Ildikó Lendvai, head of the MSZP caucus

I have been wanting to talk about her for some time. Every time I see that she will be on television I make sure that I take time to watch the program. What do I like about her? Her refreshing honesty. Of course, she is a politician and she carefully watches what she says, but even when she doesn’t answer a question ("You know that I can’t answer this") it’s perfectly clear what the answer would be. Her honesty is evident even in her entry in the Hungarian Who’s Who? (Ki kicsoda). Most politicians simply "forgot" to mention their membership in the MSZMP (the Kádár regime’s Magyar Szocialista Munkáspárt), but not Ms. Lendvai. It is there in black and white with exact dates and all her functions in the department of education and culture attached to the party’s Central Committee listed. (By the way, an employee in another department was László Kövér, one the founders of Fidesz and best friend of Viktor Orbán.) She was among the charter members of the new socialist party and at the elections of 1994, when the socialists overwhelmingly won the elections, she was elected in one of the electoral districts of Budapest (Budafok-Nagytétény, XIII. district). In 1998 she lost her district but was elected from the Budapest list. A year later she became deputy head of the caucus and in 2002 became its head. She has held this position ever since. Obviously, she is popular with the MSZP delegates. In 2004, at the time of Péter Medgyessy’s inglorious departure as prime minister, the party was split on the question of a successor. The big wigs of the party, including Lendvai, supported Péter Kiss, a somewhat staid politician. Gyurcsány was the surprise winner. Nonetheless, it seems that relations between Lendvai and Gyurcsány couldn’t be more harmonious; they appear to understand each other.

Today Ildikó Lendvai was a guest on Sándor Friderikusz’s very popular show "Friderikusz Ma" (Friderikusz Today). The topic was the Zuschlag and the Mór affairs. Zuschlag is the MSZP’s problem, the mayor of Mór is that of the Fidesz. Both are about possible corruption cases, and Friderikusz wanted to talk to someone high up from the MSZP as well as from the Fidesz. Of course, no one had time to talk about Mór. Friderikusz tried Tibor Navracsics, Lendvai’s counterpart in the Fidesz, but he was busy, Zoltán Balog, who lately has Orbán’s ear and who is otherwise a Calvinist minister, also had some pressing business to attend to. This is not at all surprising. If there is any trouble, the Fidesz leadership collectively disappears. If they don’t talk about certain events perhaps they didn’t even happen or, at least, they will soon enough go away. Unfortunately, this strategy very often works. Especially since the ever growing right-wing media simply don’t report anything that might not show the Fidesz in a good light. The party also gets some help from the prosecutor’s offices and the courts where, one gets the impression, most of the officials are more sympathetic to the right than to the left. (I find this rather paradoxical because, in the one-party dictatorship where many of these people launched their careers, these positions were deemed very sensitive, and only "trustworthy people" succeeded.)

At any event, between the media and the legal system corruption cases on the left always get more attention than do those on the right. In the Orbán government one of the undersecretaries received a suspended sentence for corruption, yet one heard virtually nothing about the case when it was before the courts. On the other hand, Zuschlag’s case is big news, with the media’s slant being that Zuschlag’s embezzlement is somehow linked to the MSZP and/or the government. The prosecutor’s office already asked Prime Minister Gyurcsány to have a little chit-chat with them. He immediately obliged. I don’t remember any corruption case centered around the Fidesz (and there were plenty) where the prosecutors wanted to talk to Viktor Orbán.

What Friderikusz wanted to know from Lendvai is why they didn’t get rid of Zuschlag earlier. The explanation is that, after his tasteless joking about the Holocaust, the party forced him to resign from his mandate, but on the local/county level he was elected to another position. And it seems that the MSZP gives a great deal of autonomy to local political organizations (unlike the Fidesz, where the local party leaders are appointed by Viktor Orbán himself). Right now they cannot deprive him of his party membership because that would prejudice his case. They asked him to give up his membership voluntarily, but he didn’t oblige. So the MSZP is in a bind. Lendvai admitted that this is very bad for the party. At the same time they don’t want to do business the way the Fidesz does.

At the end of the interview Friderikusz brought up the topic of members of the media who seem to be "afraid of the Fidesz" and asked Lendvai why they are not afraid of the MSZP. Her opinion was that yes, they are afraid and not without reason. The Fidesz doesn’t hesitate to use draconian methods to get rid of people who are not to their liking. Sometimes one has the feeling that they would even resort to blackmail if necessary. Or they simply use other people to do their dirty work. A good example was the Fidesz’s demand that "Napkelte," an early morning political interview show on MTV (Hungary’s public television station), fire two reporters, József Orosz and Endre Aczél. Until their demand was met, they threatened, no one from Fidesz would appear on Napkelte. Months went by, Orosz and Aczél stayed, Fidesz politicians slept in. Well, a week ago what did we hear? The head of MTV announced that he had suddenly discovered that Orosz and Aczél have a conflict of interest because they both also have programs on KlubRádió. Mind you, this so-called conflict of interest has been going on for years. It was discovered by Zoltán Rudi, the president of MTV, only now because, it seems, his reelection is in the offing and with this move he is hoping to receive votes from right-wing board members. If I were Rudi, I wouldn’t be so sure. They are not a grateful lot.

One comment

  1. I really am not quite sure I can share your enthusiasm for dear old Ildiko. She’s unreformed, apart from the latest face-lift. She’s the attack dog of the government. It strikes me she doesn’t mind which government. She’s the whipper in of Socialist MPs. The one who appears to savage any idea, speech. She is EXACTLY the Kover Laszlo of the MSZP, the fact that she doesn’t hide her past is probably because she is proud of it.

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