Tag Archives: electoral districts

How solid is the Bajnai-Mesterházy pact?

It’s time to return to the state of the Hungarian opposition which, given its daunting electoral challenge, should be united and pursuing a politically savvy course. Instead, it remains fragmented and for the most part bumbling.

In late September Medián found that the great majority of left liberals would like to have a single list and joint candidates in each of the 106 districts. So far the opposition hasn’t heeded their call.

Then there was Solidarity’s demonstration at which a styrofoam statue of Viktor Orbán was toppled. Solidarity’s alleged allies, Együtt 2014-PM and MSZP, distanced themselves from Péter Kónya’s “street theater.” They thereby lent credence to the position of Fidesz and KDNP politicians who claimed that this symbolic act was tantamount to an actual assassination of Viktor Orbán. The only opposition politician who stood by Péter Kónya was Ferenc Gyurcsány. As far as I know, Kónya is planning new street performances. Whether Együtt 2014-PM and MSZP embrace these activities or whether Solidarity ends up joining forces on a national level with DK remains to be seen.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s see what is going on within Együtt 2014-PM. First of all, it will soon be called something else, which I consider a blessing as long as they come up with a decent name for a party. Most people, I assume, know that Együtt 2014 was the original name of Bajnai’s group to which PM (Párbeszéd Magyarországért = Dialogue for Hungary), another ill-chosen name for a party, was tacked on. PM comprises the ten or so former LMP members and their followers who broke with András Schiffer.

The name change is necessary because Együtt 2014-PM is not a party. The PM people insisted on maintaining their independence, and therefore this cobbled-together creation was a party alliance formed only for the election. But there’s a problem with this arrangement. The threshold for parliamentary representation for a party alliance is 10% as opposed to 5% for a party. And, according to the latest polls, E14-PM has only a 6% share of the votes. Naturally, the party’s spokesmen insist that the polls are all wrong and they have at least twice that much. It seems, however, that their socialist friends take the polls seriously and keep pressuring the Bajnai crew to create a real party just in case. Viktor Szigetvári, co-chairman of the party, just yesterday in an interview with HVG confidently announced that they’re aiming to capture 20% of the votes at the election, but at the moment that goal cannot be taken seriously.

At the same time that Együtt14 is losing support, Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Demokratikus Koalíció is gaining ground. According to Medián, DK actually surpassed E14 among those who are certain that they will vote at the next election.

HVG, an influential and well-informed media outlet, has been watching the shifts that have been occurring on the left. Within the course of one week HVG published two articles indicating possible changes that might have to be made to the Bajnai-Mesterházy deal. On September 4 the paper reported that its sources in E14 and MSZP admitted that “Gyurcsány revived” even though they tried to minimize the significance of the changes in DK’s standing. They conceded, however, that DK’s momentum highlights “the contradictions inherent in the Mesterházy-Bajnai agreement.”

Meanwhile Ferenc Gyurcsány is taking advantage of the shifting public sentiment and is campaigning aggressively. He promised to continue his nationwide campaign unabated until the Christmas holidays.

You may recall that after the appearance of Gordon Bajnai DK lost about half of its earlier support. András Kósa of HVG wondered whether perhaps these earlier DK supporters, disappointed in E14’s performance, are now returning to DK. It is also possible that some MSZP voters who want a single opposition party list are shifting their support to Gyurcsány, the only opposition politician who insists on a single list, which is, in his opinion, the key to electoral victory.

HVG‘s article also said that DK leaders are ready to recruit new supporters even at the expense of E14 because that would force the renegotiation of the Bajnai-Mesterházy agreement. Gyurcsány, in fact, began to criticize both Gordon Bajnai and Attila Mesterházy. A few days ago he complained about the lukewarm campaign style of Bajnai. In a lengthy interview with the Austrian Der Standard he claimed that Bajnai and Mesterházy are the ones who fear competition from him. And only yesterday he said that in the coming campaign one needs not only goalies but forwards as well. This was a reference to Bajnai who plays amateur football as a goalie and who described himself as a political goalie rather than a forward.

Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai They are not such a good friend anymore

Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai
They are not such good friends anymore

Today HVG came out with another article based on E14 and MSZP sources. Gábor Gavra, editor-in-chief,  joined András Kósa in taking responsibility for the information gathered. They learned that Együtt 2014 has a solution to the DK problem. If it turns out that because of a strengthening DK negotiations between E14 and MSZP must be reopened, E14 would give up two districts and would expect MSZP to turn over six districts to DK. There was a sentence in the Szigetvári interview that pointed to a potential thaw in relations with DK consistent with such a renegotiation. When asked whether there is any possibility of an understanding between E14 and DK, Szigetvári answered that “There is a chance, and a wide collaboration is in the interest of the opposition. E14 will not stand in the way.”

Unfortunately the hypothetical E14 offer is not as generous as it seems. The two districts they are willing to give DK are Fidesz strongholds. Of the six districts that belong to MSZP at present only two could possibly be won by an opposition candidate. An unnamed DK politician’s reaction undoubtedly reflects the feelings of the DK leadership and the 8,700 party members: “What magnanimity! Two parties with approximately the same popular support and Együtt will keep 29 and will give us two. This doesn’t even deserve comment.” Apparently one DK politician who is a member of the presidium said that they would be happy with a 60-40 split of the 31 districts E14 currently has as a result of the Bajnai-Mesterházy pact. But such a split would deprive E14 of being able to have a separate party list.

Gordon Bajnai immediately denied that E14 has been thinking about reopening negotiations with MSZP. That  may even be true in the strict sense of the word. However, every party has to have contingency plans, especially if MSZP insists on reopening negotiations in the eventuality of a further fall in E14’s popularity.

As far as Gyurcsány’s strategy is concerned, I’m becoming convinced that he is trying to force the hand of the opposition parties to come up with a common list. This may in fact become a necessity if neither E14–or whatever it is called by then–nor DK could have a party list. In this case a single list would be the only option. Polls over the next two months or so will undoubtedly help shape the strategy the opposition parties will have to adopt.

The factious Hungarian opposition

Yesterday by 11 a.m. it became clear that there was no chance of an electoral alliance between the socialists and the representatives of the Demokratikus Koalíció. Perhaps there never was because, although Attila Mesterházy only a few hours before this final meeting gave a 50-50 chance of reaching an understanding, I suspect that the decision had already been reached to reject the DK proposals.

Shortly before the meeting Mesterházy claimed that his party hadn’t formulated its position on Ferenc Gyurcsány’s participation in the campaign and his advocacy of a common party list. However, most of the DK demands eventually put forth had been known for at least a week, and I assume that the socialist leadership was fully aware that Gyurcsány’s person would be on the agenda in one way or the other.

As it turned out, DK had seven demands: (1) there should be joint MSZP-DK candidates; (2) the number of districts should be based on the principle of proportionality; (3) DK should receive nine districts, three of which should be winnable, three hopeless, and three uncertain; (4) on the list a DK candidate should occupy every eighth place, again on the basis of proportionality; (5) the person of the candidate should be decided by each party; (6) MSZP should receive the first and DK the second place on the list although if MSZP doesn’t accept this DK is ready to consider their counter-proposal;  (7) DK’s top place on the list should go to the chairman of DK. So, DK was not adamant about the second place but certainly wanted Gyurcsány to be on the best DK place whichever that would be.

MSZP wasn’t in a negotiating mood. Their demands reminded me of Austria-Hungary’s ultimatum to Serbia in 1914, which was formulated in such a way that the Monarchy knew that there was no way Serbia could accept it. MSZP offered four districts to DK, none of which was winnable. Instead of every eighth place on the list, MSZP was only willing to place a DK candidate in every twenty-fifth. According to electoral mathematics, the largest number of seats the opposition can win from the list is fifty, which would mean that only one or two DK candidates would receive mandates. In addition, DK couldn’t represent its own political ideas and would have to follow the MSZP-Együtt14 line. MSZP didn’t want anything to do with Gyurcsány and, when pressed, it turned out that they also didn’t want to see Ágnes Vadai, Csaba Molnár, or László Varju anywhere near the campaign. (In addition to Gyurcsány these three people represent DK in the Hungarian media.) MSZP would have veto power over any candidate put forth by DK but DK wouldn’t have the same veto power over the MSZP candidates. This was unacceptable to the DK negotiating team.

