The hatchets are buried: Mesterházy-Bajnai-Gyurcsány is one team

The result of yesterday’s marathon negotiations is an agreement between Gordon Bajnai and Attila Mesterházy to have a common list and to accept Ferenc Gyurcsány and his party, the Demokratikus Koalíció, as part of a new political formation. In addition, the decision was made to have MSZP, as the largest party, name the next prime minister in case of electoral victory.

The news was received with less enthusiasm in democratic opposition circles than I expected. The announcement that MSZP has the right to name the candidate for the post of prime minister was interpreted as a done deal: the candidate will be Attila Mesterházy. After all, he is the leader of the socialist party. That impression was strengthened by Gordon Bajnai who at the joint press conference said that the identity of that person “shouldn’t bring unexpected surprises.” This particular comment shows the relative political inexperience of the former prime minister. If the socialists had wanted to name their candidate for the post, they could have done so on the spot. But, for one reason or another, they decided to be vague.

I think that MSZP’s decision concerning the person of the future prime minister was a wise one because anything can happen in the next few weeks. For example, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Medián, Ipsos, or Tárki immediately began a poll inquiring about the popularity of Mesterházy versus some other possible candidates.

MSZP’s website highlighted Bajnai’s reference to Mesterházy’s candidacy with pleasure. The Bajnai remark prompted the whole Hungarian media to write headlines such as “Mesterházy is the sure candidate for the post of prime minister.” Or, “After all, it is Mesterházy.” Or, “Mesterházy heads the list.” It would have been better to be quiet, especially since the news about Mesterházy’s candidacy didn’t stir much enthusiasm, especially, I suspect, among those who sympathize with Ferenc Gyurcsány and his party or with Gordon Bajnai’s Együtt-2014-PM.

Those who take it for granted that MSZP’s clear choice is Mesterházy object to the decision because of Mesterházy’s inability to rouse the anti-Orbán forces. Why would he be more inspiring in the future, they ask, than he was in the past? Just because Együtt-2014-PM and MSZP are at last willing to negotiate with DK will not change the general mood. One needs a charismatic leader. Someone new.

Those on the left who hate Ferenc Gyurcsány decried the new agreement. László Szily, of the blog, wrote a short post entitled “It hurts, but it’s true: Gyurcsány is the king.” Szily seems to know that Gyurcsány, when he heard the news, “guffawed into the face of Bajnai and Mesterházy.” Why? Because Gyurcsány, who is vacationing abroad with his wife, wrote on Facebook after receiving the news of the decision, “Then I will go home …” Szily’s imagination is truly remarkable.

I assume I don’t have to dwell at length on the reaction in Fidesz and Jobbik circles. I think that Gabriella Selmeczi’s reaction yesterday is typical and unfortunately says a lot about the Fidesz spokeswoman’s intellectual prowess. This is how she described the negotiations between the two parties: “haggling of the  bankrupt left”; “the latest comedy of the bankrupt left”; “it is no more than shifty crap, lies on top of lies”; “they talk gibberish and lie all over creation”; “they deny what they said yesterday without batting an eyelash”; “it is not enough that they mislead the people but they stiff their own voters.” These are only a few choice phrases from her elevating speech on the occasion.

The right-wing media specializes in muddying the waters. Magyar Nemzet, in response to some important event on the left, often “leaks” information coming from “reliable sources.” This allegedly inside information usually turns out to be deliberate misinformation which is then picked up by all media outlets, including the liberal dailies and internet sites. A few weeks ago Magyar Nemzet informed its readers that they have Ferenc Gyurcsány’s “complete list” of candidates for the job of prime minister. The eager reporters kept phoning the unsuspecting victims of this particular “joke” of the Fidesz government’s mouthpiece. This time the “well-informed” reporters of Magyar Nemzet threw in another name, Péter Róna, an American educated economist and banker who in the early 1990s returned to Hungary. However, as Zsófia Mihancsik of Galamus pointed out, Róna, who is close to LMP, has fiercely attacked practically all the leading politicians of the present coalition over the last four or five years, and therefore it is unlikely that the Bajnai- Mesterházy-Gyurcsány team would embrace of their fiercest critics.

