Opposition politicians are busy rallying the troops. Gordon Bajnai and Tímea Szabó (PM) paid a visit to Óbuda to campaign. Yes, to campaign because, although the campaign will start officially sometime in January, unofficially it has already begun in earnest. Yesterday MSZP held a large gathering in Miskolc where Attila Mesterházy addressed an enthusiastic crowd. And this afternoon several thousand DK supporters gathered on the Freedom Bridge in Budapest where Ferenc Gyurcsány, Ágnes Vadai, and László Varju gave speeches.
Neither the MSZP nor the DK rally was especially newsworthy. Mesterházy made a slew of campaign promises and Gyurcsány repeated his pledge never to make compromises with Viktor Orbán. But Gordon Bajnai made news with his speech in Óbuda. He talked mostly about the mistaken economic policies of the Orbán government and the damage they inflicted on the country. Naturally, he promised a reversal of the Matolcsy-Varga line and a return to economic orthodoxy. However, he said something that puzzles practically everybody. Talking about constitutional issues, he said that “if there is not a two-thirds majority … then we will put to the new opposition a proposal that they will be unable to refuse.” He added that at the moment he doesn’t want to reveal more of his plans.
This mysterious offer conjured up nefarious thoughts in my mind, and it seems that I was not alone because someone from the audience inquired whether this offer will resemble similar offers in The Godfather. A day later the question came up again on Egyenes beszéd during a conversation with Viktor Szigetvári, the co-chair of Együtt 2014, who tried to minimize the significance of this sentence. But, if at all possible, he only further confused the issue. In fact, Szigetvári got himself into a jam by at one point advocating negotiations with Fidesz and a few minutes later saying that “with this Fidesz he certainly wouldn’t be willing to negotiate after a lost election.” But then what?
Like everyone else, Olga Kálmán wanted to find out more about Bajnai’s offer that couldn’t be refused by Viktor Orbán and his party. A fairly long-winded explanation followed. If there is no two-thirds majority then the new government must sit down and negotiate with Fidesz and convince Viktor Orbán to lend his support to “constitutional corrections.” When he was further pressed by the reporter, Szigetvári came up with another idea: holding a new election. With good governance this second early election could achieve an overwhelming two-thirds majority. Thus the government would have a free hand to “make adjustments” in the constitution and in some of the cardinal laws that need a two-thirds majority to change. But in any case, even with a two-thirds majority “consensus” must be achieved, although he did admit that “with this Fidesz” such consensus is unlikely. He added, in my opinion naively, that if Fidesz refuses to come to an understanding, then it must bear “the historical responsibility” for a failure to set the country on the right track. As if Viktor Orbán cared a hoot about their opinion of the “right track.” He thinks that he is the one who will lead the country to Paradise.
Olga Kálmán was skeptical about “Fidesz suddenly being ready to dismantle the edifice that it built in the last four years.” Szigetvári immediately assured his audience that “not everything has to be undone,” but one must make an attempt at an understanding. If that doesn’t work, then comes the next step: early elections in the hope of the two-thirds majority. But what if the new government parties not only fail to get a two-thirds majority but actually lose the early election? It seemed that such an idea hadn’t occurred to him. He was confident that Együtt 2014-MSZP would win a second election in 2014 or 2015. But after further questions on a possible Fidesz victory at the early election, he no longer insisted and said that “this is only one possibility.” He didn’t elaborate on what the others are.
While Bajnai was in Óbuda, Szigetvári gave a speech at a conference organized by the Republikon Institute headed by former SZDSZ politician Gábor Horn. Here he concentrated on the Együtt 2014-MSZP agreement, praising MSZP and claiming that for the breakdown of negotiations between MSZP and DK Ferenc Gyurcsány was solely responsible. Magyar Nemzet naturally was delighted and joyfully announced that “Gyurcsány is at fault,” the phrase the Fidesz propaganda machine invokes anytime the Orbán government faces an economic difficulty. In fact, Szigetvári went so far as to accuse his former boss of betraying his own party and putting his personal interest above the good of the Demokratikus Koalíció. Magyar Nemzet concluded that there seems to be confusion within the leadership of Együtt 2014 because in Óbuda Bajnai talked about the importance of DK and expressed his hope that it will join the coalition of the two democratic parties while Szigetvári fiercely attacked the former prime minister.
