Home > Uncategorized > The Hungarian socialist-liberal party leaders on a unified party

The Hungarian socialist-liberal party leaders on a unified party

August 7, 2012

It’s time to look into what’s going on in opposition circles. Here I’m thinking more in terms of personalities and not so much of parties.

The man most often mentioned as someone who might be able to unite the disparate opposition parties is Gordon Bajnai, who during his short tenure as prime minister proved to be a capable manager with a solid economic background. He became prime minister at a very difficult time in April 2009, and a year later when he turned over the reins of government to Viktor Orbán Hungary was in relatively good shape. In much better shape than the country is now.

Bajnai was never a KISZ member, and after 1990 he didn’t join a political party. So, it would be difficult to label him a communist. But if he could not be accused of being a communist who ruined his country, Fidesz found plenty wrong with him in other respects. Namely, his business activities.  Between 2000 and 2005, he was CEO of Wallis Rt., an investment company. His duty was to restructure the company, make it more efficient, and manage its investments. Among the more than 100 companies Wallis owned there was a poultry processing firm, Hajdu-Bet, which went bankrupt in 2003 despite the best efforts of its management and owners. Many partners of Hajdu-Bet suffered serious losses when the poultry market collapsed in 2003. The Wallis group itself lost 10 billion forints (over 40 million Euros). News circulated about possible suicides linked to the bankruptcy among farmers, which of course people on the right blamed on Gordon Bajnai. Years later, when he started his political career, Bajnai was criticized for the Hajdu-Bet collapse, although he won lawsuits against media outlets for false accusations.

Fidesz to this day is afraid of Bajnai, who is currently more popular than Viktor Orbán. The few articles I collected in the right-wing press on Bajnai show that journalists supporting the government are trying their best to discredit him. Heti Válasz accused him of being in the pay of the Center for American Progress. Magyar Nemzet revealed that he was too friendly with former friends of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. One could ask: And so what? The same paper also mentioned that he offered himself as the next prime minister of Hungary to the IMF because, reasoned the journalist who wrote the article, Bajnai’s idea are very close to the alleged demands of the IMF for a loan to Hungary.

Although there is nothing specific yet, my feeling is that Bajnai as a candidate for prime minister of a united opposition in 2014 is a real possibility. The last time his name was mentioned in a specific way was about a month ago, when Péter Oszkó in an interview with Népszabadság said that in his opinion “Bajnai cannot postpone the decision much longer” whether he will re-enter politics or not.

Gábor Kuncze, former chairman of SZDSZ and minister of interior in the Horn government who two years ago declared that he had no intention of returning to politics, a few months ago indicated that he might have changed his mind. It was during an interview with Olga Kálmán. As I was watching the conversation I had the strong sense that Kuncze considers the situation so grave that he can no longer refuse participation. He is needed. A week ago he was even more specific. He told Olga Kálmán that “one feels when there is a public demand for his return.” Kuncze rather mysteriously announced that come September “we will certainly see movement” in the direction of inter-party conversations over a future “unified party ticket.”

Gábor Fodor (SZDSZ) has also become a great deal more active lately. He urged the leading politicians of the opposition to begin working on a program because, even if the parties eventually could come together, without a party program the new government cannot be successful. As an example the short-lived Slovak coalition government of Iveta Radicova is usually brought up. The parties in the coalition hadn’t worked out a program in advance. Once in power they began to squabble. The government collapsed within a year.

Ferenc Gyurcsány and his party, the Democratic Coalition, have always advocated a common platform. The latest manifestation of that resolve is an article by Tamás Bauer, deputy chairman of DK, in which he praises the coalition government of Gyula Horn who was wise enough to know that the country’s difficulties in 1994 were so great that the government needed a very large majority of the population behind it. MSZP had a majority in parliament with 33% of the popular vote, yet Horn turned to SZDSZ to form a coalition government. Thus Horn’s government had an absolute majority of voters behind it. Bauer’s message is clear: the new government will need very large and very strong support from the population. The tasks on hand are just too great.

