András Bánó

“Talking heads” of Hungary

After a brief foray into foreign policy and history it’s time to return to domestic politics. Today’s post was inspired by a television program and its viewers’ reactions to what was said there by young so-called political scientists, and, more importantly, by a thoughtful article written by Vera Lánczos, a member of the Galamus Group, who doesn’t make a secret of her support for Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Demokratikus Koalíció. I should also mention that Ferenc Gyurcsány’s speech at the II. Congress of DK (January 26, 2013) was made available today both on DK’s website and on Galamus.

Let’s start with the television program on ATV called “A tét” (The stake). Its host is András Bánó, formerly of MTV, who received the Hungarian version of the Pulitzer Prize a few years back. By and large I like the program, but some of the young  “political scientists” often irritate me. Political commentators should take their job seriously, and that means in-depth and more or less impartial analysis of current political events. Instead, some of the regular guests only vent their political prejudices. There is one young guy whose superciliousness and flippancy are more than I can tolerate.

Well, it seems that I’m not alone. The show aired last Wednesday and György Bolgár’s call-in show “Let’s talk about it!” was full of angry callers condemning our young man’s attitude toward Ferenc Gyurcsány and DK. Naturally, Vera Lánczos’s criticism is much more reasoned and therefore more weighty. But she also objected to the tone these fellows use in connection with such an important issue as the current state of the opposition and the need for a united stand against Orbán’s regime.

Talking heads

Talking heads

Because right now the opposition is in disarray. New formations appear, old ones reappear, and LMP just fell apart. The way things look, the LMP caucus will be gone by the time parliament convenes in February because the two factions cannot agree on how to keep the LMP delegation together. Separately neither group has enough members to form a caucus. The main sticking point is LMP’s course of action. The position of the Schiffer faction is utterly unrealistic. Although they keep insisting that their main goal is to defeat Viktor Orbán in 2014, they are planning to achieve this alone even as LMP’s share of the electorate hovers around 3%. It is clear that  for Schiffer and the party leaders supporting him, the party’s future is more important at the moment than a united front in which LMP most likely wouldn’t carry much weight. The Jávor faction, on the other hand, is to my mind a great deal more patriotic. It is a shame that the only thing one of the young political scientists had to say about the LMP split was that “the sole difference between the two factions is that one of them likes Bajnai while the other one doesn’t.”

Gordon Bajnai’s E14 is not doing well. In mid-November the enthusiasm for an umbrella organization under the leadership of Gordon Bajnai surged after the October 23 mass meeting. Since then support has slowly dissipated and the number of  undecided voters has begun to grow again. According to some observers, the problem is that Bajnai entered the political arena too early. I disagree. After all, the campaign season has already begun, and to hammer out a common platform takes a long time. A year is barely enough, especially given the uncertainties of the present political situation. No, the problem is not timing. The problem is Milla and Péter Juhász. E14, a movement at the moment, initially announced that it would start proceedings to establish a party. After all, only parties can enter the race. A few days later we learned from Péter Juhász that Milla “isn’t ready to lend its name to the formation of a political party” and E14 pulled back, at least temporarily. Milla is a mysterious and amorphous organization–if you can call it that–about which we know practically nothing. For the longest time Juhász seemed to be the only embodiment of Milla, although lately one can also hear references to Péter Molnár, a member of parliament between 1990 and 1998 (Fidesz and later SZDSZ). Juhász’s latest is that he will never cooperate with Ferenc Gyurcsány. I also doubt that he would cooperate with MSZP. All in all, Bajnai picked the wrong “civic organization” to launch his attempt to bring together the various opposition parties and forces.

After the discussion about LMP, the young political scientists moved on to Ferenc Gyurcsány, whose party is described by its politicians as “the party of unity.” Indeed, it is this party that most consistently and without any reservation supports a joint effort to dislodge Viktor Orbán. Gyurcsány has given up personal political ambition, at least for the time being. He realizes that his party will not be able to capture millions of votes. Therefore he is not forced to make compromises for fear of a mass exodus of followers. He advocates unpopular measures that in his opinion are necessary to turn Hungary’s faltering economy around. Those 100-200,000 people who today would vote for DK will not abandon Gyurcsány because they agree with the details of the party program.

At the II Congress 2,000 people gathered to hear the speeches and vote on the program. I understand that there was only one dissenting vote. The party has 7,000 members with local chapters in 750 cities, towns, and villages. All that without any outside financial assistance. A DK party member won the mayoral race in a smaller town, and DK took second place ahead of MSZP in another.

“A tét” showed a clip from Gyurcsány’s speech at the party congress in which he emphasized the necessity of a common stand. He considers this “a patriotic duty” and argues that those who refuse to cooperate only strengthen the regime of Viktor Orbán. According to our flippant “political scientist,” that means that “everybody should embrace Ferenc Gyurcsány” who wants to force everyone into one big unified opposition that would also include his own party. But what is wrong with this? Isn’t Gyurcsány’s party democratic? The other Young Turk on the program announced that the only reason DK wants a unified opposition is because otherwise DK couldn’t be represented in parliament. Total nonsense. As things stand now, a maximum of three parties could get into parliament if the opposition forces don’t manage to build an electoral coalition–Fidesz, MSZP, and Jobbik. And most likely Fidesz would win.

This kind of irresponsible talk doesn’t help anyone. It only confuses the already confused and disappointed electorate. As Vera Lánczos wrote, “The electorate doesn’t want the opposition parties to compete with each other but to come to an agreement for their sake.” To fan the distrust of parties in general and add to the division of the opposition is not the job of political commentators. It’s no wonder that so many people who truly want Viktor Orbán out of office are outraged.

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