Gordon Bajnai blinked: He is ready to accept the thirty-five districts allotted to Együtt 2014

The somewhat surprising developments that occurred on Friday afternoon during the meeting between Attila Mesterházy, chairman of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP), and Gordon Bajnai, former prime minister and current co-chairman of Együtt 2014-PM, not unexpectedly created a huge discussion among political commentators. It still hasn’t subsided, despite the fact that Bajnai announced a retreat from his earlier position this morning.

When on Friday the two men got up from the negotiating table and held separate press conferences it looked as if even the partial results achieved over the past few weeks had been lost. Although there had been a tentative agreement on the division of the 106 mandates, Mesterházy made it clear that his party considered it null and void. According to this preliminary agreement, MSZP would be entitled to put up 71 candidates and Együtt 2014 35. These numbers, it seems, were not final. If MSZP insisted on providing the candidate for the premiership, Együtt 2014 wanted more than 35 seats. How many more is unclear. It was at this point that Bajnai introduced his idea of a campaign in which the two candidates would try to convince the electorate of their worth. After such a campaign the decision would be based on a couple of polls. Mesterházy turned the tables on Bajnai and suggested holding primaries.

Of course, each man suggested a course that would best serve his interests. So, let’s see first what the Bajnai group is confronted with. You may recall that sometime in June I wrote about an interview with Endre Hann, CEO of Medián, a polling company. In this conversation we learned that although overall Mesterházy has a 3% lead over Bajnai in the polls, this is due only to Bajnai’s relative unpopularity among Fidesz and Jobbik voters. As I reported, “Bajnai is definitely doing better with the voters of the so-called democratic opposition parties. In all parties he leads over Mesterházy–among sympathizers of Együtt 2014 (89%), of DK (64%), of LMP (56%). Even among MSZP voters 30% think that Bajnai is more qualified for the job of prime minister than MSZP’s chairman. Overall, 51% of the democratic opposition prefer Bajnai over Mesterházy (43%). That is not an unsubstantial difference. Translating it to actual numbers, we are talking about 200,000 voters. Among those who are against the present government but are still undecided as far as their party preference is concerned, 55% would prefer Bajnai over Mesterházy (33%). The difference here is about 100,000.”

In a poll asking supporters of the democratic opposition to choose between the two potential candidates, Bajnai would most likely come out the winner. Or at least this is the situation now. I’m sure that Mesterházy is aware of these figures and that’s why he would prefer a primary which, given the well developed nationwide MSZP organization, would favor him. I myself find a primary not a bad idea in theory, but under the present circumstances it is out of the question. At least for two reasons. First, Hungarian parties don’t have rostrums of their likely voters. If sometime in the future Hungarian politicians decide to introduce primaries, they will need to build databases of the party faithful (or introduce party registration). Second, primaries are held to pick a candidate from contenders within the same party. And Bajnai and Mesterházy are the leaders of two different parties. Primaries in the United States, for instance, are not held to decide whether a Republican or a Democrat will run for the presidency. Sándor Révész, a liberal supporter of Bajnai, in an editorial in Nepszabadság called the suggested primary a not so well hidden fraud.

On the other hand, there are others, for example, Andor Schmuck, chairman of the Hungarian Social Democratic Party, who severely criticized Bajnai for his unacceptable demands. According to him, Bajnai might be more popular than Mesterházy, but he is the co-chairman of a party with a 6% share of the votes. Moreover, Együtt 2014 is not really a party but a coalition of different civic groups with no numbers behind them. He went on to list them: Milla has 50-100 people, Solidarity 250, Haza és Haladás (Homeland and Progress Foundation) 15-20. At the end Schmuck came up with 800 people who are organized behind Bajnai. It took them four months to come up with 90 names, which shows the lack of party organization and support. This holy mess (hercehurca) has been going on for eight months and people who want a change are sick and tired of it. Mesterházy went through four very difficult years when it was not exactly a picnic to be head of MSZP while Bajnai retired only to appear three years later, and now he wants to be the prime minister. As you can see, each side has its own valid arguments.

Mesterházy’s ultimatum also has another consequence that might not be welcome to the MSZP leadership. MSZP, like all parties, is made up of people with different shades of political opinion. Although MSZP has its share of liberals, there is also a fairly strong left-wing group whose ideas are strangely foreign to the ideal of western social democracy. One of the people in that group is Tibor Szanyi who, emboldened by Mesterházy’s rejection of any further negotiations with Bajnai, came out with the kind of demagoguery that makes a lot of people uneasy. On Facebook Szanyi tore into those capitalists whose wealth originates from communist oligarchs–like Péter Medgyessy, Ferenc Gyurcsány, and Gordon Bajnai–who were not fit to lead a socialist party that is supposed to be a party of the working people. Gordon Bajnai might have been their prime minister in 2009-2010, but he is certainly not one of them. He doesn’t represent the working people. After all, he took away the thirteenth month salaries and pensions. If MSZP had been able to decide on its own, the thirteenth month salary wouldn’t have been touched. And I may add that they would have led Hungary into a financial abyss. Mesterházy needs these kinds of socialists like a hole in the head.

On the other hand, the Friday ultimatums prompted László Botka, the socialist mayor of Szeged, to raise his voice. I don’t think that I mentioned László Botka in the past, though perhaps I should have. His name often comes up as a possible candidate either for party chairmanship or even prime minister one day. On Facebook he expressed his surprise at the breakdown of negotiations and reiterated his belief that the most important goal is “the replacement of the Orbán government and anything else is secondary to it.” He asked for “more responsibility, greater magnanimity , and more wisdom.” He added that for those who want Orbán out of office the important question is not whether the prime minister will be Mesterházy or Bajnai. At last a sane voice in MSZP.



