A few days ago I wrote a post entitled “Talking heads of Hungary” in which I mentioned that Vera Lánczos, a member of the Galamus Group, called attention to a young political scientist who said that “the sole difference between the two factions [of LMP] is that one of them likes [Gordon] Bajnai while the other doesn’t.” It was a flippant description of what is going on because, after all, the divide between the group led by András Schiffer and the so-called platformists of Benedek Jávor and Tímea Szabó is much deeper than their differing attitudes toward Bajnai. They differ fundamentally on strategy. Or at least this is what it looks like from the outside.
I also predicted–it wasn’t too difficult, mind you–that by the time parliament convenes there will be no LMP parliamentary caucus. Indeed, on Monday Benedek Jávor will officially inform László Kövér, the speaker of the house, that the eight members of the Párbeszéd Magyarországért (Dialogue for Hungary) will leave the LMP delegation. Since according to house rules a separate delegation needs at least twelve MPs and the Schiffer faction has only seven members, neither group can form a caucus. They will have to sit with the independents, who number fifteen at the moment. With the addition of the present and former LMP members their number will double. It will be an interesting group; it includes former Jobbik members, the left socialist Katalin Szili, and the “independent” Gypsy-hater Oszkár Molnár whom even Fidesz refused to back as the party’s candidate in the 2010 general elections.
The public perception is that the cause of the split is a deep division over the future of Hungary. Most people claim that the platformists’ main concern is the removal of the Orbán government at the earliest possible moment, and to this end they must not follow the road András Schiffer envisages for the party. Schiffer wants to keep some distance from both left and the right. As Katalin Ertsey (LMP MP) said in an interview, as a “green party” LMP is steadfastly in the middle avoiding the right as well as the left and keeping its eyes on what is ahead. Given the new electoral law, critics of Schiffer claim, this strategy only helps Fidesz.
But from the inside it seems that some of the pro-Schiffer members of LMP see the struggle differently. Yesterday Katalin Ertsey described the situation as a simple “power struggle” between Benedek Jávor and his followers and András Schiffer and his group. Ágnes Osztolykán (LMP MP) elaborated on the same point, claiming that the platformists caught the common disease of politicians, a “hunger for power.”
These two were joined by Beáta Eszes in an article that appeared in Galamus. She isn’t sure that the Jávor group is at all serious about negotiations with the opposition forces. To bolster her claim she reminds her readers of past utterances of the platformists that contradict their present orientation.
At the time he became LMP’s whip in February 2012, Benedek Jávor vehemently attacked Ferenc Gyurcsány because of the events of September-October 2006. And let’s not forget that Gordon Bajnai was a member of Gyurcsány’s cabinet. Of the three-member LMP caucus in the Budapest City Council two refused to vote against the proposal to strip Ákos Kertész of his honorary citizenship and thus joined with the representatives of Fidesz and Jobbik against Kertész. The still unified LMP decided to bring suit against Ferenc Gyurcsány. Gábor Scheiring and Gergely Karácsony suggested a strategic coalition with Jobbik in order to remove Orbán in 2014. LMP refused to join a demonstration against the Horthy cult, racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia because MSZP and DK also took part in the demonstration. Dávid Dorosz engaged in a discussion with a Jobbik MP about “national policies” (nemzetpolitika) on the notorious Echo TV. At the end of the article Eszes points out that while the platformists declared that their group would establish a left-wing party, “the person of Gordon Bajnai is no guarantee of a left-wing, socialist type of government.”
Like Eszes, I also have my reservations about both groups. Yet the claim that the difference of opinion on strategy stems solely from the platformists’ hunger for power doesn’t sound plausible. In fact, by leaving LMP and sitting as independents they lose a lot. They will have less opportunity to speak in the House and will have to give up their seats on parliamentary committees. This means less political influence as well as a financial loss to individual parliamentary members. They are also giving up their share of the state subsidy allotted to parties that from here on will go to Schiffer’s LMP. They’re losing the assistance of fifty-five men and women who have been helping the LMP caucus. So, I don’t see how individual ambitions are being served by this move.