If you recall, MSZP in January was the prime proponent of joint action with all democratic parties and groups while Együtt 2014 was stepping back from close cooperation with MSZP. They were undoubtedly afraid that Attila Mesterházy was planning to seize the opportunity to lead the future coalition. E14 decided to postpone further negotiations in the hope of gathering more support. Precious months were wasted in what turned out to be a futile effort. So, came the compromise agreement of no common list but common candidates. Some politically savvy people consider the agreement a very good idea while others view it as a failure and an indication of weakness and discord.

Együtt 2014 with its 6% of the electorate came out the real winner with 31 districts. MSZP didn’t fare as well (75 districts), especially since it was the socialists’ burden to reach an understanding with the other smaller parties. Of the three parties only DK has measurable support. We are talking about 100,000-150,000 voters for DK while MSZP has about 1.2 million. If we look only at these numbers DK’s demands sound reasonable. The real aim of the opposition, however, is to convince the large block of undecided voters. We don’t know the party preferences of about 40% of the electorate. The opposition parties’ real goal is to attract this large group to their ranks.

And here the socialists and E14 are convinced that if they embrace Ferenc Gyurcsány and DK they will attract fewer people from the ranks of the undecided. József Tóbiás in an interview yesterday disclosed that the party had conducted a poll that was designed to measure the effect of cooperation between MSZP and DK. The poll revealed to the party leadership that they would lose more votes with Gyurcsány than they would gain. This finding lay behind their decision. If this poll correctly measures the effect of a joint MSZP-DK ticket, then MSZP’s decision was logical. Of course, we know how a wrongly formulated question can distort the results.

Naturally this poll reflects only the current situation. One doesn’t know how MSZP’s rather abrupt negative attitude toward the other parties and groups will affect MSZP’s standing or the electorate’s attitude toward DK. It is possible that they will consider MSZP too high-handed and uncompromising and DK an underdog. They may think that MSZP is not serious about unity, not resolute enough in its determination to unseat Viktor Orbán and Fidesz.

opinion pollOne could also ask MSZP whether the poll inquired about those possible voters who under no circumstances would vote for MSZP, because apparently they are also numerous. What about those who think of E14 as a party with no well defined political agenda? Only yesterday Szabolcs Kerék Bárczy, the last spokesman of Ibolya Dávid’s MDF, complained about Együtt 2014’s lack of political coherence. He pointed out that although E14’s avowed aim is to attract liberal conservatives, there is not one conservative in its ranks. Moreover, how can these people be attracted to a group whose members often applaud Orbán’s nationalization or who make statements against free markets and competition? Kerék Bárczy is thinking here of some people in the PM group with their decidedly leftist views of the world. Liberal conservatives, he says, will not vote for either E14 or MSZP. Because it looks as if MSZP is going to make a sharp turn to the left since some party leaders claim that MSZP’s failure stemmed from its move toward liberalism under Ferenc Gyurcsány’s chairmanship.

Kerék Bárczy doesn’t understand why MSZP nine months before the elections suddenly stiffened its attitude and refused to negotiate with anyone. He puts forward the question: what will happen if the poll numbers change as a result of these failed negotiations and a serious attempt by DK to attract more followers? What will E14 and MSZP do? Renegotiate their agreement? It will be difficult to change course without losing face.

What does the Demokratikus Koalíció stand for?

On September 3, I wrote about an opinion piece by Tamás Bauer, vice-chairman of the Demokratikus Koalíció. Its title was “Electoral mathematics: The Demokratikus Koalíció’s position.” Bauer argued for DK’s right, based on its numerical support, to receive at least 8 or 9 electoral districts. He added that DK’s positions on many issues differ from those of both MSZP and Együtt2014-PM and therefore it deserves a parliamentary caucus.

At the end of that post I indicated that I would like to return to DK’s political program because relatively few people are familiar with it. I had to postpone that piece due to DK’s very prompt answer to MSZP. On the next day, September 4, I posted an article entitled “The current state of the Hungarian opposition: Negotiations between MSZP and DK.”

