As far as I can see, the conflict over the future of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) between the current leadership and Ferenc Gyurcsány, former prime minister and one time party chairman, is coming to a head. It has been obvious for a while that in Gyurcsány's opinion an effective opposition to the present government must be based on a wide coalition of democratic forces that would include not only the socialists but also the liberals currently without a party, the moderate conservatives for whom Viktor Orbán's populism is distasteful, and the independent civic organization. His own "platform" within the party, the Democratic Coalition–at the moment still not officially approved by the party leadership–also includes non-party members. However, the party's by-laws forbid non-party members from participating in the party's affairs on any level.
It seems that Gyurcsány hasn't been active in the party lately and hasn't attended a number of high-level meetings. One thing is certain: he wasn't at the meeting of the steering committee or board (take your pick for the Hungarian word "választmány") last Saturday. This meeting of the committee, according to party announcements, was meant to be an important occasion for "thinking together" about the future of the party. Out of curiosity I checked the size of this committee or board and was astonished to see that it is huge. I lost count, but it has at least 100 members. How a body of this size can discuss such an important matter as the future direction of the Hungarian left is beyond me. In any case, if this meeting was so important it is odd that the current party chairman, Attila Mesterházy, wasn't present because of his trip to the United States. Gyurcsány was invited but he was also absent. We will see why later.
It is hard to know whether the steering committee's "thinking together" had any tangible results, but I doubt it. The only MTI report I read about the event simply said that the committee decided on the party's 2011 budget. I belong to the group of analysts who don't expect much from MSZP with its current leadership. It seems to me that they are madly looking for their social democratic roots. If I understand it properly, at the moment they have gotten up to 1947! I believe that the present leadership should consider the idea of a wider based coalition instead of a socialist agenda that really can't defeat Fidesz.
While the steering committee huddled together in Budapest, Ferenc Gyurcsány met some of his followers in Ajka, not far from Veszprém. I learned about it from Figyelő, and the headline almost took my breath away. It read: Gyurcsány says "now is the time for the new party." At first glance that sounded as if Gyurcsány had given up on MSZP and was organizing a new party of his own. It was only after some thinking and some discussion about it with friends that I came to the conclusion that the meaning of Gyurcsány's announcement was not the organization of a new party but rather his decision to go ahead and try to reorganize MSZP in his own image. Thus, I expect quite an interesting time ahead within MSZP.
Zsófia Mihancsik of Galamus, who is a very thorough editor, went to the source of the news, the local paper, the Veszprémi Napló, and found that Figyelő was rather sloppy in reporting the news second hand. It turned out that Gyurcsány's announcement didn't take place during his speech as Figyelő reported but during the press conference that preceded it. She also objected to the words Figyelő chose when describing Gyurcsány's criticism of Viktor Orbán's domestic and foreign performance. Figyelő used the word "szapulni," which means something like "to vilify." She very rightly pointed out that the Orbán government's actions at home and abroad richly deserve criticism and therefore Figyelő's word was out of line. I'm a bit more charitable on this score because I came to the conclusion long ago that some Hungarian journalists simply don't know the true meaning of words. They madly look for synonyms and occasionally come up with some real doozies.
Gyurcsány's important announcement, as reported by the Veszprémi Napló, was that "MSZP must be reorganized…. In essence a new party must be created and the time for that is now." So, said Mihancsik, because MTI wasn't present at this meeting this important announcement became no-news. She added that if on Monday we find that there is a real upheaval within MSZP we will not know why.
Well, there is no upheaval yet. Only a modest announcement: "The secretariat of the former prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsány (MSZP), announced on Monday that the former prime minister and party chairman, the president of the Democratic Coalition platform of MSZP, will give a speech about the situation of the country and the government on February 18. In addition he will talk about the situation of MSZP and about his own political plans. The place of the event will be announced later."
It is worth reading the news carefully.