The Hungarian opposition has awakened. What comes next?

Hungarian commentators who follow politics very carefully and whose opinion I trust kept saying all along that cooperation among the diverse opposition groups would materialize because it cannot be otherwise given the electoral law. I was also inclined to believe that to be the case, but I have worried all along that they would run out of time.

I was enthusiastic when Gordon Bajnai decided to return to politics because he did a terrific job during his months as prime minister. There was modest economic growth as opposed to the recession that resulted from the unorthodox economic policies of the second Orbán government. I also thought that his quiet nature and measured tone would stand in stark contrast to Viktor Orbán’s firebrand style. But in the last five months I became increasingly disenchanted with Gordon Bajnai’s strategy. I don’t want to repeat myself, but for those who are not regular readers of Hungarian Spectrum my main objection was his alliance with a group called Milla that was formed on Facebook and that could get 40-50,000 people out on the streets on national holidays to protest the present regime. That was a feat, but the fierce anti-party rhetoric of the Milla group about whose leadership we knew practically nothing didn’t bode well for the future. Whether disenchanted Hungarians like it or not, elections can be won or lost only by parties.

Most likely because of Milla, Bajnai’s Együtt 2014 group and later party dragged its heels on the subject of negotiations with the other opposition parties. Five precious months went by, and about a week ago Bajnai asked for yet another two months before Együtt 2014 would sit down with MSZP to talk about the details of cooperation.

Attila Mesterházy, the chairman of MSZP, is most likely right when he says that the people he and his fellow politicians meet while traveling from town to town desperately want cooperation. It’s no wonder, Mesterházy said–and I can only agree with him–that about half of the voting population is undecided when there is no united party to vote for. Moreover, Mesterházy looked like an open and generous soul by saying that the candidate for the premiership should be the person who has the best chance of getting the most votes for the united party. He may not be completely honest on this question; one couldn’t blame him for wanting to have the post when he is the head of the largest opposition party. However, I have the feeling that if polls were to indicate by the end of the year that with Bajnai the opposition’s chances would be better, he would step aside.

It was exactly one week ago that Bajnai came up with his ideas for a timetable, but something happened between  April 19 and 27. First of all, according to the latest two public opinion polls Együtt 2014 further lost voters, three months in a row. Second, Bajnai couldn’t really explain why he needed two more months, aside from the obvious fact that Együtt 2014 is weak now and he would like to be in a better position in his negotiations with MSZP. He looked like the kind of schemer and cunning politician the Hungarians hate so much by now

But, in an apparent about face, when Attila Mesterházy called him on Thursday night to join MSZP’s steering committee meeting today, Bajnai accepted.

By Arrow-ErnetO / Flickr

Giving a helping hand by Arrow-ErnestO / Flickr

It seems to me that Fidesz was caught flatfooted. On the day that the news of the impending meeting between Bajnai and the steering committee of MSZP was announced, the Fidesz propaganda machine was behind the times. At least three articles appeared in Magyar Nemzet in two days about the close connection between Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai. As I said earlier, it really doesn’t matter how much Gordon Bajnai tries to act as if he has nothing to do with Ferenc Gyurcsány, it will not convince the Fidesz propagandists. It’s a waste of time and most likely politically injurious as well. After all, Gyurcsány’s party, the Demokratikus Koalíció, has a sizable following that might find Gordon Bajnai’s behavior unsavory.

Magyar Nemzet, the semi-official paper of the government party, at first tried to minimize the importance of the meeting. The paper, which is very good on getting the scoop from government circles, is much less well informed about what’s going on in the other parties. According to the paper, “the MSZP leadership doesn’t consider cooperation with other parties necessary for victory at the election next April.” In brief, one mustn’t be terribly worried about this meeting because it will lead nowhere.

According to the normally well-informed HVG, Bajnai originally accepted the invitation in order to explain to the socialists why he would like to start negotiations only in mid-June. Well, it turned out that the meeting was much more productive. The MSZP politicians were receptive even before the meeting started. Tibor Szanyi, one of the leaders of the party, emphasized that Bajnai came as a friend and, after all, “we are all friends here …. and comrades.” (The word “elvtárs” in Hungarian simply means “sharing the same ideas.”)  Bajnai, for his part, emphasized that “once during the economic crisis we worked together with great success and so we will able to do it again.” He was ready to subordinate all other issues to electoral success. Mesterházy was of the same opinion and called the coming election one of historic importance. “We must look after each other, we must help each other.”

