On December 6 Medián released its November poll about Hungarians’ party preferences. Fidesz is still leading. MSZP and Jobbik are neck to neck. LMP and DK wouldn’t reach the magic 5% of the votes necessary for parliamentary representation. All this was pretty much expected. What everybody was waiting for was whether Gordon Bajnai’s “Együtt 2014” would keep up its fantastic record.
Well, it didn’t. At the end of October, when Medián first included the new civic formation in its monthly poll as a separate entity, Együtt 2014 would have received 14% of the votes of eligible voters and 22% of those who would certainly cast ballots. By the end of November these numbers had dropped considerably, from 14% to 10% and from 22% to 16%.
One reason for the drop might be that Együtt 2014 hasn’t managed to speak with one voice. The far too frequent interviews with Péter Juhász (Milla), for instance, may not be exactly to the liking of either the socialists or the liberals who, let’s face it, will be the ones who will vote for the opposition forces in 2014. Because in my opinion it is illusory to think, as I’m afraid Gordon Bajnai does, that this new coalition of parties will receive extensive support from the moderate right. For starters, according to most observers there is no such thing in Hungary as the moderate right. And Juhász’s constant harping on the sins of the socialists and the liberals is turning MSZP and former SZDSZ voters away from Együtt 2014.
Péter Juhász and to a certain extent Viktor Szigetvári, who is in charge of campaign strategy, seem put “moral” issues ahead of practical plans for the future. Even in these exceedingly difficult times the bad Hungarian habit emerges: turning toward the past instead of looking foward to the future. One can almost hear the echo of LMP’s, especially of András Schiffer’s, constant moralistic harangues against everybody who has ever had a part to play in politics. Moreover, one always has the feeling that these “sins” cannot be atoned for or forgiven by these moralists. It doesn’t seem to matter that all former politicians admitted that they made mistakes; these admissions don’t satisfy these perfect human specimens.
This moralizing surfaced again after MSZP’s letter to the various parties and civic associations. The answer from Együtt 2014 was that before they sit down to talk about the actual strategy on different issues, “the moral and theoretical issues” must be discussed. Without sharing the “same basic values,” they argued, cooperation cannot be successful. When ATV specifically asked Szigetvári what he had in mind, his answer was not especially illuminating. He mentioned opening the secret police archives and political corruption. Among the issues Szigetvári brought up there is one that might be a more serious matter. MSZP doesn’t want to give voting rights to new Hungarian citizens who were born and live in the neighboring countries. Együtt 2014, I think correctly, argues that an entitlement given shouldn’t be taken away. In addition to the legal argument, I think the Bajnai group also believes that this issue is important in their quest for supporters from the right. I think they are wrong on this score.
So, to sum up the reasons for the drop in enthusiasm for Együtt 2014. While MSZP, MSZDP, and DK expressed their wholehearted support for a coalition of parties running together on one list, Együtt 2014 is dragging its feet. Instead of acting, it is constantly criticizing the “old regime.” (Even the pro-Fidesz university students announced today that it was a great deal better than the Orbán government.) Együtt 2014 demands an apology, which has been offered several times before. It can easily happen, if this goes on for awhile, that liberal and socialist voters will get fed up hearing the same old stories about the autumn of 2006 and Ferenc Gyurcsány’s lies. They have their own opinions which will not likely change anytime soon. So while Együtt 2014 may lose some supporters from the left, it is very possible that they will not gain new voters from the right. This is a real danger.
In today’s Népszava Ildikó Lendvai, former chairman of MSZP and one of the clearest thinkers in the Hungarian parliament, wrote an opinion piece entitled “In praise of the hyphen.” In Hungarian the hyphen is called the “sign of connectedness.” She first describes the three possible ways to enter the elections in 2014: a single party formed for the elections; an association or coalition of parties (pártszövetség); or cooperation of certain parties on an ad hoc basis. MSZP opted for the second alternative. This way the individual parties wouldn’t lose their identity. Instead, they would appear as a hyphenated entity in the association of parties. In this case Együtt 2014 would have to become a party; as far as I know Bajnai and his associates are contemplating this move. So, against Fidesz-KDNP and Jobbik there would be a new identity called MSZP-Együtt 14-DK-MSZDP and whoever else joins this new association or coalition.
Lendvai also thinks that dwelling on the sins of the past will lead nowhere. As she puts it: “The starting point of the negotiations cannot be mutual understanding on the person or the scapegoat of all political events. Why should we think exactly the same about the fall of 2006 when the country itself doesn’t think so? The young policeman who was attacked in front of the television station will see it differently from the one who accidentally ended up in the way of the attacking policemen taking revenge on their attackers. Both are right, but we don’t have to agree on the proportions of that truth in the aggregate.”
Ildikó Lendvai brought up autumn 2006 for good reason. In the last four years Fidesz “communicators” have managed to rewrite the history of those days to the point that by now perhaps the majority of the people think that vicious policemen attacked innocent bystanders for no reason whatsoever. It is time to set the record straight. The first book on the subject was published about two weeks ago by József Debreczeni, biographer of József Antall, Viktor Orbán, and Ferenc Gyurcsány. Debreczeni has the distinction of having predicted exactly what would happen if Orbán achieves a landslide victory. Everybody said that he was exaggerating. Well, he was the only one who was right among the commentators.
And now he has written another book entitled A 2006-os ősz (The fall of 2006). It is already topping the bestseller list. Debreczeni went through the events minute by minute. Perhaps we will get a little closer to the truth after reading it.
Until then I suggest together with Ildikó Lendvai that the ladies and gentlemen “get to the table! because that hyphen means that we are not the same but are still connected.”
*A footnote to the cartoon, em-dash in Hungarian is ” gondolatjel,” which literally means “sign of thinking.”