In case you missed it, today is the official beginning of the election campaign, and two opposition parties, LMP and DK, gathered their troops to energize them. The keynote speaker for LMP was the party’s candidate for the premiership, Bernadett Szél. At the gathering of DK politicians, activists, and party loyalists the chief attraction was Ferenc Gyurcsány.
After reading the available summaries of Szél’s speech and listening to the live performance of the chairman of DK, I came to the conclusion that the two events bore little resemblance to one another, although I don’t quite know what to make of Népszava’s description of LMP’s meeting as “more of a theatrical performance than a rousing party event.” The LMP gathering was advertised as an “assessment of the past year,” the kind of annual event that Viktor Orbán introduced in imitation of the American State of the Union Address. Whether in power or in opposition, Orbán has kept giving these speeches every February. Not surprisingly, opposition party leaders like Gyurcsány and now Szél opted to follow his example.
Szél said that she had originally planned to assess the Orbán government’s performance over the last year, but she was forced to face the fact that this is a well-nigh impossible task because the Orbán administration’s achievements are practically nonexistent, with the possible exception of good economic figures largely due to EU subsidies. The government is a house of cards built on propaganda. Education, healthcare, and social welfare lack ministries, but two years ago the government created a ministry (commonly referred to as the propaganda ministry) whose only task is to create a world that doesn’t exist. Otherwise, she promised higher salaries and “an economy built on an excellent education system.”
She talked about the importance of the coming election, which “is not just about the next four years” but about “the following decades.” She said that Fidesz leaders desperately cling to power because they know that after a failed election they will not just be in opposition but “they should be prepared for years in jail.”
As for LMP, according to Szél, “we are the ones who couldn’t be bought, couldn’t be blackmailed; we are the ones who have endured and who have not become thieves.” I assume this means that all other opposition parties have been bought, blackmailed, and become thieves. She accused the other opposition parties of “dishonest compromises,” a favorite phrase of LMP politicians. They often repeat, as was repeated on this occasion as well, that they are ready to sit down and talk, but they are not ready for “dishonest compromises.”
On the basis of the few articles I read, I don’t think this speech before an audience of 200-300 people made an appreciable difference as far as LMP’s chances are concerned.
DK’s meeting had a very different, more intense flavor. Similarly to Viktor Orbán, Ferenc Gyurcsány’s key concept was “harc” (fight, combat, battle). This combat, this duel will be against Orbán and Fidesz. He called Orbán “a predacious shark who didn’t need a son-in-law to become depraved; he is debased by his lonesome. It is in his blood.” Orbán’s sins taint the whole country, and “those who let that happen in silence will be sinners too.” Therefore, Hungarians must shake themselves free of Orbán. “Only then can the righteous enter the gate of the Lord.” This is a slightly altered version of Psalms 118:20 and typical of the kinds of metaphors Gyurcsány likes to use. The election will also be a fight for a future United States of Europe.
People who participate in talk shows either complain about the lack of party programs or point out that no one reads long party programs. One also hears that the message is often unclear. One must use simple language, the kind of language Viktor Orbán introduced to political discourse, they argue. Well, Gyurcsány presented a list that he placed within a cleverly constructed framework. One doesn’t need 500 days; one day is enough to act decisively and change the present situation drastically. Of course, this is ridiculous, but his hourly timetable makes the changes seem more dramatic. Here is what Gyurcsány would like to achieve after Orbán is gone.
9:00—We will remove Péter Polt from his position and join the newly established EU prosecutor’s office.
10:00—By changing items in the budget we can immediately raise the salaries of doctors and nurses by one-and-a-half times and double the number of CTs and MRIs.
11:00—We will turn in the draft proposal of a new electoral law; those who have never lived in Hungary should not be able to vote.
12:00—The minimum wage should be raised to at least subsistence level.
13:00—We will inform the government in Kiev that we abrogate the earlier agreement and are ending the Ukrainian pension business.
14:00—We will make pension corrections that will be adjusted according to economic growth.
15:00—We will carry out the sequestration of the oligarchs’ assets.
16:00—Basic internet service will be free.
17:00—We will change the law on education and restore compulsory education to the age of eighteen.
18:00—We will review the agreement with the Vatican; the privileges of the churches will come to an end; a separate committee will examine cases of child molestation.
19:00—We will raise the family allowance by one third; in the case of single-parent families it will be a 50% raise.
20:00—We will introduce free electricity, gas, and water for minimum basic needs; above that, it will be zoned according to usage and the consumers’ economic situation.
Of course, this is a pipe dream, but it has the advantage of being short and clear. One could argue about some of the items that were included in the list of most important tasks, for example, the Ukrainian pensioners or the privileges of churches and a committee on child molestation. But these items are important for DK because the party has realized that they have great appeal for the electorate.
As for the best possible turn of events, I think Gyurcsány hopes for results that might give the opposition parties an opportunity to sit down and contemplate a coalition government. As he put it, in that case he will lead DK’s delegation to choose a prime minister who best represents the people and who is trusted by the electorate.
I will be curious what the next public opinion polls have to say about the standing of the parties. Viktor Orbán in his speech to Fidesz members of parliament expressed his misgivings about MSZP getting enough votes to become a parliamentary party. Considering that Fidesz spends a great deal of money on very frequent polls, it is possible that they know something that we don’t.