Yesterday I indicated that Milla, originally a Facebook group that worried about media freedom, at last decided to demonstrate together with another civic group, Szolidaritás, on October 23. I also mentioned that Gordon Bajnai, former prime minister in Hungary (2009-2010), will speak at the gathering.
This joint demonstration is significant (even if marginally so) because Viktor Orbán and his party can be defeated in 2014 only by a united front. It is clear to everybody who can add and subtract that the opposition parties cannot be individually represented in the next elections. If each party proceeded on its own, Fidesz would easily win again. In fact,Viktor Orbán most likely would once again have his magic two-thirds majority in parliament. Thus, the only chance for the present left-liberal-moderate conservative forces to unseat Viktor Orbán is to unite under some kind of umbrella organization. Let’s call it “Egyesült Ellenzék” (United Opposition).
Not everyone who argues for unity agrees on the urgency of the matter. One camp believes that it is a truly urgent matter. The election campaign season will be here soon enough and one must act. There are others, however, who think that one can leave the joining of forces to fairly late in the game. I heard some commentators go so far as to say that even the fall of 2013 is not too late.
I happen to think that the earlier the parties set aside their egos and abandon their rivalry for unattainable individual glory the better. That seems to be the opinion of people around DK, but my feeling is that the people who are regular listeners of György Bolgár’s talk show also think the same way. Or at least this has been my impression listening to the program for years. Among the faithful Klubrádió listeners are MSZP supporters, many of whom express their disappointment that the party leaders are dragging their feet. This seems to be the case especially lately, after the party won two local by-elections, in Dunaföldvár and Sopron. Attila Mesterházy, the party chairman, doesn’t reject cooperation outright, but deep down he hopes that perhaps MSZP can defeat Fidesz singlehandedly. József Tóbiás, deputy whip of the MSZP parliamentary delegation, made no secret of his party’s ambition to go it alone. When Olga Kálmán of ATV called his attention to the electoral law, according to which a candidate can win with, let’s say, only 35% of the votes because the votes for the candidates of the other three or four parties are hopelessly divided (e.g., 25%, 15%, 15%, 10%), Tobiás fired back: “But in Sopron we won when there were many parties running against us.” So, there are people who feel that way in MSZP and we don’t know whether they are in the majority or not.
There is no question that MSZP must be the leading force in the fight against the Orbán regime. It is MSZP that has the most extensive political network in the country. There are party cells in all cities, towns, and villages. Although MSZP lost a lot of voters, the skeleton of its organization is intact. Thus, MSZP has to play a vital role in my proposed “United Opposition.” However, at the moment I don’t foresee any MSZP willingness to negotiate with the other parties.
LMP is even smugger than MSZP and with much less justification. In the last three months the party lost about a third of those who earlier would have definitely voted for LMP. At the moment its support stands at 2%. I suspect that LMP’s unfriendly attitude toward other democratic parties has something to do with its loss of popularity. The party leadership seems to be divided on the issue, but it seems that those who refuse any cooperation are still in the majority.
The other small democratic party, DK, is the only one that is ready without any preconditions to support the formation of an umbrella organization. The party chairman, Ferenc Gyurcsány, announced that the party will not have a candidate for the premiership. In fact, Gyurcsány admitted that he is fully aware that his candidacy is out of the question. He also told his followers that DK would support any candidate the other democratic parties agreed on. If it is Attila Mesterházy DK will support him. However, he added that it is Gordon Bajnai whose political views are the closest to those of DK.
And now we come to the planned demonstration for October 23. The Milla group under the guidance of Péter Juhász refuses to cooperate with any political party. Although in the past Milla managed to organize large demonstrations, as someone said not too long ago it is not enough to repeat that “we don’t like the regime.” It is not enough to say that we hate all politicians because they are all crooks. First of all, it is not true and, second, without parties there is no parliamentary democracy. Moreover, equating the sins of the last twenty years with the undemocratic regime that Viktor Orbán managed to build leads us nowhere. No, the Third Republic and the Regime of National Unity cannot be compared. And this is exactly what Péter Juhász is doing. In this respect he resembles András Schiffer of LMP. Both men would like to see themselves somewhere in the middle, but as a witty blogger wrote, “there is no middle ground between Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf.”
I am not going to repeat all my objections about Milla and LMP. I wrote about both of them lately. I entitled the second one “Milla and LMP: Double curse of current Hungarian politics.” So, let’s move to the heart of the matter as it stands now.
The debate between Szolidaritás and Milla centered on their attitudes toward parties. Szolidaritás started as a civic organization that grew out of the trade union movement. They would like to work with all parties, and accordingly they invited them to their demonstration. But Milla refused to join them as long as party logos or flags could be seen anywhere. Eventually, they worked out a compromise, although the details change not only every day but practically every hour. The last I heard is that the Szolidaritás people will meet at the Adam Clark Square, party logos and all, and march to the bridgehead of Elizabeth Bridge, hopefully filling up the whole Free Press Road (Szabad Sajtó út). What they will do with the party logos once they get there I have no idea. Neither does Péter Kónya of Szolidaritás.
Ferenc Gyurcsány has a very low opinion of both Milla and Péter Juhász because he is convinced that Juhász is a populist who is strengthening Hungarians’ distrust of politics and politicians. Given the current political lethargy in Hungary, such antagonism toward politics is outright harmful. Gyurcsány expressed his very pointed opposition to Milla on ATV a few days ago. Most of the DK people refuse to join the demonstration organized by Milla. They will hold their own. Today LMP announced that they will also boycott the demonstration.
And finally came the announcement by Péter Juhász yesterday morning on ATV that Gordon Bajnai accepted their invitation to speak at the Milla demonstration. Ferenc Gyurcsány apparently talked to Bajnai earlier and advised him against it, but to no avail. I also think that it is a mistake to “come out” politically at a demonstration organized by a fiercely anti-political, anti-politician group. But who knows what will happen between now and the 23rd? Only yesterday we heard that one of the several speakers will be Gáspár Miklós Tamás (TGM). He is a brilliant fellow but his political views are, mildly put, erratic. TGM was a fierce anti-communist in the 80s, one of the founding members of the liberal SZDSZ, then he said “good-bye to the left” and pronounced himself a conservative. The conservative phase didn’t last long and now he is back with some kind of Utopian communism. Well, as soon as TGM heard that Bajnai will be announcing his return to politics at the demonstration he said that he was bowing out because he will not help Bajnai further his political career. After all, in his opinion, Bajnai conducted a neo-conservative economic policy that he despises because it makes the people poor and powerless. But then, only a couple of hours ago, TGM changed his mind and said that he would speak at the demonstration after all. So, here we go.