The Együtt 2014-PM-MSZP duo needs to start sending a clear, unified message. Voters are not decoders.
The only possible “unrefusable proposal” I can come up with is a grand coalition, but at the moment that sounds way too unrealistic… So I have no idea what they are talking about. I am quite certain however, that if they keep up with this kind of communication, they won’t gain too many new supporters.
Gain? They will lose even the few confused souls who are still supporting them. Every single step of the way since this underhanded deal with MSZP, they are contradicting the context and the actual text of every word in Bajnai’s landmark speech of 11 months ago. And, the sad fact is, the Socialists are no better. Their many months of promoting a unified opposition have, in fact were nothing more than tactical moves aimed at house training Bajnai and his crowd, making sure tehy do not succeed in their original aims. In this, Mesterházy and his mates have succeeded admirably. Unfortunately for them, they have also turned themselves into nothing short of the political version of a fancy dress ball.
Worst of all, they are now trying to compensate for all this by entering into a porkbarreling contest with Orbán and his minions, a straight road leading to economic and social disaster for Hungary and Hungarians.
As if the economic and social plague Orbán has bequethed on this blighted land wasn’t enough already.
Planet Hungary replaced with Cloud Cuckoo Land.
Timea Szabo is such an insufferably dishonest woman that I could not possibly vote for Bajnai’s party.
I can’t really see what’s the big deal in this …
I’d like to know what is Gyurcsany’s plan to resolve the deadlock when the Fidesz loses but the new government only has a simple majority. A few more DVDs in envelopes to Orban, perhaps?
I’d like to hear some lawful ideas …
Whether you like it or not you will have to sit down with these geniuses. Start warming up to it. Of course the Fidesz may not budge but that will depend on the numbers.
Bajnai is the most realistic politician in the opposition at this moment. He is planning for a simple majority win, which is the most likely scenario. Winning is not enough – you will have to run the country.
There is no proposal Fidesz will ever accept. At ‘best’, they will enter negotiations to show how generous they are but nothing will ever happen.
You gotta be a complete amateur to think that Fidesz will ever accept anything that is good for the opposition.
Együtt is deluding itself, but they are hopeless.
They think they know the “interest of Fidesz” as in “it would also be the interest of Fidesz”. Bunch of amateurs.
Just like the Republicans will never support anything the Democrats would potentially want (unless it’s about spending on the military).
As to the confusion: Együtt itself consists of Milla (an urban human rights movement), Szoldaritás, which is a trade union and Bajnai’s circle of advisors. Now add the list the former LMP people under the name PM.
You will never have consistency, first of all because nobody at Együtt has any clear vision and second they have no strategy how to communicate by staying on message.
The tale about the corrupt and the stupid…
You are most correct stating that voters are not decoders, particularly not when there is nothing to decode. It is increasingly obvious that the Bajnai party has hardly anything more than obscure technicalities and lots of hot air balloons to offer.
Actually, the unrefusable offer could be agreement, or going to long term jail. But in order to make that work the new government would have to be as tough as nails. I fail to see the slightest of signs that would indicate such steely resolve.
To be fair Együtt is in a bind.
It wants to appeal to the center, to undecided people who don’t necessarily hate or fear Fidesz, but are just disappointed by their incompetence and corruption.
These are not hard core Fidesz voters, as they would never vote for Bajnai, but centrists, who have had enough, but otherwise are no fans of MSZP either.
To these people, open agressivity against Fidesz would be counterproductive. So Együtt wants to be seen as reaching out, open to negotiations.
In theory this would be good, but just like with Obama re the Republicans, Együtt people really think that reaching out and compromise are possible with Fidesz.
They fail to comprehend that Fidesz has one and only one interest with an opposition government: to see them fail as miserably as possible.
The current constitutional setup was exactly built out for this very reason (should the opposition ever form a government they would be destroyed by Fidesz, and according to the playbook and timing of Fidesz), why would Fidesz suddenly backtrack to help MSZP or Együtt succeed? To give a chance to MSZP and Együtt for an opportunity for reelection? This is how you know Orbán and Lázár and Szájer and Áder?
When has Fidesz retreated on anything? When was it last time that Fidesz’s aggressivity was Not successful?
