A new political bomb: Did the Gyurcsány government spy on Fidesz politicians?

I’m in a real quandary.  Someone complained that I didn’t mention the very successful Walk for Life on Sunday while somebody else suggested that I should say something about the case of Miklós Hagyó, former deputy mayor of Budapest who went all the way to the European Court of Justice about what he considered to be his illegal detention for nine months without being charged.

But in addition to these two topics there are others that should have been talked about. For example, the anti-Semitic Patriotic Bikers whose ride across Budapest took place even though they had been forbidden to do so by the police at the instruction of Viktor Orbán. Or, that an amendment to the law was passed that forbids the use of symbols associated with right or left dictatorships. And there are the latest Eurostat figures that show that Hungary’s deficit is lower than anyone expected. It is 1.9%!

However important and interesting these topics are, I think I ought to write about the so-called Portik-Laborc affair although I’m somewhat handicapped here because I didn’t follow the police investigation of the case of Tamás Portik, a well-known figure in the Budapest underworld. However, I knew that something was afoot in government circles to connect György Szilvásy, former minister without portfolio in charge of national security in the Gyurcsány government, and Sándor Laborc, head of the National Security Office, to Tamás Portik. It was more than a year ago that stories began to float about these two government officials having questionable dealings with a known criminal. I wrote about the story at the time in a post entitled “Another ‘surveillance’ case is being hatched by Fidesz.” It took more than a year, but now the bomb has been dropped.

Magyar Nemzet, which by now can safely be called the official paper of the Orbán government, managed to get hold of an edited transcript of a tape recording of two meetings between Laborc and Portik. According to the article that appeared in yesterday’s edition of the paper, Tamás Portik in 2008 was so terribly concerned about Fidesz winning  the election in 2010 that he offered information on Fidesz politicians designed to help MSZP ruin Viktor Orbán’s party. According to Magyar Nemzet,  Portik was allegedly worried that a future Fidesz government would pursue some of his earlier crimes. The article claims that the transcript in the paper’s possession clearly proves that there was “an intimate connection between the Gyurcsány government and the underworld.”  A rather sweeping statement.

Today Magyar Nemzet published excerpts from the two meetings between Portik and Laborc. I should mention here that Szilvásy was told back in 2008 by a third person that Portik would like to get in touch with someone from the National Security Office because he had information about people who might be cause for concern. Szilvásy in turn got in touch with Laborc who pursued the lead. The excerpts Magyar Nemzet decided to publish are hard to follow. Most likely this was the paper’s intent. One doesn’t always know what the subject of the conversations between the two men really is. According to one reading of the text, Portik is offering dirt on certain Fidesz politicians that Laborc gratefully accepts; others view the conversation as an attempt on Laborc’s part to find out about the reliability of the informer.

Since then the text of the excerpts from the transcript has become available. This gives a somewhat clearer picture of what transpired at these two meetings between Laborc and Portik during the summer of 2008. The conversation begins with a discussion of the right-wing influence in the police force which “XXX directs.” Portik claims that the police are badgering him to give them incriminating information about leading member of MSZP. But at the same time he tells Laborc that he delivered cash to MSZP politicians, which might be true but might be merely a stratagem to establish his credibility. Let’s not forget that he is a criminal.

By the second conversation it looks as if cooperation between Portik and Laborc had been sealed. “It’s good that we found each other. Something serious may come of this,” says Laborc. This is followed up by an outline of the points of cooperation. “What interests us most is which politicians, judges, and prosecutors are under whose influence.” And, adds Portik, “perhaps the police.” Laborc agrees. On the surface this sounds fine. Laborc wants to find out about corruption and political influence in government offices. But when in the next sentence there is talk about catching people in a brothel it doesn’t sound so innocent. Laborc here gives the impression that he is trying to find dirt on men in the service of Fidesz.

Eventually Laborc even gave Portik his own secure cell phone number. Portik seemed to be very eager to cooperate because he was certain that he would end up in jail in case Fidesz wins the next election. Laborc interrupted him, saying that it is possible that “they will take me as well.” I assume he was thinking of the UD Zrt. case in which he ordered the monitoring of telephone conversations that included calls between Fidesz politicians and the men running UD Zrt. that was spying on the National Security Office’s activities. He was not far off in his prediction.

All in all, it looks pretty bad. The MSZP leadership seems to be split on the issue. According to Attila Mesterházy, “both the style and the content of the conversations are unacceptable.” On the other hand, Zsolt Molnár, MSZP chairman of the parliamentary committee on national security, who seems to have more information on the case because of his position, claims that Laborc’s conversation with Portik contains nothing that could be considered illegal. He was just doing his job.

Szilvásy pointed out in an interview on Klubrádió that the transcript about whose authenticity we know nothing is being used for political purposes. After all, said Szilvásy, if Laborc considered his conduct illegal he wouldn’t have ordered the conversations to be taped and transcribed. Laborc’s lawyer seems to know that the transcriptions are edited. The transcript of the first conversation, which lasted an hour and a half, took up 41 pages while only 24 pages of the second one, which was two and a half hours long, were published. On his client’s behalf he will demand to see the complete transcript. DK considers the released text “a complete jumble-mumble without names.” I tend to agree. Without the complete text we don’t really know what happened.

The Párbeszéd Magyarországért (PM) and LMP both demand setting up a parliamentary committee to investigate the case, but apparently Fidesz is not too eager to oblige. Only they know why.

The newest judge of the Hungarian constitutional court: A man jointly supported by Fidesz and Jobbik

You may recall that Viktor Orbán “packed” the Constitutional Court in July 2011. He nominated and parliament approved four new judges, increasing the size of the court from eleven to fifteen. Since then there was another Fidesz-KDNP appointee, László Salamon, who replaced Mihály Bihari who had to retire because he reached the age of seventy. László Salamon prior to his appointment was a KDNP member of parliament. So much for even the semblance of impartiality and independence. Another sitting judge, András Holló, will turn seventy in April, which provided an opportunity to further tip the Constitutional Court in Orbán’s favor.

