Negotiations between MSZP and Együtt 2014 began while left of center public figures gather in Szárszó

This weekend was dominated by the Hungarian opposition, a rare event nowadays. First, the long-awaited negotiations between Gordon Bajnai’s Együtt 2014-PM (E14) and the Attila Mesterházy-led MSZP began. I complained earlier that the scheduled meeting was fixed for Friday. Another week wasted. Then in the last minute it was again postponed due to the death of Gyula Horn, former MSZP prime minister internationally known for his role in the unification of Germany by allowing tens of thousands of East German refugees to leave Hungary and join their compatriots in the West. Naturally, MSZP MPs wanted to be present at the eulogies in parliament honoring their former leader.

So, it was only on Saturday morning that the MSZP delegation comprised of Attila Mesterházy, József Tóbiás, Tamás Harangozó, László Botka, Zoltán Lukács, and Zsolt Molnár arrived at E14’s headquarters. Waiting for them were Gordon Bajnai, Péter Juhász (Milla), Viktor Szigetvári, Péter Kónya (Solidarity), Szabó Tímea, and Benedek Jávor (Párbeszéd Magyarországért [PM]). The meeting lasted four hours although it was frequently interrupted for “cigarette breaks” for the smokers in the MSZP delegation.

According to several descriptions of the meeting, although it started off with socialist recriminations by Mesterházy about E14’s claim to be the exclusive herald of a new era, eventually the conversation became quite friendly. Most importantly, both Bajnai and Mesterházy announced that they are ready to step aside if circumstances so dictate and are ready to support whoever is chosen for the post of prime minister. They also outlined a timetable that will start with first agreeing to a common program but, I’m happy to announce, these talks will not drag out too long. By mid-July the agreement will be signed. In the fall they will start selecting common candidates and eventually will settle the issue of a candidate for the post of prime minister. The minimum requirement will be having only common candidates, but the socialists would also like to have a common list that in their opinion can assure the highest number of votes.

Finally, according to rumors the two parties “graciously” agreed to allow the Demokratikus Koalíció to join the unified opposition but only if Ferenc Gyurcsány does not run in the forthcoming election. He can’t even be an ordinary parliamentary candidate. As expected, DK has already posted a note on Facebook:

DK is a proud and strong party with a membership of 8,000. It won two local by-elections and at two others its candidates won 25% of the votes. It has ten members in parliament which is currently the second largest opposition party. DK is the greatest opponent of the Orbán dictatorship.

No one should doubt that Ferenc Gyurcsány, the last active politician who defeated Viktor Orbán, will run in the 2014 elections.

And now let’s move on to the next event that may have some influence on Hungary’s political future. Hungary’s leading left-of-center public figures, businessmen, politicians, artists, writers, philosophers, and political scientists gathered for a “picnic” or as one newspaper called it a “jamboree” at Tivadar (Teddy) Farkasházy’s house in Balatonszárszó (Szárszó for short). Farkasházy, a writer and humorist, is the great-great-grandson of Móric Fischer von Farkasházy, founder of the Herend porcelain factory in 1830.

It was in 1993 that Farkasházy first invited the cream of Hungarian society to a get-together to discuss matters of importance. At this first meeting Viktor Orbán and several other people from the right were among the invited guests.

These yearly gatherings continued for ten years, but after 2003 they were no longer held. Perhaps because then came eight years of socialist-liberal rule. But Farkasházy came to the conclusion that it was time to revive the tradition. A couple of days ago Népszava predicted that although more than 400 people were invited, most likely many of them will be afraid to attend. Well, they were not. According to some estimates there might have been 600 guests. Naturally, Gordon Bajnai and Attila Mesterházy attended in addition to two former prime ministers, Péter Medgyessy and Ferenc Gyurcsány.

György Konrád, the well known writer, was one of the main speakers. He made no secret of his conviction that the next prime minister of Hungary should be Gordon Bajnai because he has “already proved himself.” But Attila Mesterházy should be there assisting him. It should be like a tandem bicycle: Bajnai at the handlebar and Mesterházy pushing the pedals. People present wondered how Mesterházy must have felt listening to Konrád’s advice, but apparently Mesterházy took it in stride and in fact even thanked Konrád for some of the praise he received from the writer.