Over the last few days it has become obvious to me that Ferenc Gyurcsány has already begun his election campaign.  Zsolt Gréczy’s appointment as DK spokesman signaled the beginning of the campaign, which was then followed by several personal appearances by Ferenc Gyurcsány where he began to outline his program. Surely, the amusing video on being a tour guide in Felcsút, “the capital of Orbanistan,” was part of this campaign. So, it’s time to talk about the party program of the Demokratikus Koalíció, especially since only yesterday Attila Mesterházy answered Ferenc Gyurcsány’s letter to him. I elaborated on that letter in my September 4 post.

You may remember that one of the sticking points between the two parties was whether DK is ready to have “an electoral alliance” as opposed to “a political alliance.” Gyurcsány in his letter to Mesterházy made light of the difference between the two, but as far as the socialists are concerned this is an important distinction. Yesterday Attila Mesterházy made that crystal clear in his answer to  Gyurcsány which he posted on his own webpage. According to him, a “political alliance” means the complete subordination of individual parties’ political creeds to the agreed upon policies.  In plain language, DK “will have to agree not to represent its own political ideas during the campaign.”

Since DK’s program thus became one of the central issues in the negotiations it is time to see in what way DK’s vision of the future differs from that of MSZP and Együtt 2014-PM. Here I’m relying on Tamás Bauer’s list of the main differences.

(1) An MSZP and Együtt 2014-PM alliance following an electoral victory will only amend the new constitution and the cardinal laws that are based on this new constitution. The Demokratikus Koalíció, on the other hand, holds that the new constitution is illegitimate because it was enacted without the participation of the opposition. Therefore, according to DK, the new constitution must be repealed and the constitution of the Republic must take its place.

(2) MSZP-E14 by and large accepts the policy of Viktor Orbán on national matters and would allow people living outside of the borders to vote in national elections. The Demokratikus Koalíció rejects this new law and would put an end to these new citizens’ voting rights.

(3) MSZP-E14 does not seem to concern itself with the relation of church and state or the Orbán government’s law on churches. DK would restore the religious neutrality of the state and would initiate a re-examination of the agreement that was concluded between Hungary and the Vatican or, if the Church does not agree to such a re-examination, DK would abrogate the agreement altogether.

(4) MSZP-E14 talks in generalities about the re-establishment of predictable economic conditions and policies that would be investment friendly but it doesn’t dare to reject such populist moves as a decrease in utility prices or the nationalization of companies. Only DK is ready to openly reject all these.

(5) MSZP-E14 accepts the tax credits that depend on the number of children and therefore supports an unjust system. DK, on the other hand, wants to put an end to this system and to introduce a system that treats all children alike.

(6) Együtt2014-PM opposes the concentration of land that is necessary for the creation of  a modern and effective agriculture. The policy of small landholdings was the brainchild of the Smallholders Party, which was largely responsible for the collapse of Hungarian agriculture after the change of regime. MSZP is against foreign investment in Hungarian agriculture. The Demokratikus Koalíció intends to liberalize the agricultural market. DK thinks that agricultural cooperatives should be able to purchase the land they currently cultivate. It also maintains that foreign capital should be able to come into Hungary in order to make Hungarian agriculture competitive again.

(7) The attitude of MSZP and Együtt 2014-PM toward the conflicts between the European Union and the Orbán government is ambiguous, while the Demokratikus Koalíció unequivocally takes the side of the institutions of the Union against the Orbán government.

These are the points that Tamás Bauer mentions. But as the Gyurcsány campaign unfolds more and more differences will be visible. For example, only yesterday Gyurcsány talked about his ideas to abolish the compulsory retirement age and to financially encourage people to demand higher wages in order to maximize their pensions after retirement. During this talk in Nyíregyháza Gyurcsány made no secret of the fact that his party is working on its election program.

So, it seems to me that the Gyurcsány campaign has already begun. Maybe I’m wrong and Gyurcsány will give up all his ideas and will line up behind MSZP-E14, but somehow I doubt it. Even if he tried, he couldn’t. Temperamentally he is not suited for it.