In the end they agreed on the following: (1) In each electoral district there will be only one candidate. (2) At by-elections there will be joint campaigns and a common candidate. (3) The parties won’t try to weaken each other either in statements or in any other way. There will be a hotline set up between Bajnai and Mesterházy to coordinate the work between the two parties. (4) Each party’s activists, although they will work separately, will strengthen cooperation between the parties on the local level.

Two hours after the joint press conference of Bajnai and Mesterházy the editorial board of Magyar Nemzet already figured out an “appropriate” headline: “The Bajnai-Mesterházy-Gyurcsány pact became a reality.” “Pact” has a bad ring in Hungarian political discourse, and there is no way the government paper could possibly leave out the name of Ferenc Gyurcsány from the newly arrived at understanding between Együtt 2014 and MSZP. Moreover, the Hungarian opposition has a new name in the Fidesz vocabulary: “the mafia left.” It was first uttered today by Máté Kocsis, one of the young Turks of Fidesz, who began his youthful career in István Csurka’s anti-Semitic MIÉP party. He is only one of the newly appointed spokesmen, but I guess  if you have several and all of them say the same thing over and over the message will stick better with the party faithful. The more the merrier.

Meanwhile the strategists of Fidesz are working hard to discredit the opposition. In this deadly game the presumably trumped-up charges against György Szilvásy, Ferenc Gyurcsány, and Sándor Laborc will play an important role.

The real campaign just began. Perhaps somewhat optimistically Stop, an Internet paper, came out with this headline: “This is what Fidesz is terrified of: A strong opposition cooperation came into being.” And, let me add, it also began on the local level. Együtt 2014, MSZP, and DK launched a joint effort against the Fidesz mayor, Ferenc Papcsák, of Zugló (District XIV of Budapest). I have the feeling many such cooperative efforts will follow now that there is an understanding in the center.


  1. Adding Bokros’ new MoMa to the mix will go a long way towards guaranteeing a broad range of choices to offer the undecideds at election time…hopefully enough to get them to the voting booth, and on the side of the opposition!

    A short introduction to the present situation in Hungary.
    In 1990, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Western Democracies were in a position to insist that the old communist “Nomenklatura” should be turfed out, brought to book and/or at least prevented from retaining their power network
    and destroy the evidence of their corrupt, criminal, murderous, bloodthirsty past.
    Similar to what took place in Germany after the defeat and collapse of the Hitler regime in 1945. But Western democracies failed to do so.
    Perhaps the two statements below explain the reason why.
    “If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.”
    Justice Robert Jackson, Chief of Counsel for the United States at Nuremberg in 1945/46.
    “If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.” Noam Chomsky
    And today, who really are these “frowning” people, wagging their forefingers, nay shaking their bloodstained fists as they criticise and attack Hungary sitting on a high horse?
    Their forefathers went to the continent now called America, killed the Red Skinned indigenous population mistakenly named Indians, by every means at their disposal including giving them as presents small pox infested blankets and clothing. And after having killed millions of the Red Skinned people imported Black Skinned people from the Continent of Africa as slave labourers, to work on the Land they stole from the Red Skinned people.

    A brief and crucial history of the United States <<<<

    In 1945 after the defeat of Germany General; later President Eisenhower, (1952-1960) changed the status of the Prisoners of War (POW) to Disarmed Enemy Forces (DEF) so that they would not have to treat the captured Germans according to the Genève Conventions which they also signed and deliberately starved over a million Germans to death. And even today in 2013 still maintain camps in other countries where the United States Laws don't apply and prisoners can be tortured.
    Hillary R. Clinton, Kim Lane Scheppele, Helga Trüpel, Ben Cardin, Jose Manuel Barroso, the paedophile Daniel Cohn Bendit and many others, especially the Hungarian traitors from whom you get your false information on which you base your criticism and attacks against Hungary, beat that for cynicism if you can!
    And as for the present, compare the treatment of demonstrators in Hungary by the Fidesz/KDNP (Young Democrats/Christian Democrats) Government who won the elections in 2010 with a landslide 2/3 majority, with that of the previous "Socialist"(?) Gyurcsány Government, especially in 2006, the 50th. Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956,
    after they won the elections by lying and misleading the electorate – according to the "confession" of Gyurcsány himself, which confession provoked the demonstrations..

