Gábor Scheiring

Where is András Schiffer leading LMP? Straight into the arms of Fidesz

I was hoping to answer the question that has been on a lot of people’s minds: will LMP split if András Schiffer’s insistence that the party goes its separate way triumphs at the party’s congress? I even postponed my post to get the latest word. Unfortunately, I have nothing definitive to report. Schiffer’s ideas were endorsed by a majority, larger than last time, but we don’t know what the internal opposition led by Benedek Jávor will do after their second defeat by the Schiffer majority.

The dispute is not just over whether they should join the E14 or not. The members of the opposition sense a certain shift toward the right outlined earlier by András Schiffer and voted on at the last congress in November.

Their political views are irreconcilableAndrás Schiffer and Benedek Jávor

Their political views are irreconcilable:
András Schiffer and Benedek Jávor

Common sense would dictate that LMP should join forces with the other democratic parties if they, as they claim, want to defeat the Orbán government at next year’s election. How can a party whose support in the latest Medián poll was a mere 3% do that alone? Does András Schiffer really believe his own propaganda that he frequently repeats during interviews, that between now and April 2014 LMP will be able to defeat Fidesz single-handedly and form a government?

I believe that András Schiffer is leading his followers down the garden path. Or, to switch metaphors and put a more malevolent spin on it, I think he has something up his sleeve. At the November LMP congress the majority didn’t support a proposal that would consider the defeat of the Orbán government and LMP’s existence as a separate entity of equal importance. The final wording emphasized the “independent existence” of the party over the defeat of the Orbán government. The majority also voted against a proposal to preclude the possibility of negotiations with Jobbik and Fidesz.  There was one proposal that was eventually voted down, according to which LMP would consider itself “half way” between Jobbik and its opposition. The delegates also voted down another proposal that stated although LMP would decide on an individual basis whether to participate in anti-fascist demonstrations, it would always be ready to declare its solidarity with the demonstrators. No automatic solidarity here.

Gábor Scheiring, a member of the opposition group within the party, declared after the November congress that what happened there meant that “LMP is turning to the right.” Scheiring found it “surprising how many of our members feel that perhaps it is better if Fidesz stays if it can be defeated only with MSZP. The majority is looking at Gordon Bajnai as part of the MSZP scheme. That’s why so many people [at the congress] voted for independence rather than change of government [as the party’s primary goal].” Scheiring added that for him this kind of strategy was unacceptable.

Last September Schiffer wrote a twenty-page study for internal use in which he outlined his ideas about the future of LMP. Soon enough the pamphlet became public. In it he noted that many of the views of Jobbik and Fidesz are the same as those of LMP. “We speak the same language when we talk about globalized capitalism or ecological catastrophe.” He added that LMP is critical of capitalism, globalization, and modernization and “therefore it is a leftist party.” But, in his opinion, “a new government in which the socialists would also be represented wouldn’t move ahead with the required speed to cure the wounds of society.”

In the same study Schiffer spent a great deal of time on the success of Jobbik that in his opinion highlighted legitimate grievances about the last twenty years. LMP, he argued, can’t afford to ignore the 800,000 men and women who voted for Jobbik. He suggested that especially in the larger towns on the Great Plains there could be a serious competition between Jobbik and LMP for the votes of the younger generation. A few lines later Schiffer declared that “LMP’s goal in ideal circumstances by 2014 or in the longer term is to be the alternative to the populist, right-wing Fidesz.”

Where will LMP find supporters for such an ambitious plan?  It’s unlikely that LMP will find new recruits among MSZP supporters. But that can mean only one thing. LMP must find new followers on the right.

Népszabadság got hold of Schiffer’s political manifesto and naturally wanted to talk to him about the contents of the pamphlet. Schiffer stood by his ideas but said that anyone who interprets his message as a move to the right “simply cannot read.” However, many of Schiffer’s colleagues in the party, for example Tímea Szabó, told the Népszabadság reporter that it is difficult to belong to a party that refuses to categorically distance itself from Jobbik. She, like others of the new internal opposition of LMP, cannot stomach the party’s move toward the right and its decision that the removal of the Orbán government is not the party’s primary goal. She considers the removal of Orbán an absolute necessity because another four years of this government would ruin Hungary’s chances of once again becoming a functioning democracy.

During today’s gathering the pro-Schiffer forces gained ground. A couple of days ago Benedek Jávor told Antónia Mészáros on ATV Start that if the majority follows Schiffer’s lead he will seriously consider leaving the party. According to today’s Origo, “if the congress doesn’t support the strategy of the Dialogue for Hungary its member will resign.” The paper predicted that the day of decision will be tomorrow.