The sorry state of the Hungarian opposition: The Budapest municipal elections

It was around noon in Hungary when I began writing this post on the negotiations among the three democratic parties in preparation for the municipal elections on October 12, and I’m not at all sure that within a few hours, by the time I upload this post, the situation won’t have turned around 180 degrees.

I began collecting material on these negotiations right after the national election on April 6. On April 23 a strange news item appeared in Index according to which the socialists had a magic formula for certain victory in the Budapest municipal election. What if, said Zsolt Molnár who at that time was chairman of the Budapest MSZP, András Schiffer’s LMP, a party known for its refusal to cooperate with any other opposition force, would nominate a person for lord mayor (főpolgármester) whom MSZP, and presumably DK and Együtt-PM, would support? Schiffer’s answer was brief and to the point: “let’s not clown around.”

Well, since then the three parties–MSZP, DK, and Együtt-PM–have been doing nothing else but clowning around although it is critical that they reach an understanding. It is only in Budapest that the democratic opposition has a chance to win the city and perhaps even the post of lord mayor.

Viktor Orbán was well aware of the threat  because the results of both the national and the EP elections indicated that the democratic opposition had a chance of taking the city back from Fidesz. It was at this point that Fidesz decided to change Budapest’s electoral law so that it would be very hard for the opposition to gain a majority on the city council. In the past, positions on the council were determined by the number of votes received on straight party lists. From here on, mayoral winners on the district level (and there are 23 districts in Budapest) will make up the council. Thus, the opposition parties cannot compete individually; they have to agree on common candidates.

The jostling began immediately. It was clear from day one that the three parties must agree on a common candidate for the position of lord mayor. Weeks went by, with a different name circulating every other day. Hungarians call this graceless performance “casting,” using the English word for the phenomenon. Finally, after weeks of searching for someone who would take the job and who was also acceptable to the three parties, the candidate was announced a few days ago: Ferenc Falus, a physician who served as the country’s chief medical officer between 2007 and 2010. He is described by people who know him and worked with him as a good administrator and “almost stupidly honest.” Moreover, he seems to be everything that István Tarlós is not. While Tarlós is an intolerant boor and quite vulgar, he is a mild-mannered, well-spoken gentleman.

At least the three parties agree on Ferenc Falus as candidate for mayor of Budapest

At least the three parties agree on Ferenc Falus as candidate for mayor of Budapest

Although choosing the candidate for the post of lord mayor was not easy and seemed to take forever, the decisions on some 300 posts on the district level were even more difficult. Why such large numbers?  Because for each district the three parties had to agree on not only the person of the mayor but also members of the district councils. And naturally, each party wanted to have as many of their own people as possible.

As the national and EP elections demonstrated in Budapest, DK and Együtt-PM have taken away a fair number of votes from MSZP. Although the strength of the three parties is more or less equally divided, leaders of  MSZP seem to have some difficulty understanding that their party is no longer the “large” party while the other two are the “small” ones.

MSZP’s chief negotiator was Ágnes Kunhalmi, the new chair of the Budapest MSZP. She is young woman who until recently was the face of MSZP only when it came to matters of education. But then, Kunhalmi was thrust into the limelight just before the national elections when in the last minute she was nominated by the party to run instead of the disgraced Gábor Simon in Budapest’s 15th electoral district. She lost to her Fidesz opponent in a very tight race. In fact, the difference was so small, something like 200 votes, that a complete recount would have been in order. Kunhalmi was suddenly a star in the party.

It seemed to me that negotiations went along splendidly as long as Kunhalmi didn’t have to return to party headquarters to get approval of the deal from the chief honchos. But there Kunhalmi ran into difficulty. She asked for a few days to iron things out but said she was sure that in a day or so she will get the okay. The deadline had to be extended because MSZP was unhappy with its lot. Finally, a “firm” deadline was fixed for Friday, but Friday came and Friday went and MSZP was still playing coy. Then they got another extension, to midnight on Monday. But by Tuesday morning there was still no MSZP agreement. It was at this point that Viktor Szigetvári, who seems to be running the show  in Együtt-PM, announced that their patience had been exhausted: they will run their own candidates in districts where MSZP refuses to recognize the tripartite agreement.

The revolt against the agreement apparently came from MSZP politicians who have been in city politics for a long time and who couldn’t understand why they would have to give up their places to inexperienced newcomers. After all, they have the experience that will be necessary in case of an electoral victory.