  3. Perfect, now that they’ve got themselves sorted, what are they going to do for the country? Could we start with a campaign against the illegitimate constitution? And what are they going to do when the central bank starts flooding the markets with cheap money, which is about to happen.

  4. LwiiH :
    Perfect, now that they’ve got themselves sorted, what are they going to do for the country? Could we start with a campaign against the illegitimate constitution? And what are they going to do when the central bank starts flooding the markets with cheap money, which is about to happen.

    How is the constitution illegitimate? Because you don’t like it?

  5. @Johnny Boy

    2010 May: Orban swears in to uphold the Constitution

    2011 April: Orban abolishes the Constitution and replaces it with a partisan document called “basic law”.

    Everything done after this date will be declared null and void and illegal.

  6. Johnny Boy :

    LwiiH :
    Perfect, now that they’ve got themselves sorted, what are they going to do for the country? Could we start with a campaign against the illegitimate constitution? And what are they going to do when the central bank starts flooding the markets with cheap money, which is about to happen.

    How is the constitution illegitimate? Because you don’t like it?

    It depends on your definition of “legitimacy”. The 2/3 majority in the parliament gave you the right to change it, but that doesn’t mean it represents the will of the people. How many times do we have to explain this to you, Johnny? The 2/3 in the parliament did not make you smart. You do not represent the majority. You only won the seats. Your legitimacy glory will only last until a sane government will take over and scrubs the whole thing. So until then enjoy your mess …

  7. Johnny Boy :

    LwiiH :
    Perfect, now that they’ve got themselves sorted, what are they going to do for the country? Could we start with a campaign against the illegitimate constitution? And what are they going to do when the central bank starts flooding the markets with cheap money, which is about to happen.

    How is the constitution illegitimate? Because you don’t like it?

    The ruling party had no mandiate to change the constitution. The ruling party wrote the constitution for their own purposes excluding all other groups in society from participating in the process. I’d call this mob rule. I can list other reasons but you only need one good one…

  8. Eva S. Balogh :
    This tirade from Attila Lévay is more than tiresome.

    Thankfully he included that nonsense about the US deliberately starving over a million Germans to death. If that had happened, wouldn’t Germany have done something about it by now?

  9. For the attention of Eva S. Balogh


    Oxford Dictionary of the US Military: Disarmed Enemy Forces DEF
    Official designation of German soldiers who surrendered to the Allies at the end of World War II in Europe and were subsequently held under abominable conditions in camps in the Rhine valley. By 1947 most DEF, except for members of the SS and Gestapo and those held for war crimes trials, were released by U.S. occupation authorities.

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    Disarmed Enemy Forces (DEF), and—less commonly[1]—Surrendered Enemy Forces, was a U.S. designation, both for soldiers who surrendered to an adversary after hostilities ended, and for those previously surrendered POWs who were held in camps in occupied German territory at that time.[2] It is mainly referenced to Dwight D. Eisenhower’s designation of German prisoners in post World War II occupied Germany.[3] Because of the logistical impossibility of feeding millions of surrendered German soldiers at the levels required by the Geneva Convention during the food crisis of 1945, the purpose of the designation—along with the British designation of Surrendered Enemy Personnel (SEP)—was to prevent categorization of the prisoners as Prisoners of War (POW) under the 1929 Geneva Convention.

    How the Americans and the French treated German Prisoners after the Second World War, and dodged scrutiny

    Even today 68 years after the end of the war, the Germans are still in a state of shock.
    The above accounts were written by non Germans. Perhaps the time will come when someone in Germany will write their side of the story.

  10. @All:

    Please ignore this latest troll ” Lévay Atilla ” – as a German I know what atrocities happened during and after the war.

    But what would be the connection to today’s Hungarian problems ?

  11. Apparently, Lévay Atilla hasn’t seen movies like “Inglourious Basterds” or even “Saving Private Ryan.” Mainstream pop culture is extremely aware that the US did some pretty nasty things during WWII.

    Lévay Atilla thinks he will blow our minds by simply announcing some obvious fact that non-Hungarians did bad things.

    Bátyám, every person who proclaims that Hungarians are the only oppressed people makes the same argument. If you want to educate people that the Americans are not perfect, go to another website.

  12. Öcsém, (By the way, how do know that I am older than you?)
    I never proclaimed that Hungarians are the only oppressed people.
    In the World we live in there are millions of people who are oppressed, but are blissfully not even aware of it….

  13. So Hungarians are “oppressed people” ? Sounds interesting …

    Oppressed by whom ?

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