Ferenc Gyurcsány the campaigner in his element

Ipsos was the first company to release its monthly poll on the electorate’s preferences for parties and politicians. As far as the two large parties, Fidesz and MSZP, are concerned, the changes are minimal and most likely insignificant, Fidesz’s 27% is one percentage point higher than it was a month ago; MSZP lost one percentage point and now stands at 14% in the electorate as a whole. In the case of the three smaller parties, the changes may be more significant. Jobbik lost 2% of its followers, which means that only 6% of the electorate would vote for this far-right party. Együtt 2014-PM lost a point and by now is the second smallest party in Hungary, with 3%. DK is still the smallest political formation with 2%, but this number is nonetheless something of a breakout for Ferenc Gyurcsány’s party which this year never had more than a 1% share of the electorate. In a month–at least according to Ipsos–the Demokratikus Koalíció doubled its support. Mind you, Ferenc Gyurcsány, the party’s chairman, declared only yesterday that support for the party is much greater than the polls indicate although he would hate to guess how much greater. It could be 4% or even 12%.

One reason for the upsurge might be the incredible energy of Ferenc Gyurcsány who, realizing that elections are closer than most people think, moved into high gear. Here are a few numbers. In August Gyurcsány’s name appeared in the news 72 times, fewer than Viktor Orbán, Gordon Bajnai, or Attila Mesterházy, but it was Gyurcsány who had the most air time. He spoke on TV and radio for 2,218 minutes as opposed to Mesterházy’s 1,367, Viktor Orbán’s 683, and Gordon Bajnai’s 353 minutes.

Another reason might be that his message is the simplest and the most uncompromising as far as his attitude toward the Orbán government is concerned. Many voters who want change find Együtt 2014-PM’s messages confusing and the latest declarations of Gordon Bajnai, Viktor Szigetvári, and Péter Kónya worrisome. Bajnai’s mysterious reference to an offer that Fidesz will not be able to refuse led some people to think that Bajnai may be thinking in terms of a grand coalition, an idea that sent shivers down the spines  of members of the anti-Fidesz forces. I also suspect that Gyurcsány’s shabby treatment at the hands of MSZP politicians will only help’s DK’s fortunes. Next month’s polls will reveal whether or not my hunch is correct. I might also add to the list of reasons for increased DK support Gyurcsány’s superior oratorical skills.

I assume that the above figures regarding Gyurcsány’s media exposure did not include the speech he gave on Saturday when he, Ágnes Vadai, and László Varju attracted about 5,000 people. Or his recent long interview with HVG. Or another interview that MTV’s Híradó published only a few hours ago.

Here I would like to say a few words about the HVG interview. It is about twice as long as my average-length post. Although it is upbeat, it also includes a level of self-criticism that one couldn’t hear from Gyurcsány before. He came to the realization, he said, that in 2004 he “became prime minister without the necessary experience or wisdom.” Today he knows that to be beaten once or twice, or to be in opposition, are perhaps prerequisites for success as prime minister.

Gyurcsany HVG

He then returned to the subject of Őszöd because he wants to “rehabilitate” that speech, portraying it as the first attempt on the left to depart from the kinds of economic policies for political gain that led to the economic decline of the country. A lot of people said at the time, including President László Sólyom, that Gyurcsány should have resigned right then and there. Gyurcsány disagrees. In that fateful speech he told his audience that if the reforms he was planning to introduce fail, he will resign. He should have resigned, however, he admits, in 2008 after the reforms were roundly rejected by the disastrous referendum on the 300 forint co-pay and the introduction of a small tuition fee. He “missed the tempo.” Instead of resigning, he attempted to scale back the reforms, which he now calls “reforms light.”

As for DK’s chances, Gyurcsány thinks that the party will be able to get 7-8% of the votes, plenty to become a parliamentary party. If DK doesn’t manage to qualify for parliamentary representation, then the party is finished and with it Ferenc Gyurcsány as a politician.