Meanwhile, an interesting but naturally not representative voting has been taking place in Magyar Narancs. Readers of the publication are asked to vote for party and for leader of the list. DK leads (52%) over Együtt 2014 (29%) and Gyurcsány (54%) over Bajnai (32%). Of course, this vote in no way reflects reality. What it does tell us is that the majority of readers of Magyar Narancs are DK supporters. Something that surprised me. If I had had to guess, I would have picked Együtt2014.

As for Ferenc Gyurcsány’s visit to Felcsút, I wrote about it a couple of days ago. The video is now out. This morning I decided to take a look at it because from Zsolt Gréczy’s description on ATV’s Egyenes beszéd the whole scene of Fidesz cameras following them everywhere sounded hilarious . At that time the video had been viewed by about 5,000 people. Right now the number of visitors is over 53,000.

Clips from The Godfather are juxtaposed with scenes from Felcsút. The video ends with the wedding of Vito Corleone’s daughter. While Gyurcsány is narrating the enrichment of the Orbán family, two people, one of whom is the Fidesz regional secretary and the other perhaps the cameraman of the Puskás Academy, follow him everywhere and record his every move and word. Definitely worth seven minutes of your time.

Since I am no fortune teller I have no idea what will happen. A couple of things, though, I’m pretty sure of. DK will never agree to drop Gyurcsány as their party leader. And Mesterházy indicated that this might be one of the MSZP demands for an agreement. Or at least that Gyurcsány not be DK’s top candidate, or possibly any candidate. Otherwise why would he have asked: “Are those media predictions that the Demokratikus Koalíció plans to nominate the chairman of the party, Ferenc Gyurcsány, for the second slot on the list true?”

At first reading I didn’t notice this linguistic oddity. The letter is addressed to “Dear Mr. Party Chairman, dear Feri” and continues in the second-person singular: “te.” Now that I returned to the sentence in order to translate it, suddenly I noticed that Mesterházy switched from “te,” which in a personal letter would have been normal, to “Ferenc Gyurcsány” in a letter addressed to Ferenc Gyurcsány.

What will the final result be? I have no idea. Let’s put it this way, it’s much easier to predict the outcome of Hungarian soccer matches than the outcome of opposition politics.

The current state of the Hungarian opposition: Negotiations between MSZP and DK

I’m afraid I have to go back to the MSZP-DK negotiations because some of the coverage of MSZP’s reactions is far too sketchy.  MTI, which serves all Hungarian news organizations, first reported that MSZP found “three of DK’s nine-point suggestions unacceptable.” They are unacceptable because they suggest a renegotiation of the agreement between MSZP and Együtt 2014-PM. MSZP also found it worrisome that DK offers only “an election alliance while the socialists and Együtt 2014-PM agreed to a political alliance.”

Since not too many publications bothered to reprint DK’s nine-point proposal, which is available on DK’s webpage, I’m going to list the points here. Some of the more important passages are quoted verbatim. Others are only summarized.

(1) DK’s ideal arrangement would still be naming a common prime minister and having only one common party list. Therefore “we suggest holding out the possibility of coming to a possible understanding on these issues.”

(2)  “We recognize the validity of the MSZP-Együtt 2014 agreement. Although at present we are negotiating only with MSZP, we want to adhere to the MSZP-Együtt-PM agreement and we would like to apply the principles and their consequences to the agreement as a whole.”

(3) “The Demokratikus Koalíció is interested in the success of the negotiations and to this end the Party is ready to give up its right to form its own list and put up individual candidates.”

(4) “The desired agreement aims at concluding not a political but an electoral alliance…. From here on parties of the electoral alliance … will represent their own politics independently.”

(5) “It is our aim to have a common MSZP-DK list and to have common individual candidates.”

(6) DK believes in proportional representation when it comes to the individual candidates of the 106 electoral districts. MSZP and Együtt 2014 together have 1.4-1.6 million voters, DK has 100-200,000.

(7) Each party will have the right to name its own preferred candidates in the individual districts as well as on the lists.

(8) According to the unbroken Hungarian custom, “the largest party, i.e. MSZP, has the right to name the first person on the list and the smaller party, i.e. DK, will be able to name someone for the second place.”

(9) The two parties will prepare jointly for the election, they will name a team together and will jointly finance the campaign.