The earlier Orbán appointments were criticized because the appointees didn’t have the necessary qualifications. Moreover, it was clear that these people were fully committed to the current government. Indeed, for the most part these four new judges have voted as a bloc in favor of the government’s position.

Imre Juhász / MTI, Photo László Beliczay

Imre Juhász / MTI, Photo László Beliczay

The new appointment, announced on March 19 and voted on the next day, is perhaps the most unacceptable of all. It looks as if Fidesz-KDNP and Jobbik struck a deal to appoint Imre Juhász, who is considered to be close to Jobbik. Here are some headlines that tell a lot about the general perception: “The right hand of Krisztina Morvai will be the new judge of the Constitutional Court,” “Fidesz and Jobbik made a deal,” “Imre Juhász is only a gesture to Jobbik.”

So, who is this Imre Juhász? Yes, he has a law degree. Shortly after graduation in 1986 he started teaching civil procedure at his alma mater, ELTE’s law school. First as a T.A. and from 1992 on as an assistant professor and later as an associate professor. Eventually he received a doctorate in law.

He became well known not because of his teaching activities but because he was one of the founding members of the Civic Legal Committee (Civil Jogász Bizottság). The committee’s shining light was Krisztina Morvai, who later became a prominent member of Jobbik and today serves as one of the party’s members of the European Parliament. I might add that the second star of this committee was Zoltán Balog, currently minister in charge of education, health, culture, sports and everything else under the sun. This unofficial far-right “committee” was set up to investigate the events of the September-October 2006 riots, especially the activities of the police. There was also an official investigating committee comprised of former police chiefs, sociologists, lawyers, and historians under the leadership of Katalin Gönczöl (Gönczöl Bizottság) that arrived at a critical but balanced assessment of the events.

Not so Morvai’s committee, whose seemingly sole purpose was to assist Viktor Orbán in discrediting Ferenc Gyurcsány and his government. I must say that they were very successful. They managed by repeated and noisy accusations to falsify the history of those days. Moreover, by now most people, including liberals and socialists who ought to know better, swear that there was a concerted police attack on innocent bystanders.

Balog already received his much deserved reward for services rendered. He is one of the most powerful ministers in Orbán’s government and perhaps the closest to the prime minister. Since Krisztina Morvai joined Jobbik, she cannot be openly supported by the present government, but surely Viktor Orbán must be grateful to her for the terrific job she did. The book the committee published was translated into English, and I understand that it was one of the two books Gergely Gulyás handed to Senator Ben Cardin at the U.S. Helsinki Commission’s hearing the other day. And now Imre Juhász receives a top job from the grateful Viktor Orbán.

MSZP, DK, and PM (Párbeszéd Magyarországért) boycotted the parliamentary committee that considered Juhász’s nomination. Only Fidesz, KDNP, and Jobbik MPs were present, and they enthusiastically endorsed Juhász. Tamás Gaudi-Nagy (Jobbik) explained that his party didn’t have an official candidate, but they can heartily endorse Juhász. Indeed, it would have been strange if they didn’t.

From what Juhász said in his hearing before the committee, we can have no doubt that he will be an obliging appointee. He doesn’t have any problems with the new restrictions on the constitutional court. If earlier decisions cannot be used, no problem. One must follow the new constitution without considering any legal renderings of the past. He also seems to be enamored with the “historical constitution,” which should receive much greater emphasis than it does currently. As far as the limits of the constitutional court are concerned, Juhász endorses the absolute supremacy of parliament. As we know from Kim Scheppele’s argument, this means the elimination of checks and balances and can lead to tyranny. He talked about his plans to defend the rights of Hungarians in the neighboring countries, something that I find difficult to comprehend. He as a member of the Hungarian Constitutional Court has no jurisdiction across borders. If Juhász actually means what he said to the committee, we may well be faced with a lot of unpleasantness between the Hungarian government and its neighbors.

Another hobbyhorse of Juhász is the repeal of the so-called Beneš doctrine. In his curriculum vitae Juhász called attention to his efforts when he referred to the two petitions he delivered to the European Parliament. The first in 2007 and the second in 2012. He handed in the more recent one jointly with Alida Hahn-Seidl, the representative of the Hunnia Baráti Kör (Hunnia Fraternity).

Gergely Bárándy, MSZP’s legal expert, called the nomination a hoax (kutyakomédia) in which his party will not participate. Gergely Karácsony announced that PM members will not pick up their ballots. DK announced the boycott even earlier. So, when it came to the final tally there were only 298 members present, of whom 286 members voted for Juhász and 12 voted against him. As far as I know, LMP remained in the chamber. And, by the way, over the weekend LMP decided that they will not negotiate with Gordon Bajnai’s Együtt 14 or any other opposition party.

The Orbán government’s swift move toward the far right

I wrote about some of the people who received high awards from the Orbán government on March 15, one of the official national holidays in Hungary. They were either racist, antisemitic neo-Nazis or representatives of unscientific, bogus “scholarship” whose numbers have been growing in Hungary in the last twenty years or so. The greatest attention was showered on Ferenc Szaniszló, who received the Táncsics Prize from Zoltán Balog.