Agreed, a 2/3 majority is unlikely for anyone and so how does one make corrections in an environment where Fidesz’s cooperation is needed but is unlikely to be forthcoming.
At any rate, any party using a 2/3 majority to “fix” the current constitution would be doing exactly what Fidesz did, create an illegitimate document. And that would of course have to be fixed again and again. So now instead of just having unstable laws that flip flop all the time, the framework in which laws are written is destabilized. I wonder how that is going to work out.
The problem with these “politologists” that de facto manage MSzP and E14 is that they use mostly American clichés in their trade.
THey are not smart enough to find the right responses to Fidesz.
They aim at the “center” that do not exist. There is an aggressive, dictatorial mafioso ruling party. You have to be forceful in your message like Gyurcsany – you must not be wishy-washy like Mesterhazi and Bajnai.
You must not compromise in restoring democracy and equality under the law.
tappanch, for me there is a contradiction between “you must not compromise…” and “you have to be forceful…” – even a “forceful” change within the currently established system will not establish “democracy”. It is futile to try to introduce democracy if the majority of people is either indifferent to it or if behaviour prevails that is outright undermining it (e.g., believing in the decisive role of strong leaders, of the ruling party and of the opposition). Probably nobody in Hungary is currently “smart enough to find the right responses to Fidesz”. But this is also because somehow people in Fidesz have a reputation of being “smart” (or even “cool”!) only because they are extremely self-centered – as a reaction to which others retreat immediately (“they are too smart!!”).
That said, it might be indeed premature to think about how the opposition will approach Fidesz in (the unlikely event of) an opposition majority (short of 2/3) after the next elections. But that the fourth republic should be able to re-integrate the Hungarian nation is without question. And to think about how to do that – so that the fourth republic will be “legitimate” – is certainly not wrong.
Something isn’t really clear to me in this whole E14 – MSZP deal: what kind of bargaining leverage did the E14 used in order to get those 31 districts while leaving all the problems of coming to some agreement with the rest of the opposition to the MSZP to solve?
Furthermore, when asked, Bajnai blankly deterred any kind of involvement in the failed negotiations, insisting, that they even “relinquished places” in order to let others in, so its the MSZP to blame.
And then the MSZP unanimously approved the deal with E14, which is “holy and untouchable” according to Mesterházy, whatever happens.
Apparently I must have missed some important part somewhere along the way, because I simply don’t get it, what appeals in the politics of E14, beside being the most characterless political formation presently.
Does anyone can point me to some recent poll, – what nearly everyone seems to accept as factual, since I hear daily references to its existence – which proves, that indeed, the Együtt has the potential voter base and organisation what needed – in order to get those 31 mandate..?
Thanks in advance!
Orban will rename the Kossuth Square.
The new name:
God wants FIDESZ
I totally agree with the notion, that any kind of negotiation with Orbán is wrong.
It would fit only those who will maintain the old, same as usual way in the Hungarian politics, the rather well known “wash my back, I’ll wash yours” cooperation even across – nominally – ideological boundaries, all for the interest of – themselves.
In case, you haven’t noticed yet, this isn’t enough anymore.
If someone has the slightest intention to lead back Hungary to 2013 and Europe from the thirties Balkan, then Orbán and the orbanism must clean out at once and for all from the Hungarian politics, otherwise there is no chance.
Once I wrote here somewhere, one don’t negotiate with the plague, you eradicate it.
Or else, go and start to digging, we gonna need a huge sewer pit pretty soon…
As for the 31 districts. Far too many for a party whose voter share fluctuates between 4 and 6%. Moreover, I can’t believe that they can come up with that many creditable candidates in order to be competitive.
As for the number of districts one has to keep in mind that in order to have a party list a party must have candidates at least in 27 districts. So, if they insisted on separate party lists, E14 had to get at least 27 districts.
One more thing. Does everybody know that since E14-PM is not one party but a “party alliance” (pártszövetség) they must get at least 10% of the votes to get into parliament instead of the normal 5%? I don’t know but at the moment that goal looks a bit far-fetched. Of course, things may change.