Gordon Bajnai and Attila Mesterházy received mountain bikes as a gift from Teddy Farkasházy

Gordon Bajnai and Attila Mesterházy received mountain bikes as a gift from Teddy Farkasházy / Népszava

Paul Lendvai struck a rather pessimistic note, announcing that  in his opinion the opposition couldn’t possibly win the next election. Well, that got to fiery Ágnes Heller, who gave such an inspiring speech urging people to do everything possible that she received a standing ovation. Both Bajnai and Mesterházy spoke, the former in his usual measured manner and the latter in a more populist vein.

The real value of such a gathering lies not the speeches but in the opportunity it offers important people from many walks of life to gather in small groups and exchange ideas. There is an excellent picture gallery in Népszava, from which it is clear that everybody who’s anybody in leftist circles was at Farkasházy’s house in Szárszó.

Farkasházy might be a humorist, but he has no taste for the snide kind of humor Index’s reporter displayed in his early reports of the event and he was subsequently barred from the premises. HírTV fared worse. Farkasházy didn’t even let them in. On the other hand, ATV’s crew was there, and tomorrow after Egyenes beszéd we will be able to see the most important parts of the program.

Magyar Hírlap triumphantly announced that Ferenc Gyurcsány left early “because he wasn’t allowed to speak.” Of course, this is nonsense. The program was fixed ahead of time, so Gyurcsány knew that he would not be one of the speakers. This is a small thing but it says a lot about the unprofessionalism of the journalists who gather at the right-wing publications. And, as long as I’m lashing out at journalists, some young ones (in their early 20s) are simply supercilious and write dumb little snippets like the one in today’s 444.hu where the reporter calls the new formation “a coalition of clowns.”

I don’t know how important this meeting of like-minded people was, but I don’t think that it was totally useless. It might mend fences between the Hungarian liberals and socialists on the one hand and left-leaning intellectuals on the other. Let’s hope that this gathering was the start of closer cooperation between them.

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36 comments

  1. @ Éva. “I don’t know how important this meeting of like-minded people was, but I don’t think that it was totally useless. It might mend fences between the Hungarian liberals and socialists on the one hand and left-leaning intellectuals on the other. Let’s hope that this gathering was the start of closer cooperation between them.”

    To me it is reassuring that those people exist, meet and make up. But I have to side with Lendvai who says the next elections – if there are any (as I always add) – will go to Fidesz.

    In Hungary there are so many talents, also political. But megalomaniac ‘godfather” Orbán stole the country – lock, stock and barrel.

    And for an outsider like me, it is difficult to understand that a political talent such as Gyurcsány is hated by so many, even by intellectuals or a liberal press such as Pester Lloyd.

  2. I’m increasingly disappointed in Bajnai. How can he demand that Gyurcsany not run?
    That’s ridiculous toadying to the Fidesz crowd. He covers himself in shame. Can he not try to win on merit and principle alone?

    As for Eva’s bit about the young journalists: “simply supercilious and write dumb little snippets”….I beg to differ. ‘Not dumb’. In a mafia society, sycophancy gets you ahead, not merit, so you better learn to ‘serve’ the anticipated wishes of the bosses.

  3. “Then in the last minute it was again postponed due to the death of Gyula Horn, former MSZP prime minister internationally known for his role in the unification of Germany by allowing tens of thousands of East German refugees to leave Hungary and join their compatriots in the West.”
    Dear Ms. Éva S. Balogh, You are “very economical with the Truth” about Gyula Horn.
    Horn Gyulát felülvizsgálati lapján 1957-ben úgy minősíti a bizottság: “Az ellenforradalmi események alatt a párt és a munkásosztály mellett kiállt. a forradalmi karhatalmi ezredbe lépett.szilárd, osztályhű, jó elvtárs.lakhelyén rendesen viselkedett.” The “Comrades” will try and put all the skeletons in his coffin now and bury them with him.

  4. Lévay Atilla :
    “Then in the last minute it was again postponed due to the death of Gyula Horn, former MSZP prime minister internationally known for his role in the unification of Germany by allowing tens of thousands of East German refugees to leave Hungary and join their compatriots in the West.”
    Dear Ms. Éva S. Balogh, You are “very economical with the Truth” about Gyula Horn.
    Horn Gyulát felülvizsgálati lapján 1957-ben úgy minősíti a bizottság: “Az ellenforradalmi események alatt a párt és a munkásosztály mellett kiállt. a forradalmi karhatalmi ezredbe lépett.szilárd, osztályhű, jó elvtárs.lakhelyén rendesen viselkedett.” The “Comrades” will try and put all the skeletons in his coffin now and bury them with him.

