backyard, or even a truck of contraband cigarettes compared to a 100+ billion gas deal.
Has someone heard of any gypsy who had stolen a country?

Matt L
Guest

If they will not cooperate with the existing opposition parties, aren’t LMP and momentum then actually cooperating with Fidesz/KDNP? The same thing with the opposition parties and Jobbik. As awful as Jobbik is, or as distasteful as LMP and Momentum find DK and MSZP, they are better than four more years of Fisesz rule.

If they don’t all hang together as a coalition then they will all hang together.

I know its easy for me to say that as a foreigner. But we faced the same problem in the US in the 2016 election. I find the Clinton brand of ‘political celebrity’ viscerally abhorrent and politically vapid, but I voted for HRC in the general election, and the whole slate of Democrats for the other offices. I despised many of their policies, but as we can see right now, they were better than the alternative of eight years of GOP misrule.

Marty
Guest
Matt, you are right. This is the case. Luckily the opposition can probably afford LMP and Momentum going alone provided that Jobbik and the other parties of the left (MSZP and DK) cooperate in the individual districts. Even this is not bulletproof of course because many Jobbik voters simply would never vote for a “communist” or “liberal” candidate (and vice versa), but all in all the cooperation could be successful against Fidesz’ individual candidates. But it is the logic of the election system that small parties – who want to have separate identities, need separate GOTV efforts, need to practice their own machinaries etc. especially when they are very small like Momentum – insist on running separately. Parties need clear identities to be successful and you can’t build one with running together with MSZP and Gyurcsany. It’s confusing to the voters at the least. Jobbik can afford to cooperate because it has its separate image and national network and nobody will question the right wing credentials because of a tactical cooperation. The election system was very consciously set up, Orban and his pals had been thinking about it for decades. This is their absolute dream system (assuming that elections must… Read more »