For the time being it looks as if the majority of the MSZP politicians are thinking in terms of going it alone. There is one important exception, however: Ildikó Lendvai, former leader of MSZP. She freely admits that she is for a close association of parties and civic groups which together would form a model on which the return of Hungarian democracy would be based. Although political scientists and politicians talk about first strengthening individual parties and only later getting together, Lendvai thinks that such a course of action would be mistaken. “In the last minute one can pick up only the suitcases. If we start looking around and packing just before the trip we will miss the train.”

András Schiffer of LMP over the weekend talked about MSZP as a hopeless party unable to renew itself. Zsolt Molnár (MSZP) said a few ugly things about Ferenc Gyurcsány and the Democratic Coalition. Meanwhile Heti Válasz triumphantly announced that MSZP, LMP, the civic Solidarity, and a still non-existent party organized by Gábor Fodor refuse to accept Gordon Bajnai as long as the Democratic Coalition is in the pack. This last story is most likely only wishful thinking on the part of the right-wing weekly. But, there’s no question that there is a lot of ill will on the left, especially coming from LMP, that seems to be playing into the hands of Fidesz.

In any case, people are starting to think about a future Hungarian government that would be very different from the present one. ATV started a game of sorts: “The Great Hungarian Government.” Every day for four hours people can vote for members of the cabinet, prime minister, and president from a fairly long list of candidates. Up to date the fans of ATV voted for Péter Oszkó for finance minister, Gábor Kuncze for minister of the interior, and Kinga Göncz for minister of human resources. Tomorrow one can vote for the minister of agriculture. Of course, this is just a wish list of supporters of the socialist-liberal opposition. But it is fun. I assume that Gordon Bajnai will be the choice for prime minister and the runner-up will be Ferenc Gyurcsány.

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  1. Petofi1
    August 7, 2012 at 3:54 pm | #1

    I don’t know what similarities there might be between Draskovitch and Andras Schiffer but I’m driven to think of the two in similar terms. Back in 1996, I was in Belgrade in October when the opposition, led by Draskovitch, was on the verge of unseating Milosevic. Senators from the US had arrived to demonstrate along side the opposition. The marches where huge.
    What happened, you may wonder? Well, all of a sudden, Draskovitch came to terms with Milosevic who made him mayor of Belgrade. End of opposition. This action was brought to mind when, back some months ago, there was talk of the Hungarian opposition joining together. As everyone knows, Schiffer beat everyone to the punch by declaring that he would never join with any opposition.

    Gee, he couldn’t have done that better if he was in the employ of Fidesz and Orban….

  2. August 7, 2012 at 3:59 pm | #2

    Now that the “Left” has the Prime ministers, all they need is voters…..more chiefs than indians as they say it hereabouts.

  3. Petofi1
    August 7, 2012 at 4:25 pm | #3

    Louis Kovach :
    Now that the “Left” has the Prime ministers, all they need is voters…..more chiefs than indians as they say it hereabouts.

    “Left, Right”…is that all that matters to you, Kovacs? The country is being plundered AND ruined and you’ve got nerve to poke fun at that situation? You are seriously moronic if you wish for Orban and Fidesz to continue in power.

  4. August 7, 2012 at 4:57 pm | #4

    I’m not sure LMP matter that much, they a very small, mainly Budapest-based party, with no particularly coherent policies and a leader who make OV look steady and predictable. With the voting (etc) changes coming in for 2014, I fully expect them to effectively disappear.

    Any coordinated left-liberal movement is better off with Schiffer on the outside.

    Lendvai’s comment – “In the last minute one can pick up only the suitcases” is both clever and true. Let’s hope the leaders of the opposition heed this warning

  5. forr-budapest
    August 8, 2012 at 12:13 am | #5

    Hungary is a vulcano.
    There are so many intelligent voices in Galamus.hu
    Can they start a political Galamus or Ferto or Siofok? Like Glasnosty?
    In a few months, they could create a useful manifesto to end the era of the BetonFidesz destruction.

