What does the Demokratikus Koalíció stand for?

On September 3, I wrote about an opinion piece by Tamás Bauer, vice-chairman of the Demokratikus Koalíció. Its title was “Electoral mathematics: The Demokratikus Koalíció’s position.” Bauer argued for DK’s right, based on its numerical support, to receive at least 8 or 9 electoral districts. He added that DK’s positions on many issues differ from those of both MSZP and Együtt2014-PM and therefore it deserves a parliamentary caucus.

At the end of that post I indicated that I would like to return to DK’s political program because relatively few people are familiar with it. I had to postpone that piece due to DK’s very prompt answer to MSZP. On the next day, September 4, I posted an article entitled “The current state of the Hungarian opposition: Negotiations between MSZP and DK.”

Over the last few days it has become obvious to me that Ferenc Gyurcsány has already begun his election campaign.  Zsolt Gréczy’s appointment as DK spokesman signaled the beginning of the campaign, which was then followed by several personal appearances by Ferenc Gyurcsány where he began to outline his program. Surely, the amusing video on being a tour guide in Felcsút, “the capital of Orbanistan,” was part of this campaign. So, it’s time to talk about the party program of the Demokratikus Koalíció, especially since only yesterday Attila Mesterházy answered Ferenc Gyurcsány’s letter to him. I elaborated on that letter in my September 4 post.

You may remember that one of the sticking points between the two parties was whether DK is ready to have “an electoral alliance” as opposed to “a political alliance.” Gyurcsány in his letter to Mesterházy made light of the difference between the two, but as far as the socialists are concerned this is an important distinction. Yesterday Attila Mesterházy made that crystal clear in his answer to  Gyurcsány which he posted on his own webpage. According to him, a “political alliance” means the complete subordination of individual parties’ political creeds to the agreed upon policies.  In plain language, DK “will have to agree not to represent its own political ideas during the campaign.”

Since DK’s program thus became one of the central issues in the negotiations it is time to see in what way DK’s vision of the future differs from that of MSZP and Együtt 2014-PM. Here I’m relying on Tamás Bauer’s list of the main differences.

(1) An MSZP and Együtt 2014-PM alliance following an electoral victory will only amend the new constitution and the cardinal laws that are based on this new constitution. The Demokratikus Koalíció, on the other hand, holds that the new constitution is illegitimate because it was enacted without the participation of the opposition. Therefore, according to DK, the new constitution must be repealed and the constitution of the Republic must take its place.

(2) MSZP-E14 by and large accepts the policy of Viktor Orbán on national matters and would allow people living outside of the borders to vote in national elections. The Demokratikus Koalíció rejects this new law and would put an end to these new citizens’ voting rights.

(3) MSZP-E14 does not seem to concern itself with the relation of church and state or the Orbán government’s law on churches. DK would restore the religious neutrality of the state and would initiate a re-examination of the agreement that was concluded between Hungary and the Vatican or, if the Church does not agree to such a re-examination, DK would abrogate the agreement altogether.

(4) MSZP-E14 talks in generalities about the re-establishment of predictable economic conditions and policies that would be investment friendly but it doesn’t dare to reject such populist moves as a decrease in utility prices or the nationalization of companies. Only DK is ready to openly reject all these.

(5) MSZP-E14 accepts the tax credits that depend on the number of children and therefore supports an unjust system. DK, on the other hand, wants to put an end to this system and to introduce a system that treats all children alike.

(6) Együtt2014-PM opposes the concentration of land that is necessary for the creation of  a modern and effective agriculture. The policy of small landholdings was the brainchild of the Smallholders Party, which was largely responsible for the collapse of Hungarian agriculture after the change of regime. MSZP is against foreign investment in Hungarian agriculture. The Demokratikus Koalíció intends to liberalize the agricultural market. DK thinks that agricultural cooperatives should be able to purchase the land they currently cultivate. It also maintains that foreign capital should be able to come into Hungary in order to make Hungarian agriculture competitive again.

(7) The attitude of MSZP and Együtt 2014-PM toward the conflicts between the European Union and the Orbán government is ambiguous, while the Demokratikus Koalíció unequivocally takes the side of the institutions of the Union against the Orbán government.

These are the points that Tamás Bauer mentions. But as the Gyurcsány campaign unfolds more and more differences will be visible. For example, only yesterday Gyurcsány talked about his ideas to abolish the compulsory retirement age and to financially encourage people to demand higher wages in order to maximize their pensions after retirement. During this talk in Nyíregyháza Gyurcsány made no secret of the fact that his party is working on its election program.

So, it seems to me that the Gyurcsány campaign has already begun. Maybe I’m wrong and Gyurcsány will give up all his ideas and will line up behind MSZP-E14, but somehow I doubt it. Even if he tried, he couldn’t. Temperamentally he is not suited for it.

Meanwhile, an interesting but naturally not representative voting has been taking place in Magyar Narancs. Readers of the publication are asked to vote for party and for leader of the list. DK leads (52%) over Együtt 2014 (29%) and Gyurcsány (54%) over Bajnai (32%). Of course, this vote in no way reflects reality. What it does tell us is that the majority of readers of Magyar Narancs are DK supporters. Something that surprised me. If I had had to guess, I would have picked Együtt2014.