This alleged “casting” generated by the right certainly doesn’t help the formation of a solid political arrangement on the left. Everybody remembers the painful two or three weeks in March 2009 when Ferenc Gyurcsány unexpectedly resigned without making certain that there was someone in his party who could take over the post of prime minister. What came afterward was a disgraceful scramble and did a lot of damage to MSZP. No wonder that the current actors want to avoid a repeat performance. But, naturally, it is in Fidesz’s interest to give the impression of total chaos. This morning the lead article in Magyar Nemzet bore the title: “Chaotic negotiations.” In fact, this time exactly the opposite was true: The talks were short, no leaks, and perceptible results.

Jobbik naturally went quite a bit further than that. Jobbik’s spokesman, Dóra Dúró, the notorous anti-Semitic Előd Novák’s wife and MP, called the Mesterházy-Bajnai-Gyurcsány team “a gang of criminals.”

As for Viktor Orbán’s reaction. We heard nothing from him directly, but his minister of interior, Sándor Pintér, didn’t even wait for the final results to be announced today. Already last night on HírTV he announced in the course of an interview that it is now time to release some of the documents collected by the secret service on Gyurcsány’s speech at Balatonőszöd right after the election of 2006 whose partial release was used so effectively by the Fidesz propaganda machine. The reason, he added, for not releasing all the material was the data protection rights of the people involved. I have no doubt that Pintér acted under orders from Viktor Orbán who is not at all happy about the recent developments and is trying to derail the negotiations. Gyurcsány’s answer was that he would be glad to release all the documents concerning the case, although he rejects the idea of making available only selected pieces of evidence that most likely serve only the interests of the present government

I left to last the reaction of András Schiffer of LMP. His party was invited to join the trio on the left, which he immediately declined. What he had to say sounded like a combination of the Fidesz-Jobbik messages. “The sparrows of 2010 that had taken flight joined by a cuckoo are now sitting on the same electric wire.” According to him, that “pseudo-left ruined the country and made it dependent on foreigners…. This melodrama that has been arranged by the prominent actors of the Bajnai-Gyurcsány era for the entertainment of the Hungarian voters is only playing into the hands of Viktor Orbán.” He, by contrast, will continue fighting both political elites, the right as well as this phony left.

I might add that yesterday LMP had five MPs but now has only four because Gábor Vágó quit the party and will sit with the independents for the rest of the current parliamentary session. And one of the remaining four, Katalin Ertsey, already announced that she is leaving politics behind altogether. So, I wish András Schiffer lots of luck in his future endeavors.


  1. Hmmm. More than I expected, I’ll be honest. If they can stay ‘friends’ until the election and put together a convincing combined-left platform, they could at least stop OV getting another two-thirds majority. Which is probably the best we can expect.

    Interesting to see how OV reacts if this does happen – although it won’t make any real difference to his power, it will be the first set-back he’s had since 2006. It’s going to hurt – and he’s not going to like it…

    As for Schiffer – when is he going to come out of the closet and join Fidesz?

  2. “This time the “well-informed” reporters of Magyar Nemzet threw in another name, Péter Róna”

    Unfortunately I think you are completely wrong this time. It was Róna himself that said that he was approached through informal channels to become the candidate for Prime Minister. He even said that he rejected it. This was reported by, not Magyar Nemzet. So your theory about the Róna nomination being an invention is unfortunately impossible.

    here is the section in question:

    “Az nyilatkozó Róna Péter visszautasította lapunk kérdését, miszerint megkeresték volna ellenzéki politikusok, hogy egy széles ellenzéki összefogásban vezető szerepet vigyen. „Bizonyos dolgok szóba kerültek, de legfeljebb informális tapogatózás történt, amit nem neveznék megkeresésnek” – fogalmazott interjúalanyunk, aki ugyanakkor közölte: az informális tapogatózások során szóba került, hogy vezető szerepet vigyen a széleskörű ellenzéki összefogásban. Azt mondta: „voltak olyan beszélgetések, célzások”, miszerint miniszterelnök-jelölt lenne, „de én ezt nem vállaltam”. ”

    translation: “There were only informal talks, I wouldn’t call them too serious.” – but Róna says, during these informal meetings it was suggested that he should take a leading role in a broad opposition coalition. He says “there were some references” to him being candidate for Prime Minister “but I didn’t accept it”.

    Róna’s Prime Ministership also came up in an ATV show called Voks

  3. Forget anything Magyar Nemzet says. The right-wing media empire is professionally used for Fidesznik political purposes. MN indeed just wants to muddy waters (and hype up their own loyal readers if possible).