But one thing is sure. If the Párbeszéd Magyarországért Párt (PMP) is serious about forging a united democratic opposition, they cannot continue the strategy that LMP has pursued. Otherwise, the break-up of LMP was a useless exercise that will serve no one.
I’ve looked for her email address, so if it is all over the web, I’ve missed it. Obviously, it shouldn’t be posted here but if someone can give me a hint where to look, I’ll write to her.
@An, I don’t believe I’ve ever called anyone a Nazi. I did once quote the playwright Joe Orton who wrote in his diary “Scratch a liberal and find a fascist bleeding” which I think is an acute observation. A lot of “liberal” people are remarkably thin skinned when it comes to when their views are challenged. Interestingly, I see that Eva Balogh has now put me on the “moderation” list which I think rather proves my point. I have still not heard from her by the way.
Ad Kingfisher and corruption, I am quite willing to believe a lot about corruption in the several layers of Hungarian politics, and in particular in the “privatisation phase” of the 1990s (as I have no doubts about it regarding Fidesz now), even if that cannot be proved by the police and the courts (I have not yet been convinced that they are of the highest efficiency in this respect). I do not know the background of Kingfisher and his standards, so perhaps what he considers corrupt would be classified as “doing what people do (or must do) in such positions” by people from the region who have no mechanisms to prevent that. It would be of use if Kingfisher indicated perhaps either the broad date of the transactions or the type of transaction he has in mind. According to Transparency International also Hungary has not been performing so well in this area, which does not mean that Ferenc Gyurcsany was corrupt during his time as PM but makes likely that he cannot be entirely unrelated to it (in particular if he got rich in the property market before).
No one put Kingfisher on any moderation list!!! That’s number 1. Number 2 that I don’t think that Kingfisher has such vital information about Gyurcsány’s corruption I haven’t heard before by people about his connections and his business ventures.
Sackshoes, One cannot have an intelligent exchange if one side–in this case you–distorts or unfamiliar with the facts. MSZP didn’t throw Gyurcsány out. He resigned on his own because the MSZP parliamentary delegation wouldn’t support his austerity measures which were necessary after the 2008 economic crisis. And finally, he himself left MSZP because the old guard refused to cleanse the party from all the dirt they piled on it.
The MSZP didn’t replace him with Bajnai but Bajnai was pretty much forced upon them. For weeks on end they were trying to find someone and eventually it was most likely Gyurcsány who managed to convince them that under the circumstances Bajnai is the only one who could perhaps rescue the situation. And the MSZP leadership was not happy at all but eventually they had to accept Bajnai’s ultimatum: You either vote for my measures or forget about it.
I’m absolutely amazed that intelligent people don’t seem to realize that Fidesz politicians are masters of character assassination. Have you forgotten Zsolt Semjén’s infamous remark about how they managed to ruin Gy’s political career? He proudly announced that it was him (then whip of the Christian Democrats) and Tibor Navracsics (Fidesz whip) who got the job to “amortize” Ferenc Gyurcsány. (I wonder who gave the order!) Of course, ” to amortize” means to liquidate debt by installment payments or to write off an expenditure for office equipment or machinery but here Semjén meant to liquidate him. To ruin him. To discredit him.
Gyurcsány wasn’t the only victim. They tried and to a certain extent succeeded to ruin Bajnai. The Hungarian right when they cannot come up with anything better they resort to character assassination. And you people who otherwise are no friends of Orbán and Fidesz fall for it. It makes no sense to me
@Kingfisher: There was a context for this remark. This is what you wrote “Reading some of the reactions to Pibroch’s extraordinarily reasonable and well argued posts, I’m reminded of a comment from one of my favourite playwrights, Joe Orton: “Scratch a liberal and find a fascist bleeding.”
In a very backhanded way, you are implying that some of the commenters somehow can be likened to fascists..
Now, regardless of debating ethics, the original quote itself is a gross and unfair generalization (and the fascist analogy an exaggeration), not better than saying that gypsies are thiefs..
The truth is that liberals are a mixed bunch, and some are extremely tolerant (see ACLU defense of the Nazis in the US. Google it, 1978 Skokie).
