The current state of the Hungarian opposition: Negotiations between MSZP and DK

I’m afraid I have to go back to the MSZP-DK negotiations because some of the coverage of MSZP’s reactions is far too sketchy.  MTI, which serves all Hungarian news organizations, first reported that MSZP found “three of DK’s nine-point suggestions unacceptable.” They are unacceptable because they suggest a renegotiation of the agreement between MSZP and Együtt 2014-PM. MSZP also found it worrisome that DK offers only “an election alliance while the socialists and Együtt 2014-PM agreed to a political alliance.”

Since not too many publications bothered to reprint DK’s nine-point proposal, which is available on DK’s webpage, I’m going to list the points here. Some of the more important passages are quoted verbatim. Others are only summarized.

(1) DK’s ideal arrangement would still be naming a common prime minister and having only one common party list. Therefore “we suggest holding out the possibility of coming to a possible understanding on these issues.”

(2)  “We recognize the validity of the MSZP-Együtt 2014 agreement. Although at present we are negotiating only with MSZP, we want to adhere to the MSZP-Együtt-PM agreement and we would like to apply the principles and their consequences to the agreement as a whole.”

(3) “The Demokratikus Koalíció is interested in the success of the negotiations and to this end the Party is ready to give up its right to form its own list and put up individual candidates.”

(4) “The desired agreement aims at concluding not a political but an electoral alliance…. From here on parties of the electoral alliance … will represent their own politics independently.”

(5) “It is our aim to have a common MSZP-DK list and to have common individual candidates.”

(6) DK believes in proportional representation when it comes to the individual candidates of the 106 electoral districts. MSZP and Együtt 2014 together have 1.4-1.6 million voters, DK has 100-200,000.

(7) Each party will have the right to name its own preferred candidates in the individual districts as well as on the lists.

(8) According to the unbroken Hungarian custom, “the largest party, i.e. MSZP, has the right to name the first person on the list and the smaller party, i.e. DK, will be able to name someone for the second place.”

(9) The two parties will prepare jointly for the election, they will name a team together and will jointly finance the campaign.

Even before the official word came from MSZP headquarters Magyar Hírlap learned from socialist sources that “MSZP is no longer interested in Gyurcsány.” According to the paper, MSZP politicians believe that leaving DK out of the agreement is more beneficial to MSZP because, according to polls ordered by the party, MSZP will receive twice as many votes without DK than with DK support. The paper took it for granted that as a result of MSZP’s refusal Ferenc Gyurcsány’s party will enter the race alone.

This doesn’t seem to be the case, however. As of this moment we still don’t know which three points are unacceptable to MSZP. In addition to these three unnamed points MSZP, which originally sided with DK on voting rights for ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring countries, by now has changed its mind, most likely as a result of pressure from Együtt-2014-PM. Now MSZP insists on DK’s acceptance of this Fidesz-introduced law which in fact is unpopular among people in Hungary proper. MSZP also wants to have an answer about DK’s position on a tuition-free first year of college.

It would seem on first blush that there  is no reason to think that there will be an agreement between these two parties. But MSZP didn’t close the door. The talks continued, after which Gyurcsány seemed optimistic. He claimed that “we got one step closer to an accord” and expressed his hope that a final agreement will be reached within days.  Gyurcsány said that DK doesn’t want to reopen the negotiations, stressing that its nine-point proposal didn’t contain such a demand. He also indicated that DK accepts all of the policy concepts on which MSZP and E14 agreed. I assume that means DK’s abandonment of its strongly held view on ethnic Hungarian voting rights.

Gyurcsány found it especially heartwarming that MSZP didn’t raise objections to DK’s proposals for a common list and common candidates. He added that there was no MSZP criticism of DK’s ideas on proportionality. According to him, MSZP simply indicated that they don’t want to extend that principle to Együtt 2014-PM because MSZP had already closed those negotiations.

Last Sunday  MSZP-DK-Együtt 2014 logos together resulted a large victory for the candidate on the by-election in Szigetszentmiklós

Last Sunday MSZP-DK-Együtt 2014 logos together resulted a large victory for the candidate in the by-election in Szigetszentmiklós

If Gyurcsány’s understanding of the conversation with the MSZP leadership is correct, this would mean that DK would have the right to name its own candidates in 7 or 8 districts. In the 75 districts to which MSZP is currently entitled, all candidates would run under the MSZP-DK logos. And on the list DK politicians would receive about 10% of the places.

