Tag Archives: Tímea Szabó

The Hungarian parliament “debates” the anti-NGO bill

It’s becoming really hot in the Hungarian parliament, where the opposition is waging a heroic fight against an increasingly aggressive and unscrupulous Fidesz majority. Members of the opposition are feeling increasingly frustrated by their impotence within the walls of parliament. They are desperate as they watch the Fidesz bulldozer grind on with escalating force.

One would think that the international scandal that ensued after the Hungarian parliament passed legislation aimed at driving the American-Hungarian Central European University out of the country would temper Viktor Orbán’s zeal and that he would conveniently forget about the bill against those civic organizations that are partially financed from abroad. But no, he is forging ahead.

Tempers are flaring in parliament. Lately I have noticed growing impatience on the part of the Fidesz majority, which often prompts the president or his deputies to forcibly prevent discussion of pending legislation. One would think that with such a large majority, the government party would show some magnanimity, but this was never true of Fidesz and it is especially not true of late. Perhaps because Fidesz parliamentary leaders are feeling the pressure of the streets they take their anger out on the members of the opposition. In turn, some opposition members seem buoyed by those tens of thousands who have demonstrated in the past week. The result is shouting matches and fines ordered by either László Kövér or one of his Fidesz or KDNP deputies.

About two weeks ago commentators predicted that the Orbán government will consider their bill on the NGOs even more important than their law on higher education, the one that affected CEU. And indeed, top Fidesz representatives were lined up for the debate, among them Gergely Gulyás, whom I consider especially dangerous because he seems to be an unusually clever lawyer with the verbal skills to match. He acted as if the proposed bill wasn’t a big deal, just a simple amendment of little consequence. As for the issue of branding NGOs by demanding that they label themselves “foreign-supported” organizations, Gulyás’s answer was that some people consider such support a positive fact, others don’t. Therefore, there is nothing wrong with the bill. He accused the opposition of “hysteria” stemming from frustration.

The Christian Democrats have recently discovered an able spokesman, István Hollik, who was not as restrained as Gulyás and spelled out in detail what the government’s problem is with the NGOs. According to him, “there are people who would like their political views to become reality and who want to have a say in the events of the world without seeking the trust of the electorate. This is what George Soros does in Europe and in America.” It is through these NGOs that Soros wants to influence politics.

MSZP’s spokesman was Gergely Bárándy who, I’m afraid, doesn’t set the world on fire. LMP’s Bernadett Szél, however, is another matter. In her view, the country shouldn’t be shielded from the civic groups but from “the Russian agents who sit here today in parliament.” She continued: “You are a government financed from abroad; you are politicians who are financed from abroad; you are supposed to do this dirty work. It is unacceptable.” As for Hollik’s references to George Soros, Szél said “You people make me sick!” Szél was well prepared for this speech because she had hundreds of cards printed on a black background saying “I’m a foreign funded politician.” She placed them on the desks of Fidesz MPs. Tímea Szabó of Párbeszéd didn’t mince words either when she announced that “all decent people want to vomit” when Fidesz members vote against civic groups that help the disadvantaged and the disabled. Finally, Együtt’s Szabolcs Szabó compared the bill to the one introduced in Putin’s Russia. He charged that Viktor Orbán simply lifted a Russian piece of legislation and transplanted it into Hungarian law. “Even Mátyás Rákosi would have been proud of this achievement,” he concluded.

Bernadett Szél hard at work

But that wasn’t all. It was inevitable that the pro-government civic organization called Civil Összefogás (CÖF) would come up. CÖF is clearly a government-financed pseudo organization which spends millions if not billions on pro-government propaganda. Naturally, CÖF is unable to produce any proof of donations received. Bernadett Szél held up two pieces of paper to show that CÖF left all the questions concerning its finances blank. At that very moment, Sándor Lezsák, the Fidesz deputy president of the House, turned Szél’s microphone off. He accused her of using “demonstrative methods” for which she was supposed to have permission. Such an infraction means a fine. When Szél managed to continue, she said: “Take my whole salary, but I will still tell you that CÖF has a blank report. So, let’s not joke around. How much do my human rights cost? Tell me an amount. We will throw it together. I’m serious.” This is, by the way, not the first threat of a fine against opposition members. MSZP members were doubly fined because they called President Áder “János.” The spokesman of Párbeszéd “was banned forever from parliament” because he put up signs: “traitor” on the door leading to the prime minister’s study.