  1. I don’t think Bajnai blinked. I think he proved, once again, that this is not a matter of personal ambition for him. He is ready to compromise and to sacrifice, if it is for the outcome they all seek: the ouster of Orban. I predict he will also cede the premiership candidacy to Mesterhazy without trying to fight if it would increase the chances of defeating Orban. If he takes that Solomonian step, it will not be blinking either; it will be the proof of the fact that he is the one who should have been the prime minister (again) — and that he, and not Mesterhazy or MSZP, was the one who really wanted regime change above all else.

  2. I am tired of all this vacillation as to who is about to lead the opposition when the opposition is still far behind because it’s spending its time bickering over who is gonna lead.

    The opposition needs to get its directions in order, get behind one leader and go for it. The time and enrgy wasted right now does more damage than landing up with a candidate who is not perfect for the post. Neither candidates (Bajani, Mesterházy) fit the bill perfectly. So for the SAKE OF EXPEDIENCY, THROW A COIN and GET ON WITH THE JOB in unison with ONE SINGLE opposition candidate. NOW !

  3. “He added that for those who want Orbán out of office the important question is not whether the prime minister will be Mesterházy or Bajnai. At last a sane voice in MSZP.”


  4. So think of it: You’ve got children in school. The constitution has been changed depriving all parties of funds. How are you paying your bills? Along comes an offer: moonlite for us, it says and get paid x-millions per month, just like a cabinet minister. Good for 8 years, too, this offer. And, so the offer might go, there are back-end privilidges, too. Hey, we got American advisors, you know how this thing goes, right?

    Sound good?
    Wouldn’t YOU jump on it?

  5. Guys/Ladies.
    Yar overcomplicating this thing.
    Fidesz is making serious errors left and right since years.
    However the opposition is spending its energies outlining and analysing each mistake.
    At the same time it is overlooking the capacity of the average populace who has a difficult time distingishing between procedure A and B.

    Despite the most serious economic and other errors, Fidesz is keeping its relative lead.
    How?, should you ask: by simply by adhering to the gut emotional reactions of the average Hungarian voter: Mother country; Language; Hungaricums, Past historical myths and beliefs.

    In the meanwhile, the opposition is arguing about additional potential candidates as leaders-to-be.

    ‘It dont matter’ any more who the chosen leader will be, the present candidates Mesterhazy and Bajnai will more or less fit the bil.

    So, for Christ’s sakes lets take a COIN and FLIP it to decide which of the two, beacuse waiting will cause even more harm than arguing about which is the best candidate… We are past the stage of honing in on the best candidate. For the sake of expediency either will do.

    Just MOVE!!!

  6. Mistakes are staining the efforts of the liberal left alliance:
    1. Bajnai has hired the terrible Szigetvari, as an adviser.
    2. Mesterhazi has been the wrong alternative to Gyurcsany.
    3. The Mila, 4k, ….movements have presented poorly crafted manifestos.

    Bajnai must rewrite the central message of his party Egyutt-PM, to unite the young and old left masses.

    1. Promise transparent governing.
    2. Promise restoration and reformation of the Hungarian constitutional democracy.
    3. Promise raising the standard of living.
    4. Promise the restoration of peaceful coexistence with the Trianon territories, in the interest of their residents, without ethnic, religious discrimination, without corrupt revenge seeking.
    5. Promise to reduce the cultural and economic gap between Hungary and Western Europe.
    6. Promise to develop special positive ties with Austria.

  7. tappanch :On the average, teachers will get 60% of the pay raise promised earlier.
    Some salaries will go down, since Fidesz rejected last minute amendments.
    Teachers had 21 teaching (contact) hours a week in the past – they received extramoney for extra time.
    Now they can be obliged to teach as many as 32 hours a week without receiving overtime pay.

    21-23 contact hours a week is probably the limit a teacher can take without becoming utterly burnt out after a few months. Anyone teaching 32 hours a week will soon forget about lesson preparation or class quality.

  8. This past year, I was involved in a situation exactly like Hungarian politics is now, albeit it on a much, much, much smaller scale. We had a voting majority on one of our local special districts boards who were involved in corruption, cronyism, and concealment – not at all unusual things to find in local politics, where an “old guard” runs things. So, we recalled them; an effort that took 11 months, hundreds of hours of phone calling and knocking on doors, and scores of people to first gather the required signatures to get the recall on a special election ballot, and then win the special election. There were 3 of us running to replace the 3 who were being recalled – a Green, a Republican, and a Democrat – who on any given day cannot agree on much of anything. But, we joined together in a common cause to recall the 3 Stooges, as we fondly referred to them, and against unbelievable odds (we were all political newbies with absolutely no cache, except our integrity and the truth), and asking ourselves every step of the way, “will this statement/mailer/news release/letter to the editor/door knocking campaign/etc. get us another vote?” – we decimated them 65% to 35%, with the highest voter turnout ever in the history of the district. And, something else you should know is that 95% of the people did not even know that this special district board existed prior to the recall effort.
    So, I am here to tell the democratic opposition that it can be done – it takes a hell of a lot of work and cooperation and putting away of egos, but IT CAN BE DONE!!!
    So, come on you two – your beloved country is on the brink of destruction, so man up and get this done!!!

  9. You forget the main rule:

    between the thoroughly corrupt and the stupid, voters will choose the corrupt.


    Because people love to laugh out politicians and there is no better butt of jokes than pathetic, loser politicians.

    People deep down hate losers (politicians who act like hopeless losers) because they are afraid that if they vote for them, they will also be losers.

    Do you feel the power when you think about Bajnai or Mesterházy?

    Well, then the above rule applies.

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