    Media is a bit like politics. People naturally assume that what is written (published) must be true or must have some real basis in truth. They know that that Magyar Nemzet lied a million times and is scheming clearly for Fidesz, but a person still has it in him or her that it is printed out, is it not, so it may just be true, right, journalists are professionals, they are intellectuals, right? And that is enough: once people start to deal with such lies as opposed to ignore it, Magyar Nemzet, and whoever is behind it, won.

    It is similar to the psychology of political promises.

    One knows from experience that the promises are lies, all the promises about future price cuts, tax cuts, pension increases and what not are not true, cannot be true (and in any case a price must be paid later on) and politicians are anyway thought of as crooks and liars.

    Yet, once one party starts to promise and offer more and more, it is absolutely natural to choose the promising party over the party which does not offer something or offers less. (This is why once one party starts to promise the others must join the game immediately). Because despite all the lies, all the experience supporting the conclusion that the offers are lies, people just cannot psychologically exclude the possibility that the promises may, just may be true and he could have gotten the goodies had he voted for such offering party. This psychology makes it extremely hard for voting for the party with less offers, because people are afraid of giving up a gain. To forever and irrevocably part with a potentially huge gain. They want the potentiality, even if they know rationally that the actuality will almost certainly be disappointment. Such offers are an extremely powerful draw, however, just like the draw to conclude yet again that Magyar Nemzet may still, despite all lost libel cases and Simicska’s (who owns MN) scheming, got it right this time. Not.

  4. Now that Bajnai has stepped aside it would be time to have a cordial meeting of SOULS as opposed to POLITICIANS, to bring together the half dozen or dozen opposition party leaders
    An “Afternoon Tea” of sorts so that we can get a new base to start from. Throw away the egos for a minute and be friendly humans not power-vultures for an hour or two.

    Something organized by a Neutral Embassy like that of Switzerland.

    Then back to the negotiation table – not one by one but all together.

    If no clear result is reached, then back to the one-to-one negotiation with MSZP, that is, with the leader of the pack.

  5. If this had happened twelve months ago I’d have said it’s a really positive development. The real tests will be if the party alliance can agree on a credible manifesto (“Orbán has been a disaster for Hungary” isn’t enough) and an enforcer figure/campaign manager who will make sure that everyone stays on message and leaves their ego in the closet.
    Sorry to say, this reminds me of a bunch of teenagers agreeing a couple of weeks before their exams that they’ll get down to some serious revision, the only problem being they were too busy messing around in class to learn anything the first time round. I just hope I’m wrong.

  6. lutra, it does not really matter.

    Which is better (or worse):

    the continuation of the insane Fidesz regime or the quick f**k-up of an utterly unprepared, amateurish and divided opposition and the return of Orban with a vengeance in a year or two? (Of course Orban will return only when the left irrevocably self-destructed and duly carried out the most difficult decisions, such as painful spending cuts.)

    There is no good answer, I am afraid.

    As they say: either way, we are f****ed. Please, excuse my language.

  7. Now I’m hoping that the “united left” will at least break the Fidesz supermajority – and even get so many seats in the new parliament that Fidesz + Jobbik won’t have those dreaded two thirds, well maybe.


    Yes, it takes special circumstances for politicians to tell the truth.
    The last time was probably when Churchill promised his people “Blood, sweat and tears” …
    But I don’t think Hungarians are ready for that – yet …

  8. Let’s hope these united forces will be able to make a difference in April and even more so after the elections. Hungary deserves better than OV and his wolf pack.

    It won’t be easy though. Putting aside individual interests in favor of a common goal is not so much part of Hungarian dna. And Fidesz won’t take this lying down but will probably resort to mud throwing, lying, denigrating and all other means of foul play the party propaganda department can come up with.

    Still, where there is hope there can be faith. Where there is faith miracles can occur…

  9. The new election law, amended a dozen times, rigs the election completely.

    It is possible for the ruling Fidesz with 27% of the domestic vote to obtain 75% of the seats in Parliament.
    A few highlights:
    The boundaries of the election districts were drawn by Fidesz, without any independent review.
    Fidesz aims to get 7 to 10% of additional vote from Romania and Serbia from the new citizens – ethnic Hungarians, who have never lived in Hungary. They can also vote by mail, which opens excellent opportunities for envelope stuffing abroad.
    The same amount of Hungarians, who migrated to Western Europe thanks to Fidesz policies, and probably would vote against Fidesz, are NOT allowed to vote by mail
    Fidesz spends huge amount of public funds on party propaganda.
    Opposition voices can be heard on a single radio station and a single television channel.
    Altogether, only 5%-10% of the population have access to other than government propaganda.
    The vote counting computer system was taken over by the government a few months ago.
    In case of any dispute about counting irregularities, or fraud, the new “National Election Commission” consists of 3/4 Fidesz appointees. Their term lasts for 9 years.