Speaking of CÖF. Today László Csizmadia, chairman of CÖF, launched an attack against Michael Ignatieff in Magyar Hírlap. He described Ignatieff as “Goodfriend II on the left.” The reference is to the capable chargé d’affaires of the United States Embassy during the second half of 2016 when American-Hungarian relations were at the lowest possible ebb.

And one more small item. Index discovered that the parliamentary guards, a force created by László Kövér in 2012 (about which I wrote twice, first in 2012 and again in 2013, will get new weapons and ammunition:

  • 45-caliber pistols
  • 56 mm (.223 caliber) submachine guns
  • 62x51mm sniper rifles using NATO ammunition
  • .306 caliber rifles
  • manual grenade launcher for 40mm grenades
  • intercepting nets
  • a variety of ammunition for new types of firearms
  • universal (fired, thrown) tear gas grenades with artificial or natural active ingredients
  • hand-operated teardrop grenades working with natural or artificial substances

So, they will be well prepared for all eventualities.

April 19, 2017

Fidesz charge: The U.S. wants to topple the Hungarian government

Napi Gazdaság, which will soon appear under a new name, Magyar Idők (Hungarian Times), continues where the Magyar Nemzet of old left off before the outbreak of the Orbán-Simicska war. In fact, Napi Gazdaság today is an even more extremist paper than Magyar Nemzet ever was because those who decided to leave Nemzet and form a new team are the most hard-core, loyal media servants of the Orbán regime.

Those who would like to get a balanced picture of what’s going on in Hungary and abroad shouldn’t bother to read Napi Gazdaság. On the other hand, in the last few months Magyar Nemzet has become a much more balanced publication where one can increasingly find opinions that would never have been tolerated earlier. A good example of this new attitude is Magyar Nemzet‘s willingness to publish Mária M. Kovács’s rebuttal of Gábor Ujváry’s piece on Bálint Hóman.

Such a thing couldn’t possibly happen in Napi Gazdaság, which is continuing the strongly anti-American editorial policy that was the hallmark of the Magyar Nemzet of earlier days. The latest example of the pro-Fidesz newspaper’s anti-American bias is an especially outrageous editorial written by Imre Czirják. Czirják abandoned Simicska’s HírTV and became one of the two deputy editors-in-chief of Napi Gazdaság. If you find the ideas expressed in this editorial so absurd that you think they must be the product of a madman’s overly fertile imagination, I hate to disappoint you. The kernel of this bizarre story comes straight from the highest echelon of the Fidesz leadership, from the owner of Fidesz membership card #1, László Kövér, president of the Hungarian Parliament, who is the closest and oldest friend of Viktor Orbán.

A month ago László Kövér gave an interview to Pesti srácok (Scamps of Pest), an internet news site catering to the right wing of Fidesz, which is practically indistinguishable from Jobbik. The conversation was supposed to be about the refugee crisis, and in this connection the reporter disapprovingly recalled that Tímea Szabó, co-chair of the small opposition party Párbeszéd Magyarországért (PM) and a member of parliament, held up a sign to the refugees saying “Welcome to Hungary.” Then came Kövér’s non sequitur: “In the last hundred years or so internationally trained agents have been showing up from time to time in Hungarian politics. These people work in Hungary because here they are not restricted by linguistic difficulties. This is how it was already with Ernő Gerő and Co., and also after 1990. Barcelona or Belgium, Afghanistan or Africa–it matters not. They do their job whether it is here or there. And they do what their keepers tell them to do.” Clearly, Kövér was accusing Tímea Szabó of being the agent of a foreign power.