Well, the prosecution is not only headed by a reliable Fidesz party commissioner, the HR department there made sure in the last couple of years (in fact since way before 2010) that only Fidesz-loyal people get to senior, decision making positions (i.e. if Polt would leave for whatever reason even three levels below him are tried and loyal Fideszniks). Prosecution and the courts were taken over and refreshed human resources-wise exactly because of such a danger. Fidesz like a good lawyer always thinks three steps ahead.
So apart from the total lack of steely resolve (and remember even Együtt would be tough, which I think they are genetically incapable of, MSZP would still stop them and cut a deal with Fidesz, because MSZP is always open to a deal, whether it is money or for other reasons), there is no chance that the prosecution would get tough against Simicska? Nyerges or top dogs, let alone Orbán. Forget it.
spectator, for an outside observer such as me, there appear to be three dominant strategies in the Hungarians’ approach to politics. The first is (pretended) indifference, which very suddenly can switch to extreme anger about everything. (This approach is perhaps not very pragmatic, but it could change, for me the least problematic.) The other two, however, are much bigger problems. One is your very well described “rather well known ‘wash my back, I’ll wash yours’ ” . To change that, it must be more widely known how to achieve “beneficial outcomes” with other strategies – for instance honest and transparent ones. I am not sure whether these are known to the group of people who follow your strategy either in deeds or at least in beliefs (“nothing can be done about it”). I am not very sure about how this could change if people are fed this idea from childhood (and see that it “works”).
But the third group, which apparently deems itself the most “civilised”, is not too helpful either. “don’t negotiate with the plague, you eradicate it.” is perhaps an acceptable approach in medicine, but in society? Speaking about other people? It certainly sounds civilised that you try to avoid contact with all this “uncivil” behaviour seen currently. But to say that you will not “negotiate” with people who hold “unacceptable” views makes – even strategically – sense only if you feel quite certain to dominate the society (as OV is doing currently). In all other cases (unless you are Bolsheviks etc.) it makes sense to win people over through “negotiating” and speaking to them. By being a righteous group that insists on “no compromises EVER”, not with Orban and his gang (agreed) and not with people voting for Fidesz (but why exactly not?), nothing will change either. “Orbanism” can be “cleaned out” only by giving people an alternative (and functioning) idea of society – which will not fall into peoples’ laps. That I see as the biggest problem, “just say no” is a good start but it is helpful only if an alternative strategy to achieve good ends is known and available. People do not know, and that is why it makes sense to “speak to them”.
I recommend taking a look at a conversation on ATV Start (September 12). This season an old program called Forum was refashioned. Earlier it was a fairly dull half-an-hour affair in which ordinary viewers phoned in and brought up all sorts of political topics. Now, it is a 1.5-hour program with two new reporters: Emília Krug (168 Óra) and Zoltán Somogyi (former head of Political Capital). In addition to viewer questions they also conduct interviews with politicians. For example, only yesterday Somogyi had a talk with Gyurcsány who first time told publicly that now he thinks that he should have resigned right after the 2008-referendum on co-pay and tuition fee. It made headlines.
But what was really important in this conversation is that at the end of the talk Antónia Mészáros asked the two new reporters what their impressions are, based on their talks with ordinary citizens, of people’s attitude toward the E14-MSZP deal. Both said that most of the people are very dissatisfied and they are convinced that real unity is needed. This deal is unsatisfactory. (This was also my impression by listening to callers on György Bolgár’s program.)
And now comes the really interesting part. Krug wanted to know more about the E14-MSZP claim that Gy.’s presence in the coalition would take more votes than it would bring. She phoned one of the pollsters and asked whether there was such a poll. Apparently there is none. At this point Somogyi interrupted saying that there was an MSZP internal poll according to which this is the case That may have been, said Krug, but it is an old one and there is nothing recent that would indicate that Bajnai-Mesterházy are correct in their assumptions.
I think a rather simple case can be made against Gyurcsány’s participation in a leftist agreement. I am not saying these assumptions and arguments are in fact right, we can’t be sure, but I think these are the lines along which MSZP and Együtt decided.
On the one hand there are the DK voters to be gained from such an agreement: 2-4-6%. We do not know, but it seems that presently not more than 6-8% can be gained even with some generosity. And they are active leftist, anti-Orbán voters, the ones attending political meetings, calling in to talk to György Bolgár.