If the democratic side loses the election and DK is in opposition, he will be the head of the DK delegation “to show how one ought to speak and act in opposing Viktor Orbán.” If the current democratic opposition wins, he will not occupy the post because he doesn’t want “the new prime minister to feel his presence in his back.” He is optimistic. “According to public opinion polls, 53% of the electorate want to see Viktor Orbán’s government go and only 31% stick by it. One can go back as far as 1990: no government could remain in office with such a level of rejection.”

And finally, the conversation turned to his person as an obstacle for the unity of the left. MSZP maintains that Gyurcsány will take more votes away from the opposition than he will bring to the opposition. (Vera Lánczos in today’s Galamus argues that the poll the Republikon Institute took in the spring doesn’t support that claim.) Gyurcsány in this interview gives new polling figures that I was not familiar with. He claims that 60-70% of left-liberal voters like Bajnai, Mesterházy, and him equally well, although he admits that he is less popular among the undecided.

The Demokratikus Koalíció has embarked on a membership drive and is also in the middle of amassing a database. The party called 550,000 households, using Gyurcsány’s voice, asking for support. Apparently in 14% of the cases people showed a willingness to allow DK to collect their personal data.

Gyurcsány might yet surprise us all, especially if the extreme right-wingers spit in his face a few more times as happened yesterday inside and outside of the courthouse where he went to show his solidarity with the two police chiefs who are facing charges in connection with their alleged negligence in the September-October 2006 disturbances. By the way, the court procedure, for which 100 days were set aside, was scheduled to begin on September 18, the exact day when the one or two sentences from the long Őszöd speech were read on the Hungarian public radio and prompted, with lots of help from Fidesz, the siege of the Hungarian Public Television station. The choice of the date cannot be an accident. The Orbán government has a sense of the dramatic.

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19 comments

  1. A bit OT, but not totally:

    The results of a detailed survey about the attitudes of the Hungarian generation aged 15-29 with some non-surprising results was just published.

    The research was repeated several times during the last decade so it can be considered pretty representative.

    The most important finding is that this generation is extremely passive politically. They do not question they value judgement of their parents (though in Budapest kids tend to do that more often). They have no clue about the future, and they do not participate in the current events.

    Interestingly, I also see these trends with kids and young adults in this age bracket of parents who otherwise are very active (though are not politicians). It’s an interesting parenting issue as well, they somehow were not able to make them interested in current events.

    The findings are important and underscore why it does not matter for Fidesz what happens with the tuition fees or in highschools. These kids and the incoming voters simply will not vote or their votes will not make a huge difference.

    Not surprisingly they are extremely passive and love best to sit on front of the computers or the TV (mind you that is why the idea to spend more time in school is a good one, at home and during vacation time most kids unfortunately would just play with the internet, which is also a euphemism for watching porn, after all we talk about teenagers and young adults) and don’t do sports.

    So, also not surprisingly they can be easily pacified and have zero experience, tenacity or willingness to fight (see the demise of HaHa). They are not like the Fidesz college fraternity was, I guess Orbán and his former roommates look down on these iphone toting weaklings.

    http://www.origo.hu/itthon/20130918-magyar-ifjusag-2012-kutatas-lapitanak-es-magukba-fordulnak-a-magyar-fiatalok.html?sec-3

  2. “If DK doesn’t manage to qualify for parliamentary representation, then the party is finished and with it Ferenc Gyurcsány as a politician.”

    So he needs to more than double his support in just 6 months.

    Possible, but hardly likely, I’m afraid. The polls aren’t that inaccurate.

    But, even if DK fails to get any MPs, I can’t see Gy just backing out. As long as Orbán is around, Gy, his Nemesis, will be too.

  3. Paul, the referenced sentence was actually said by Gyurcsány in the interview.

    In any case, we talk about minor percentages here. If the polls are to be believed, DK has 3% overall popularity among those who would vote, which is a start.

    Moreover the undecideds would prefer a change of government by a ratio of 51 to 12 (the rest wouldn’t tell of know).