A quick look at Tímea Szabó’s biography explains Kövér’s rant. Szabó studied at Harvard and later was involved in a research program under the aegis of the Harvard Law School. She headed a research team commissioned by the United Nations to study strategies for the prevention of military conflict. In the summer of 2001 she spent three months in Pakistan, and after 9/11 she did research on the Afghan conflict and the subsequent rebuilding of the country. She subsequently went to Afghanistan as a member of a UN team and then as a representative of CARE International. Altogether she spent two years in Afghanistan. She returned to Hungary in 2003 and a year later joined LMP. (In 2013 PM split off from LMP.)

Tímea Szabó, the secret U.S. .agent

Tímea Szabó, a member of parliament accused of being an agent of the U.S.

Although Imre Czirják’s editorial is titled “Miss Afghanistan,” it is not really about Tímea Szabó. She is merely someone whose past plays into yet another tale of alleged espionage, which fuels the paranoia of Fidesz leaders. Just think of all those stories about an international conspiracy led by western politicians bent on removing Viktor Orbán from power. In government circles and in the right-wing media it is widely believed that foreign powers are financing the opposition parties. They have been especially suspicious of Gordon Bajnai’s financial backers from the United States. And here is where Tímea Szabó’s past comes in handy. Czirják finds it most suspicious that on the united opposition’s party list Szabó’s position was high enough to ensure that she would become a member of parliament. She also represented her party at the farewell party given for M. André Goodfriend, the chargé d’affaires of the United States, before his departure from Budapest. She must be guilty of something, thinks Czirják.

The United States, with the help of Hungarian agents, is hard at work. The question is “what is the real goal of Goodfriend and company and their allies” because up to now Goodfriend’s “unprecedented media campaign achieved only Jobbik’s spectacular rise.” What kind of a strategy are they contemplating now that they have strengthened Jobbik and weakened Fidesz? Are they planning to use Jobbik to their own advantage? It wouldn’t be the first time in Hungarian politics that two parties coming from opposite ends of the political spectrum, for example “the communist MSZP and the anti-communist SZDSZ, found common ground with the effective assistance of George Soros.” Czirják suggests that Tímea Szabó, the alleged American agent, is being used to approach Jobbik for an alliance between the neo-Nazis and the so-called democratic opposition under American tutelage.

In Czirják’s opinion there are already signs of a closer collaboration between the two sides. Szabó told Jobbik’s leader in no uncertain terms that it was unacceptable for one of Jobbik’s MEPs to spit into the empty shoes on the bank of the Danube that had been placed there in memory of the Jews who were shot and thrown into the river in 1944. Czirják admits that Vona didn’t answer her directly, but a few days later he sent the culprit to the embankment “to atone for his sin.” When Szabó later asked Vona what he thinks about his party’s racist attitude toward the Roma, or about the paramilitary Hungarian Guard, again the Jobbik party chief didn’t respond, but soon enough he announced his plans to change the party’s image by abandoning its extremist stance. So, Czirják indicates, an alliance is being forged between the extreme left and the extreme right under the watchful eye of the United States in order to ruin Fidesz and Viktor Orbán. Even if we strip the story of its more fanciful details, the United States is being accused of supporting (up to this point indirectly and perhaps in the future directly) a neo-Nazi party.

Let’s return briefly to László Kövér, who in the interview with Pesti Srácok also made the United States responsible for the immigration crisis in Hungary. It all started with the war in Iraq and the Arab Spring, for which the United States is responsible.

Although André Goodfriend’s “unprecedented media campaign” coincided with the growth of Jobbik, it was not responsible for it. Fidesz’s precipitous losses were due primarily to bad governance and an accumulating dissatisfaction with the whole Orbán regime. Many former Fidesz voters left for Jobbik or, for that matter, for MSZP and DK, while the number of undecided voters grew substantially. Admittedly, the Ipsos chart of Jobbik’s fortunes in the last couple of months shows a drop in support for the party (from 18% to 15%). But, again, Goodfriend’s departure can’t be causally linked to this decline. Most likely Vona’s new, more accommodative strategy didn’t appeal to the extreme elements in the party. Moreover, Fidesz ratcheted up its nationalistic, anti-immigrant rhetoric.