  6. petofi
    August 8, 2012 at 4:51 am | #6

    forr-budapest :
    Hungary is a vulcano.
    There are so many intelligent voices in Galamus.hu
    Can they start a political Galamus or Ferto or Siofok? Like Glasnosty?
    In a few months, they could create a useful manifesto to end the era of the BetonFidesz destruction.

    The problem is the Hungarian political culture: it’s grounded in thievery. The mainstay of
    Fidesz success is that people are aware to what extent MSZP was discovered to be fraudulent. Worse still, there was no ‘mea culpa’; no attempt to clean up the party unless
    you accept Gyurcsany and his followers’ departure as the ‘clean elements’ of the party leaving the ‘tragya domb’. That’s not sufficient. The people wish to leave behind Fidesz but
    can’t bring themselves to return to the abhorred MSZP party. Sadly, the DK does not (yet)
    appear to be strong enough to present a viable alternative. Thus, there seems to be no
    possible alternative.

    The only logical alternative is Bajnai Gordon as PM with a coalition of opposition parties behind him. This is far from happening at the moment.

  7. petofi
    August 8, 2012 at 4:53 am | #7

    (I should proof-read my efforts…I apologize for the triple use of the word ‘alternative’.)

  8. CharliH
    August 8, 2012 at 5:13 am | #8

    London Calling!

    Eva: “ATV started a game of sorts: “The Great Hungarian Government.””

    One of the more important factors required for the future government is to re-engage the populace with the reality of the necessary pain that putting the country right will entail. In short – the dreaded Austerity Measures.

    It will be a tragedy if the next election becomes another auction race to ‘out-bid’ each other with unrealistic promises – such as tax cuts, VAT reductions; and ‘fourteen-month’ pay deals.

    One would hope also that all parties realise that the electorate are now more sophisticated having got their fingers burnt – that unrealistic promises will be treated with the scepticism they deserve; and concomitantly the parties will also realise that their promises/manifestos have to pass a new ‘integrity check’

    Lying will no longer do.

    So ATV need to start a second game:

    “The Great Hungarian Manifesto”

    Yes it will probably be a left-liberal one – but it will inform the politicians of what the electorate will accept. In England – when exercises of this sort are run it is surprising how realistic some of the ideas are.

    Maybe we should start here? What are your top three priorities?

    Me? – 1) Scrap the flat tax for a fair progressive one – and higher revenues; 2) Reform the Health Service – make ‘gratitude’ payments illegal and pay the medical profession a fairer wage (necessarily staged); 3) Engage the population in voluntary help-thy-neighbour schemes (The BigSociety) – in the hope that Hungarians will all realise that they need to be an integrated society of all ethnic – and diverse peoples. And you will have a gentler, fairer society particularly for your minorities. Hopefully too this will be a more attractive society for all the youngsters that have left.

    Regards

    Charlie

  9. Petofi1
    August 8, 2012 at 6:47 am | #9

    CharliH :
    London Calling!
    Eva: “ATV started a game of sorts: “The Great Hungarian Government.””
    One of the more important factors required for the future government is to re-engage the populace with the reality of the necessary pain that putting the country right will entail. In short – the dreaded Austerity Measures.
    It will be a tragedy if the next election becomes another auction race to ‘out-bid’ each other with unrealistic promises – such as tax cuts, VAT reductions; and ‘fourteen-month’ pay deals.
    One would hope also that all parties realise that the electorate are now more sophisticated having got their fingers burnt – that unrealistic promises will be treated with the scepticism they deserve; and concomitantly the parties will also realise that their promises/manifestos have to pass a new ‘integrity check’
    Lying will no longer do.
    So ATV need to start a second game:
    “The Great Hungarian Manifesto”
    Yes it will probably be a left-liberal one – but it will inform the politicians of what the electorate will accept. In England – when exercises of this sort are run it is surprising how realistic some of the ideas are.
    Maybe we should start here? What are your top three priorities?
    Me? – 1) Scrap the flat tax for a fair progressive one – and higher revenues; 2) Reform the Health Service – make ‘gratitude’ payments illegal and pay the medical profession a fairer wage (necessarily staged); 3) Engage the population in voluntary help-thy-neighbour schemes (The BigSociety) – in the hope that Hungarians will all realise that they need to be an integrated society of all ethnic – and diverse peoples. And you will have a gentler, fairer society particularly for your minorities. Hopefully too this will be a more attractive society for all the youngsters that have left.
    Regards
    Charlie