    Thus it seems to me that the undecideds overwhelmingly prefer a government change, but have not decided whom to vote for or do not feel that they can reveal their preference. In a way this is rational they want to hear the offers: further utility price cuts, full employment for everybody under 30 (Bajnai) and so on. When all the offers are in, then it will be time to decide.

    DK only needs a small portion of these undecideds and Gyurcsány is a great campaigner. He is far better than anybody at MSZP or at Együtt. Gyurcsány has his very own party and does not have to negotiate every press release to death with dozens of advisers and stakeholders like Együtt has to, so he can be quicker.

    Also, it is quite right to mention that with such an unpopularity and dissatisfaction as we have with the Fidesz government, no government survived an election in Hungary.

    Granted Orbán has done everything conceivable in his power to make sure he wins, given the unpopularity even his staggering built-in advantage will not be enough to keep majority. What I can well imagine is that Fidesz will indeed be biggest party but will not win a majority. In that case, Áder will naturally ask Orbán to form a government. Since MSZP and Bajnai will probably not help (although, come to think about it, Együtt may even help Fidesz, but I think E-14 potential representatives would just not be disciplined enough for Orbán) it will be Jobbik who will be sought for a coalition party, at least from the outside or individual representatives will be purchased in one way or another. Jobbik might be open to amend the constitution if he gets something in return (like business from Paks II or constitutional court judges).

    Anyway, there is a great reservoir of potential voters for DK and I think he is right to show that he is tough and uncompromising with Fidesz.

    MSZP and Együtt feel to eager to compromise and give in to Fidesz. If one is dissatisfied and unhappy with Fidesz and is not a Jobbik fan, than one does not like that eagerness. Having a perennial image of being a pushover does not help MSZP at all, and in that Gyurcsány has a real market gap to fill. (Though of course having 6-7% of the party list votes translates into a caucus of 3 representatives).

  4. OT: http://444.hu/2013/09/19/tenyleg-elmehet-az-mszp-a-sunyiba/

    Zsolt Bayer reminded everyone that Janos Zuschlag, a small time MSZP crook who was just released from prison after six years, was not protected by his own party.

    The message is clear: if you choose Fidesz and do your job you will be defended no matter what, but MSZP is hopeless, they drop you like a hot potato.

    At Fidesz it’s one for all and all for one, treating each other like brothers in arms.

    Of course it helps that Fidesz owns the prosecution and the courts.

    MSZP, well, it has nothing, least of all the legal and security branches.

    Fidesz just loves to raise that MSZP is so stupid, it has no power at all at the all important organisations.

  5. Furby7 – I assumed that. It makes no difference.

    All of what you write would be true in a functioning and free democracy. Hungary is none of those things.

    Gy has three major factors against him: 1) Fidesz hate him and will do anything and everything (‘legal’ or not) to stop him if he looks like gaining enough votes to be a threat. 2) Fidesz have a stranglehold over the media and election publicity, Gy will find it very hard to get his message out beyond Budapest and the core left/liberal vote. 3) The ‘Gyurcsány effect’ is still a major factor in Hungarian politics – a great many people hate him, and many more will never trust him.

    On top of that, he has a very small party, with no external funding. DK will be stretched to the limit just to put candidates up in the bare minimum of constituencies necessary to get on the party list. And, even if they do that, they still have to treble their current vote to get any MPs (assuming Orbán doesn’t alter the threshold or fiddle the rules in some other way before April – no suspects in criminal cases allowed to stand, for instance).

    And, as you say, even if he does manage to get over 5% of the vote, he’s only going to get 4 or 5 MPs. I fear there’s a very good chance that DK won’t get any MPs at all. In fact, under the new rules, I expect the Hungarian Parliament to resemble the British one – two main parties (although one very dominant at the moment, unlike in the UK), and one minor third party (Jobbik, in this case) – whose only power will be supporting (or not) a minority government in a ‘balanced’ house (which isn’t going to happen for a long time). The minor parties will either be irrelevant or non-existent.