In any case, the current Hungarian government’s attitude toward the the United States is not the kind upon which a strong friendship can be built. It is not enough to send an ambassador to Washington who sounds reasonable and moderate when the most important party leaders in Fidesz accuse the United States of using agents to topple the Hungarian government. Or when Fidesz leaders accuse the United States of aiding and abetting a neo-Nazi party.

Együtt 2014-PM’s puzzling message

Opposition politicians are busy rallying the troops. Gordon Bajnai and Tímea Szabó (PM) paid a visit to Óbuda to campaign. Yes, to campaign because, although the campaign will start officially sometime in January, unofficially it has already begun in earnest. Yesterday MSZP held a large gathering in Miskolc where Attila Mesterházy addressed an enthusiastic crowd. And this afternoon several thousand DK supporters gathered on the Freedom Bridge in Budapest where Ferenc Gyurcsány, Ágnes Vadai, and László Varju gave speeches.

Neither the MSZP nor the DK rally was especially newsworthy. Mesterházy made a slew of campaign promises and Gyurcsány repeated his pledge never to make compromises with Viktor Orbán. But Gordon Bajnai made news with his speech in Óbuda. He talked mostly about the mistaken economic policies of the Orbán government and the damage they inflicted on the country. Naturally, he promised a reversal of the Matolcsy-Varga line and a return to economic orthodoxy. However, he said something that puzzles practically everybody. Talking about constitutional issues, he said that “if there is not a two-thirds majority … then we will put to the new opposition a proposal that they will be unable to refuse.” He added that at the moment he doesn’t want to reveal more of his plans.

This mysterious offer conjured up nefarious thoughts in my mind, and it seems that I was not alone because someone from the audience inquired whether this offer will resemble similar offers in The Godfather. A day later the question came up again on Egyenes beszéd during a conversation with Viktor Szigetvári, the co-chair of Együtt 2014, who tried to minimize the significance of this sentence. But, if at all possible, he only further confused the issue. In fact, Szigetvári got himself into a jam by at one point advocating negotiations with Fidesz and a few minutes later saying that “with this Fidesz he certainly wouldn’t be willing to negotiate after a lost election.” But then what?

Together for Hungary? E14-PM belies its name

Together for Hungary? E14-PM belies its name

Like everyone else, Olga Kálmán wanted to find out more about Bajnai’s offer that couldn’t be refused by Viktor Orbán and his party. A fairly long-winded explanation followed. If there is no two-thirds majority then the new government must sit down and negotiate with Fidesz and convince Viktor Orbán to lend his support to “constitutional corrections.” When he was further pressed by the reporter, Szigetvári came up with another idea: holding a new election.  With good governance this second early election could achieve an overwhelming two-thirds majority. Thus the government would have a free hand to “make adjustments” in the constitution and in some of the cardinal laws that need a two-thirds majority to change. But in any case, even with a two-thirds majority “consensus” must be achieved, although he did admit that “with this Fidesz” such consensus is unlikely. He added, in my opinion naively, that if Fidesz refuses to come to an understanding, then it must bear “the historical responsibility” for a failure to set the country on the right track. As if Viktor Orbán cared a hoot about their opinion of the “right track.” He thinks that he is the one who will lead the country to Paradise.

Olga Kálmán was skeptical about “Fidesz suddenly being ready to dismantle the edifice that it built in the last four years.” Szigetvári immediately assured his audience that “not everything has to be undone,” but one must make an attempt at an understanding. If that doesn’t work, then comes the next step: early elections in the hope of the two-thirds majority. But what if the new government parties not only fail to get a two-thirds majority but actually lose the early election? It seemed that such an idea hadn’t occurred to him. He was confident that Együtt 2014-MSZP would win a second election in 2014 or 2015. But after further questions on a possible Fidesz victory at the early election, he no longer insisted and said that “this is only one possibility.” He didn’t elaborate on what the others are.