I left the story at the point that Zoltán Balog claimed that he knew nothing about Szaniszló’s program on EchoTV. He simply accepted the recommendation of the committee appointed by the Orbán government and made up of right-leaning journalists. Balog also insisted that he couldn’t withdraw the prize. Either Szaniszló gives it back on his own volition or everything remains as is. (I might mention here that when the writer Ákos Kertész made the mistake of saying something derogatory about Hungarians his honorary citizenship of Budapest was withdrawn without the slightest difficulty.) In any case, Balog wrote a letter to Szaniszló in which he practically begged him to return the prize. He did, but only after he delivered another of his harangues on March 18 in an extra edition of Világ-Panoráma. This extra edition was just as long as his other programs, but this time it dealt only with all the indignities he had to suffer from the “szocik” and the “liberok.” One shouldn’t have expected anything else, but at least at the end he announced that he would return the prize–but not to the ministry but to the U.S. Embassy!

Balog might have thought that his troubles were over, but then came the revelation in Heti Válasz, a right-wing, pro-Fidesz publication, that Balog hadn’t told the truth earlier. The committee didn’t recommend Szaniszló for the prize. In fact, as Ágnes Osztovits, who is on the staff of Heti Válasz, revealed, the committee endorsed only one person, a reporter for Magyar Rádió, out of the three who eventually received the awards. In addition to Szaniszló, Márta Ágnes Vertse of Vatikán Rádió was also picked by the ministry against the advice of the nominating committee. Moreover, Heti Válasz learned who promoted Szaniszló and Vertse. None other than the new undersecretary in charge of cultural affairs, János Halász. Balog doesn’t seem to have much luck with his undersecretaries. He couldn’t get along with László L. Simon, who after eight months was fired, and now here is Balog’s own man who immediately gets him into trouble. Both the American and the Israeli embassies officially protested and demanded immediate action in connection with the case.

Szaniszló became an international cause célèbre, although he wasn’t the only one whose recognition by the Hungarian government was questionable. Let’s start with the award of the “Magyar Érdemrend középkeresztje” to Gábor Széles, who is the owner of the very EchoTV that employs Szaniszló in addition to Zsolt Bayer. Széles is also the owner of Magyar Hírlap where Zsolt Bayer is senior editor. Or there is Kornél Bakay, the “archaeologist” who received the “Magyar Érdemrend Tisztikereszt (polgári tagozat)” on March 15. When he was the director of the museum in Szombathely in 2003 Bakay organized an exhibit entitled “Soldiers of Horthy, Arrowmen of Szálasi.” On the basis of this exhibit it became clear that Bakay is “an enthusiastic propagandist of the Szálasi cult.” After a huge outcry the exhibit was dismantled.

The government claims that these awards, decorations, and prizes demonstrate the “Hungarian nation’s recognition of and gratitude to those who represent the best of the nation.” So, let’s see what János Petrás, lead singer of the “nemzeti” rock band, represents because he also received the “Magyar Arany Érdemkereszt (polgári tagozat).” This pride of the nation said at the “Magyar Sziget” neo-Nazi gathering in 2009: “Those people–who are really not human as far as we are concerned–are misfits, inferior somethings. They are gay and they are proud of it….One day this breed will become extinct. They should go somewhere and live together but separately. We will pass a law that will state that we don’t tolerate this perversity.”

It is hard to imagine that all these awards, prizes, and decorations given to people belonging to the far right are simply mistakes. There is a concerted effort to court the Hungarian neo-Nazis. It is government policy. So is the whipping up of nationalist sentiment.

Orbán imitates members of the Magyar GárdaPhoto MTI / Attila Kovács

Orbán imitates the uniform of the Magyar Gárda
Photo MTI / Attila Kovács

This morning I was reading about Viktor Orbán’s latest Friday morning interview on Magyar Rádió when I noticed something that might be significant. Normally on such an occasion Orbán wears a suit but no tie. This morning it was brisk in Budapest. During the day, around 6°C. At 7:00 a.m. it was most likely close to O°. Yet Orbán appeared in a white shirt with a black vest. An outfit preferred by people who are close to Jobbik or the far right in general. Journalists noted, for example, that Attila Vidnyánszky, the new director of the National Theater, began wearing this type of outfit lately; he seems to have committed his career to creating a truly “national” theater.

I suspect that Orbán’s choice of clothing this morning was a conscious decision to be identified with the Hungarian far right. The outfit was certainly appropriate, given the content of the speech in which he made no bones about his determination not to accept lectures or limits on Hungary’s national sovereignty from Brussels. As one of the headlines in a paper reporting on the speech read, “Orbán: They shouldn’t phone here from Brussels.” And that was before it became known that José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, will in the future personally oversee all contested issues concerning the amendments to the Hungarian constitution. Perhaps it is not only telephone calls that should stop coming from Brussels. What about money?

MSZP Chairman Attila Mesterházy’s speech on the state of Hungary

Below you will find the full text of  Attila Mesterházy’s speech given on March 9 before an audience of 10,000. Even critics admitted that MSZP, perhaps for the first time, gave a very professional performance. They added that the new American advisers may have taught a thing or two to the socialists.

The question is whether the program Mesterházy outlined here will have a positive impact on MSZP’s chances at overtaking Fidesz’s numbers in the public opinion polls. According to the latest poll both Fidesz and MSZP gained voters as the number of undecided voters shrank in the last month. However, Fidesz regained about half a million of its voters, most likely because of the 10% decrease in the  price of natural gas. Although the effect of this move on Hungarian pocketbooks will be negligible and will be offset with the increase in other utility prices, Hungarians are duly impressed with such empty gestures.

I wasn’t the one who translated Mesterházy’s speech, a task that would have been herculean. Tomorrow I will tackle Ferenc Gyurcsány’s speech, but because of time constraints I will translate only the most important passages.

I welcome all comments and evaluations. I’m sure that MSZP politicians will also be interested in your opinions.

* * *

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It feels great to be here! It is wonderful to be here among you, and to experience the energy that your presence radiates.  I am very thankful for my friends, my allies, my supporters for being here offering their support to us. Thank you!