    Hungary no longer has a proportional democracy – but few on the left seem to have cottoned on to this.

    But, none of this will matter, as Orbán has effectively emasculated Parliament anyway. Gy may very well be more effective outside of Parliament. Remember, Orbán’s success in 2010 was mainly based on Fidesz abandoning Parliament and campaigning outside the system (where there are effectively no rules).

    As I’ve often said, next year’s election is largely irrelevant, anyway. Orbán has done what he needs to do, he no longer needs parliament – and Fidesz will win easily anyway. What matters is that the opposition starts to develop a groundswell of dissatisfaction with Orbán, so that the next election, or the one after that will be lost. And the best (currently, the only) candidate to lead that is Gy. He is the only one who understands that the only answer to Orbán is unconditional opposition.

    Whatever he might say now, he will not only carry on (whether in Parliament or not) after April, he will become the centre, the vanguard, of the ‘new’ opposition.

    If he really steps down, Hungary is lost.

  6. The official Statistical Bureau, KSH came out with lots of data today.

    In January-July 2013, on the average,

    gross salary; bonuses; net income; number of people; change 2013 vs 2012;

    Private enterprises 222,700; 16,900; 156,900; 1,809,200; -5,900
    Public employees 211,080; 9,700; 144,600; 664,800; +1,900
    Public workers (workfare) 85,050;* 800;* 57,900;* 93,400; +11,000
    Non-profits 201,200; 6,100; 135,800; 95,500; -9,300

    Total 214,200; 14,150; 149,600; 2,662,900; -2,300
    Total in 2012 208,000; 13,200; 143,000; 2,665,200;
    Change in % 3.0%;* 0.7%;* 4.6%; -0.1%;*

    *This is my calculation from the official data, not provided in the published tables.

    http://www.ksh.hu/docs/hun/xftp/gyor/let/let21307.pdf

    We can see fewer employees in private enterprises and non-profit organizations,
    more people in “workfare” paying below the minimum wage and among the public employees.

    The take-home pay of the public workers (57,900 HUF) is not enough to survive.
    So less then 2.7 million people were employed in Hungary.
    If we combine this with the data from the Hungarian IRS, we can conclude
    that an additional 1.1 million people were employed part-time.

  7. Yes, I hear from my neighbours it’s getting more and more difficult to find a new job at a reasonable pay – so everybody’s clinging to their jobs, however uncomfortable they are …

    Our daughter in law is trying to return to work after having a baby – not much luck, even in Budapest. Should a woman with a degree be forced to work part time as a “sales assistant” ?

    She did that as a student of course, but now ? If they didn’t have us to help …

    Well, they probably would have thought twice about having a baby – actually I’m sure it wouldn’t have crossed their mind!

    And politicians wonder why there are less and less babies being born …

    PS re part-time jobs:

    I know that many people are officially only on part-time jobs who are really working full time – but half of the money is paid “black” – it’s cheaper for both the employer and the emplyee, but of course in the long run …

    So it might well be that many/the majority of those 1.1 Mio part-time emplyoes are really working full time!

  8. The number of people dying due to infection contacted in hospitals has doubled since 2010.
    (I would like to remind you that hospitals are in arrears, they owe billions to the cleaning companies. My personal experience that hospitals do not have soap or toilet papers in their public restrooms).

    In 2012,
    2317 people died in infections contacted in hospitals, and
    199 people in infections contacted outside hospitals.

    The Orban government promised to correct the data of the Epidemiology Center.
    (I hope they will not fire the people working there)

    http://www.vg.hu/vallalatok/egeszsegugy/korhazi-fertozesek-a-szakemberek-aggodnak-a-miniszterium-cafol-412076

  9. Tappanch, I would like to say that I find your posts and the data contained to be very valuable. Thank you for sharing, and for the time and effort you put into gathering the information.