While Bajnai was in Óbuda, Szigetvári gave a speech at a conference organized by the Republikon Institute headed by former SZDSZ politician Gábor Horn. Here he concentrated on the Együtt 2014-MSZP agreement, praising MSZP and claiming that for the breakdown of negotiations between MSZP and DK Ferenc Gyurcsány was solely responsible. Magyar Nemzet naturally was delighted and joyfully announced that “Gyurcsány is at fault,” the phrase the Fidesz propaganda machine invokes anytime the Orbán government faces an economic difficulty. In fact, Szigetvári went so far as to accuse his former boss of betraying his own party and putting his personal interest above the good of the Demokratikus Koalíció. Magyar Nemzet concluded that there seems to be confusion within the leadership of Együtt 2014 because in Óbuda Bajnai talked about the importance of DK and expressed his hope that it will join the coalition of the two democratic parties while Szigetvári fiercely attacked the former prime minister.

The Együtt 2014-PM-MSZP duo needs to start sending a clear, unified message. Voters are not decoders.

Two visits to Felcsút, the capital of Orbanistan

Let’s pay a virtual visit to Felcsút, which Gordon Bajnai, former prime minister of Hungary, a few months ago called “the capital of Orbanistan.” It is not a friendly place if the many security guards, cameramen, party secretaries, and Fidesz devotees suspect that you aren’t one of them. The reception is especially frosty if any of these people either recognize you or are alerted to your coming.

It was on July 18 that Gordon Bajnai and a couple of his fellow politicians, accompanied by members of the media, paid a visit to Felcsút to take a look at the work being done on the enormous, lavish football stadium erected indirectly on public  money. You must understand that this is the village where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán grew up and where he now has a home. Since Bajnai’s trip was announced in advance, the “welcoming committee” was already waiting for him. At the end Bajnai’s mini bus was practically forced out of the place. This “forcible removal” was described by Gabriella Selmeczi, one of Fidesz’s spokespersons, as a cowardly act on the part of the former prime minister. She said that “Bajnai slunk away.”

The other former prime minister who decided to pay a visit to the capital of Orbanistan was Ferenc Gyurcsány. Accompanied by Zsolt Gréczy, DK’s newly appointed spokesman, and a camera crew, he went to Felcsút yesterday to make a film about the recent “improvements” in the village of 1,000 inhabitants with a football stadium under construction for 3,500. The difference was that Felcsút was not prepared, so no screaming men and women waited for Gyurcsány as they did for Bajnai.


This is what Ferenc Gyurcsány said about their visit on Facebook. He described the village as “a nice place and very safe where one can never feel alone.” Here is the longer version of the story. “We stopped at the sign indicating that we had entered Felcsút. We had a few takes and were ready to drive on when a young man knocked on the window of the car.

–What can I do for you?– I asked.

–Hello, Mr. Prime Minister Candidate, what are you doing here. Is there perhaps some kind of event to be held here?

–No, there won’t be any event. In any case, it isn’t any of your business. Are you a policeman?

–No, I’m not a policeman, I’m the Fidesz secretary of the electoral district.

–Well, Mr. Secretary, you have no right to inquire about what I’m doing here, so goodbye.

But by that time there were at least two cameras, several people, and a car. We went ahead, but our new acquaintances followed us and thus we entered Felcsút as part of a convoy. How nice. “Surely, they worry about our security and that’s why they are following us,” I whispered to Gréczy. We stopped at the stadium under construction. So did our companions. We went about our business and they followed us everywhere while they kept taking pictures. Meanwhile the secretary wanted to have a conversation with me by all means. I guess he liked me.