Eva – Just because Fidesz are masters of mudslinging, doesn’t mean that everyone they target is ipso facto innocent. That is by itself no argument – just because someone is the enemy of our enemy doesn’t mean he must therefore have been good. Gyurcsany’s name already turned mud years ago, when he was Prime Minister – and he didn’t need Fidesz for that, though they certainly did what they could to help him bury himself.
Outside his small band of followers in DK (and perhaps some ambivalents in the MSzP?), Hungarians of all political stripes practically loathe him. Actual leftists resent him for forcing right-wing austerity measures onto the MSzP government like Tony Blair did with Labour … but free-market liberals resent him for lacking any of Blair’s smooth political skills to do so successfully. Instead, the man turned out to be politically incompetent, and yes, the notorious Öszödi Beszéd was key evidence of that – can you imagine Blair making such a career-ending blunder as thinking he could openly say/admit such things, even in a nominally closed meeting of that size? And in what developed country would it not have been instantly and forever career-ending?
More importantly, the populace as a whole associates him with impopular economic policies (and austerity hasn’t exactly turned out to be a success story Europe-wide), as well as with the usual stench of corruption that seems to have surrounded every recent Hungarian government. Civics and greens on the center-left just want him to go away, because they rightly see him as a drag on any opposition alliance. To reduce the sum of all this to some simplistic conclusion that everyone who dislikes the man must just have been brainwashed by Fidesz propaganda is akin to sticking your head in the sand.
nihmh: ” ctual leftists resent him for forcing right-wing austerity measures onto the MSzP government”
Did he have any choice? In fact, the criticism of his austerity program that it wasn’t big enough. God, you people have the shortest memory on earth.
Paul – of course people read your comments! I always quite enjoy them. I’ve posted here before, I suppose under the same name (it’s the one I usually use for comment sections), but not often – though I regularly read the blog. It’s really a very informative blog, and without Eva’s work, English-language coverage of Hungarian politics would be poorer.
But yes, like you say, a total blind spot about Gyurcsany, and it taints a lot of the other analysis too, for example the preemptive skepticism with which she welcomed any alternative oppositional movements/parties, whether it’s Milla or the LMP or the Gurcsany-hostile forces within MSzP etc. And that’s a shame. If only there was an English-language blogger as prolific and detail-oriented as Eva is, but without the blind spot! I’d do it myself but I’m too lazy and wouldn’t be able to give quite the depth of detail Eva provides. 🙂
And Hungary is the only place where political parties engage in this behaviour. By putting your hat into that ring you have to know that people will be out to get you.
Eva – no, genuine policy disagreement is not necessarily a question of “the shortest memory on earth”. People who disagree with you are not necessarily just stupid. They might just disagree. But I guess an answer to your quip has to have two components: substantive and tactical.
First, tactically: I was merely pointing out that his name is mud among all stripes of opposition (outside his small band of remaining followers): among leftists because they resented his austerity policies, and among liberals because they agreed with them but resented how incompetent a leader he turned out to be implementing them. If he’d either opted for some leftist alternative policy (however disastrous you or anyone else think this would have ended), *or* pursued the austerity agenda he did but without fucking up so majorly otherwise, he would still have had a political constituency larger than 3% – in the one case, among MSzP diehards, in the other, on the liberal center-left. Now, he’s got neither.
Substantively, austerity policies have proven to only keep the EU economies longer into depression – even the IMF has acknowledged it’s harming more than hurting. Fidesz’s budgetary antics are even more insane, with the government’s de facto confiscation of people’s private pension savings the most outrageous part of all (which would itself have led to the fall of the government in any developed country). But Fidesz’s failures do not mean that obediently following the austerity recipes from the World Bank and Brussel was retroactively all good. It wasn’t – not substantively, as luckily other countries are discovering slowly now too, and not tactically, as there is no electoral majority in Hungary for unambiguously free-market, pro-austerity liberal politics – and this, I’m afraid, will trip up Bajnai too.
@nimh: “To reduce the sum of all this to some simplistic conclusion that everyone who dislikes the man must just have been brainwashed by Fidesz propaganda is akin to sticking your head in the sand.”