My children saw me getting prepared for this event, not knowing what father was up to.  I told them that we were going to evaluate the year, and also speak about what would happen in 2013. They also evaluated the year, they told me, and showed me a drawing. The drawing was made by my daughter and my son. It says 2013 – the year of MSZP.  It shows the Hungarian flag, a carnation and a dedication: GO FOR IT FATHER!  I  thank  them  a  lot.    I  thank  my family,  as  politicians  have  very  few opportunities to publicly express their  gratitude to the family,  their  spouses  and parents for their ongoing support of our daily work, often even non-stop for 24 hours. Now I wish to thank my wife and my parents their enduring support and patience.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I was told that inviting Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta to our event is quite risky. I was advised to rethink it, or even to cancel his invitation, because his presence may distract attention. Because Fidesz would detract attention in the right wing media, spinning the interpretation of our event, and divert the focus of it which is to evaluate the state of our country, and to tell you what will happen in the coming months.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I assured the skeptic that it was no coincidence that we have announced a new left-wing national policy.  The essence of this new left-wing national policy was also emphasized by Victor Ponta in his speech here.  In the core of this new left-wing national policy there is an increased attention in the symbolic and the rational space alike vis-à-vis ethnic Hungarians beyond our borders.  We must be more attentive and helpful so that they indeed prosper in their homeland.

I  believe in it.  I  believe  in it,  and I  am convinced  that  we  are  right, and  good neighborly relations are part of this new national policy. We are attentive and responsive to the interests of the minorities.   As a Hungarian politician, I am aware of the responsibilityI have for ethnic Hungarians,  and I know that Victor Ponta is responsible for Romanians living all over the world.

This is not nationalism. This is true and brave patriotism.  There is a great difference between  nationalism  and  patriotism.  While  a  nationalist  despises  neighboring peoples, a true patriot takes pride in his nation, homeland, but also respects the peoples of neighboring countries.

All of us in this hall, and many more all over this country are good patriots.   So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very grateful to Victor and Sergei Stanishev who have joined us today offering their support. Their presence means that the Socialist Party has a strong alliance with the Carpathian Basin, and also with Europe.   For us patriotism is a call that we stand for also in Europe.  We stand for it in Europe, as Hungary throughout her history has always been part of Europe.  No freedom fight against Europe shall be waged, but we shall seek to cooperate in alliance in order to effectively represent our national interests!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Indeed, we have gathered here today to evaluate the state of our country, and to speak about our vision for Hungary after 2014.  2012 was indeed the year of take-off for the prime minister: a complete take-off reality. Because what he said in his speech was in fact a description of a country other than Hungary.   It was not the description of Hungary.  He is either detached from reality or over-protected by the anti-terrorist squad, preventing him from any opportunity to meet flesh and blood people.

We, however, have toured the country extensively, not only in the past three months, but in the past three years as well, and have experienced a totally different world out there.  I believe many of you agree with me in this.  I have travelled this country and collected a few examples, a few human examples that touched me in the past two- three months.  These examples are very revealing of the many injustices in today’s Hungary; for many people in Hungary life is hopeless. That is why many of our fellow citizens try their luck elsewhere.

I met an elderly lady in Pécs who had worked for 42 years as a nurse.  She is one of those pensioners who live in poverty.  She said to me: “Mr. President, typically by the second half of the month I have to make a choice whether to eat, pay my utilities or buy the medicines I take”.

It is a totally unjust world, a totally unjust Hungary where a pensioner is constantly challenged to make ends meet! It is a totally unjust world, a totally unjust Hungary where a pensioner is worried that he would leave behind only debts that would be a burden on the family upon leaving the mortal coils.  She continued: “Attila, I have a deep trust in you, but I want change”. I told her that we also want change, that we want her to have a peaceful and relaxed old age.

Then in Miskolc I met a lady who is a single mother. She was a factory worker at an assembly line for over 20 years.  When the factory was closed, she was sent off to a public work program. She told me: “can I send a message to Fidesz through you – as they said to me that it is possible to live on 47 thousand Forints– that they should live on 47 thousand Forints”. It is totally unjust, Ladies and Gentlemen, that this lady raising her child alone makes 47 thousand Forints a month, while some politicians of Fidesz make 47 thousand Forints a day! She also told me that she wanted change, and that she would proactively facilitate it.

May I mention another example from Szolnok, where I met a couple, both of them employed in the civil service?  They have to children, and they both have a job.  Each of them expressed their concern about the future. They are middle class people, but are increasingly concerned about the repayment of their foreign currency loan, and their ability to pay tuition fee for their children’s education.  They are concerned, and they fear the race to the bottom.  They are concerned about their ability to climb back to the middle class. They asked me: “Attila, is it fair that we both work decently for 10-12 hours a day and are unable to decently look after our family’s needs?” They also told me that they, too, wanted change.

Then I met a teacher in Debrecen who told me: “Mr. President, can you image that I go to my classes with stomach cramps? I am afraid that as the result of this overwhelming reorganization of the school system by Rózsa Hoffmann I may lose my job. I will be unable to feed my family, and to continue the profession I love  – teaching the young generation.” He also told me he wanted change.

Then I met young people.   They have decided to follow in the footsteps of our 500,000 fellow Hungarians who left the country. They fear the tuition fee prevents from finishing a Hungarian university. Plus their choice of majors has become restricted.  Even if they finish university, earn a degree and have a profession it is uncertain whether they will find a job. They told me they would return if things change.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Then I met a few business owners in Szekszárd and Székesfehérvár. They also complained, saying: “Mr. President, we feel cheated!” There is no lending activity, they have no access to credits, there is no market, and they have no access to EU funds, either.   Many companies have gone bankrupt, employees were dismissed, and as homeowners, the business owners are threatened with foreclosure for not being able to repay their mortgage dues. They claim they were promised otherwise and they, too, want change.