–My dear Mr. Secretary, if you really want to talk to me, call the DK center and ask for an appointment and then I’ll see what I can do for you, but please not now, allow me to work.

I encourage everyone to go to Felcsút. Take a still camera and a video camera along. Show some interest in the place. You will find friends and companions. The program is not expensive but  amusing. After all, there are not too many occasions nowadays to be amused. So, let’s be merry in Felcsút.

That was Gyurcsány’s experience. Now let’s turn back to Bajnai’s visit and see in more detail what happened to him. Bajnai, accompanied by Gergely Karácsony and Tímea Szabó, tried to take a look at the “sights and developments” of the village. There were demonstrators waiting for the group already in Budapest with a banner that had appeared many times earlier: “The mafia left together,” said the sign, which was adorned with the pictures of Bajnai, Gyurcsány, Mesterházy, and Portik, a man of the underworld. Another group of demonstrators waited for them in Felcsút where the police decided that it was not safe for the visitors to leave the bus. It was only outside of the city limit that the politicians of Együtt-2014-PM managed to hold a press conference. The site was, according to Lőrinc Mészáros, mayor of Felcsút, director of the Puskás Academy, and a close friend of Orbán, “right next to the garbage dump.” Of course, Mészáros later emphasized that the town fathers are always happy to receive any visitors, but they must announce their visit ahead of time. Then they will proudly show them everything.

Here is a footnote to the Gyurcsány visit. This afternoon a young man who happens to be a member of the Puskás Academy phoned into György Bolgár’s talk show. Even before he began talking about the Felcsút visit there was no question about his devotion to Viktor Orbán and the cause. He claimed that he was about 10 meters from Gyurcsány’s car and that the former prime minister’s description of what happened was all wrong. According to him, he was sitting in the dining room of the Puskás Academy with the Academy’s full-time camera man whose job it is to record the matches. The camera man recognized Gyurcsány and decided to follow him around to document his presence in town. After all, said the young man, this is the instinct of a good camera man. He didn’t know whether this camera man was the Fidesz secretary of the electoral district or not.

The capital of Orbanistan is obviously determined to shield itself from the prying eyes of the lying “mafia.” And if it can’t completely shield itself, at least it can document what the “foreigners” are doing so as to counteract any lies they might concoct about the idyllic town.

LMP’s rebels left the party: Who will be the winner of this game?

A fair number of commentators have compared the current situation in LMP to what happened in Fidesz in 1993 when Viktor Orbán decided to make a sharp turn toward the right. At that time a number of liberal-minded leaders of Fidesz who objected to Orbán’s change of political orientation and his shift in strategy left the party. The “Dialogue for Hungary” platform is leaving LMP for strikingly similar reasons.

In preparation for writing this post I decided to take a quick look at a 2001 book, Csak a narancs volt (It was only the orange), about the early days of Fidesz. The volume, edited by György Petőcz, includes lengthy interviews with people who in 1992-1993 belonged to Fidesz’s internal opposition. One ought to read and reread this book to better understand Fidesz’s history and Viktor Orbán’s role in shaping it.

The liberal inner opposition left and joined SZDSZ. By the time the election rolled around in 1994 Fidesz had lost its momentum and the party barely had enough support to be represented in parliament. Viktor Orbán’s gamble paid off in the long run, however; four years later he became the prime minister of Hungary.

I doubt that András Schiffer will be able to imitate Viktor Orbán’s gambit. Surely, no one can believe Schiffer’s claim that LMP, currently polling at 3%, can win the elections either in 2014 or in 2018. Most likely he would like LMP to be strong enough by 2014 that in case Fidesz doesn’t have a clear majority, Viktor Orbán would have to turn to him as a coalition partner.  The European Union would frown on Fidesz becoming bedfellows with Jobbik but couldn’t raise any objections to a coalition with a green party.