There is something irrational abut this intense and widespread hatred for Gyurcsany… because even if he is not absolutely innocent of corruption, there are lot worse than him, but nobody hated as much. He became a symbol of everything that was wrong with the socialists that goes way beyond his own person. There is a hysteria quality about this hatred, a hysteria that Fidesz was instrumental in creating.
To Kingfisher: since ‘liberalism’/’liberals’ have no fixed (unanimously agreed upon) defintion, nor does ‘fascist’ has one (political science and philosophy have benen debating liberalism for centuries, its many meanings), such witty statments actually have no meaning, i.e. everbody interprets them as they see it fit.
To Nihm: Re the obsession with Gyurcsány. His name became a symbol for eveyrthing that is bad in life. Similarly to ‘liberal’ (note that Obama and his people has not once uttered the “L-word” in the last five years). It was the work of Fidesz mostly, but also of MSZP which has always been characterised by infightings and leakages and internal smear campaigns so much so that MSZP politicians/operators like Imre Szekeres and László Puch regularly used Magyar Nemzet (the Fidesz-mouthpiece daily owned by Lajos Simicska) for their own interests. Loyalty as such is unknown at MSZP.
I agree with Éva’s view that Gyurcsány hmself has not been shown in the last 10-15 years to be part of any self-serving corrupt business transaction. You just can’t show it, there is no evidence to it. Having said that Gyurcsány suffered badly in that he is a victim of the character assassination, but there is nothing one can do about it politically othen than accept it. You can’t fire/sack the voters, Gyurcsány can only do one thing, he may rebuild himself again from the bottom up, and this is what he is doing now and perhaps he might succeed (although this has a low chance for a number of reasons).
Other than that, I agree that it is very important not to further the Fidesz-lead anti-Gyurcsány discourse and get hysterical if Gyurcsány says something and be concious about what we say and how we say it.
[Note how much Fidesz is successful in establishig its own dicourse: Fidesz used the word ‘puskázni’ (cheating by inappropriately looking up the textbook during the exam) when referring to the current practice of citation of former constitutional case law by the constitutional court. This – condescending, slang – word was repeated an nuseam by opposition-leaning journalists even when thy criticised the the government’s ideas. But just by repeatint this word ahundred times, they furthered the subconscouus idea that the court was doing someting inappropriate, when in fact does what any court does, views precedent for inspiration and to shortcut settled arguments – exactly what Fidesz wants to achieve].
But one also has to accept that Gy. was successfully symbolised as a focal point of all things repulsive — and who through this transformation became completely immune to rational discourse.
And indeed Bajnai is the current target of these efforts, and the slow-burning (pseudo-civil) campaign will be unrelenting, and might succeed in the next 14 months. Once Bajnai is out, Fidesz can kill MSZP in any number of ways (even from the opposition). But Bajnai (and Mesterházy as well, by the way) is a much tougher cookie, becaue he being very diplomatic and aloof never elicited strong emotions from voters. Which is good and bad, but in this case it’s good, because people are not preoccupied with his personality/persona and do not care about his character that much. He is not such a colorful person about whom peopel can have a strong/dynamic feeling.
And again, these coming 2014 elections are for Fidesz to lose. The opposition (not inclusing Jobbik which is a huge reserve for Fidesz in the first past the post-heavy system) has so many obstables, that it anyway starts from a completely hopeless positon, anything in any combination will be a huge success.
I agree with Nimrod. Gyurcsány bashing helps only Orbán, especially if it comes from the so-called liberal side. Orbán hates him ever since the television debate when Gy. won the debate with a knockout. The difference was so profound that even only 35% of Fidesz supporters thought that Orbán won. He will never forget that humiliation. Plus Gy. won the 2006 elections against all odds and thus deprived Orbán to become a “pocket dictator” for another four years. The “pocket dictator” is not my own. I read it somewhere in the Hungarian media but it fits.
I am surprised at some of the Gyurcsány bashing here. His government wasn’t great, but by Hungarian standards (say since 1998) it was easily one of the best. If Kingfisher has evidence of Gurcsány’s corruption, then he should send it to Fidesz, because for the past three years (in reality nine years, but for three years at taxpayer expense) a small army of people have been trying to nail Gyurcsány on anything, and failed miserably, even on charges of… plagiarism from 1984! For those who criticise his “austerity”, the leading charge against him from Fidesz is that he didn’t do enough austerity, ie, his government spent too much money, despite Fidesz opposing and halting his (fairly tepid) cost-cutting measures. Gyurcsány is one of the good guys (comparatively), but has been irretrievably ruined by Fidesz, and all we can do is stop talking about him.