Perhaps Gyurcsány is overly optimistic, but if his description of the situation is correct, DK is not as badly off as I thought only a few hours ago. I still have some doubts, however. What if MSZP insists on leaving Gyurcsány off the list? There is no way that DK will ever accept that demand. What will Együtt 2014-PM think if DK’s logo appears alongside MSZP’s red carnation? Or perhaps Gyurcsány’s reference to “common candidates” doesn’t mean that they would run under MSZP and DK logos. In brief, there are still many questions. But within a few days we ought to know more.

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61 comments

  1. Kristen, the above mentioned “mess” has nothing to do with “messy ideas”, but rather – as I reading it – a haphazardly unstructured load of different, even brilliant ideas, what gives the impression of a mess.

    There is no clear statement what I can see.

    Just a few examples: Bajnai had no idea what his staff published/leaked to the press, in my opinion in order to press him on a certain direction – an action what everything else but politically straight.
    Different speakers of the E14 repeatedly declared, that no, I say NO way we will cooperate with MSZP, never! Oh, well…
    Will keep the discriminating and unjust voting rights intact. Why?

    I won’t say, that it will never clear up, but we aren’t there yet, and yes, it is still a mess.
    Having noble intentions and enthusiasm doesn’t substitute of professional workmanship – in this case in politics, after all. The “vox populi” may have every right to rule, but can not govern with immature, self appointed candidates in the present day’s Europe,as I see it.

  2. “The “vox populi” may have every right to rule, but can not govern with immature, self appointed candidates in the present day’s Europe,as I see it.”

    I fully agree. But I believe that in current circumstances (most people that have not been active so far are “immature” candidates) learning by doing is an acceptable strategy for entering politics. Otherwise we will be left with Gyurcsany and Orban and their “battle” – these two man are still quite young and if other people will not make their own experiences and learn the rules of the game, we will be repeating that there are just two “politicians” in Hungary for the next three decades. That is why I would not be so critical with people who are active but have (not yet) proved equally “skillful” as Gyurcsany or Orban. (And I might add that I find their skills of dubious value to the nation.) Eva just posted the “scandal” about visits to Felcsut, but instead of (mutual) provocation with Fidesz, the democratic opposition should just engage in grassroots meetings with people – in other areas than Felcsut. This logic of black and white on both sides and mutual accusations has to be discarded. Given the Fidesz propaganda, that IS close to impossible, I know, and yet people could find it refreshing.

  3. Mutt :
    By the way if I were the DK top brass, I would have dropped Gyurcsany and started the negotiations lead by Vadai. And why not – the boys may offer the PMship to Lady Agnes. That would prove that the left is not about positions.

    You’re right, of course.
    However, I have heard at the coming out of Bajnai – time of the anti-nazi rally – by Gyurcsány, that he has no intention to be a PM, furthermore, he recommended Bajnai for the post. It came trough loud and clear then, and repeated even a few weeks later on some TV-channel.
    Things changed, however, when it turned out, that Bajnai rather will be the E14’s puppet, and his memorable commitment – speech was the last thing he has done for the true unity.
    (- Please, observe, that the last sentence is my subjective opinion, nothing else!)

    In this respect I am absolutely certain, that the right solution would have been an alliance right then between DK, E14 and whoever more will join in, and then start negotiating with MSZP.
    In this case they would have had a much wider platform to reach out to the undecided too.
    Instead, the “prominent” members of E14 started to segregate, divide and exclude, setting and changing “rules” – in time, when every vote counts – a way before they were strong enough even to negotiate on equal terms.

    We may keep dreaming of the innocent, blue eyed youth’s can chase away the big bad wolf only by wishing the best, but I won’t bet on it. I dare to say, we haven’t seen all yet from the E14.
    I wish I was wrong.