    Typically Hungarian, pull-him-down-to-our-level rhetoric.

    What Horn Gyula did by defying the Soviet masters and opening the borders to the East Germans was tantamount to the bravery exhibited by the “Unknown Rebel” of Tianamen Square (1989). I can compare it to no other signal act of bravery.

    It boggles the mind that Hungarians can hoist Tormay, Wass, Nyiro, Horthy and such third-rate individuals to hero-hood, they
    can minimize a true act of greatness and courage.

  5. Bajnai and Mesterhazy don’t want to associate with Gyurcsany because they want to do as best they can in the elections. It’s going to be hard enough as it is without Gyurcsany making it any harder. It’s my belief that Gyurcsany’s a secret Fidesz agent. He and Orban had a conversation before Gyurcsany was sports minister. Orban: Feri, can you infiltrate the MSZP and destroy it while making the left wing fractious and divided so we can get a two thirds majority and rule for 15 years? Gyurcsany: Sure thing, Viktor, you can count on me.

  6. Typically Hungarian, pull-him-down-to-our-level rhetoric.

    What Horn Gyula did by defying the Soviet masters and opening the borders to the East Germans was tantamount to the bravery exhibited by the “Unknown Rebel” of Tianamen Square (1989). I can compare it to no other signal act of bravery.

    It boggles the mind that Hungarians can hoist Tormay, Wass, Nyiro, Horthy and such third-rate individuals to hero-hood, they
    can minimize a true act of greatness and courage.Typically Hungarian, pull-him-down-to-our-level rhetoric.

    If you think that Horn Gyula would have done this without Soviet permission, you must be vetry naive indeed. And comparing him with the solitary Chinese hero at the Tiananmen Square Massacre is an insult.

  7. London Calling!

    Gyula Horn was the Churchill of Hungary – taking a brave stand against external forces, even though he may have had a few skeletons in the cupboard (who hasn’t? Churchill had).

    History will be kind to him even if the 1956’ers have reservations – as do I – for his part in hunting down the ‘traitors’.

    As ever in Hungary he is more appreciated outside than in – the Charlemagne Award by Germany, for example (by Germany!). An award given to Churchill too.

    For the sake of his family – and historical justice – he should be given the highest Hungarian awards posthumously – and a proper state funeral.

    No less.

    Regards

    Charlie

  8. London Calling!

    On topic!

    I see the ‘negotiations’ of the opposition parties as a start to fighting the election after next – which will have to include the skills and integrity – yes integrity – of Gy.

    They have missed the bus for this one.

    Regards

    Charlie

  9. “Farkasházy might be a humorist”

    Too bad I can’t remember anything even remotely humorous said by him in his entire life.
    In fact, nobody can.

  10. Re Horn. I think he will get a state funeral with foreign dignitaries present. As for the award. He was up for a very high Hungarian award but President László Sólyom vetoed it. Shame on him.

    As for his bravery. I was also sure at one ;point that the Hungarians had to have the Russians’ OK but since I read a lot of reminiscences of people involved and they didn’t consult with them. However, they were pretty sure that Gorbachev will not interfere.

  11. @Eva

    “..they were pretty sure that Gorbachev will not interfere.”

    Yeah, and so did Dubcek in 1968 before the soviets sent him up the creek.

  12. petofi :

    @Eva

    “..they were pretty sure that Gorbachev will not interfere.”

    Yeah, and so did Dubcek in 1968 before the soviets sent him up the creek.

    Different times, different leaders. You cannot compare the late 1980s to the 1960s. By the time all that happened the Soviet Union simply didn’t have the economic and political strength to run down either Germany or Hungary.