    First and foremost, you must convince the electorate that fraudulent government activity
    will be severely punished. For this, you must institute transperency rules for government spending (ie. explain all those contracts for ‘consultations’); and put government contracts
    on open bidding with strict, transparent rules with all decisions to be justified by the government office in charge.

    Punishments should include dismissal from post and possibly, impeachment. As punishment
    for personal gain by a government official, there should be a fivefold monetary penalty.

    The electorate must be convinced that government is in the service of the populace and that
    the government purse is sacrosanct–two ideas that are at the furthest extremity of a Hungarian politician’s mind presently.

  10. LwiiH
    August 8, 2012 at 7:06 am | #10

    Louis Kovach :
    Now that the “Left” has the Prime ministers, all they need is voters…..more chiefs than indians as they say it hereabouts.

    I don’t know, Louis finally might have a point. I remember that Bajnai wasn’t all that well received as he was viewed by people as someone that got rich tearing apart Hungarian companies and putting people out of work.

  11. LwiiH
    August 8, 2012 at 7:12 am | #11

    Petofi1 :

    CharliH :
    London Calling!
    Eva: “ATV started a game of sorts: “The Great Hungarian Government.””
    One of the more important factors required for the future government is to re-engage the populace with the reality of the necessary pain that putting the country right will entail. In short – the dreaded Austerity Measures.
    It will be a tragedy if the next election becomes another auction race to ‘out-bid’ each other with unrealistic promises – such as tax cuts, VAT reductions; and ‘fourteen-month’ pay deals.
    One would hope also that all parties realise that the electorate are now more sophisticated having got their fingers burnt – that unrealistic promises will be treated with the scepticism they deserve; and concomitantly the parties will also realise that their promises/manifestos have to pass a new ‘integrity check’
    Lying will no longer do.
    So ATV need to start a second game:
    “The Great Hungarian Manifesto”
    Yes it will probably be a left-liberal one – but it will inform the politicians of what the electorate will accept. In England – when exercises of this sort are run it is surprising how realistic some of the ideas are.
    Maybe we should start here? What are your top three priorities?
    Me? – 1) Scrap the flat tax for a fair progressive one – and higher revenues; 2) Reform the Health Service – make ‘gratitude’ payments illegal and pay the medical profession a fairer wage (necessarily staged); 3) Engage the population in voluntary help-thy-neighbour schemes (The BigSociety) – in the hope that Hungarians will all realise that they need to be an integrated society of all ethnic – and diverse peoples. And you will have a gentler, fairer society particularly for your minorities. Hopefully too this will be a more attractive society for all the youngsters that have left.
    Regards
    Charlie

    First and foremost, you must convince the electorate that fraudulent government activity
    will be severely punished. For this, you must institute transperency rules for government spending (ie. explain all those contracts for ‘consultations’); and put government contracts
    on open bidding with strict, transparent rules with all decisions to be justified by the government office in charge.
    Punishments should include dismissal from post and possibly, impeachment. As punishment
    for personal gain by a government official, there should be a fivefold monetary penalty.
    The electorate must be convinced that government is in the service of the populace and that
    the government purse is sacrosanct–two ideas that are at the furthest extremity of a Hungarian politician’s mind presently.