This may be true, but the electorate will not appreciate MSZP’s arguments. They only see that while the two other parties, especially DK, are eager to cooperate, MSZP stands in the way of an understanding. They are running out of time and the campaign cannot begin. A lot of people, including faithful MSZP voters, are disgusted with the performance of the socialists. At the same time I doubt that Együtt-PM will gain extra votes by their abrupt decision to go it alone. On the contrary, they might lose some because voters will punish them for their impetuous behavior.

DK at the moment is sitting on the sidelines, watching the battle between MSZP and Együtt-PM. Under the circumstances this seems to be the best strategy. In my opinion, the warring parties can only lose with this latest conflict. People are fed up with parties in general and even more fed up with the democratic opposition, whose members seem to be more preoccupied with their personal ambitions than with unseating the current administration in Budapest and elsewhere in the country.

In the last few hours Ágnes Kunhalmi fought back. By mid-afternoon she expressed her astonishment at Együtt-PM’s announcement about the breakdown of  negotiations when only a few seats were still undecided out of the 300. MSZP was supposed to announce its agreement to the nomination of the last three candidates. She accused Szigetvári of personal ambitions to which he is ready to sacrifice the chances of the opposition at the Budapest election. Stop, a portal close to the socialists, thought that the biggest loser in this latest turn of events is Együtt-PM because, after all, the other two parties are in favor of continuing talks and compromise. A few hours later, Kunhalmi decided to use less belligerent language in connection with Együtt-PM’s decision  to withdraw from further negotiations. She expressed her belief that there will be an agreement.

There may be, but the last few weeks of negotiations among the three parties did not enhance their reputations. The voters’ faith in their political acumen has been further eroded as the result of all that wrangling. Trust in their ability to govern either the city or the country may have been shaken in light of their inability to present a united front against a very resolute and ruthless political foe.


  1. The continued disunity and fractiousness of the Hungarian opposition parties seemingly knows no ends. It is all very disheartening. When the history of 21st century Hungary is written I am sure historians will justly point the finger at the way the opposition dealt with the threat posed by FIDESZ and their almost suicidal self-interest in face of Viktor Orbán.

    I am reminded of the role of the Hungarian nobility in the decades leading up to the disaster of Mohács. Following the death of Matthias they were solely concerned with strengthening their power and privilege and did all they could to weaken the role and influence of the monarch (and the peasantry of course too!) in pursuit of their self interest. All the while the Turkish threat grew ever more and instead of a united and strong Hungary to face the threat, the Turks were faced with a rabble. The nobility’s selfishness and short-sightedness so weakened Hungary that the result was a 150 years of servitude to the Turks. The impact of those years was felt for centuries.

    Of course it comes down to leadership. The opposition has no leader, no-one strong and capable of uniting the various factions and parties to face the common enemy. Gyurcsány has (had?) the political skills to do this but is now political poison. And so FIDESZ marches on ever more deeply embedding its ‘illiberal’ state from which Hungary will take decades to recover from.

  2. @tinshed Very well said. I think although this time the treat of Hungary is within. Orban is 21st century “Turkish invasion” of Hungary.

  3. I bet many are regretting even their earlier votes for the opposition based on this disaster.

    It is almost as if their mission is to prove they are incompetent, unfit and driven solely by the pursuit of their self interest. If something does not change in their behavior, a historic defeat can be expected in the municipal elections.

  4. Jobbik is the clear favorite everywhere. Jobbikniks show unity and resoluteness too.

    They have extremely strong grass-roots organisation. For any (remaining) left wing supporter the level of organization at Jobbik is unbelievable, and most importantly they have the perfect ideology for the moment.

    Jobbik’s brand is squeeky clean. Sure, not among the remaining liberals but among the most people in Hungary. This is exactly what they want.

    Jobbik is the party which has the potential of unseating of Fidesz, though since Jobbbik is partly Fidesz’ creation, a in a way a kind of Sancho the sidekick, it will not be so easy.

    But the current left wing has not reached rock bottom, it will apparently need this municipal election to finally understand that the game is over for it. Even then I guess the remainders will continue for years because they will just not realize that the world has changed around them (and significantly due to their unbelievable incompetence). Although I can well imagine that Fidesz will somehow keep MSZP alive (as it is probably doing it already) just to make any unity impossible. This is well thought out, the lefties are not up to the game. They just don’t get the rules of the game.

    Fidesz will rule for decades to come, because any potential lefties and liberals have learned that there is just no use in trying to set up anything, they will never agree on anything. Which is the history of any left-wing outside the communist block.These democratic leftists just like to argue everything forever and hate discipline and work.

