Portfolio blogger

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Is it a saga or a soap opera? How far can the Hungarian opposition play with the trust of its prospective voters?

There are a number of topics in my head to write about but the developments in the latest days have overwritten all. The question of the last moves of the opposition movements was always, how they can win the hesitating voters without losing their faithful ones. And this is getting hmmm... - but judge yourselves On the proposal of Gyurcsány, the most controversial figure in the opposition, a common festive mass meeting/demonstration has been organised to commemorate the anniversary of the 1956 revolution (which is at the moment one of the constitutive elements of Hungarian political identity). This with the background that the Hungarian Socialist Party (the main governing party between 2002 and 2010, suffering a grave defeat in 2010 and whose prime minister Gyurcsány was till Bajnai took over for the last year or so just to put the budget and the economy in order - which he did - without further political ambitions) and the movement of Bajnai signed their co-operation agreement, leaving Gyurcsány's party (called Democratic Coalition) out, citing overblown demands of the latter. Since support for Gyurcsány is growing fast. They even said that the Gyurcsány-fans will want to remove Orbán and the FIDESZ and therefore will vote for whoever has a realistic chance to do it. Gossip and speculation was abound that this is all tactics and they will agree with Gyurcsány at the end. Gyurcsány actually hinted strongly that the party finances of the MSzP were coming from dubious sources during their government years. And a fake video was apparently made by a Democratic Coalition "footsoldier" and given to an MSzP middle-level "officer" on which roma were discussing voting for FIDESZ in exchange of money and other perks on an intermediate election. Meanwhile, liberal movements with no real following that mushroomed in the years since the demise of SzDSz, the "official" liberal party, which was the junior partner in Gyurcsány's government and totally disintegrated after the - for them totally lost - 2010 elections. A conservative party also emerged under Bokros, the finance minister in the 1994-98 socialist-liberal governments two.year period when they followed austerity policies, economically very successful but politically disastrous. So, the speakers on the demonstration were the following: Bajnai first, then two ex-liberals - one of the Kuncze, who was minister and head of SzDSz for most of its heyday and declared before not having political ambitions but having a programme on Klubrádió, the emblematic radio of the opposition, mainly MSzP-leaning. Aftern them, Bokros, Gyurcsány and finally Attila Mesterházy, the president of the MSzP. Bajnai is not a charismatic leader and a dull speaker but has good thoughts and is speaking in earnest. So he was no surprise. The three following speakers all mentioned the need to co-operate to oust Orbán and then Gyurcsány showed his best form - he is charismatic,clever but some fear that his reputation as prime minister (he failed in getting through his plans and was always very outspoken but a Josephinist politician, not able to win support for his policies in his party's own ranks which may be the mistake of the "ranks" also) and the result of the propaganda against him in all FIDESZ media - which now includes the public media also - he scares away more uncertain voters than he brings. He was passionately arguing for and alliance of all opposition forces. And then, during the speech of Mesterházy, the audience started to shout demanding the alliance. Mesterházy did not give in, he calmed the crowd and finished his speech while people were leaving and he earned a scant applause only. After the event, explanations were raised and insults exchanged, I spare you this. The question was still there: what will those people do, who want Orbán and the FIDESZ to go but would like to have a wider front. And whether this narrower front - Bajnai's unifying reputation being tarnished by the events - will get sufficient votes to win. A little explanation to Bajnai: he wanted to form an umbrella organisation which would be neutral enough to enable that all opposition parties and movements can join in without having to lose their character. But then FIDESZ changed the election law to make such a solution impossible. Then Bajnai started a party from three different parts and started negotiating the alliance with the other parties. To add insult to injury (and thus cutting short a lot of the afterthoughts of the events on the demonstration) The party of Bajnai declared its support for and participation on the "March of the Székelys" for autonomy of Transylvania. Without going into the details on Hungarians in Romania, I can only say that the decision made huge waves - almost a tsunami - in Hungary. The main organisers of this march are the extreme right parties and movements and FIDESZ is also participating. So joining them is a great blow to those, who think that Hungary should not interfere this way with the neighbouring countries. Rational arguments are also there: Orbán gave Hungarian nationality to Hungarians living abroad and voting rights (although only half, but this can be extended if found as discriminatory by the Constitutional Court) to them (a slight simplification was inevitable here). Now, the Romanian State is asked to give autonomy to an area where foreign citizens also voting in their second country are concentrated. And already a number of high-profile members left Bajnai's movement for that. MSzP, however, voiced its support. These moves are also diametrical to Gyurcsány's point of view - that Hungarians should not interfere with state affairs of Romania but they support autonomy and reject double citizenship in its form given by Hungary and the voting rights of citizens outside Hungary. Heated discussion is going on on different fora about the decision of Bajnai. Many followers reject it, even saying they will not vote for them. On the other hand, the choice of those who want change in Hungary, is not easy if Gyurcsány remains separate. There is a chance that his support grows. But it will not reach the support of Bajnai and the MSzP together. And therefore the latter two have a greater chance to send Orbán away. Will voters vote for them and abandon Gyurcsány out of tactics? Or will voters rather vote for Gyurcsány? How much are voters bound to accept? Is the support of Bajnai and the MSzP for the nationalist movement bring new votes at all? It may, as voters who have national ideas but see the tragic direction in which Orbán leads the country, can be lured. But till now, they were told that the opposition is ant-national. Is it easy to change their perception? An explanatory note: the Hungarian elections will be decided in the individual constituencies, where the one who has the most votes will immediately win the mandate, however low the participation is.