Even before the official word came from MSZP headquarters Magyar Hírlap learned from socialist sources that “MSZP is no longer interested in Gyurcsány.” According to the paper, MSZP politicians believe that leaving DK out of the agreement is more beneficial to MSZP because, according to polls ordered by the party, MSZP will receive twice as many votes without DK than with DK support. The paper took it for granted that as a result of MSZP’s refusal Ferenc Gyurcsány’s party will enter the race alone.

This doesn’t seem to be the case, however. As of this moment we still don’t know which three points are unacceptable to MSZP. In addition to these three unnamed points MSZP, which originally sided with DK on voting rights for ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring countries, by now has changed its mind, most likely as a result of pressure from Együtt-2014-PM. Now MSZP insists on DK’s acceptance of this Fidesz-introduced law which in fact is unpopular among people in Hungary proper. MSZP also wants to have an answer about DK’s position on a tuition-free first year of college.

It would seem on first blush that there  is no reason to think that there will be an agreement between these two parties. But MSZP didn’t close the door. The talks continued, after which Gyurcsány seemed optimistic. He claimed that “we got one step closer to an accord” and expressed his hope that a final agreement will be reached within days.  Gyurcsány said that DK doesn’t want to reopen the negotiations, stressing that its nine-point proposal didn’t contain such a demand. He also indicated that DK accepts all of the policy concepts on which MSZP and E14 agreed. I assume that means DK’s abandonment of its strongly held view on ethnic Hungarian voting rights.

Gyurcsány found it especially heartwarming that MSZP didn’t raise objections to DK’s proposals for a common list and common candidates. He added that there was no MSZP criticism of DK’s ideas on proportionality. According to him, MSZP simply indicated that they don’t want to extend that principle to Együtt 2014-PM because MSZP had already closed those negotiations.

Last Sunday  MSZP-DK-Együtt 2014 logos together resulted a large victory for the candidate on the by-election in Szigetszentmiklós

Last Sunday MSZP-DK-Együtt 2014 logos together resulted a large victory for the candidate in the by-election in Szigetszentmiklós

If Gyurcsány’s understanding of the conversation with the MSZP leadership is correct, this would mean that DK would have the right to name its own candidates in 7 or 8 districts. In the 75 districts to which MSZP is currently entitled, all candidates would run under the MSZP-DK logos. And on the list DK politicians would receive about 10% of the places.

Perhaps Gyurcsány is overly optimistic, but if his description of the situation is correct, DK is not as badly off as I thought only a few hours ago. I still have some doubts, however. What if MSZP insists on leaving Gyurcsány off the list? There is no way that DK will ever accept that demand. What will Együtt 2014-PM think if DK’s logo appears alongside MSZP’s red carnation? Or perhaps Gyurcsány’s reference to “common candidates” doesn’t mean that they would run under MSZP and DK logos. In brief, there are still many questions. But within a few days we ought to know more.

Ferenc Gyurcsány will not accept alms: New rounds of negotiations?

I devoted the last two paragraphs of my last post to Ferenc Gyurcsány’s unhappiness with the deal Attila Mesterházy and Gordon Bajnai hammered out. Yesterday Gyurcsány claimed that the agreement signaled the failure of the quest for unity and that the announcement by Bajnai and Mesterházy was no more than a fig leaf that covers up this failure. My reaction to this brief comment by Ferenc Gyurcsány last night was that the deal is not as bad as he imagines it to be.

Since then Ferenc Gyurcsány has appeared on every possible media outlet, starting with Kossuth Rádió, continuing with György Bolgár’s “Let’s Talk It Over,” and finally an interview with Olga Kálmán on “Straight Talk” (Egyenes beszéd). Obviously 🙂  Gyurcsány didn’t read yesterday’s Hungarian Spectrum where I suggested that instead of public appearances he should negotiate first with Mesterházy and then with Bajnai, perhaps with the backing of MSZP.

As a result of all these appearances I think I understand what Ferenc Gyurcsány is complaining about. Over the months he has never wavered in his conviction that there must be one common candidate in all 106 electoral districts. He has also emphasized the necessity of designating a common candidate for the post of prime minister. And finally, he felt strongly about a single party list. Now he claims that none of these three requirements for electoral success has materialized. After all, Mesterházy and Bajnai divided the 106 electoral districts between themselves; they created two party lists which will mean two parliamentary delegations that, in Gyurcsány’s opinion, will result in a weak government coalition. And third, by not naming a prime minister designate Viktor Orbán will face no challenger in the campaign.

