The incredible anti-Bajnai campaign that has been launched by CÖF (Civil Összefogás Fórum) led by Sándor Csizmadia and other organizers of the two peace marches demonstrates that the current government is afraid of Gordon Bajnai. As they should be. He is everything Viktor Orbán is not. The contrast cannot be greater. Bajnai is modest and soft spoken, Orbán is loud and has an inflated opinion of himself. Bajnai is quietly competent while Orbán twice proved that he is not fit to run a government. Bajnai is not really a politician while Orbán is a master of political intrigue, but his talents seem to stop at ruining the reputations of his political opponents.
People who are familiar with advertising rates estimate that this particular anti-Bajnai campaign has cost at least 100 million forints. The poster pictures Bajnai with Ferenc Gyurcsány as the latter is whispering something into Bajnai’s ear. The text is cleverly crafted. Gyurcsány-Bajnai Alliance appears in the lower lefthand corner. Large letters proclaim that “Together they ruined the country.” The word “together” is in red, which is obviously designed to call attention to Bajnai’s new formation, “Together 2014.” The text continues: “Once was enough. We don’t forget.”
Clearly the election campaign has begun, albeit unofficially. The method adopted here foreshadows what will most likely happen after the 2014 election campaign officially kicks off. From what we know of the new election law, it contains several stringent restrictions on advertising. We still don’t know whether government subsidies to the parties will be reduced or not. At one point Viktor Orbán talked about abolishing the current party financing because of hard economic times. So, we can’t quite discount the possibility that the two-thirds majority will vote to change the party financing law and reduce the subsidies to insignificant amounts or even to zero. In that case Fidesz, using government money funneled through its civic groups, will spread the party’s slogans all over, on every bus and every surface available for advertising purposes, while the opposition will be invisible. It is that simple.
I think it is also worth talking a little bit about the Fidesz strategy of linking Bajnai’s name to that of Ferenc Gyurcsány. Some people are convinced that Ferenc Gyurcsány’s return to politics a year ago gave Viktor Orbán the opportunity to tie him to Gordon Bajnai in the here and now. They claim that Gyurcsány should have disappeared and that in that case Gordon Bajnai’s situation would be much easier. I think this line of reasoning is mistaken. I am sure that Orbán would have used the same strategy even if Gyurcsány had disappeared from the face of the earth. Orbán with the assistance of Tibor Navracsics and Zsolt Semjén managed to ruin Gyurcsány’s reputation. The very fact that Bajnai served in Gyurcsány’s government gives them a fantastic opportunity to repeat the performance, with Bajnai in the cross hairs this time around. These guys are skilled political assassins.
Here’s one illustration of my point. A few days ago Heti Válasz displayed a picture that linked Gordon Bajnai to Bálint Magyar (SZDSZ), who was minister of education between 1996 and 1998 and again between 2002 and 2006. Magyar is not involved in politics today, but that didn’t seem to prevent the pro-government publication from describing them, in the words of the article’s title, as “Birds of a feather flock together.” One should keep in mind that SZDSZ’s logo depicted a bird in flight.
Gone is Bálint Magyar, gone is SZDSZ, but it doesn’t matter. The vicious campaign will continue, linking his name with anyone who has ever served with him in the same government.
The question, of course, is whether it will work or not. Most of the people who were asked their opinion of the current anti-Bajnai campaign refused to answer. “I don’t know anything about politics.” Or, “I am not interested in politics.” Only a few dared to tell the questioning reporter that they find the campaign disgusting. One woman went so far as to say that she likes both men.
While this concerted effort at discrediting Bajnai is proceeding apace, LMP is falling apart. Gergely Karácsony announced only a few days ago that a breakup of LMP was “out of the question,” but by yesterday Benedek Jávor wasn’t that categorical. Because Jávor resigned as leader of the LMP caucus, the parliamentary group had to choose a new leader. There were four nominations, but three of the candidates refused to be nominated. András Schiffer, even though last week he announced that he was not willing to take the post, suddenly became much more willing. The trouble was that the eight LMP MPs who formed a platform called “Dialogue for Hungary” refused to vote for him. And since they are in the majority, Schiffer’s nomination was voted down 8-7.
Schiffer and a few of his followers left the meeting early. To the reporters’ questions about the outcome of the meeting Schiffer replied: “I was told that I’m supposed to eat what I cooked but they didn’t give me a fork and knife to eat it with.” Meanwhile Gábor Scheiring called Schiffer “the most divisive person in the party” who is unfit to lead a deeply divided caucus.
My sense is that those who are fed up with Orbán’s regime (and their numbers are growing) will demand unity and will punish LMP if they stand by their decision to boycott Bajnai’s “Together 2014.” I’m also noticing a mellowing in certain liberal circles toward Ferenc Gyurcsány. People have begun to appreciate his steadfast efforts to call attention to the dangers of a stolen election in 2014. The fact that he and his party are ready to cooperate with “Together 2014” without any preconditions also endears him to those who are disgusted with the Schiffer-wing of LMP. I will be really curious what the next polls will tell us. There might be a few surprises.