All of these examples show how people perceive Orbán’s success story.  How they perceive the Hungarian “fairy tale”, as often referred to by both Minister Matolcsy and Prime Minister Orbán.  The truth is that Hungary today is in a more miserable and unjust state than any time before in the past 20-22 years, with a deteriorating public security.  And Ladies and Gentlemen, we must honestly name those responsible for it, those whose fault it is.

Well, Fidesz does not hesitate to hold the opposition responsible for all the ills, or the European Union, or even the world at large.  But alas, they have been in power for three years, with a two-third supermajority! For three years! Onto whom do they want to still shift responsibility? They cannot shift responsibility! For all of these injustices and miseries Viktor Orbán is responsible! Viktor Orbán is at fault, and the bad governance of Fidesz.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Our country does not perform poorly; it is the Fidesz government that performs poorly.  They perform worse compared even to their pledges. What did they promise you? My buddies talking before me have taken stock of the undertakings that Fidesz made to the people: one million new jobs, improved public safety in two weeks, growing consumption, 7 percent economic growth, salary increase to the teachers and health workers … none of which materialized.   What happened to these promises? Why did performance fall short of these promises?! Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, they lied to you, not in the morning, not at noon and in the evening, but nonstop!

They perform worse not only in comparison to their own undertakings. No. They perform worse in comparison to the eight years preceding their rise to power. This has become obvious for anybody, and unless none so blind as those that cannot see can experience it daily.  I am not saying that everything was perfect in those eight years.  I also made seriously critical observations about it earlier.  But I do claim that each of the three Socialist governments during the eight-year period performed far-better than the current government.

Because, Ladies and Gentlemen, during those eight years existential security was much greater in Hungary.  May I remind you of a few specific examples, as it was so long ago that we tend to forget what had happened during those eight years in Hungary? What progress did Hungary achieve in those eight years?

The average wage was doubled – today the average wage decreases.  The amount of family allowance was doubled– today there is not a penny increase to it. In those eight years income discrepancy between the richest and the poorest citizens was reduced by ten percent– today, it is not getting smaller, but it is significantly rising.  In the past three years…

Not to mention the fact that pensioners got back the 19,000 Forints that Fidesz had previously taken away from them. The Socialist government re-launched the pension adjustment program that Fidesz had previously stopped, among their first measures when the first Orbán government took power.

But  it  was  also  the  Socialist  government  that  reduced  VAT  on  food  products– whereas this government merely keeps talking about it. And let’s not forget that the Socialist government raised the salary of public servants by 50 percent– whereas this government merely keeps talking about it.

The previous governments took all these measures because they had the foresight. They anticipated that migration is going to happen, that people, professionals and workers will leave the country in the hope for a better livelihood.   These were the reasons for making these decisions back then, to protect our country from such occurrences.   Legal certainty and the rule of law were internalized in the political culture during those eight years.  Nobody wanted to eliminate the system of checks and balances.  There was no reason to fear any political act or actor.  Then expertise was valued–today only loyalty counts.  Then Hungary was acclaimed internationally– today we feel ashamed when we put our feet out of the country.  In those years there was social dialogue–today there is practically zero real reconciliation of interests.

In those eight years–to give more examples–we were more ahead in the areas of development and investments.  We used EU funds at a quicker pace, we built roads, hospitals, schools, bridges, highways; there were investments.  When Viktor Orbán inaugurates a new facility, his only role in it is the cutting of the ribbon.   These investments, whether it is a Mercedes, Audi or Open facility, to mention the auto industry, were successfully concluded by the preceding Socialist governments.

Socialists in full forceIndex / Photo János Bődey

Socialists in full force
Index / Photo János Bődey

Ladies and Gentlemen,

These examples show that the three Socialist governments performed so much better than the current government.  If I may add, not only the Socialist governments performed  better,  but  even  the  first  Orbán  government,  not  to  mention  the government of Gyula Horn.

So, my friends, in possession of the facts, we may conclude that during those eight years that Fidesz is now so eager to traduce, Socialist performed much better than Viktor Orbán.

Fidesz made good on one of its campaign slogans, though, which said: we live worse than four years ago. This undertaking by Viktor Orbán, this campaign slogan did materialize.  We live worse, but not than four years ago, also worse than eight years ago, or twelve years ago, or sixteen and twenty years ago.  Viktor Orbán is aware of it.  Do you know why? Because for next year he did not promise prosperity.  In his state of the country address, in case you missed it, Viktor Orbán promised prosperity for 2033! The Maradona of Felcsút believes that only they are entitled to prosperity, the Hungarian people can wait.

Take it into consideration, that our parents have been told the same upon the regime change, our grandparents after the end of World War II, assuring them that in twenty years things will get better. We can’t help the feeling that Hungary is always twenty years apart from prosperity.

Ladies and Gentlemen, nobody is looking to live better in twenty years! People want to live better today, tomorrow, and in the next forty years.   This is a legitimate demand.  We, responsible politicians have to say how all this is feasible.  How much time it takes, what the time table should be, and at what the costs are.  We must talk about it very honestly.

It  is  not  possible and it  is ill advised to promise  that  after  2014  prosperity will suddenly knock on our doors. That we only need to change government to welcome abundance.  This would be a false promise, a lie. This country, the decent people of Hungary, was too often fooled in the past 20 years by false campaign pledges. Therefore we, Socialists, must refrain from committing such mistakes.   We must honestly point out that what they are doing is very wrong, but we must not make any false promise about Canaan approaching.

It is a legitimate expectation that we will live better from year to year. There are certain fields where change doesn’t require twenty years, where we can proceed very

quickly.  It is of utmost importance that these pledges are realistic and feasible. I am going to tell you how. As this is also our job today, not only the evaluation.

I built my talk on three pillars, which correspond to our political program.  The first pillar is strong democracy, the second pillar responsible economic policy, and the third pillar is fair social policy.