    Orban hates liberalism, ‘too much democracy’ exactly because of this: he sees those working among the leftists and he sees what discipline and loyalty is capable of. His nightmare is that Fidesz will start to have real internal elections and competing factions — not in his lifetime.

    Even Orban respects the old commies much more, at least those were revolutionary, disciplined, uncorruptable and ruthless folks, not some clueless, softies like this current leftist bunch.

    I guess soon enough the leftists will not even get into the news. Now at least and feel obligated to write something, of course filled with sarcastic comments, often very funny humorous posts, but soon they will not even write about these machinations as nobody really cares, ie. reads these articles. Nobody wants to associate with pathetic losers, apparently the left wing (outside of DK) does not get this golden rule of politics.

    People just don’t care, they have better things to do.

    (It also shows however how easy it is to push an existing, but past its prime structure as the szocis were, onto the path of terminal decline).

  5. Check this out: I just taught an English lesson focusing on cross-cultural miscommunication, and on p.52 of the In Company language textbook, there’s actually a listening activity where a team of British people are talking about their failed attempts to negotiate with a Hungarian team.

    There are some prescient quotes in it about the Hungarian negotiating style:

    B: “I thought we were just about ready to execute and then, suddenly, it’s like we’re right back to square one.”
    A: “I mean, if they had all these objections, why didn’t they raise them before?”

    B: “Hm. It looks to me as though they just can’t stick to a decision once it’s made.”

    I wonder if they were negotiating with MSZP leaders!

  6. OT:

    Gaspar Miklos Tamas wrote a piece about Israel in HVG a liberal weekly. This piece of drivel used sentences such as:

    “The present preventative and punitive war by Israel is without minimal signs of concern and decency. The arguments of the Israel apologists are not worthy to debate.”


    “Israel builds settlements outside of their own recognized borders under military protection. Settlements that they can maintain only with ruthless terror against the Palestine population. This retroactively justifies their inhumane and aggressive military doctrine.”

    More could be quoted but you get the point. It is almost a provocation towards Israel and the scary thing is that HVG sinks so low as to print such an outrage.

    I think in the face of such attack it is important to stress Israel’s rights to defend itself and their civilian population. Do they read articles before printing at HVG? At minimum they should give an opportunity for a response by the embassy or something.

  7. Totally OT: Tibor Navracsics (Hungary’s MInister of Foreign Affairs) decided to take his foreign affair negotiation wit the EU online. You know how Adler wrote the new constitution between Budapest and Brussels on his iPad? Now Navacsics wrote to the EU on Twitter. I assume he wrote it to the EU as it is in English, not in HUngarian (the only official language of Hungary).
    “Sanctions against #Russia cause 80 million € loss a year to the #Hungarian agricultural export. Soon some compensation needed at #EU-level.”
    How eloquent, and proper. #Navracsics fits his job as much as most Fidesz politicians. #Fideszpoliticiansinanutshell

  8. Palestinian enemy – their negotiations in Cairo with Israel about ending the Gaza war, are similar to the Hungarian salami tactics.

    The Palestinian team is split along 3-4 fault lines. No firm result can be achieved while the greater part of the team has faith only in violence, and loves every rocket launched against Israel.

    The smart TGM is explaining us something that he himself hardly understands.

    Even progressive and liberal commentators should know something about the subject they are ready to analyze.

  9. London Calling!


    “I thought we were just about ready to execute and then, suddenly, it’s like we’re right back to square one.”
    A: “I mean, if they had all these objections, why didn’t they raise them before?”

    When my partner phoned a car breaker somewhere near Gyor he agreed a price on some Mercedes seats.

    When we phoned a couple of weeks later he still had them and agreed the same price. We agreed to pick them up in a couple of hours and all seemed well.

    We came from quite a distance – and he knew it – and when we arrived he reneged on the agreement and said he wanted a higher price.

    Several strongly worded exchanges occurred and we decided to leave and refuse any further dealings with this shark.

    However seeing the deal was off he offered them at the original price.

    As we left he begged “just a little more” to my partner ( I don’t have Hungarian) and when she told me what he said I suggested she give him 1000fts more – just to shut him up! Yes foolishly I did!

    When he opened his hand and looked at the note he responded “just ONE?”.

    At which point I drove off from what had been the strangest transaction of my life – and these were early days in my introduction to Hungary.