Although LMP stands for “Lehet Más a Politika” (Politics Can Be Different), Schiffer himself is not a refreshingly different politician. Among other things, he plays fast and loose with numbers.  He confidently announced today that only 10% of the party’s membership is leaving LMP. Well, yes, about 70 people voted for the strategy advocated by the Dialogue for Hungary’s program at the congress. And indeed, there are 700 LMP members. But only about 150 people attended the congress. So about 45% of the attendees voted with the internal opposition. Most likely relying at least in part on this number, the internal opposition claimed that more than half of LMP members will follow them to form another party.

Schiffer ardently disagreed with this assessment, despite his poor short-term predictive track record.Yesterday he was certain that not all eight rebels in the fifteen-member parliamentary delegation were planning to leave the party but only “two or three.” As it turned out, he was wrong. The decision was unanimous. Despite this decision, he repeated several times today that we are not witnessing “the break-up of the party.”

The three young politicians of the rebels in LMP:Benedek Jávor, Tímea Szabó, and Gergely Karácsony

Three young rebel politicians in LMP:
Benedek Jávor, Tímea Szabó, and Gergely Karácsony

Even though he may say that LMP will remain whole, he’s joining Fidesz in advancing a conspiracy theory. Magyar Nemzet obliquely suggested that Gordon Bajnai’s E14 movement is behind this new development. Schiffer and his closest ally, Gábor Vágó, agree: E14 stoked the discontent of the rebels in the party.

One practical question is what will happen to the LMP caucus. House rules state that ten members of parliament can form a parliamentary delegation. With the split-up, LMP will not have enough members to retain its current status, and sitting with the independents allows the members very little opportunity to make an impact in parliament. Most likely LMP and whatever the new party will be called will sit together as a group. An interesting situation, although Benedek Jávor claims that as far as their work in parliament is concerned the two groups get along just fine. The only difference will be that the still No-Name Party will negotiate with E14 and other political parties on the left while the Schiffer faction will not.

Some people argue that such a parliamentary accommodation would be unsavory, especially from a party that considers itself the epitome of decency, honesty, and transparency. In at least partial defense of  the Jávor group, I would note that they announced that they will not claim half of the state subsidies LMP has been receiving since 2010.

As for my own opinion of the rebels, I consider them the “better half” of LMP, but I still have serious objections to some of their political views. Their anti-capitalistic stance is the last thing Hungary needs at the moment or, for that matter, at any time in the foreseeable future. What the country needs today is more capital and more capitalists who are ready to invest in the Hungarian economy. I understand their ecological concerns, but I can’t support a policy that would prevent Hungarians from shopping in large supermarkets where the selection is greater and the prices lower.

I was also outraged by Tímea Szabó’s behavior when she was a member of a sub-committee investigating Ferenc Gyurcsány’s and the police department’s handling of the “unfortunate events” of September-October 2006. She was siding with members of Jobbik.

The man I like best in this group is Gergely Karácsony, but even he behaved dishonorably when he first agreed to support Katalin Lévai (independent with MSZP backing) in the by-elections in District II in Budapest if Lévai received more votes than he did after the first round of voting and then went back on his word. I wrote about this sorry affair on November 14, 2011. I suspect that he was pressured to do so by Schiffer, but still…. I also found it unfortunate that Karácsony at one point suggested a “technical alliance” with Jobbik in order to dislodge Fidesz, after which they would hold new elections. The idea was dropped, but it just shows the ideological confusion that exists within the party.

Where is András Schiffer leading LMP? Straight into the arms of Fidesz

I was hoping to answer the question that has been on a lot of people’s minds: will LMP split if András Schiffer’s insistence that the party goes its separate way triumphs at the party’s congress? I even postponed my post to get the latest word. Unfortunately, I have nothing definitive to report. Schiffer’s ideas were endorsed by a majority, larger than last time, but we don’t know what the internal opposition led by Benedek Jávor will do after their second defeat by the Schiffer majority.

The dispute is not just over whether they should join the E14 or not. The members of the opposition sense a certain shift toward the right outlined earlier by András Schiffer and voted on at the last congress in November.