Fair social policy is all too important, because as the examples have shown, people do not feel secure. Predictability is lacking.  Hungarian people desire to have security and predictability in their lives.  That they can make plans for their future and their families’ future.

Please allow me to go into more details on these issues. Ladies and Gentlemen,

A strong democracy certainly requires five conditions.

The first one: a strong rule of law. A strong rule of law that is to be based on a new consensual constitution. A new constitution which will state that our country’s name shall be the Republic of Hungary! A strong rule of law requires an independent judiciary. A judiciary where judges are not pestered by all kinds of statutory amendment, where the prosecutors don’t get political orders from Viktor Orbán and the current power. Law and order requires a democratic order.  In which people live in peaceful coexistence.  In which any majority and minority can live together, and should any of them–either the majority or a minority– violate the rules, then the violator  will be prosecuted.   Such will serve the interest  of  democratic  order  in Hungary.

The second condition of a strong democracy, in addition to a strong rule of law: a strong civil society. We promise, and we will make good on our promise, to restart dialogue in Hungary with NGO-s and they will again feel the strength and power to have their say in public policy and government policy. And they will be involved in the appropriation of funds required for their operation. Because today they are excluded from these processes, and only the pets of the current power receive public funds to aggressively protest against us, or anyone else in disagreement with them, in the disguise of a Peace March. This will not be tolerated.

Strong press and media: the Hungarian Socialist Party undertakes to create a new media legislation that will regulate the media in accordance with European standards.  We will restore the public service nature of the state media, and we will end the situation in which the government tries to silence opposition media through the withdrawal of financial resources. This will not be tolerated, either.

The fourth condition is strong local governments: We will restore the power and responsibility of local governments to decide on local matters. This makes local governments strong, and this makes democracy work in Hungary.

The fifth, equally important condition: a strong right to self-determination. That politics shall not interfere with the privacy of the families! The sanctity of private life shall be respected! Everybody shall have the right to decide on the type of family he wants to live in, in peace, without hatred. And politics shall refrain from interfering into the religious beliefs of any family.   What you believe in, or whether or not you are a believer! And yes, it shall be also the decision of the family whether they enroll their children to a faith based school or a state school.  This choice must be left with the families.   But politics shall have no place in such issues as people’s thinking and opinion.  Politics shall not decide what art is in Hungary and what valuable culture is. This is not the turf of politics!

So a strong democracy is composed of the following elements: a strong law and order, strong civil society, strong media, strong right to self-determination and strong local governments!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we have already said, we need responsible economic policy.  As we have quoted earlier, Matolcsy, the magician could not deliver it.  I would not call him an economist, rather a charlatan. I am sure that he would have been sentenced for bungling under previous legislation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The economy is in deep trouble. Please understand, it will take at least two years to put economy in order! To put economy back on track we need to do the following: one, we have to initiate growth, and two, we need to create new jobs.

In order that we achieve these targets, first, as agreed by everyone, we must restore confidence. If there is confidence, there will be investments.  If there are investments, there will be new jobs. If there are jobs, there will be fair wages. If there are fair wages, we can pay the costs of living, and many other things that are important for Hungarian families.  Therefore, restoration of confidence is an elemental requirement.

In order to restore confidence, there are at least three important dos. One: on behalf of the state, clear regulations, transparent conditions and predictable political actions. Today, none of them exit. Second, required for the restoration of trust, to be taken on behalf of the market actors: Yes, we on the Left, Socialists we expect higher responsibility from the market actors.  We say we want a new equilibrium among the state, the market actors and the consumers.  For this end, the Hungarian Socialist Party will strengthen consumer protection, will also strengthen the regulatory role of the state, and will strengthen the power of the state in enforcing the regulations! These will elevate the level of responsibility in the Hungarian economy.

And  one  other  aspect,  required  for  the  restoration  of  confidence  that  we  must sincerely address.  It  is combating  corruption.    Yes,  Ladies  and  Gentlemen,  the Hungarian Socialist Party will put an end to the practices and power of the oligarchs of Fidesz.  Under all circumstances we will eliminate corruption. We will put an end to the Simicska-Nyerges practices of shoveling home the monies of Hungarian taxpayers!

In order to initiate growth, create new jobs, we need something else on top of restoring confidence. Small and medium-size companies, large companies, multinational companies will be able to restart or expand production if three additional conditions are met: if there is lending. Two, availability of new markets, whether foreign market, export market or domestic market. And third, very important, the accessibility of EU funds.  The creation of new markets requires some assistance to competitiveness. With respect to EU funds, the goal is that such monies shall be used in a more targeted and transparent manner.  This means that we will involve NGO-s, advocacy groups and the trade unions in the allocation of resources.  This will make the system transparent, not to mention that the use of these funds will have to be accelerated, because the current government proceeds like a snail.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

For us, Socialists, responsible economic policy is not an end but a means. Responsible economic policy is a means for an improving living standard for the people of Hungary.   To assure sustainable development in Hungary– responsible economic policy is the tool.

As Hungary is full of injustices and many people feel desperate, we must put in place fair social policy to replace the perverted social policy of Fidesz.  Only the Hungarian Socialist Party stands for fair social policy in Hungary today! In this area we have four priorities.

In our vision when a child is born, there shall be nothing to limit him in making his dreams come true, it shall depend on his talent and diligence only. That every child shall have equal opportunities, irrespective of the social or financial condition of the family.

First, we want every child to be able to take part in education, to achieve his dreams.   Second, we want that everybody shall be able to work and have a safe livelihood.  And, God forbid, should he fall ill, he should be able to avail himself to good medical care. When he grows old, he should have a peaceful and calm old age. This is the sum of the fair social policy of the Socialist Party.

Therefore we want equal opportunities in education! Our educational policy will be based on quality, opportunities and performance.