    I have since had strange transactions with the lawnmower man – who sold old parts as new and refunded more than we paid such was the mess of his black economy. We were eventually sent free parts from the German manufacturer for their official rep in Hungary’s dishonesty and for wasting six hours of my time.

    Several other transactions, one involving a tile stove, have been unsatisfactory too but I’ll not bore you further with a long litany.

    Just suffice to say that any item I need in Hungary – I now buy in England and drive it there. My original plan was to try and support Hungarian commerce as much as possible, but with fingers burnt and bad experiences, no more.

    Poor service, dishonest service, and rudeness have all been features of life in Hungary. And what I find difficult to take is how Hungarians stuff Hungarians. I know this may be a sweeping generalisation but it is my experience – still.

    Even a simple breakdown of a bread slicing machine for public use resulted in a refusal to slice the bread with the other machine in the back. Taking two managers and three shop assistants to have a conference to decide if it could be done!

    Contract law in Hungary is indeed buyer beware.

    Only in Hungary.



    PS Some1 I thought it was Szájer who wrote the constitution on his iPad – and do you mean Ader, the President? Who is Adler?

  10. Oh yes! I even drove a massive fridge-freezer through Europe to the house in Hungary – on the top of a Mercedes A class!

  11. Nicky a very interesting read indeed!

    At least the media outside Hungary know what’s going on – with the tacit approval of the EU to our shame.

    Thank you.

  12. the lord of pol pot county (what a tasteless handle)

    “Jobbik’s brand is squeeky clean. Sure, not among the remaining liberals but among the most people in Hungary”

    So that makes “most people” in Hungary… anti-Semitic, racist, homophobic, raving loony scumbags?
    Not very encouraging; let’s hope you are exaggerating

    OTT, Orban’s Goebbels have been at their work again: he was roundly booed and jeered when he made a speech at the opening of Ferencvaros’ new stadium on Sunday. The regime instead has put on the official youtube video a scene of jubiliant fans jumping with joy as The Chief Shepherd addresses his grateful flock. Great stuff;)

    Re the topic; the MSZP.
    Three things strike me about this party:

    1. They are not socialist- how many of their reps are working class or have even seen the inside of a panelhouse? More billionaire than blue-collar

    2. They have a laughable sense of entitlement, left over from the old system, I guess. We demand your vote because we are not Orban. we will disappear for four years and then demand it again. Also their complete lack of backbone when standing up to the fascist regime. They should have boycotted the last election, the reason they didn’t was they wanted to squeeze as much as money as possible from the taxpayer.

    3. Theitr complete and utter incompetence. Behind the frontline of Fidesz the regime’s apparatus is manned basically by idiots. On the frontline, in the middle and in the background the MSZP has no intelligence or commonsense whatsoever.

  13. @Charlie – wow, what a crazy story. I don’t even know what to say, except that people who do business like that are really shooting themselves in the foot as they can’t expect any repeat business afterwards…

    OT: Átlátszó is reporting that MVM’s purchases of E.ON’s natural gas divisions last year has resulted in losses of several hundreds of billions(!) of forints so far.

  14. @Buddy, Orbán’s business acumen leaves something to be desired. Look what happened to MOL. The last time I looked it was around 13,000 and they bought the shares from the Russians at 23,000!

  15. @Eva

    So, the Russians have profited at the expense of Hungary…..Where have I seen that before?
    Oh yes, twice with Malev, and now with MOL…come to mind. I’m sure there’s many more.

    By the way, the Hungarian state intends to buy (or nationalize) MKB. Now I ask: will they
    nationalize/buy the Russian banks (Sberbank), too? I bet not.

    ‘Proud Hungarians’–the indentured slaves of Russia.

    Feed Hungarians some Nostalgia, some Anti-Semitism, and bushels of Nationalism…it’ll keep the morons happy.

    What mindless saps!

  16. re GMT and Israel

    Here’s what I think happened: after his attack on Orban’s speech, he had a paroxysm of reality–‘oh shit, now Jobbik will target me’. So, to appease Jobbik types he came out with the attack
    on Israel. Shameless. And Disgusting.

    Hungarians have the Integrity of a gnat; and the bravery to match it.

  17. Polticians in Hungary really are are a sorry lot – are there no intelligent “Quereinsteiger” i e people who’ve been in a different occupation (no lawyers need apply however …) and decide to move into politics like in other European countries?