Also, it wouldn’t matter if Gyurcsány left politics and went to stay in the International Space Station from now until the election, every advertisement (except maybe those involving goose farmers) will feature him. For people or parties to set Gyurcsány as the litmus test of whether the will join an alliance is silly and playing into Orbán’s hands, as, whatever happens, the entire regime’s apparatus will be delivering the message that Gyurcsány is part of it, either overtly, in spirit, or behind the scenes. Every moment spent talking about Gyurcsány helps the government – let’s change the subject.
I think what can be safely said is that the behaviour in that Fidesz excels has hardly been something entirely unknown in Hungary. Also, the division of the society and the very aggressive atmosphere in the political arena has developed in the 1990s, and the reasons are not only that ONE person is specifically divisive. The old guard has managed to secure positions, while the broad public faced one austerity crisis after the other. For the perception of the two past decades it is in general no consolation that there were phases where the budget increased spending also for the public or that people from Fidesz also learned how to make money out of public funds. The biggest failure is not that corruption is and has existed in all those years, this is the case in the neighbouring countries also and equally loathed, but that there was nearly no perceived improvement in living standards of the broad public. At least not relative to that of the people at the top. Probably it is really unfair to Gy. to use him as the scapegout and relate him to corruption, presenting just him as the incarnation of Hungary’s problems. Instead the whole political class has failed. But to get out of that situation, it is difficult to imagine that it is this failed political class who could lead, even if they are needed in supporting positions.
I have asked before – I do again: please, let me know, what exactly Gyurcsány has done what is so terrible, that he must be eliminated from the political landscape of Hungary?
Still waiting, still no answer!
Are you all, our Gyurcsány bashing friends, has been brainwashed by a Fidesz BS, has taken every lie as granted, and thereafter you expect everyone else too to buy the same unfounded and vague claim, that ”he is corrupt”?
You have to do better than this.
Of course, he has made mistakes.
In my very personal opinion the biggest such mistake was that he thought, he is in Europe, while it was Hungary…
Anyway, does anybody remember the word “Sárazsadány”?
In case you need some refreshment, that is the place, where the company of the wife of Orban happens to have their vineyards, this is the place, which has won numerous state sponsored and EU support. A few years back surfaced an – otherwise valid – recording, when Orbán himself instructed the members of the company, how to apply, and warned them, not to win the most… Afterward the explanation was – while nobody denied the content of the recording – that it wasn’t an official meeting anyway, so what?
If we are at it: does anybody remember the word “Gripen”? No?, What about Saab JAS 39 Gripen? Does it ring some bells?
So far there is numerous witness records – and a granted plea bargain – underscore, that there indeed was a decent payoff, but we’re not supposed to talk about…
Oh, you asking, who may have been involved?
Why don’t you just look up the names on the list of the present Hungarian government?
You’re interested about five person.
A cue: some of them even came up as potential III/III agent, we are near!
So, back to the subject: just what exactly your problem with Gyurcsány?
Even harder: does anybody of ‘the people’ can spell exactly, what has he done, what so terrible, that even the present situation feels more bearable, than Gyurcsány in the politics?
You won’t say, that even if there isn’t anything substantial what qualify him as “worse than Orbán” – everyone has to except, that yes, that’s life, Orban ‘yes’ Gyurcsány ‘no’, no reasonable explanation, sorry?
Finally: I still asking a question and waiting some reasonable explanation, beside “the people takes it like this, so he have to go” – I hope, you understand and humor me, – some clear words, that’s all I’m asking – why don’t you?
This is where you are wrong. You have to ask yourself; why is it that people were willing to believe the worst of Gy? Why was he not able to counter the propaganda if is was propaganda?