As for Ferenc Gyurcsány’s visit to Felcsút, I wrote about it a couple of days ago. The video is now out. This morning I decided to take a look at it because from Zsolt Gréczy’s description on ATV’s Egyenes beszéd the whole scene of Fidesz cameras following them everywhere sounded hilarious . At that time the video had been viewed by about 5,000 people. Right now the number of visitors is over 53,000.

Clips from The Godfather are juxtaposed with scenes from Felcsút. The video ends with the wedding of Vito Corleone’s daughter. While Gyurcsány is narrating the enrichment of the Orbán family, two people, one of whom is the Fidesz regional secretary and the other perhaps the cameraman of the Puskás Academy, follow him everywhere and record his every move and word. Definitely worth seven minutes of your time.

Since I am no fortune teller I have no idea what will happen. A couple of things, though, I’m pretty sure of. DK will never agree to drop Gyurcsány as their party leader. And Mesterházy indicated that this might be one of the MSZP demands for an agreement. Or at least that Gyurcsány not be DK’s top candidate, or possibly any candidate. Otherwise why would he have asked: “Are those media predictions that the Demokratikus Koalíció plans to nominate the chairman of the party, Ferenc Gyurcsány, for the second slot on the list true?”

At first reading I didn’t notice this linguistic oddity. The letter is addressed to “Dear Mr. Party Chairman, dear Feri” and continues in the second-person singular: “te.” Now that I returned to the sentence in order to translate it, suddenly I noticed that Mesterházy switched from “te,” which in a personal letter would have been normal, to “Ferenc Gyurcsány” in a letter addressed to Ferenc Gyurcsány.

What will the final result be? I have no idea. Let’s put it this way, it’s much easier to predict the outcome of Hungarian soccer matches than the outcome of opposition politics.

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55 comments

  1. No one is/was looking to Gy “for salvation” (least of all me, as I blame him, at least partly, for the mess we’re in now!) – I don’t understand how anybody could have read that from what I posted.

    My point was that, given that Orbán has made democracy ineffective in Hungary, and that the next election is already lost, we need to look to the future. And the only hope for a (relatively) peaceful transition back to democracy and multi-party politics for Hungary, is the gradual education of the voters as to what Orbán really is/has been doing, and the preparation of a meaningful and effective alternative.

    So, our priority should not be the next election, but instead the establishment of an anti-Orbán campaign, aimed at getting rid of him in the medium-term. For that we need two things: someone who can tell the voters the truth and outlining a workable alternative, and someone with an effective political and campaigning network and style.

    And the ONLY person who fits that bill currently is Gyurcsány.

  2. “If you want autocracy now under FGy, go ahead. If you opt for democracy, it might be better to make democracy and participation attractive to the broad public.”

    Kirsten – I admire your patient and thoughtful analysis, but you are operating on an assumption that is no longer true – that Hungary is a democracy and that it is possible to oust Orbán by normal democratic means.

    Although Orbán has maintained the semblance of a democratic state, by having elections, allowing other parties to exist, and even permitting some opposition media (as the Soviets did for some years in a few Eastern/Central European states, even after taking full control), he has effectively ensured that this pseudo-democracy no longer functions.

    It’s a very clever tactic, as it enables him to create a one-party dictatorship, hidden behind a smokescreen of respectable democratic politics. He can do what he likes, but the EU can’t touch him. As long as he retains his super-majority, Hungary is no longer a functioning democracy.

    The only way the opposition can defeat him (short of coup or revolution) is to play a long game aimed at first removing that super-majority, and then reducing his support to the point where he can no longer function (even dictators ultimately need the support of the people). And the only way to do that is with an uncompromising, full-frontal, and continuous political attack on Orbán, coupled with the promotion of a simple and appealing alternative.

    Gyurcsány is the only opposition politician who seems to understand this (or perhaps is free to say it).

  3. Gyurcsany is also in a difficult position because if he does not join MSZP in this campaign then he will have (i) zero district representatives and (i) – assuming that he goes above 5-6% nationally – then he may perhaps have 2-3 people in the Parliament. (Lets assume that DK does not have the 2-3% popularity as shown in the polls, but rather 5-7%.).

    Of course if MSZP would give only 2-3 spots and also expect that Gyurcsány does not participate in the elections at all (not even on the party list), that is not a good enough offer for Gyurcsány, he is probably better off going alone. Which is exactly what Fidesz wants. MSZP and Bajnai will be branded as Gyurcsány puppets in any way (they worked together in the past so you have a connection) but the voters will be divided, though I agree that gyurcsanyozás will be bigger and more credible if he joins MSZP.

  4. Galamus has published today an article of Ferenc Krémer, who is very pessimistic.
    Can Mesterházy&Bajnai win alone without Gyurcsány against Orbán? They pretend to believe that.
    And they pretend to be afraid of Orbáns attacks against Gyurcsány. How about their responsibility if Orbán wins the next election?
    They should remember FDR who said, the only thing to fear is fear itself.

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