The future of LMP: An interview with Benedek Jávor

Today a fairly lengthy interview with Benedek Jávor, the leader of LMP’s parliamentary caucus, appeared in Népszabadság. LMP (Lehet Más a Politika = Politics can be different) has the smallest parliamentary delegation with fifteen members; it has 3.9% share of the seats.

LMP, despite its name, is just another political party that plays strategic and tactical games like any other. Even its beginnings were somewhat marred by talks that without secret Fidesz help LMP wouldn’t have been able to collect enough endorsements to participate in the elections in Budapest. Without the possibility of running in the capital, LMP’s fate would have been sealed. On the day of the deadline, around noon, LMP was short of endorsements, but then suddenly endorsements started pouring in.

Wagging tongues claim that the upsurge in eager LMP voters was engineered by Fidesz activists who urged their followers to help LMP along. After all, it was to Fidesz’s advantage to have another left-of-center party in order to split the anti-Fidesz vote. As it turned out, LMP received 7.48% while MSZP got 19.30% of all the votes cast. If there had been no LMP it is likely that MSZP would have received substantially more votes. After all, those who didn’t like Fidesz could have voted only for the socialists.

LMP is indeed like any other party except that it refused to elect a party leader. It operates under a kind of “collective leadership” with all the difficulties such an arrangement poses. However, the party had to name a parliamentary leader because house rules pretty much demand it. So, András Schiffer was named “frakcióvezető” because by all accounts it was he who was the dominant force in building a party in record time out of nothing.

Benedek Jávor running for mayor of Budapest

However, Schiffer resigned his post in January 2012. In his place the LMP caucus chose Benedek Jávor, a Ph.D. in biology and assistant professor of environmental law, as the new leader of the 15-member LMP caucus. Now it seems that Jávor may also be contemplating resigning. What’s going on?

One can only guess about the internal affairs of LMP, but surely not all is well in the top leadership. One MP resigned already and another threatened to do so. There also seems to be a split over LMP’s relations with the other democratic parties, although for the time being Schiffer’s position is triumphing. When Schiffer resigned, the hope was that LMP would elect someone who would be more flexible on the issue of cooperation with MSZP, DK, and any other democratic formation. Great was the disappointment in certain circles when Benedek Jávor seemed to hold exactly the same position as his predecessor. But observers claim that there is still a group within LMP that doesn’t approve of the current attitude of the party on this issue.

My own reactions to LMP are largely unfavorable, although personally I find Gergely Karácsony, one of the top men in the party, a pleasant and likeable man. It seems that I’m not alone. In one of the polls he actually was shown to be more popular than Viktor Orbán. I suspect that Karácsony is also more realistic about the chances of LMP at the next elections. One cannot take András Schiffer seriously as he expounds on LMP’s winning the 2014 elections alone. After all, Gyurcsány, whose party is almost as popular as LMP, only hopes that DK will be able to achieve 10% of the votes if all goes well and instead urges close cooperation with others in order to unseat Fidesz and Viktor Orbán.

You may recall the results of the by-elections in Dunaújváros where MSZP refused to cooperate with DK and as a result lost to Fidesz by only a few votes. At the same election LMP bombed. While the LMP candidate received 7.62% of the votes in 2010 he ended up with 1.68% this time around. This dismal showing should have been a wake-up call, but if I read Jávor’s message correctly LMP isn’t planning a change of direction.

Soon enough there will be a mayoral election in Hódmezővásárhely where János Lázár held sway for last eight years until Orbán made him chief of staff in the prime minister’s office. Admittedly, it would be exceedingly difficult to change the color of the city from orange to red when it has been under Fidesz rule for so long, but what kind of a politician is Benedek Jávor who announces that defeating the Fidesz candidate even with a common candidate will be a “bravura.” Meaning, almost impossible.

The MSZP candidate is a 31-year-old woman, and although Jávor doesn’t know her personally he doubts that any non-Fidesz candidate can win. In fact, LMP didn’t even name a candidate yet. They will allow the locals to come up with a suitable name. To me that means that LMP has given up on the idea of even competing for the post of mayor of Hódmezővásárhely. As far as Jávor is concerned, MSZP will have to change radically before LMP is willing to cooperate with its leaders. Instead they would like to strengthen their ties to Solidarity, Milla, and 4K. I think this plan is doomed. In modern politics one can’t ignore parties and rely exclusively on civic organizations.

Apparently there are some in LMP who think that winning the elections in 2014 shouldn’t be the goal of the party. It seems that Jávor doesn’t belong to this group: “The Orbán government must go. No question. But later it will be an important issue whether Fidesz actually exists or not and if it does what it will be like without Viktor Orbán…. After a lost election there might be an opportunity for the formation of a Fidesz without Orbán and a conservative party without him.”

Rumor has it that if Jávor leaves the post Schiffer will return. I do hope that this is only a rumor because Schiffer, if he continues his old strategy, will be the greatest obstacle to cooperation among anti-Fidesz forces, which offers the only chance of defeating Viktor Orbán in 2014.

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6 comments

  1. “Wagging tongues claim that”
    “One can only guess”
    “There also seems to be”
    “Great was the disappointment in certain circles”
    “I suspect that”
    “After all, Gyurcsány, whose party is almost as popular as LMP” (????)
    “but if I read Jávor’s message correctly”
    “Apparently there are some in LMP”
    “Rumor has it that if”

    A typical example of terms from the definitive political article.

  2. Kovach: “A typical example of terms from the definitive political article.”

    Why don’t you start your own blog and write definite political articles on your own taste.

  3. LMP needs someone new to shake it up and take it in a new direction. How about a woman? Maybe Tímea Szabó or Ágnes Somfai? Szabó is in Parliament and Somfai challenged Jávor for the mayoral candidacy but lost and is now on the Budapest city council. Granted I’m partial toward Ági since I knew her in college (and was quite smitten with her to be honest) but I also know she’s a good person and talented as well – but maybe that’s a detriment in today’s political atmosphere?

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