    Sorry to hear these stories! I must say however that I (or we – including my Hunarian wife …) have been served well. Just a few days ago our lawn mower gave up the ghost. Our neighbour and I had done the usual things, changing oil, cleaning etc but that worked only for a short while so my wife looked in the local advertising and found a phone number which she called. The address was one of a row of garages for some panel building at the outskirts of Keszthely and there were two guys working and serving one customer.

    So we waited and when it was our turn the guy heard my description of the fault and what we had done already, looked at the machine and said: oh, good – it’s a Briggs&Stratton and after cleaning it with some compressed air immediately started disassembling the carburetor unit and proudly presented me some dirty membrane. After that he went to the small cabinet with spare parts and also proudly showed the thingy in its package “Made in USA” …

    So after maybe 20 minutes and a test (and some small talk in German and Hungarian) we paid 2500 HUF and left again …

    I’ve had enough similar experiences (lately with a door, the toilet and our dishwasher) – even when I was on my own, just a stupid German who might be taken advantage of. That happened too, of course, but not very often and not in our village!

    And just yesterday when we walked the dog I was again happily surprised by the many villagers waving at us when we passed by!

    So I think that the “ordinary people” are ok – maybe a bit uninformed and that might be part of the problem with Hungarian politics?

  18. D7 Democrat: re the lord of pol pot county

    I guess the name was a pun on Lords of Hazzard County, the 1970’s tv show. In Hungary Bács-Kiskun county was dubbed the “Pol Pot county” as its county level communist party leaders were the most hardliners.

    Needless to say Bács-Kiskun country is now a fiercely right wing county, voters are done with the communists or liberals. In rural Bács Kiskun nobody utters “left wing” or “MSZP”, there are only communists, not in the sense as the Buda-dwelling fideszniks call the the leftists humorously, but as rural folks who “know better”. They just don’t care. Been there, done that and they didn’t like either of the two. There Fidesz or Jobbik can have a monkey as a candidate, it would win any time against any “communist”.

    Most Hungarians don’t care about Jobbik’s anti-semitic or lunatic (i.e. anti-freemazon, conspiracy theorist, Secler rovás writing etc.) credentials, but if those are part of the package, then be it. I guess most people share Jobbik’s anti-roma approach, however.

    Jobbik has been consistently representing the frustrated lower class people and has been “trying to protect Hungarians” and meanwhile it is nationalistic. It looks as though you know where they stand on issues, they have a clear brand. Jobbik is a real national socialist party and there is market for both prongs, especially as no corrupt story is really associated with it. Too bad, but this is the case. It is up to Fidesz to use its “magic powers” against Jobbik, but since KGBéla I don’t see those powers operating. But that is OK, Fidesz can and will work together with Jobbik, as the two are really just one big power conglomerate, with the lower class people supporting Jobbik, the somewhat more affluent people (or those who at least hold themselves more middle/upper class) supporting Fidesz.

  19. @tappanch, buddy:

    The bigger question is how much of this HUF 600bn ended up at MET AG and MET Zrt. and their related parties?

    And this was just 2013. And as we know the future lasts forever.

    Orban’s is a pretty fascinating rags to riches story if one thinks about it.

  20. @petofi, although I completely disagree with TGM on many of his positions, I can assure you that whatever he writes, he writes it because that is what his opinion is. Definitely not to please anyone on the left, right or middle.

  21. Re: post by “the lord of pol pot county”

    I don’t disagree that the “Jobbik is the clear favorite everywhere” as a political party to potentially replace Fidesz. I personally am not sure that it is based on a perception by the electorate that “Jobbik’s brand is squeaky clean,” or that the Jobbik are unified and organized at the grass roots.

    I would like to see some serious polling data on this issue, earlier polling data indicates to me Jobbik support was linked to voters who could simply be called national chauvinists and inclined at least to racial stereotyping. (See the past research by András Tóth, at the Political Science Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, also see an article co-authored with István Grajczjár, of Zsigmond Király College in Budapest, on Why Radical Nationalist-Populist Parties Are So Successful at Times of Great Socio-Economic Transformations or Crises.) Eva knows this research I am sure.

    But since then it’s electorate has expanded and I think additional extensive polling and research needs to be done. I think the Open Society Foundation should consider taking on that task. My great concern after having been in Hungary earlier this year prior to the elections is the limited expansion of the Jobbik base is being driven by people who have their backs against the wall economically and believe Fidesz and all left parties are effectively in cahoots and don’t give much a damn about them. These people may not be as ideologically right wing as the party they are voting for and are more than willing to accept some level of corruption as the effective cost of governance.