    +1000. You’d think that transparency would be an obvious and easy thing to setup but….

  12. August 8, 2012 at 7:27 am | #12

    Certainly Fidesz with all its lies, and broken promises lost every morally grounded HUngarians. Either that or the people rely to much on media that is clearly held by the government and financed to spread the lie. There is an other group, the seemingly intelligent ones, who for whatever reason (mainly financial interest, xenophobia, religious reasons or simply hatred of Jews, etc.) still buys into the Fidesz voodoo or worst flirting with the far-right. (We have our own contributors who perfectly fit into that category, and their comments often lack logic or factual thinking.
    To convince those who are simply misguided is easy, as Fidesz does that job by itself with no help required. To convince those who are financially tied to Fidesz is harder, as until they are not start to loose in the game, they will not be interested (Demjan). Those who are blessed with ignorance will also be impossible to convince, as their is no logic in their thinking or desire for the betterment of the nation, since Hungary’s success is very narrowly defined by that group.
    In any case any incoming government will have a horrible time trying to put democracy, and economy back in track, not even talking about the education. Even if they will do a bang on job, they will loose their popularity in a second after starting to patch up the wholes Orban lives behind while he and his friends will enjoy all the financial benefits of destroying the country.

  13. melankolia
    August 8, 2012 at 8:35 am | #13

    Hungarian Eternal Manifesto will include 30 categories of shame.

    Paragraph One:

    Politicians’ List of Shame: Orban-Kover-Matolcsi-Vona-Morvai-Balczo-Novak…..

    Disqualified for life.

    Paragraph Two:

    Writers’ List of Shame: Szabo Dezso-Nyiro Jozsef-Csurka Istvan

    Disqualified for publications

    Stahanovists, Judges, Soldiers, Agitators, Informants, War criminals, Actors, Singers

    Let us be creative!!!!!!!!

  14. kormos
    August 8, 2012 at 12:29 pm | #14

    Out 0f topic, but still relevant! A copy of an e-mail. I do not do this usually, but I never heard of this woman.

    Remember THIS WOMAN
    Look at this woman – Let us never forget!
    The world hasn’t just become wicked…it’s always been wicked.
    The prize doesn’t always go to the most deserving.

    Irena Sendler
    Died 12 May 2008 (aged 98)
    Warsaw , Poland

    During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw ghetto, as a plumbing/sewer specialist.
    She had an ‘ulterior motive’.
    She KNEW what the Nazi’s plans were for the Jews (being German).
    Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of the tool box she carried and she carried in the back of her truck a burlap sack, (for larger children).
    She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto.
    The soldiers of course wanted nothing to do with the dog and the barking covered the infants’ noises.
    During her time of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 children/infants.
    She was caught, and the Nazi’s broke both her legs, arms and beat her severely.
    Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard.
    After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived it and reunited the family.
    Most had been gassed. Those children she helped got placed into foster family homes or adopted.
    Last year Irena was up for the Nobel Peace Prize.
    She was not selected.
    President Obama won one year before becoming President for his work as a community organizer for ACORN
    and Al Gore won also — for a slide show on Global Warming.

    In MEMORIAM – 63 YEARS LATER
    We’re doing our small part by forwarding this message.

    I hope you’ll consider doing the same…

    It is now more than 60 years after the Second World War in Europe ended.

    This e-mail is being sent as a memorial chain, in memory of the six million Jews, 20 million Russians, 10 million Christians and 1,900 Catholic priests who were murdered, massacred, raped, burned, starved and humiliated!

    Now, more than ever, with Iran , and others, claiming the HOLOCAUST to be ‘a myth’.

    It’s imperative to make sure the world never forgets, because there are others who would like to do it again.

    This e-mail is intended to reach 40 million people worldwide!

    Join us and be a link in the memorial chain and help us distribute it around the world.