  13. OT: “Peter Harrach the head of the KDNP wants to charge Gordin Bajnai and certain civilian organizations regarding the “conspiracy against the Orban government”.
    I remember prior to the eighties how everyone was dreading to immigrate from Hungary, as upon their return they could of been arrested under frivolous charges. Also people were worried to get involved with any no-communist political group, as they could be harassed constantly by the “political police” (hence my immigration). Why do I have the feeling that we are walking back in history? Why do I feel that it was very wise not to reveal our real names on this blog, contrary to what some of the Trolls on this blog wanted?

  14. OT: Please rejoice! Oh I am sure our own Fidesz Troopers in this blog would be happy for this news, as they always accuse Eva that she does not disclose all the great achievements of the Fidesz government, especially when it comes to financial success. As the direct outcome of the Orban introduced flat income tax system (16%), the hardworking, low earning Members of the Parliament are able to take home an additional 7,000,000 forints (over 23,000 euros) for three years. I was so worried about them before. I think Fidesz should put out a front page ad to let people know about this great achievement.

  15. Dan: you should your head checked, seriously.

    Gyurcsány is a strong willed person and three of those poeple is a bit too many, especially if Mesterházy and Bajnai have difficulty to agree (and of course Bajnai must work with Juhász and the Szolidaity guy, no easy feat).

    In addition, Gyurcsány is a very easy target of the right and Jobbik. If he is there, the coalition could be branded as return of Gyurcsány.

    It’s not a very complicated equasion to understand (to solve it, it is).

  16. Dear Eva, this might be of interest for you. Since I have no clue if you heard about this and are aware that the monitoring of Hungary is on the agenda of PACE (monitoring procedure in respect of Hungary) for tomorrow find below the info:

    http://assembly.coe.int/Main.asp?link=/Sessions/2013/ESession2013_3.htm

    Below the draft resolution and the explanatory memorandum.

    http://assembly.coe.int/ASP/Doc/XrefViewPDF.asp?FileID=19777&Language=EN

    Last week Németh Zsolt visited Turkey and declared that Turkey is a genuine democracy. So my expectation is that about all Turkish members of PACE will vote against monitoring procedure, just like e.g. Azerbaijan etc.
    If you want you can follow the debate tomorrow from about 17.00 CET on

    http://webtv.coe.int/index.php?EventID=12&language=EN

    Best,
    FJ

  17. What Horn Gyula did by defying the Soviet masters and opening the borders to the East Germans was tantamount to the bravery exhibited by the “Unknown Rebel” of Tianamen Square (1989). I can compare it to no other signal act of bravery.
    It boggles the mind that Hungarians can hoist Tormay, Wass, Nyiro, Horthy and such third-rate individuals to hero-hood, they
    can minimize a true act of greatness and courage.

    History clearly states that Horn had permission to open the gates.

  18. LwiiH :
    History clearly states that Horn had permission to open the gates.

    In fact, they had to rebuild a 200m-long section of the fence to have something to cut through in front of the cameras.

  19. Eva S. Balogh :
    @Dan, your theory is absolutely ridiculous.

    @Dan seems to have succumbed to the FUDesz style conspiracy theories and smears that are becoming endemic to the Karpathian Basement. Sad to see them crop up on the oppositional side too.

    Truth be told, Gyurcsany is as decent and intelligent as Bajnai, a deeper (and perhaps more sincere) thinker and better politician than Mesterhazy, and would no doubt make the best prime minister of the three. I think all three know that. It is not surprising that the coalition is afraid to include Gyurcsany as a candidate, but I hope their fear is also mixed with profound regret for this. If not — if the Fudesz-orchestrated pariah status of Gyurcsany is being aided and abetted by the coalition out of anything other than a reluctant realism agreed to by all three — then B & M are earning permanent historic shame for succumbing to Orbanian opportunism and worse.

  20. Johnny Boy :

    CharlieH :
    It is well known that the trolls on here have had humour by-passes.

    I didn’t know you had one, sorry.

    Eva, I wonder why anonymous clowns like @JohnnyBoy continue to be allowed to post? I guess it’s to give the outside world a taste of the unappetizing mindlessness prevailing in Orban’s Hungary and among its expat groupies. But how many chances should be given to make a public fool of oneself, anonymously?

  21. LwiiH :

    What Horn Gyula did by defying the Soviet masters and opening the borders to the East Germans was tantamount to the bravery exhibited by the “Unknown Rebel” of Tianamen Square (1989). I can compare it to no other signal act of bravery.
    It boggles the mind that Hungarians can hoist Tormay, Wass, Nyiro, Horthy and such third-rate individuals to hero-hood, they
    can minimize a true act of greatness and courage.