As for corruption, is it wrong to over bill for services? Was there anything illegal about that? Isn’t this how Malev was bled dry? How about the most expensive highway construction in Europe? Was that corruption or did anything illegal happen there? What about the 100s of other public work projects? About the most you can say is that someone had their own interest at heart instead of the country. Is that illegal? How about all the payments made outside of the country to shell companies in order for foreign companies to approvals needed to operate in the country? Is any of that easily provable? This is more than just slipping an envelope of cash into a pocket. How much of this was Gy involved in? Who knows. Would he be the only one? Certainly not! The fighter Jet deal seems to be more of a Fidesz deal. All one can say is that it seems that if one starts pulling on this thread, the whole works will come apart.
Spectator, I can misjudge the situation as I approach Hungary very much from the outside. I consider the main task to be achieved in the medium-term the establishment of some basis for cooperation between the very diverse opposition groups. I read here frequently that this is nearly impossible because insurmountable personal animosities. That is why I thought that the strategy to be followed should take this into account. Which means that a first step is to agree to disagree in some highly controversial issues. This means that some people have to swallow quite a bit – but again, this is about the future of a country! To insist on the establishment of ‘historical truth’ is only playing into the hands of Fidesz. That should make possible to proceed to step 2 (which would be step 1 in better circumstances) to agree on a minimum of necessary changes in post-OV Hungary.
All one can say is that it seems that if one starts pulling on this thread, the whole works will come apart.
So, why don’t we?
Isn’t it time, to make a clean slate once for all, and throw out all the garbage, in spite what side they are at the moment?
(I say this, because some of our leaders quite frequently changed political, even religious views an sides, we may catch him/them in midst of changing again – even they should get a chance, shouldn’t they?)
Then – and only then – would we have a chance to move forward, even preempt future accusations, if we are lucky enough to go so far.
And then, if we are done wit all the cleaning, start to think about, who qualify for the job. To me isn’t enough if someone ‘virgin’ in politics, no, thanks!
The person must be a seasoned politician too, in order to lead us somewhere, instead to watch as he/she struggling to learn the trade, so, forget about the ones hasn’t done anything yet, hence anything wrong either..!
I don’t care: do it right, finally, whoever you are!
– Even if I’m totally alone with my opinion among different fan-clubs of different sides, yes, I don’t care, who’s doing right, as long as it right!
Kristen, I agree with you in most account.
After all, I’m living outside of the country since nearly 25 years, probably I’m immune to the emotional turmoil what comes with being Hungarian – or I experiencing in a different way.
However, as long as we can not agree on even the most important issues of our life, we have no chance, whatever flag we are waving around. People, who can not take aside personal animosities in case of emergency, quite simply shouldn’t be in leading position anywhere, particularly in politics.
My biggest problem wit LMP was/is all the time, that they mixed up personal taste and ideological stand with grown up, say: global politics, and they even thought, that they are right doing so… It turned out, they aren’t, but in the most part they still pursuing the same old – and totally worthless – idea, that the may even present/represent something different.
Being different isn’t a value by itself, being different to something inferior by civilized human standards is something what can be perceived as positive in comparison – that something what I still waiting for.
So, I have no understanding toward the Schiffer platform – or whatever they are at the moment – since it much more at the stakes than personal ambitions or dislike, and obviously they decided that this is the primary factor, the fate of the country may change toward whichever direction, they will preserve their ‘middle’ status, and could eve become the only ‘right’ party at the end.
Nobody really like lukewarm stance, Hungarians particularly known to take sides – mostly the wrong ones, mind you, but still – during history, and despised the opportunists trying to tag along the winning parties, so the policy of Schiffer is a failure. Even if the brainwashed orbanists or the desperate democrats turn to be the winners, they certainly don’t want to have much to do with a chameleon party, which can change colors at will, any shades between orange and green, as you wish, do they?
I often appreciate your comments, but this is just Fidesz lies repeated ad nauseum, and at no point is there any hint of a suggestion Gyurcsány profited from any of this. Fidesz would have done something with it if they had any evidence. No one here is claiming there was no corruption under MSZP, it is well known there was. It is also well known that it was carried out by some of Gyurcsány’s enemies in MSZP. Even then, his government was still less corrupt than the current or former Fidesz governments. To be complaining out Gyurcsány, of all significant Hungarian political figures, is to miss the point of the current situation,
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