On the other hand, however, are the undecided voters currently measured at 35%. If we assume that only every fifth just hates Gyurcsány (7% of the 35%) then it is a better decision not to deal with him.
Since it is a rule of thumb that the undecideds will vote according to the breakdown of those whose sympathies are known, even if we assume that among the undecideds there are significantly more leftists this time around (as they have to be more secretive) it is probably a safer (but of course it is not certain) bet for MSZP/E-14 not to be associated with Gyurcsány.
György Bolgár’s phone-ins or the own experiences of known leftist journalists are not representative unfortunately as latter’s circle of friends and acquaintances are more likely to contain like-minded people then be representative of the nation as a whole. Especially as I suspect that they are in addition more concentrated in Budapest which is a lost case for Fidesz in 2014, but it is OK as the election system is cleverly set up so that it will be decided by the outside of Budapest voters where Fidesz overwhelmingly rules and of which these journalists have no knowledge of at all. Budapest is too liberal and leftist and has always been such, so Fidesz knew well that if it wanted to succeed it needed an election system which well allowed for a defeat in Budapest and this is what will happen, as I agree in Budapest the popularity of Fidesz is indeed low (except for district XII and neighboring areas). Have you heard about any specific projects announced in Budapest like the stadiums in Szombathely or Mezőkövesd or Debrecen? No, because money would be more wisely spent on the country side. Budapest will have the Metro 4 and it should be satisfied with that. Money will go elsewhere where voters still know what loyalty is.
Gyurcsány’s savvinness regarding Fidesz would certainly be needed for MSZP and Együtt, but there are so many unknowns that they decided it was safer to go without him this time. But who knows what will happen until April 2014?
Kristen, I have never said, that no way to talk – or negotiate, for that matter – with people currently supporting Fidesz, rather the opposite what I would prefer: talk to them and show them a way, how to be a true, even conservative Hungarian without the nationalist BS while remain European at the same time.
However, from my point of view there is no negotiation with Orbán and his gang, never ever, I mean it.
These are the highly infectious, I dare say toxic waste of the so called communist era, who learned only one thing: how to get the all the benefit being a self appointed politician at the first place, later cajoling the plebs into one twisted kind of backward belief, what they find useful for their on purpose. For that goal Orbán ready and willing to bring back even the feudalistic hierarchy, the oligarchs, the vassals – and the servitude too. Just look at it: Orbán building up social and existential dependence, you either obey, or you are out, whatever your qualification or expertise!
The only way nowadays – again – to get somewhere in life, to find the right, party-approved arse to lick, otherwise you’re a pariah.
I don’t believe, that anyone who ever tasted the true freedom and democracy ever willingly goes back a century, or more, mentally and existentially, or, if they do, they deserve no better.
So, I truly believe NO, who ever will go into any kind of deal with Orbán is not better a bit, only want to be near the cookie-basket, that’s all.
Once again, please, pay attention: I don’t talk about the people, I talk about Orbán and his spineless slaves: non negotiable
Spectator, agreed about Orban and his closest allies. But there are people that perhaps currently “support” Fidesz, out of whatever reason, and which could – when won over – tip the balance. You probably would not like to rely on these people in your private life, but politically this still makes sense. Perhaps part of OV’s alleged ‘savvy’ is that he manages to present such pragmatic approach as intolerable although he is doing just that.
Engaging tose people isn’t the way what Bajnai and his allies seem to take – as giving in in the otherwise unacceptable topics, such as domestic voting rights of the over the border Hungarians or the lowering of utility fees to everyone, regardless of their financial status and similarly populistic gestures – int he education just to name one.
If I was in any position over there – thank God, I’am not – I would certainly stress to these points as unjust, inhuman even – think about the so called “social funeral and its attached “duties” – and would make them think first of all, and would give them the reason to reconsider, instead of trying to befriend them in this opportunistic and spineless way.
Kristen, while I really appreciate your answers, I just can not think of a shred of orbanism what could/should remain intact in order to win over some Fidesz supporters in the coming elections. If you would succeed, then you shouldn’t win – in my opinion.
Orban and the orbasim must go together and for good.
Or don’t even bother to participate in anything, let alone the election.
Zoltan Somogyi is the business partner of Orbán’s close confidant, Jozsef Pandur. Together, they run an investment firm known as 100M.
