A few days ago an interesting chart appeared in Népszava. It accompanied an article entitled “The lowest common denominator” about a study published by the Attila József Foundation, an MSZP think tank. The study dealt with opinions held by the opposition parties and civic organizations on some key political issues. Unfortunately the chart is not available online. I got it from the paper’s digital edition, and I think I should share its findings.
The heartening news is that all these organizations hold very similar views on issues. So, the current problems standing in the way of cooperation are partly personal and partly the groups’ attitudes toward the past and toward each other.
When it comes to questions of democracy and the rule of law, all groups (LMP, DK, Solidarity, 4K!, Haza és Haladás) agree that the new government will have to restore it. DK, Solidarity, and 4K! consider the new Basic Laws (Constitution) illegitimate. Haza és Haladás (HH) wants to move toward restoration, but slowly and gradually.
When it comes to independent institutions, all groups agree that the former competence of the Constitutional Court must be restored. DK and HH also specifically mention the restoration of the rights of the Budgetary Council and the independence of the Hungarian National Bank. HH adds the independence of the courts.
There are no differences of opinion on the media law and the existence of the Media Council in its current form. They all demand a new media law and the abolition of the Media Council. They are unanimous when it comes to legislative actions that are retroactive, a practice often used by the current government. They also see eye to eye on the new election law; they all reject prior registration as a prerequisite for voting rights. Basically, they all want to return to the old system although LMP would like to make a few adjustments. HH mentions the National Election Committee that would need serious revamping. After all, the members are all Fidesz appointees and their tenure is exceedingly long.
On social security, especially on the question of pensions, there are more divergent opinions. LMP would like to raise the age limit and peg pension increases to inflation. DK is much more ambitious. They want to return the money the Orbán government took away from employees’ private pension funds and to restore the private retirement funds alongside the state’s social security system. Solidarity would like to abolish the enacted laws that decreased the size of pensions hitherto received. 4K! has a rather peculiar idea. According to them, state-owned companies should pay into the social security fund in order to maintain it. HH doesn’t seem to have any explicitly stated plans. They are just very critical of the current system.
As for the Roma question, LMP seems to have the most radical solutions. The party explicitly talks about quotas, though only in the public media. They also would like to set up extensive scholarship programs specifically for Roma youngsters. Solidarity hasn’t paid much attention to the problem and therefore they have no program worked out. DK mentions integration as a goal while HH talks about employment and educational integration. So, the solutions offered are rather vague.
In the sphere of education, DK seems to be the group that spent the most thought and energy on the subject. The reason may be that three of DK’s deputy chairmen have academic backgrounds. DK emphasizes the restoration of the autonomy of teachers, it doesn’t reject tuition but would combine it with scholarships and student loans. 4K! wants to withdraw the educational reform altogether while HH has no specific suggestions but is simply critical of the present situation.
Practically all political formations studied emphasize the necessity of leaving cultural matters to the practitioners. DK is the most emphatic here: “the government has no business here,” they say. LMP, perhaps because of its young membership, mentions state assistance to popular culture. The others don’t have much to say.
Health care is in crisis at the moment, but most groups concentrate on higher wages. It is only DK that goes into some detail. They want to reintroduce co-pay and allow private insurers to participate in the health care system. You may recall that these ideas have been in circulation ever since 2006 when the second Gyurcsány government began revamping the health care system. It was then torpedoed by the joint effort of MSZP and Fidesz. The final blow was the referendum that abolished both tuition and the co-pay of about €1.00.
Most of them agree that Hungarians living in the surrounding countries shouldn’t get the right to vote; voters must live within the borders of Hungary. However, what “The Theoretical and Moral Fundamentals of the Together 2014 Movement” says about the question is a great deal less explicit. According to the document, the granting of dual citizenship “opened a new chapter in the question of national unity. Therefore it cannot be the goal of the new political era to disenfranchise Hungarians living outside of Hungary proper. But at the same time we must find legal and political guarantees so that in this new constitutional situation Hungarian domestic politics shouldn’t influence the lives of Hungarians living in the surrounding states.” So, will all new Hungarian citizens be able to vote or not? It is not at all clear from this passage, but I’m inclined to say that Bajnai’s umbrella organization would leave the new law in place.
As we can see from this comparison of opposition groups’ political goals, there are many issues that have been left untouched. However, their positions on important issues are very close. If that is the case, why did Gergely Karácsony (LMP) exclaim only a few days ago that he was in favor of negotiations with Bajnai only to be able to veto his nomination for the position of prime minister? Or why he did he say that he hates MSZP more than he hates Fidesz? All this doesn’t bode well for the future.