    Please feel free to add to the list above.

  10. Tappanch: right.

    1. The election districts were carefully gerrymandered. The historically left-leaning districts were either(i) cut up and joined with historically right-leaning districts or (ii) compartmentalized so that the high concentration of leftist voters could not possibly contaminate neighboring districts.

    2. The heavy first-past-the-post element of the system ensures that new real political entrants cannot enter the political market through Budapest, which is the most open to new formations and is the most difficult to control for Fidesz. Any new entrant must have a strong rural, provincial base, to be able to have candidates outside Budapest (as it, being compartmentalized from the rural areas, can’t make up for the potentially higher success rate of a new entrant). At the same time no-name, hopeless political entrants and other ‘players’ (Smuck, Szili etc.) are strongly encouraged to enter the game – without any hope to win – in order to confuse voters as much as possible.

    3. Setting up a party now takes about nine months in good cases. The courts take their time to register the party and demand various, unjustified changes in the submissions and the whole registration process is also overseen by Polt’s prosecution to make life more complicated.

    4. The bonus: the election will still – despite all the deadly problems – be considered ‘free’, whatever that means, by all the educated observers.

    As Mr. Gati mentioned, yet again: ‘I still hope the election will be free’.

    The Western media cannot imagine and in any case it would mean too much work to dig up the background and even more work to explain the situation to a hapless Western reader, that the elections are rigged before election day.

    The naive West thinks election fraud can only occur when employees are ordered to vote in front of the party-loyal bosses or when forged extra ballots are printed and cast etc.

    No. Election fraud by any sane tyrant (be that Putin or Orban) happens way-way before election day. ‘Cos that is what is happening in Hungary. But to say it loud that the Hungarian elections are being – legally – rigged and will be fraudulent would mean way too much hussle for the EU or the US or anybody else, and who would want that when we have refinancing issues in Greece, unemployment in Spain, when the US is pushing the EU to sign the free-trade pact and so on. Nah, we have solved Hungary, and we are not going back again. Until they are smart lawyers and play by the rules (all rigging is formally legal), we will also pretend everything is all right.

    On election day, people are solemn and happily practice their constitutional rights with a blissful smile of their face. That is what will happen in Hungary too.

  11. Mesterhazy looks like a capable politician. However, with Gyurcsany on his side, he is dead duck, politically speaking. So much for Eva`s elation.

  12. Pride of Hungary: Orban?
    Gyurcsany is 1000 times more appealing in IQ, vision, enlightenment.
    Orban is a perfect Frankenstein reincarnation of all fascist prime ministers of Hungary from the 1920-40 period.

  13. The united opposition is going to be spearheaded by a man who in four years has failed to outline a remotely coherent vision, a former and deeply unsuccessful prime minister who is, like it or not, probably ten times more divisive than Margaret Thatcher, and another ex-prime minister who technically did quite a good job but whose accomplishments are way beyond the intellect of the average Hungarian voter to appreciate. That is not a very promising situation, is it? For the Fidesz campaigning machine, this is the dream line-up.

    I maintain that the only hope is for them to find a new candidate for PM who has no background in pre-2010 politics. If not, Orbán is very likely to sweep back into office with an enlarged majority.

  14. This just in: Péter Juhász is unhappy about the agreement and has tendered his resignation from the leadership of Együtt-PM, presumably taking his Milla group with him.

  15. buddy, it’s the voters, not Juhász or Milla that counts. Will he bring voters away? Possibly, some, good for LMP perhaps, but that is it.

  16. Mr. Paul, asked by whom? How? When? If your question is that anybody having minimal authority within any opposition camps asked Róna in the last two years to be a prime minister or asked even whether he would be willing to entertain the idea of his candidacy, then the answer is yes, he is lying, he has made it all up.