    But these impressions are based on zero systematic information and could well be off base. I attended one Jobbik rally/social event with a younger relative. Even though I attempted not to draw attention to myself my Hungarian gave me away and was forced into a very uncomfortable discussion with a Jobbik supporter who had lived in New York and seemed to hate President Obama. Even though I attempted to avoid the discussion effectively I was being felt out for ideological purity I suspect. I left shortly thereafter. It was however clear to me that the Jobbik and asked the hard core fascists to dress down and not look like what they were. I found that interesting.

  22. @Wolfi

    The ordinary people are NOT ok.
    I hate to let you in on this but the general mode of behavior here is to ‘charm’ the foreigner in order to create an emotional tie that they can exploit later. Family members, neighbors, strangers–all have done likewise to us.
    The people are rapacious to one another and meek lambs before their lords and masters.

  23. @gdfxx

    This sentence by TGM is indefensible:

    “The present preventative and punitive war by Israel is without minimal signs of concern and decency. The arguments of the Israel apologists are not worthy to debate.”

    If that’s not toadying to Jobbik/Fidesz, I don’t know what is.

    How can TGM write, “without minimal signs of concern and decency…especially when the two ceasefire’s, brokered to give aid to Palestinians, were broken by Hamas?

    TGM is a grandstander: he has a Gyurcsany-like desire to be heard, at any cost.

  24. This is the funniest part from Peter Uj’s column on (Uj, formerly the editor in chief of, is currently that of Deadpan humor.

    “Az összefogás megteremtése nem volt könnyű, hiszen Falus helyett sok baloldali szavazó szívesebben látta volna Láthatatlan Embert főpolgármester-jelöltként, de nagy volt a támogatottsága a Loch Ness-i szörnynek, az Operaház fantomjának, a jetinek és Simicska Lajosnak is, akit különösen sokan támogattak az MSZP vezetéséből, de nem vállalta a jelölést, tartott a jobboldali sajtó támadásaitól.”

    “The establishment of the partnership of the leftist parties wasn’t easy because many left-wing voters – instead of Falus – would have much more preferred the Invisible Man as the candidate for the mayorship of Budapest, but each of the Lochness monster, the Phantom of the Opera, and the Yeti had a sizeable support. Lajos Simicska did too, who was especially strongly supported by many in the leadership of MSZP, though he eventually did not accept the candidacy because he feared the attacks of the right wing press”.

  25. “I guess the name was a pun on Lords of Hazzard County, the 1970’s tv show. In Hungary Bács-Kiskun county was dubbed the “Pol Pot county” as its county level communist party leaders were the most hardliners. ”

    Well, considering the hatred and devastation unleashed by that regime, it is a pun in particularly poor taste.

    To your more substantial point, when you and others (or perhaps you are the just the same person using a different handle each time) on here sneer at the “leftists” and the “liberals” and declare the general Hungarian public’s hatred of both you an important fact.

    The general Hungarian public does not sit at home each night comparing and contrasting Das Kapital and Mein Kempf. They haven’t got a clue what true socialism means because it does not and never has existed in Hungary. Fidesz does not need a philosophy beyond “Worship Orban and do what we say” simply because the average voter does not demand one from them.
    If they do vote (and an ever-increasing number don’t bother) they will vote for whom they see as “The Big Man” locally. How corrupt, thuggish or thick that “Big Man” may be is completely beside the point; in the vast majority of cases such Big Men have zero political philosophy beyond lining their and their mates’ back pocket.

    The MSZP previously, especially in Budapest and places like Miskolc quite effectively competed with Fidesz in The Big Men stakes. Now for a variety of reasons, most largely of their own making they can’t. But to put that down to some “anti-communist” conscious decision on the part of the average voter is infantile- the average punter “coped” with a “communist” regime run by the Big Men locally quite well, thank you very much for three decades or so.

    I will admit that, unlike the present regime, Jobbik does have a political philosophy, despite how abhorrent it is. But I suspect it is their work “on the ground” helping OAPs with their problems with the regime is what wins them a lot of their votes. That is something, the MSZP Big Men never did, ie getting their hands dirty helping the little folk and now they are paying the price.

  26. It is not fair to blame MSZP for everything bad that is happened.

    The Together 2014 party is much more responsible for the problems with the cooperation. This party has such people as Viktor Szigetvari and Peter Juhasz. They are aggressive, only look for their own gain and they hate MSZP very much. Juhasz most of them.

