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Who benefits from LMP’s radical centrism?

February 17th, 2012

A left-wing columnist accuses the LMP of strengthening radical right-wing Jobbik by not cooperating with left-wing opposition parties. A founding member of the LMP rejects the accusations, while a liberal pundit believes that after the next election the LMP could become Fidesz’s coalition partner.

In January, András Schiffer, LMP’s floor leader resigned from all his decision-making positions (see BudaPost January 17). He justified his move by mentioning the lack of support for his position on strategic issues, most importantly on maintaining LMP’s image as an independent centrist party which provides an alternative to both the governing right-wing coalition and the left-wing opposition. In an interview Schiffer told Figyelő that he had been put under tremendous pressure by the left-leaning media, who accused him of undermining the establishment of a broad left-wing coalition against the Orbán regime. Interestingly, even since Schiffer’s resignation, the party continues to refuse to take part in the roundtable discussions initiated by the left-wing opposition (see BudaPost February 1).

Earlier this moth, Ákos Kállai in Népszabadság accused LMP not only of undermining a potential anti-Fidesz left-wing alliance, but also of strengthening the legitimacy of the radical right-wing Jobbik party. Kállai notes that by sending the same anti-globalist and anti-capitalist messages, LMP plays into the hands of the radical right-wing party.

István Elek, former editor-in-chief of Heti Válasz and a founding member of LMP finds Kállai’s accusations unfounded. In an article in Népszabadság Elek writes that the cooperation between the two parties on certain policy issues, including a technical election alliance to withdraw the new Constitution (see BudaPost July 14, 2011)  does not entail that the LMP accepts Jobbik’s extremism. On the contrary, LMP was the only party which dared to protest in an organised form against Jobbik’s anti-Roma marches (see BudaPost May 2, 2011).

As for the anti-capitalist messages, Elek contends that while the extremist and anti-Semitic Jobbik fantasizes about a global Jewish conspiracy, LMP wants to tame global capitalism in the name of fairness and ecological sustainability. In addition, while Jobbik wants Hungary to quit the EU, the green party is fully committed to EU integration.

Labelling Jobbik a racist, undemocratic and Nazi party is a counterproductive strategy, Elek adds. If Jobbik was indeed a Nazi party, it should have been banned a long time ago. But taking into account that it has not been banned, and that it is supported by 20 percent of the voters, democratic parties should take seriously the fears, motives and prejudices common in the Hungarian public which make Jobbik so popular.

In Magyar Narancs, Péter Rózsa speculates that the LMP’s lack of willingness to cooperate with MSZP and Gyurcsány’s Democratic Coalition may create an opportunity for Fidesz. If LMP manages to maintain its centrist image and Jobbik succeeds in attracting the votes of right-leaning Hungarians dissatisfied with the current government, at the next election Fidesz may form a coalition government with the LMP. If Fidesz has to choose between Jobbik and the LMP as a coalition partner, it would definitely opt for the centrist party, Rózsa believes.

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