The government of the Socialist Party will start a nursery and kindergarten construction program. We will raise compulsory school age to 18 from 16. Every child will have the opportunity to learn at least one foreign language so that the world can open up before them. We will adjust the salaries of the teachers. We will restore autonomy of the universities and academic freedom.

We want an employment policy that assures that there is at least one bread earner in every family.  If there are jobs, there are fair wages, and a lot of social problems are cured. We are going to draft a new labor code, not alone, of course, but together with the trade unions.  This new labor code will guarantee more protection to the workers, employees.  Trade unions will get back their entitlements, including the right to strike. We will restore social dialogue and interest reconciliation in Hungary. We will stop the decrease of minimal wage.   We will double the term of the job search allowance, from three months to six months.  We will raise the hours of public work, and will provide public workers with sensible and valuable work assignments.   We will strengthen vocational training. And we see a role for the state in creating new jobs, additionally to the public work program. In our view the state shall be involved in creating new jobs where the market is not able to.  Yes, the state has a duty in this respect!

And now the health care system! In our vision even the rich will choose the national health care system because it is so good, so efficient and so high quality.  And we are aware that medical expenditures will never be less.  These costs will never be less, and we must not aim to reduce such allocations, either–in sharp contrast to the current practices of Fidesz. The average age is increasing, the society is ageing. However,  medical  industry  is  an  innovative  one,  and  the  new  medications, techniques and instruments are increasingly costly.  Politicians must recognize that health care will demand increasingly more money.   So that you can get the appropriate care, the care you deserve.

Within the health care sector we have three priority areas. One, pediatric care; two prevention and care of cardio-vascular disorders; and three, prevention and care of cancer and tumoral diseases. These are the areas where the most intensive developments will have to be implemented.

Additionally, we must strengthen primary health care.   We must develop hospitals and out-patient clinics. We must adjust the wage of health workers. In some shape or form we will have to consolidate the state and debts of the hospitals.  Socialists are committed to all of these for after 2014.

And last, but not least: the situation of the elderly.  I am often appalled when I hear the politicians of Fidesz talking about the elderly. How they despise a generation whose members rebuilt this country with their own hands for us after World War II. This generation is to be respected, and they shall not be deprived of their rights. They deserve respect, appreciation and security.  It is the moral obligation of the Left to act accordingly.  Therefore, the Socialist Party again guarantees, as it had done before, to constantly increase pensions.    We will re-regulate the disability pension system and the early retirement system–taking three aspects into consideration: sustainability of the system, fairness of the system, and that the interests of different trades shall be addressed in the new regulation. We will re-launch the pension adjustment program.

This program is the Program for Development and Freedom which will make the life of many people more fair and secure, and politics more predictable for all of us.  That people shall be able to live as they wish! Because Hungarian people have so much more potentials than what this government delivered and gave them.

We want to bring this program to success.   This is what we work for day by day. There is one little thing required to implement our program, just one little thing: we must win the elections.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have come a long way! Two years ago, as I was standing in front of you I

promised that we would again make the Hungarian Socialist Party a determining factor of Hungarian politics. In two years with your help, we made it! Thank you for your help and support.

As we speak, the Socialist Party is the strongest, best organized and best prepared opposition party in Hungary.  We can be proud of it! And those who two years ago mused about the end of the Socialist Party, wrote us off, today unequivocally  say that there is no change, no change of government feasible without the Socialist Party! It was my undertaking, but we achieved it together!

The Socialist Party won the first half. Now comes the hard part. It is obvious that Fidesz by now had to realize that their strategy to ruin the Socialist Party, to wipe it off the Hungarian soil had failed.    Now they are seeking new methods against us. Therefore now we have two very important tasks. One: to win over a majority of the Hungarian society in support of the program of the Hungarian Socialist Party, the Program for Development and Freedom. The other, equally important task is to transform  the  disillusionment  and  disappointment  of  the  Hungarian  people  into political actions.  To fill them with positive energy, to convince them that there is hope for change, and we have a chance to win! They must understand that they are the key to success. If they are fed up with Orbán, if they chant together with us “Orbán, get out”–is not enough! It is music to our ears, but is not enough! Instead, these disillusioned and disappointed people must come next year to the polling booths, and in the privacy of the polling booth, as it is a secret ballot, with no other person allowed to enter there, people should bring a most important decision. Whether they want to change their lives.

If yes, affix an X beside the name of the Socialist Party!

As we have seen, neither Fidesz, nor Viktor Orbán is shy about their methods.  They will use every facility they have to stay in power.  They will use and abuse different instruments, including the instrument of nationalism or that of communism.  They use scapegoating and they use intimidation.

But three recent events in Hungary proved that Hungarian people are wise and are not afraid to act; in Dunaföldvár, Sopron and Szolnok. Not a single poll indicated that the Socialists would win! Not a single one!  And eventually we won in Dunaföldvár, we won in Sopron and we won in Szolnok!

Ladies and Gentlemen!

We need your help, because Fidesz is shamelessly lying. They are lying 24 hours a day. And there is one media outlet that repeats these lies 24 hours a day, often forcing public service media to disseminate the same lies. Even if many people in the employ of the public service media may be reluctant to do so, they protect their job and livelihood, and are forced to join the chorus of hate.  This media is a very strong instrument, so we have to find a new remedy against it! The remedy is available! It worked in Dunaföldvár, in Sopron and in Szolnok. The remedy is frank and fair speech! This remedy is personal discussions with the voters! It is the door-to- door campaign!

But we have another tool!