    Mr. Rona, with all due respect, lacks the necessary mental and/or moral balance in my view. As a general remark, one of the most basic rules of politics is that primadonnas and people with predilection to throw hissy fits will not be invited to do anything, anywhere, at any time. There are already enough conflicts without the presence of such people. As a result, Mr. Rona has never been ‘approached’. Also, please refer to Peller above.

  17. @Mr. Paul and Mickey. I have grave doubts about Peter Rona’s veracity and also his political views. Also, I think that he is a very conceited man who takes his sudden prominent position in Hungary far too seriously.

  18. buddy :
    This just in: Péter Juhász is unhappy about the agreement and has tendered his resignation from the leadership of Együtt-PM, presumably taking his Milla group with him.

    I wonder, if it was his personal repulsion toward Gyurcsány what hindered the E14 coming forward in good time and force that infamous agreement with MSZP and losing precious time with this action..?
    I also wonder, why would anybody take seriously as a “politician” who incapable to put aside personal drudge even if it against common interest..?
    Is behaving as an adolescent equivalent with “new and fresh thinking”?
    Could it be only me alone, who won’t miss him at all?
    I hope, he will find some other inspiring task elsewhere for awhile instead, while learns a thing or two about politics – still will be a fairly young man, say a decade from now…

  19. Kálmán Olga is sometimes a very stupid woman. Today she gave the most prominent segment on her program to Péter Juhász from Milla. Juhász used this opportunity to essentially stress one central point: Gyurcsány is so bad, so unacceptable, so disastrous, the Juhász will abandon the common party list if Gyurcsány is on it.

    That KO gave such a huge prominance to this topic, is unfortunate. It might deliver a huge blow to the new alliance which is still in its infancy, being just a few days old. Of course Juhász also used this opportunity to say that he has statistics which prove Gyurcsány’s person will be a net detriment to the alliance. Which even if it were true is not very helpful thing to say. Since Gyurcsány’s participation is now decided.

  20. @Mr. Paul. I just finished seeing the segment. I don’t think that anyone takes Juhasz seriousy.. He gave such stupid answers to Kálmán’s questions. Olga was right that he should have known from the moment E14 and MSzP signed the agreement that contained two lists that it is impossible that MSZP would get fewer votes than E14. In that case Mesterházy automatically would have become prime minister anyway. Now he discovered the Spanish wax as the Hungarian saying goes.

  21. @Eva Yes you are right Juhász made quite a fool of himself by insisting that he also has a problem with Mesterházy being the candidate. To be honest I think he just added that provision so that his “conditions” would be impossible to meet. Olga made some good points, still I think it would have been better to make Juhász’s exit as silent and therefore painless as possible.

  22. Juhasz and Sanyi on the Olga Parade;

    Although and intelligent woman, I’ve weened myself off the Olga tittie–self interest and her own survival have tainted her program.

    As for Juhasz–he’s an ass. Clearly his puritanical streak is the most important thing in his narrow universe.

    Sanyi on the other hand was classic–he’s back in my good backs. He gave thoughtful answers to Olga’s irksome efforts to embarrass him. As a bonus, his mocking piece of writing was a gem. There, too, Olga could’ve done far better than her stiff reply–no doubt calculated to please the Fidesz sneaks in the wings…

  23. In fact, if Mesterhazy had some class, some wit, and truly wanted to marshall forces against Orban…he, too, would step back and let the opposition be led by Sanyi Tibor.

    One thing is for sure, the two-pronged attack of Tibor and Gyurcsany would bring to life Orban’s worst nightmare…

  24. @Mr. Paul, I agree with you concerning the last point. There are some people who could be simply ignored. He is one of them. Maybe I’m too harsh but that’s how I have been feeling about this fellow ever since he showed up on the political scene.

  25. Gyurcsany joining the opposition coalition seals the fate of that group as far as the still large undecided block is concerned. As everyone knows, elections are won by the large middle of unaffiliated and undecided voters. They elected Fidesz in 2010 as a reaction to Gyurcsany (even though by then he was out of power). The opposition until now had a chance to shed Gyurcsany’s baggage and strike a new stand. That chance is now gone and Fidesz will win with a larger majority. Sad…

  26. petofi, you are joking, surely? Tibor Sanyi leading the opposition??? A crass left wing populist whose economic policies are pretty identical to Orbán’s (except he would be waving a redder flag)? And combined with Gyurcsány, who Sanyi regards as “bourgeois billionaire” out of touch with the working classes? I couldn’t imagine a most toxic cocktail, although concede it would be amusing to listen to.

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