    Watch this video by ATV

    it is a Juhasz interview titled “Because of Juhasz there is no cooperation” in it Juhasz spits hate against MSZP and Jozsef Toth the very successful mayor of district XIII. Who wanted to keep his team alive against aggression.

    Juhasz just hates MSZP and spits hate against MSZP every chance it has. Juhasz is a drug abuser who was called “Az ország drogosa” which means “The number 1 illegal drug abuser in the country”

    he should leave politics before ruining everything.

  27. D7 Democrat: I disagree with your implication that it is only a Big Man syndrome or that Jobbik’s on the ground legwork alone allows it to outcompete MSZP (or nowadays the entire aggregate left field).

    Branding and ideology are important and whatever is deemed “leftist” or “liberal” nowadays are a no-go for most people. See Finkelstein’s strategy to label anything liberal and people will run away like crazy. It works.

    Not because most voters have a clue about Marx or Hitler, I agree, but because they associate “left/liberalism” with things with which most people burnt their hands in the last 25 years: rationalism, competition, internationalism, modernism. Any “ism” at all, when Fidesz and Jobbik try to maintain that what they are selling are a traditional continuation of Hungary’s history (as in: “The Jews brought us capitalism, then communism in 1919 and in 1947 and then the communists eventually unleashed unbridled capitalism on us yet again”.) History, with Fidesz and Jobbik is now moving back into its old stream.

    The entire left-field hollowed out both in terms of ideology (not as political scientist would define the word, but in a broader sense) as well as in terms of its human resources base. The left wing just could not recruit any young, sophisticated, pragmatic and ambitious people of charisma because the left at no point since 1990 was “cool” enough for a younger person to desire MSZP or whoever on its resume.

    The new left so propagated by TGM may be more educated in terms of Marx and be more critical but in terms of organizational skills, discipline, fund raising abilities and so are nowhere. They are the same “political nerds” historians know from the history of Western-European socialism/Marxism. They never possessed the ability to organize themselves and become more mainstream as they were preoccupied with intellectual debates primarily. Same with the magyarinfo or dinamo műhely people.

    As a result, I think most people just do not listen to anything people defining themselves as leftists have to say. People – mostly poor, uneducated, downtrodden people – don’t care about the leftists any more, nothing good is associated with the “left” (however defined) in Hungary. The leftist and liberal brands are about to disappear from Hungary. Or rather, luckily for Fidesz which will thus prove that we still have democracy the entire left field will be reduced to an irrelevant echo-chamber whose ideas (if it had any) will never cross over to the average voter.

  28. I was thinking whether I find these complicated debates between the three parties in Budapest so problematic. In my view, there is one party (MSzP), which at least to some extent is deliberately or not cooperating with Fidesz and also seeing itself as a strong player without actually some more modern programme for the country (or the city) but full of a feeling of entitlement. Which has a lot of internal struggle between the more modern and those still living mentally in the Kadar years. There is another party, led by a person no matter how talented but with a quite strong ego searching for “redress” (if not revenge). Then there are some more or less inexperienced people who have at least shown their commitment to a democratic society in creating a new formation, perhaps a bit confused but nevertheless with some dedication and some people. The whole thing is taking place in a country that currently shows strong preferences for “strong leadership” and unquestioned loyalty and where “discussion” is apparently a synonym for “weakness” (from the Pol Pot contribution: “Orban hates liberalism, ‘too much democracy’ exactly because of this: he sees those working among the leftists and he sees what discipline and loyalty is capable of.”).

    How should discussions and negotiations among such diverse groups look like to please the average voter? If the voter prefers quick and decisive action, he will prefer authoritarian politicians which find that democratic discussion and negotiations are “weakness”. We are told that this is what most people like best. But this is not what democratic politicians need to deliver in my opinion. So what does the average “democratic” voter anxious to keep his distance to politics expect from the “opposition”? I have news for these: There is no quick solution available through a complete restaffing of the country with other, instantly more cooperative people who moreover have a clear and mutually compatible vision for the country. So either you negotiate how cooperation among very diverse groups should look like (only in OV’s mind and in his propaganda these are all “left-wing radicals” of the same sort), or you don’t but then you have no cooperation at all. Autocratic solutions are currently the default option in Hungary, to arrive at more needs a lot of debate and very hard negotiations – which are not a sign of weakness but of a clarification process.

