Who will be the winner? The Hungarian socialists or the liberals?

Off the bat, I would say, the socialists.  Mind you, some "political scientists" came up with the brilliant idea a few days ago that the real political winner of the last week was none other than Gábor Fodor, the two left-handed leader of SZDSZ. Of course, these three "political scientists" are not exactly admirers of Ferenc Gyurcsány. Two of them work for Századvég (Fin de siècle), a Fidesz think tank, while the third, who used to be on the left-liberal side, often as an advisor to earlier prime ministers, became a deadly enemy of Gyurcsány allegedly because Gyurcsány was the first prime minister on the left who didn't require his services. (I'm not at all surprised about that. According to wagging tongues no prediction of his ever came true.) A fourth political scientist, very close to MSZP, was certain that the real winner was the prime minister. How predictable.

These four gentlemen had a whole hour of fruitless discussion about the political situation. A fifth analyst, József Debreczeni, wrote a devastating article about Fodor in which he called the SZDSZ party leader a born loser who has been trying and trying to be the head of SZDSZ (as previously he tried to be the party chief of Fidesz running against Orbán), and now that he squeezed into office he is bringing down the party with him. Debreczeni is certain that SZDSZ is finished, quite independently of the outcome of the present struggle between Fodor and Gyurcsány.

The opposition party leaders keep inviting each other to meetings to "discuss" certain matters, but the problem is that each has a different topic in mind. Ibolya Dávid of MDF is calling Fidesz, SZDSZ, and KDNP to discuss a clear-cut solution to the present crisis. After all, these four parties have a slim majority in parliament and if these parties could agree on someone who could form another government the problem would be solved. The prime minister and his government would have to resign. The only problem is that they cannot agree on an opposition candidate for the post. SZDSZ announced that Fodor is too busy to attend such a meeting. In vain did Dávid say that she would be satisfied with the presence of János Kóka; it seems that Kóka is too busy as well. It would be pointless for Fidesz and KDNP to come to such a meeting since without SZDSZ there wouldn't be a parliamentary majority to form a new government.

Fodor, on the other hand, invited the parties to discuss the matter of a "government of experts." Well, this didn't float either. Ibolya Dávid, similar to many others, doesn't think that there is such a political entity as a "government of experts." Orbán, who first came up with this brilliant idea, announced today that such a solution is no longer acceptable. It would have been a good idea two years ago, but now it is too late. Moreover, it seems that Orbán is not too enthusiastic about any kind of change at the moment. He would like to see a quiet autumn. Hmm. So it seems that even Fidesz is not too eager to tackle the current problems and have elections in the near future. Admittedly, Tibor Navracsics, head of the parliamentary delegation, is still talking about early elections (sometime next summer) but I don't think that one ought to take this too seriously. After all, Fidesz has been talking about the necessity of early elections as a solution to the "political and economic crisis" for so long and so insistently that they cannot easily say: well, we changed our minds and we'll be happy to wait till 2010.

Enter Ferenc Gyurcsány. Today he visited the parliamentary delegation to ascertain their attitude toward his person and his program. The entire MSZP delegation (on paper 189, in reality 187 because two members are incapacitated) with one abstention voted to stand behind the prime minister and his program. Ildikó Lendvai, at a press conference following the meeting, announced that therefore they refuse to discuss the person of the prime minister with SZDSZ. They are willing only to talk about the program and SZDSZ's proposals. The problem is that SZDSZ has no proposals. It is not enough to say that Gyurcsány's program is inadequate; they also have to tell how they would compensate for the lost revenues. In plain language, what kind of social service cuts they recommend. Needless to say, no opposition party is willing to stick its neck out and say: Yes, fewer taxes but at the same time less money for health care, pensions, education, what not.

Gyurcsány had another savvy political move. He is convening an extraordinary congress of MSZP. Apparently, when it comes to changing the head of the party and/or government according to the bylaws congressional approval must be sought. Gyurcsány of course knows that the congress will not vote to replace him. On the contrary, at its extraordinary meeting on September 27th it is quite clear that there will be overwhelming support for Gyurcsány and his program.

Meanwhile there are problems in SZDSZ just as I suspected. One of the three stooges (József Gulyás) today admitted that the party leadership and the parliamentary delegation is split on the question of the "government of experts." However, he added, he and his friends will try to convince those unsure of the wisdom of the Fodor group. I somehow doubt that they will succeed. At least two SZDSZ parliamentary members have already indicated that they don't support the idea of a "government of experts" (Eörsi and Kuncze). Eörsi also signed the declaration of the Hungarian Democratic Charta, initiated by Gyurcsány after the Gay Parade that ended in violence. This movement, initially in defense of democratic values, has undergone a shift of emphasis given the latest political developments. By attaching their name to a document associated with Ferenc Gyurcsány SZDSZ members are telling the world that they don't support Fodor and his friends. In addition to Mátyás Eörsi, another SZDSZ member of parliament signed the document: Gabriella Béki. Thus there might already be three SZDSZ members who may not follow Fodor's lead. A possible fourth is Klára Sándor who found the educational part of Gyurcsány's program good. Sándor is a university professor in Szeged, and she won her district with the support of both parties. And since MSZP needs only four defectors from the Fodor anti-Gyurcsány platform to pass legislation, I think that Gyurcsány's hopes are not altogether unfounded.


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