If it depended on me alone, the Hungarian opposition to the Orbán regime would be solidly unified by now, but such a favorable development can happen only in one’s imagination. Or perhaps only if one thinks with the head of a non-politician. It doesn’t seem to matter how often political analysts call for unity, there are still opposition politicians or quasi-politicians who think they can do it on their own.
Here I will deal with three of the opposition groups: LMP (Lehet Más a Politika = politics can be different); 4K, a new party of little consequence; and Milla, an amorphous Facebook crowd that was capable of organizing large demonstrations in the past.
The most extreme position is taken by LMP. We could start with the misguided name of their party. Misguided because politics cannot be different, at least not fundamentally. It can be cleaner and more civil, but parties in a parliamentary democracy behave according to the rules of the political game. The party’s name is, however, the least of its problems. LMP is comprised for the most part of politically naive people who adhere to a distinctly leftist platform that opposes modern capitalism. If they could implement their ideas, Hungary would be in real trouble. But fortunately the likelihood of such a development verges on zero. At the moment 6% of active voters would vote for LMP and only 3% among eligible voters. LMP’s support is about the same as that of Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Demokratikus Koalíció. The difference is that DK has no delusions of grandeur.
Yet the LMP leadership is the loudest in its refusal to cooperate with others. Well, perhaps not with all others. Lately some of the LMP leaders have been negotiating with 4K, a new party that barely exists. 4K, by the way, stands for Fourth Republic. Currently the 4K website proudly exhibits the LMP logo. Voter support for 4K cannot even be measured, so I can’t see how LMP will benefit significantly from joining forces with 4K.
In addition to LMP’s inherent weakness there also seems to be a deep division within the leadership over strategy. The intransigent elements led by András Schiffer believe that LMP could win the elections on its very own. However, there is another group inside the party that is less antagonistic toward cooperation, but for the time being they are sticking to the official line that was adopted by a majority of one vote.
Earlier I wrote a number of times about Péter Róna, an American and British trained economist and lawyer who is currently a visiting research scholar at Oxford’s Blackfriars Hall, a Permanent Private Hall specializing in philosophy, theology, and faith-based studies. According to the Blackfriars website, Róna is interested in the “restoration of value judgement and moral sentiment in economic theory.”
Péter Róna moved back to Hungary in the early 1990s and in the last four or five years he became an economics guru who says some very clever things and some not so clever things. One problem with Róna is that he seems to be following in the footsteps of the Hungarian narodniks who believed in a third road for their country, something between capitalism and socialism. He also believes that foreign companies that settled in Hungary after 1990 are detrimental to the healthy development of the country. Hungary would be much better off relying on its own capitalist class. In addition, he has some unrealistic ideas about Hungary as an “agricultural country.” All this is not terribly far from the ideas of Fidesz politicians or from LMP’s flirtation with socialism. So it’s no wonder that LMP has embraced him. In fact, some LMP folks have even suggested Róna as a candidate for prime minister. If you want to learn more about Róna’s ideas and his opinion of Gordon Bajnai, check out his latest interview with György Bolgár and the critique of his theories by László Békesi, former finance minister, in the same program.
The closest companion to LMP and 4K is Milla, except that Milla doesn’t have any positive notions about what it really wants. They seem to know only what they don’t want. Or at least what Péter Juhász doesn’t want. Well, that’s not quite right. He does have one huge “want”: to discard the last twenty-two years of Hungarian attempts at establishing a stable democracy. That includes, as far as I can ascertain, the 1989 constitution, the round-table discussions, and the subsequent democratically elected governments. Out the window because during those years everything that took place led to the two-thirds majority of Fidesz, although Juhász himself contributed with his vote to that landslide victory. The new regime, if you wish, the Fourth Republic, must be different. How different and in what way we have no idea, and I don’t think that Juhász knows it either. But he hates the socialists and Gyurcsány as much as Schiffer does, and his debate with Ágnes Vadai, former socialist and now DK, and Tibor Szanyi (MSZP MP), left no doubt that he has no intention of cooperating with MSZP or DK. I’m pretty sure he would gladly cooperate with LMP if LMP talked to anyone except 4K. And I’m confident that he’ll get his wish, that soon enough these two groups will see eye to eye because their rejection of the last twenty-two years will bring them together.
I will leave the discussion of the other political formations for tomorrow. And on Tuesday we’ll see what happens in Budapest.