In 2011, Somogyi named Pandur as his successor as CEO of Political Capital. Pandur had to give up this position — on paper, at least — when Orbán named him ambassador to Sarajevo.
Somogyi is a poster boy for corruption and conflicts of interest. How on earth can he do a credible job as a “reporter” for ATV when his financial success depends so heavily on Pandur, a man who is entirely in Orbán’s pocket?
What a small world, won’t you say?
What a friggin’ coincidence..?
What a small little everyday Hungarian story..?
– And we all blame Gyurcsány to spell this all out loud and clear, hence spoiling the game.
What a lame killjoy that man could be!
Now we can’t really believe anything what we see!
How on Earth we can be sure anymore, that the Bajnai – Mesterházy pact isn’t the one and only solution for all of our problems, – just to name one, – even if they say so?
Hell and damnation…!
Winning over the support in question would certainly require subscribing (to a great extent) to the nationalistic rhetoric that currently dominates. A dangerous game, perhaps best ignored in favour of patience. It may take a long while, but the crash will happen, economically at the very least, and will even finally become apparent to the voters. That’s when statesmen with the integrity NOT prepared to say anything to anyone in an unseemly scrabble for votes should be ready to step in.
Playing Fidesz at their own cynical game is doomed to failure, anyway. They’re better at it.
In reading Ms Balog’s entry, I could not get out of my mind that Mr. Bajnai is a savvy and experienced businessman with many transactions under his belt. He participated in many business negotiations, small and large; he cannot thus be unaware of some basic tenets he necessarily had to learn as a businessman. It is naïve to believe that those tenets do not apply in politics.
1. The bully wins, always (or at least far more often than not).
2. To achieve the much-touted (but elusive) win-win situation, both parties must cooperate. If one does not and the other tries to, the cooperating party will loses out (or at least be worst of). In other words, it takes two to tango and he who does not dance will pulp your feet.
3. To paraphrase Roosevelt, if you wish to speak softly, you better carry a big stick (and be ready and able to use it). It is not enough to go to the other guy with a big smile and a reasonable offer, trying to convince him that this is better for him (or the country). You better have a threatening baseball bat high up there and be ready to blast him out.
Either Mr. Bajnai did not learn those basics tenets of business life or he has abilities going beyond those of the most successful in the business world. We would know if it was the latter; so maybe there is some naivety in believing that the political world is gentler than the business world, or that the same rules do not apply. These are human interactions and the same rules and mechanisms apply across the board.
@Ibanez: This may only be the top of the iceberg. I think Fidesz purposefully plants its people in the opposition media. No need for an overt takeover, a few moles can do wonders in shaping the discourse in the opposition media in a way that serves Fidesz.
@An: You are certainly correct. The problem with Somogyi is, he was once allied with the SZDSZ and became campaign manager for the MDF during the Bokros era. His turn toward Fidesz — while still dressed in opposition clothing — is very troubling indeed.
@qaz: A pretty accurate assessment, I would say.
Probably that’s why I have problem to buy him at face value – somehow the whole deal isn’t quite square, even if the participants insist on the contrary.
Let’s hope, however, that I am out of my depth in my valuation, everything just fine and dandy, only my mood acting out.
Or something completely different.
All youngish political advisers from Zoltán Somogyi to Török Gábor realized that time is ticking for them too. They are forty somethings and need to earn money. It is rather difficult for independent political advisers (if this category exists at all) to get mandates because there are only so many parties.
The result is cozying up to Fidesz in one way or another since Fidesz has money. And Fidesz’s sources are unlimited. Nobody else does have any comparable money. Somogyi surely can’t live from an ATV salary.
Somogyi always needed contacts to Fidesz, especially since he got into some hot water with the MDF – Tombor – Csányi – UD Zrt. stuff. Pandur’s contact might have come in handy.
Anyways, these guys are extremely cynical and opportunistic. If they think that Fidesz is just too powerful and MSZP has not much of a chance, then they will realize that they have been right wing conservatives all along.
They might switch sides at one point, but the thing is MSZP is always much more generous with the other side, so one can even be friendly with MSZP even if one is close to Fidesz, MSZP is much more tolerant.
These guys can be bought for any purpose. They want to be close to power in order to have access to insider political info as this is what they paddle in and this is how they feel they are still worth something.
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