Their political views are irreconcilableAndrás Schiffer and Benedek Jávor

Their political views are irreconcilable:
András Schiffer and Benedek Jávor

Common sense would dictate that LMP should join forces with the other democratic parties if they, as they claim, want to defeat the Orbán government at next year’s election. How can a party whose support in the latest Medián poll was a mere 3% do that alone? Does András Schiffer really believe his own propaganda that he frequently repeats during interviews, that between now and April 2014 LMP will be able to defeat Fidesz single-handedly and form a government?

I believe that András Schiffer is leading his followers down the garden path. Or, to switch metaphors and put a more malevolent spin on it, I think he has something up his sleeve. At the November LMP congress the majority didn’t support a proposal that would consider the defeat of the Orbán government and LMP’s existence as a separate entity of equal importance. The final wording emphasized the “independent existence” of the party over the defeat of the Orbán government. The majority also voted against a proposal to preclude the possibility of negotiations with Jobbik and Fidesz.  There was one proposal that was eventually voted down, according to which LMP would consider itself “half way” between Jobbik and its opposition. The delegates also voted down another proposal that stated although LMP would decide on an individual basis whether to participate in anti-fascist demonstrations, it would always be ready to declare its solidarity with the demonstrators. No automatic solidarity here.

Gábor Scheiring, a member of the opposition group within the party, declared after the November congress that what happened there meant that “LMP is turning to the right.” Scheiring found it “surprising how many of our members feel that perhaps it is better if Fidesz stays if it can be defeated only with MSZP. The majority is looking at Gordon Bajnai as part of the MSZP scheme. That’s why so many people [at the congress] voted for independence rather than change of government [as the party’s primary goal].” Scheiring added that for him this kind of strategy was unacceptable.

Last September Schiffer wrote a twenty-page study for internal use in which he outlined his ideas about the future of LMP. Soon enough the pamphlet became public. In it he noted that many of the views of Jobbik and Fidesz are the same as those of LMP. “We speak the same language when we talk about globalized capitalism or ecological catastrophe.” He added that LMP is critical of capitalism, globalization, and modernization and “therefore it is a leftist party.” But, in his opinion, “a new government in which the socialists would also be represented wouldn’t move ahead with the required speed to cure the wounds of society.”

In the same study Schiffer spent a great deal of time on the success of Jobbik that in his opinion highlighted legitimate grievances about the last twenty years. LMP, he argued, can’t afford to ignore the 800,000 men and women who voted for Jobbik. He suggested that especially in the larger towns on the Great Plains there could be a serious competition between Jobbik and LMP for the votes of the younger generation. A few lines later Schiffer declared that “LMP’s goal in ideal circumstances by 2014 or in the longer term is to be the alternative to the populist, right-wing Fidesz.”

Where will LMP find supporters for such an ambitious plan?  It’s unlikely that LMP will find new recruits among MSZP supporters. But that can mean only one thing. LMP must find new followers on the right.

Népszabadság got hold of Schiffer’s political manifesto and naturally wanted to talk to him about the contents of the pamphlet. Schiffer stood by his ideas but said that anyone who interprets his message as a move to the right “simply cannot read.” However, many of Schiffer’s colleagues in the party, for example Tímea Szabó, told the Népszabadság reporter that it is difficult to belong to a party that refuses to categorically distance itself from Jobbik. She, like others of the new internal opposition of LMP, cannot stomach the party’s move toward the right and its decision that the removal of the Orbán government is not the party’s primary goal. She considers the removal of Orbán an absolute necessity because another four years of this government would ruin Hungary’s chances of once again becoming a functioning democracy.

During today’s gathering the pro-Schiffer forces gained ground. A couple of days ago Benedek Jávor told Antónia Mészáros on ATV Start that if the majority follows Schiffer’s lead he will seriously consider leaving the party. According to today’s Origo, “if the congress doesn’t support the strategy of the Dialogue for Hungary its member will resign.” The paper predicted that the day of decision will be tomorrow.