  10. The US cannot boast of its employment numbers either:

    2009-03-02: QQQ= 26.30, 2009 February Participation Rate= 65.8%

    2013-09-19: QQQ= 79.31, 2013 August Participation Rate= 63.2%

    So the share prices have tripled in the last three years, while the labor participation rate
    has fallen to a 35-year low.

    http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11300000

    The peak was in the 1997 March – 2000 June period, with a 67.0 – 67.3% rate.

  11. Mantism :
    OT: http://444.hu/2013/09/19/tenyleg-elmehet-az-mszp-a-sunyiba/
    Zsolt Bayer reminded everyone that Janos Zuschlag, a small time MSZP crook who was just released from prison after six years, was not protected by his own party.
    The message is clear: if you choose Fidesz and do your job you will be defended no matter what, but MSZP is hopeless, they drop you like a hot potato.
    At Fidesz it’s one for all and all for one, treating each other like brothers in arms.
    Of course it helps that Fidesz owns the prosecution and the courts.
    MSZP, well, it has nothing, least of all the legal and security branches.
    Fidesz just loves to raise that MSZP is so stupid, it has no power at all at the all important organisations.

    Practically, Zsolt Bayer is proud of Fidesz being better at stealing and getting away with it than MSzP. Congratulations.

  12. Vilmos :
    Tappanch, I would like to say that I find your posts and the data contained to be very valuable. Thank you for sharing, and for the time and effort you put into gathering the information.

    You are welcome.

  13. tappach: The number of people dying due to infection contacted in hospitals has doubled since 2010. (I would like to remind you that hospitals are in arrears, they owe billions to the cleaning companies. My personal experience that hospitals do not have soap or toilet papers in their public restrooms).

    My personal experience is that that they do not provide enough food, and do not provide diapers (for babies and sick people requiring one), toilet paper, soap.

    As to why an increase of infections, you may also want to think about not having latex gloves and not washing hands by doctors and nurses alike.

  14. Since families are supposed to provide all soap, food, toilet rolls, and indeed bribes, in Hungarian hospitals … it would be interesting to see some epidemiological stats on the childless elderly, orphans, homeless, foreigners etc. Just a thought.

  15. Tappach you may want to show our foreign friends the total salary costs and supergross to net calculation.

    http://www.nettober.com/index.php?p=berkalk20130101

    As of January 1, 2013 a gross salary of HUF 222,700 (and no kids) result in net salary of HUF 145.869 and total salary costs (supergross salary) of HUF 286.170. The total percentage is 28.50, which is calculated over the gross salary (no maximum or no minimum). Other employee costs are depending on the companies situation and could be as much as HUF 5,000 per employee per month.

    No tax deductible are, VAT for cars (company cars, taxi, ext.). Costs of entertaining in restaurants (lunch or dinners) will attract Social Security (28.5% plus personal income tax).

    As a result people resign (involuntary) and hired back via the company that these employees need to set up. In general, the taxes are lower and there is no social security costs.

  16. tappanch :
    The US cannot boast of its employment numbers either:
    2009-03-02: QQQ= 26.30, 2009 February Participation Rate= 65.8%
    2013-09-19: QQQ= 79.31, 2013 August Participation Rate= 63.2%
    So the share prices have tripled in the last three years, while the labor participation rate
    has fallen to a 35-year low.
    http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS11300000
    The peak was in the 1997 March – 2000 June period, with a 67.0 – 67.3% rate.

    I do not know what the actual (read- correct) participation rate is in Hungary, but it must become lower and lower. Although we need to take the KSH figures with a pinch of salt nowadays.

    http://www.politics.hu/20130919/socialists-say-ksh-statistics-reveal-drop-in-employment/

  17. Pete :
    A bit OT, but not totally:
    The results of a detailed survey about the attitudes of the Hungarian generation aged 15-29 with some non-surprising results was just published.

    Take those results with a pinch of salt. The survey was conductd by Kutatópont, a company affiliated with the Nézőpont Institute Holding – the latter of which was led by Ágoston Sámuel Mráz. This chap got his degree in political science in 2005, and was almost immediately promoted to the rank of “research director” at Nézőpont, despite having basically no experience in market research.

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