    Please send this e-mail to people you know and ask them to continue the memorial chain.

  15. petofi
    August 8, 2012 at 1:05 pm | #15

    @LwiiH

    I think the problem to address is people’s lack of faith in the politicians–first and foremost. Thus, what the country might need in positions of power, more than anything, are personalities
    deemed to possess integrity. Fidesz and Orban are working full time in dirtying any possible future opposition leaders through
    false prosecutions and the like. Bajnai by himself may not be enough. I suggest that an intriguing possibility would be Kalman
    Olga as a Deputy to Bajnai….

  16. Kirsten
    August 8, 2012 at 1:29 pm | #16

    I think first it needs some agreement that the overwhelming majority of Hungarians wishes to create a society that is able to accommodate the various styles and interests. Very specifically, a list of shame is an unnecessary luxury (indulging in a national habit). A list of necessary elements of a post-Fidesz Hungary would be far more relevant. Although Charlie’s points are perhaps a bit too specific, it is far better to start with these than with shame lists and so forth. I think that the biggest priority must be reconciliation and broad cooperation, and to engage (not ‘re-’) the populace in constructive politics.

  17. August 8, 2012 at 4:44 pm | #17

    OT – but important. Everyone should read this, it is truly horrifying:

    https://thecontrarianhungarian.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/we-attacked-the-gypsies-and-we-are-proud-of-it-extreme-right-demonstration-gets-violent-in-devecser-hungary/

    One of the most worrying aspects of this situation is the official news report defing the people involved as “Hungarians and gypsies” – so already the ‘enemy’ is being defined as ‘not us’. How much longer before they are officially categorised as ‘untervolk’?

    I said as much to my wife, and she replied that this is because the Gypsies don’t class themselves as ‘Hungarian’. How easily the first steps on a very slippery slope are justified.

    One minor positive note though – on seeing the picture of the ‘demonstration’, her first response was “why doesn’t Orbán stop it?”

    Why indeed.

  18. Some1
    August 8, 2012 at 5:08 pm | #18

    Paul :
    OT – but important. Everyone should read this, it is truly horrifying:
    https://thecontrarianhungarian.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/we-attacked-the-gypsies-and-we-are-proud-of-it-extreme-right-demonstration-gets-violent-in-devecser-hungary/

    The blog entry erroneously claims that the media hardly covered the event. Actually NOL covered the event, so did 168 ora and ATV covered the event as well. Ferenczi did not get injured by the a rock thrown by gypsies but by a rock thrown at him by accident from three meters away by one of his own man. ATV has a vide where Fernczi actually acknowledges that he was hit by “friendly fire”, that is an other story that he later claimed that he does not know who threw the rock. Once a Jobbik always a liar.
    THe footage can be seen here: http://atv.hu/belfold/20120807_az_atv_kideritette_o_dobta_fejbe_a_jobbikos_honatyat

  19. Petofi1
    August 8, 2012 at 5:14 pm | #19

    Paul :
    OT – but important. Everyone should read this, it is truly horrifying:
    https://thecontrarianhungarian.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/we-attacked-the-gypsies-and-we-are-proud-of-it-extreme-right-demonstration-gets-violent-in-devecser-hungary/
    One of the most worrying aspects of this situation is the official news report defing the people involved as “Hungarians and gypsies” – so already the ‘enemy’ is being defined as ‘not us’. How much longer before they are officially categorised as ‘untervolk’?
    I said as much to my wife, and she replied that this is because the Gypsies don’t class themselves as ‘Hungarian’. How easily the first steps on a very slippery slope are justified.
    One minor positive note though – on seeing the picture of the ‘demonstration’, her first response was “why doesn’t Orbán stop it?”
    Why indeed.

    I guess it’s just about time to go back and research the rise of the brownshirts in Germany.

    I predict some similarities though the development is in its infancy in Hungary. However,
    you leave this behaviour alone (as Orban is doing) than it metastasizes.

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