We, on the Left, democrats have to call attention to it and adhere to it.  Fidesz will do everything to divide the democratic opposition.  They will use every communications trick or lie. They will do whatever they can to divide the democratic opposition, and to hunt us down, one by one.   This hunt has started.   Therefore we must make a pledge, together, that the Socialist Party will not let it happen! We are not going to let the  opposition  divided!  We  are  not  going  to  let  it  happen  that  any  democratic politician be hunt down by the prosecutors on the order of Fidesz, or in any other way!   We will be there and back everyone who needs help and solidarity! With a strong party – and the Socialist Party will beat it off hard!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

As we have strengthened the Socialist Party, we will we strengthen the opposition–so that together we can make our country strong. This is my call.  I work for it twenty four hours a day.  But it is not only my call. It is the call of those who are here today with me.  Now I ask the party presidency and the political leadership to join me in the ring.  To show to you and the media: they have been with me in the past two years, in different roles, but working together. And with their continued help I will implement the program of change in the next year, the Program for Development and Freedom. We have made the first steps together leading to victory.

If you also help us, knocking on the doors, telling everybody what the Left wants, how it will improve the life of the people, then we will get the majority with which in 455 days we can defeat Fidesz, and replace the present government.

A Hungarian pope? Does Péter Erdő have a chance?

As I mentioned earlier, the Hungarian media is full of stories speculating about the possibility of Péter Erdő succeeding Benedict XVI.

Péter Erdő was appointed Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest in December 2002 and was also made a cardinal at the same time. At the time of his appointment he was auxiliary bishop of Székesfehérvár and was only 50 years old. He has a doctorate in theology and canon law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome. His biography mentions that he spent three years in Rome (1977-1980).

If people thought that the relatively young Erdő would bring some fresh air into the stale, ultra-conservative Hungarian Church they were mistaken. It is hard to tell whether Erdő tried and failed because of the overwhelming opposition he encountered,  whether he is a weak administrator, or whether he is basically a conservative man. From some of his pronouncements we can see that he is no friend of sudden change: “we react to all important problems in our own rhythm” and this rhythm seems to be very slow. He also claims that “the Church must not get involved with problems of the given moment.”

Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest

Cardinal Péter Erdő, Archbishop of Esztergom-Budapest

Since 2003 not much has changed in the Hungarian Catholic Church. Unlike in Western Europe where more and more lay people are involved in church affairs, the case in Hungary is different. Also the church’s transparency, especially when it comes to financial matters, leaves a lot to be desired. The greatest financial scandal occurred in Pécs where the bishop, Mihály Mayer, was eventually forced to resign because of embezzlement, blackmail, and even homosexual practices. The church hierarchy was reluctant to investigate the affair and even Erdő would have liked to have kept the affair within the church, but eventually the Hungarian prosecutor’s office took over the case. It was Pope Benedict who in the end removed Mayer.

One of Erdő’s outspoken critics is Attila Jakab, a young theologian and church historian. He wrote an article a couple of days ago that appeared on the website of the Intézet a Demokratikus Alternativáért (IDEA; Institute for a Democratic Alternative) in which he outlined the reasons that Erdő is not fit to become pope.

Jakab claims that Erdő finds it hard to tolerate freedom of thought. I’m afraid Jakab is right. I remember an interview with him where he didn’t hide his disdain for man’s right to form his own opinions. He is also far too sensitive to criticism; according to an older report on him by an agent of the Hungarian secret service, he can be “hysterical.” He finds it important to cooperate with the current ruling political elite. His relationship with Ferenc Gyurcsány was not as good as it is today because Gyurcsány apparently asked him in 2006 to refrain from interfering with the elections. Normally the Catholic Church wages a veritable election campaign, naturally supporting the right-wing parties.

In addition, Jakab calls attention to Erdő’s lack of leadership qualities. Here he calls attention to the financial scandals and pedophilia that went on in Pécs for years. The other case involved the Bishopric of Győr, a case that also ended up in court. Erdő, according to Jakab, refuses to put an end to the Christian Democratic Party’s running amok and does practically nothing about the fusion of Christian and pagan elements in the current “national-Christian” regime. Indeed, I can recall only one or two occasions when he expressed his disapproval of the Hungarian right’s syncretic religious practices. In case you don’t know what Jakab has in mind, it is worth recalling Viktor Orbán’s famous “Turul” in which we were all born.

Jakab also points out that Erdő knows that the introduction of religious instruction in all schools poses insurmountable problems for the Church. There are simply not enough people trained to fill the thousands of positions its introduction requires. But in Erdő’s defense, it is possible, given the Orbán government’s practices, that the churches were not even consulted before the decision was made. I recall one time that Erdő expressed his dismay over the decision.

Finally, those who oppose the Orbán government and its practices shouldn’t keep fingers crossed for Péter Erdő. Admittedly, Hungarian pride would swell if for the first time there was a Hungarian pope in the Vatican. But surely, the Orbán government would take advantage of Erdő’s presence in Rome. Viktor Orbán would try to brand Erdő’s election as his own victory. Moreover, in addition to the current grave problems of the Vatican, a Hungarian pope would also be stranded with the mess Viktor Orbán has created both inside and outside the country. The new pope surely wouldn’t want to carry that extra burden.

The last and perhaps the greatest obstacle standing in Erdő’s way to the papacy: the Hungarian Catholic Church’s still uncovered activities during the Kádár regime tying practically all prelates to the Hungarian secret service. Documents show that several presidents of the Hungarian Papal Institute in Rome were agents who reported to the Ministry of the Interior. Erdő spent three years there and in 1987 was the president of the institution. Both his predecessors and his successors worked for the Hungarian secret service. Nothing has surfaced yet about Erdő, but it might once all the documents of the Ministry of Interior are available. The Orbán government has no intention of doing anything about uncovering agents despite Fidesz’s fierce anti-communism. If and when Fidesz loses the elections, however, the opposition forces swear that the secret archives will be opened.

Anyone who’s interested in the connection between the secret service and the Papal Institute should read a four-part series by Tamás Majsai that appeared between December 2007 and April 2008 in Beszélő.

“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.