As far as the candidate for the premiership is concerned, Gyurcsány has made it clear all along that he will not present himself as a contender. At the beginning he favored Gordon Bajnai, but by the end he felt that it was more appropriate to choose the top of the ticket from the largest party. He may have shifted his position on the prime minister designate because it was becoming evident that Együtt 2014’s attitude toward him was outright antagonistic and Gordon Bajnai didn’t seem to be able or willing to go against his colleagues in the party’s leadership. Or perhaps he realized that despite Bajnai’s best efforts E-14 has been unable to achieve serious popular support vis-à-vis MSZP and therefore Bajnai’s insistence on the post was ill advised and unfounded.

Instead of a secret deal between Bajnai and Mesterházy, Gyurcsány expected a new round of negotiations in which the other parties, including DK, were represented. After all, he is convinced that DK’s support is not much smaller than that of E-14. Instead, out of the blue he was confronted with a private deal that was made in secret and against the declared wishes of MSZP that also favored a common party list. I guess he felt betrayed. And he flew off the handle. He will not go and beg for crumbs and will not accept alms. As the day went by he became increasingly radical, declaring that if DK is not offered a square deal his party will run alone and will put up 106 candidates. He will show what DK and he himself are capable of. He darkly mentioned his ability as a campaigner.

Source: Hír24

Source: Hír24

According to the electoral law, in order for a party to be able to have a party list it must have candidates in at least 27 electoral districts. That’s the reason MSZP gave E-14 more than 27 districts. In fact, as it stands E-14 has 35 districts as opposed to MSZP’s 71. As far as Bajnai is concerned, if MSZP wants to give up some of its districts to DK or anyone else it is their business. He made it quite clear, however, that E-14 has no intention of yielding any of its 35 districts. Last night Mesterházy said that MSZP would be willing to give four districts to the other opposition parties. If that is the case, we can safely say that DK would receive no more than two seats and that would not satisfy Ferenc Gyurcsány who would consider this no more than crumbs. He made that much clear today. However, by tonight Gyurcsány calmed down somewhat and indicated that he was ready to negotiate and may not insist on starting the negotiations anew in order to scrap the present agreement between Bajnai and Mesterházy.

During his interview with Olga Kálmán we learned that sometime in the afternoon Gyurcsány talked to Mesterházy and indicated that he would accept a fair offer. He didn’t mention exact numbers, but I gathered that ten or a dozen districts would satisfy him. However, he would insist on a joint MSZP-DK party list. I also gained the distinct impression that he would demand some concessions from E-14 as well. While in the early afternoon he threatened that DK would run alone, by the evening he said that if DK doesn’t get a fair shake it might withdraw and refuse to participate in the elections, an option doesn’t like and he wants to avoid DK’s running of its own.

In the last couple of weeks DK has been waging a campaign because polls indicated that most voters don’t even know that Ferenc Gyurcsány left MSZP more than a year ago and established a party of his own. The campaign has apparently yielded results. I heard from independent sources that since the campaign began the number of new party members has grown appreciably–as it stands DK has over 8,000 members–and that the party’s telephone campaign is also successful. The party claims that 15% of those phoned are willing to be included in DK’s database. So, I gather that Gyurcsány thinks that his party’s popularity is nearing that of Együtt 2014 which is around 6% among the voters. He therefore believes that he deserves a piece of the pie.

And here is an encouraging piece of news for those who would like to see unity of action. On Sunday there will be by-elections in Szigetszentmiklós.  There MSZP, DK, and E-14 together support an opposition candidate. Magyar Nemzet has already announced that a Fidesz win would be close to a miracle because Szigetszentmiklós is traditionally a liberal-socialist town where Fidesz barely won at the local elections.

Szigetszentmiklós is not the first town where MSZP, DK, and E-14 managed to cooperate on the local level. It’s too bad that one cannot find the same willingness when it comes to national politics.