    History clearly states that Horn had permission to open the gates.

    ‘Permission’ by whom? How was it transmitted?
    Why has this been kept a secret?

    And, how is History ‘talking’ these days…?

  22. Sorry to be a party-pooper, but was a dismal wretched gathering. There are some interesting individuals – Heller Ágnes to name but one – but this is the same exhausted bunch of clowns whose mismanagement and stupidity ushered in Orbán’s 2/3rds majority. And as for banning Index, it shows what a ridiculously insecure pompous ass Farkasházy is (does anyone really find him funny?)

    What is depressing is this: Fidesz has created the most corrupt and also most incompetent administration in Hungarian history. Huge swathes of the population are suffering. How is it humanly possible that the Hungarian opposition is incapable of coming up with any remotely coherent policies should they get elected? How come none of them can make a remotely coherent speech in parliament? And why is the same absymal crooks like Veres, Szekeres et al who are the “government in waiting.” No one will vote for them, and frankly, they have done nothing to earn a vote. Just “not being Fidesz” is not enough

  23. @ Cakewalk. (Almost) all of us here are asking the same questions. FYI: Gyurcsány can hold a very coherent speech without a manuscript.

  24. First. Dan is consul general of Hungary in NYC. By commenting here he fulfills his patriotic duty and works for the Hungarian taxpayers.
    Second. Farkashazy cracked this one on Saturday night: My critics say I have never had a good joke in my life. This is certainly not true. I had one in 1986.

  25. Nofene :

    First. Dan is consul general of Hungary in NYC. By commenting here he fulfills his patriotic duty and works for the Hungarian taxpayers.
    Second. Farkashazy cracked this one on Saturday night: My critics say I have never had a good joke in my life. This is certainly not true. I had one in 1986.

    I met Dán, the consul in New York but I don’t believe that our Dan is Károly Dán in New York.

  26. I don’t really think Gyurcsany is a Fidesz agent. But my point was he may as well be. No one can deny that Gyurcsany is good for Fidesz. That’s why he’s always in the Magyar Nemzet. Mesterhazy and Bajnai don’t want to be associated with him. This is plain to see.

  27. Dan :

    I don’t really think Gyurcsany is a Fidesz agent. But my point was he may as well be. No one can deny that Gyurcsany is good for Fidesz. That’s why he’s always in the Magyar Nemzet. Mesterhazy and Bajnai don’t want to be associated with him. This is plain to see.

    Sorry, but I don’t buy the whole story. You fell for the Fidesz smear campaign.

  28. The left as present at Farkasházy’s party is utterly incapable of winning any opportunity to govern. They have no vision, no strategy, no loyalty. They are tired.

    Sadly, the image is that the left consists of the very same people as it did circa 1993. It is perhaps not so, but the image is that.

    Plus, they look as though they are a circle of friends from Budapest, in which you get either accepted or not (like Orbán was looked down on). It is not a clear-rule-organisation like Fidesz is, i.e. if you work hard and take shit and do what you are told, you can be part of the system and received the spoils.

    Granted, some individuals at the party are interesting, smart, but together they represent the kind of out-of-touch liberal politics that brought us Fidesz’ 2/3.

    Where are the younger, more visionary, more disciplined people?

    If this is really the left as it exists now, Fidesz will have a field day. (Even though for example Közgép just won another 30bn even though the tender was written out originally for 17bn.)

    Orbán and his mafia may have been in politics for the last 25 years, but Fidesz is full of new, youngish people, Lázár, Rogán, the mayor of dictrict VIII and other functionaries. Fidesz can be a lot to various segments.

    This left is hopeless, they cannot even deal with the media. Do you think a similar party at the right would have outside journalists who can cause potentially emerrasement?

    (And btw the young left is even incapable of organsing a party.)

  29. “Farkasházy might be a humorist, but he has no taste for the snide kind of humor Index’s reporter displayed in his early reports of the event”

    I wish that was the case. Alas, Farkasházy has exactly the same sense of humour. Just look at this cover of the fortnightly publication Hócipő, edited by Farkasházy, to see what I mean:

    Same thing really.

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