  4. Kristen, I agree with almost everything, except the experience part.
    Learning by doing is the right thing, provided if not everyone trying to learn at the same time.
    Unfortunately, one or two skilled and experienced leader just not enough in the coming time, particularly when you count in the cleaning of the stable of (Augeas) Orbán, in needs exceptionally skilled apparatus to say the least.

    We’ll see, I hope.

  5. buddy :
    Totally OT (sorry), but I happened to catch a little bit of the Ferencváros-Sopron football game on TV last night, played at Puskás Stadium, and NOBODY was in the stands watching. It was so bizarre. I checked Nemzeti Sport this morning and they reported that 400 people were in the stadion. 400! Even the average American high school football team can get more than that to watch one of their games, if I understand correctly.
    Puskás holds 68 976 people according to Wikipedia, so the venue was 0.6% full. (400 is also 0.02% of the population of Budapest). Moreover, we had nice weather outside, perfect for watching a sports game.
    I realise that Sopron is second division, but isn’t Fradi the most popular team in the country or something? Why do we keep throwing money at this sport with such small support? I wonder if Hungary keeps building larger football stadiums, the result is that it will seem that they will appear even less full than before.

    I suspect the answer is in the post – the poster saw it on TV. I don’t know how things work re televised football in Hungary, but in England, the top clubs get an incredible amount of money for TV rights. It far surpasses any other source of income – and funds these crazy fees for players that we see these days – Spurs have just sold a player to Real Madrid for €100m!. (Note that Madrid are able to pay such a ridiculous fee because in Spain the clubs sell their TV rights individually – in England, the rights are sold per league, so top clubs like Man U get far less than they would get if they could sell their rights individually.)

    So, in theory, clubs don’t need fans to go to games. Sure, they add ‘atmosphere’ (although I’m sure TV companies could add this themselves if they needed to!), but you rarely see much of the fans in a televised game, anyway. And occasionally you get a game where the attendance isn’t high, or where it just happens that the part of the stadium that appears in most shots is fairly empty, but that doesn’t really affect the enjoyment of the game for TV viewers.

    There was much discussion of this when the Premier League was first created and, with the arrival of satellite television, TV rights became a valuable asset. Many fans feared that attendance at games would dwindle, especially when the weather was bad, or for mid-week games. With stadia also becoming all-seater games, going to a match also became very expensive (at my club, West Ham, 20 years ago I could stand on the terraces for £9, now I have to pay £40 or more for the cheapest seat, with a poor view). And yet, not only did attendances hold up, they actually increased – and not just in the higher leagues, my local ‘non-league’ club gets an average gate of nearly 2,000 nowadays, when, 30 years ago (and in a much higher league), they got 3-400.

    But football is much more part of the national psyche in the UK than it is in Hungary, especially at local level, so maybe the same doesn’t apply in Hungary? Maybe the ‘natural result’ of televised games and the income the clubs get from them will be a perfectly ‘healthy’ football industry (which is what it is), but with no real regard for the fans – and perhaps even no fans?

  6. Sorry for the length of that post – which must be of no interest at all to most readers!

    But something slightly more on-topic, I happened to check the BBC foci website when I was writing that and Hungary were losing 0-2 in Romania. So cue more disgusting behaviour from the ‘fans’…

  7. Paul :
    Sorry for the length of that post – which must be of no interest at all to most readers!
    But something slightly more on-topic, I happened to check the BBC foci website when I was writing that and Hungary were losing 0-2 in Romania. So cue more disgusting behaviour from the ‘fans’…

    VO is not there, that why they are losing. Btw it is 2-0 currently (just something technical). And the Romanians have their B team, as one or two of their best players are not in it.

    Romanian carrying a white sign 1918. Why? A provoking thing or something else?

  8. Ron – 0-2 or 2-0? The normal rule is home team first, but when you are commenting on a particular game the accepted notation is your team’s score first – otherwise it gets VERY confusing!

  9. Ron :

    Paul :
    Sorry for the length of that post – which must be of no interest at all to most readers!
    But something slightly more on-topic, I happened to check the BBC foci website when I was writing that and Hungary were losing 0-2 in Romania. So cue more disgusting behaviour from the ‘fans’…

    Romanian carrying a white sign 1918. Why? A provoking thing or something else?

    Reference to Romania taking Transilvania from Hungary maybe???

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