    And also, what is wrong with politicians having also their own interests? And by that I do not mean only that they would like to “decide” (for others) or to be “important”. By that I can also mean that they would like to see more money in education, the health care system, a specific type of education system, financial system etc. People enter politics, at least in a democracy, also with the interest to exactly participate in the decision making process, on a lower level of politics or at a higher level of it. It is the role of the society more broadly to make it impossible that the positions are used instead for the personal enrichment. But it is the fault of those who wait to be provided by “democracy” and a “decent life” and by “decent politicians” and who feel too quickly disappointed without even considering participating themselves, if the politicians do not care for these people. These people have excluded themselves from active participation, so why should politicians care for exactly them?

  29. “As a result, I think most people just do not listen to anything people defining themselves as leftists have to say”

    That self-definition is where my problem lies with your analysis.

    If true socialists started getting involved at a ground-level, sorting out the daily problems which impact the majority of the Hungarians who do not belong to Orban’s favoured classes, then there would be, over time, the prospect of a true left-wing alternative to both Fidesz and Jobbik. Would they vote for them at the next election? Probably not as the “Big Man” in the village, town, city would still prevail but it would at least be building a possible foundation for a future challenge to the Orbanist dictatorship.

    At the moment, we don’t even have a whiff off that possibility because the MSZP and other (self-defined) “socialists” are not prepared to put that kind of financially unrewarding work in, rather they hope to rely on a “we are not Orban” or a “Remember what a great time it was under Kadar” instinct.

    But the majority of voters do not care one way or the other on cultural or national issues, I firmly believe that, They look in their wallet and think which party guarantees me the most forints/ job security at the end of the week.

  30. I may be wrong, but since we’re talking about municipal elections, I’m not sure that ‘visions for the country’ do matter much.

    What’s the dis-united opposition programme for Budapest?

  31. Marcel, the “visions for the country” include the type of government, and this is what any election in Hungary currently is also about. The opposition in Budapest tries to secure the mayor certainly not only to decide about new buses, but perhaps also about the many construction works that due to OV’s approach have a distinct “national” and not municipal character. That it at least what I meant.

  32. Kirsten, I’m sure that there is aways a ‘national politics’ factor in a municipal election. Also that a win in Budapest will be exploited by the winning party, whatever it is.

    Yet in big European cities local issues are often those that matter most to voters. Transportation, housing, safety, social diversity (or segregation), attractiveness for investors, the kind of jobs you want to foster, indeed public works & construction projects, etc. Call it ‘a vision for the city’ 😉

    I have a hunch about Fidesz’s from what I experience as a Budapest dweller, and while in my opinion their vision is anachronistic and will be damaging for a city with such assets, I have a hard time figuring out what MSzP’s, E-PM and DK’s is. Or are.

  33. There was a superbly written opinion piece on a couple of days ago: , a dystopic scenario of how the Ebola epidemy destroys Hungary. With the exception of the very beginning (no ordinary Hungarian can afford a trip to West Africa to feast on monkey meat), it was – as my friends living in Hungary confirmed – all too credible.

    The guy with the contagion spends the first days after his return illustrating the total inefficiency of Hungarian health-care services: he is sent from a test to another, nothing works unless he bribes the personnel, lazy nurses and fellow patients, who steal his food and his blood-stained but expensive pyjamas, spread the contagion. When the authorities finally realize that they are dealing with Ebola, thousands of people are infected already.

    The end of the story illustrates the sorry state of Hungarian government and opposition politics. The government concentrates on suppressing all information, and the opposition just gives out meaningless communiqués “demanding” this and that (with the exception of MSZP, which is totally paralysed by internal strifes), until it’s time to flee: Orbán and his remaining buddies end up in Moscow, the opposition leaders continue fighting about ministries in the emigrant government in London. At home, where meanwhile half of the nation is carrying the infection and thousands lie in mass graves outside Budapest, Jobbik blames the Jews, stages massive demonstrations and finally seizes the power. Gábor Vona’s first three orders are to declare the Trianon dictatum null and void, to forbid the Finno-Ugric relatedness theory, and to reinstantiate death penalty.

    With the (typically Hungarian!) exception of ignoring the neighbouring countries and the fact that Hungary is part of the EU and the Schengenland, the story is spine-chilling in its realism.

  34. If that is being done so systematically, will “appeals” and smart observations of those who prefer to stand by because politics is so dirty and the others so incompetent change it?

  35. @Sentrooppa-Santra :

    Thanks for the description of that satire!

    Our young ones also read it but couldn’t stop from laughing so I didn’t get everything they were trying to tell me. It must be really crazy …

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