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Antagonistic messages dominate 1956 anniversary

October 25th, 2012

Commentators across the political spectrum assess the speeches of PM Orbán and former PM Bajnai in the light of the 2014 election. Both left and right-wing columnists wonder if Bajnai can succeed in uniting moderates, socialists, greens and liberals dissatisfied with the Orbán government.

In his speech on the anniversary marking the 1956 Hungarian revolution, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán spoke about the importance of freedom and sovereignty. The country complies with all the norms of the European Union, he told the largest crowd of the day, but added that Hungary cannot be ruled by foreign powers, and demanded that the EU should not apply double standards in the case of Hungary. In a brief aside, he suggested that the former Socialist leaders who rewarded the policemen involved in the brutal 2006 police attacks (see BudaPost March 6) are the heirs of the Communists who in 1956 fought against the revolution.

Addressing opposition demonstrators, former Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai said the 2014 election will not be the usual clash between the left and the right. He called for cooperation between opposition parties and civic organizations. He also announced the establishment of Together 2014, a “centrist” electoral alliance which aims to unite moderate forces including Socialists, Greens and civic groups. Bajnai distanced himself from the Gyurcsány government, and explained that in contrast to Orbán”s divisive politics, he will strengthen solidarity, seek the cooperation of moderates and speed up European integration.

Népszabadság devotes three separate commentaries to the events of the anniversary. In a front page editorial it welcomes Bajnai”s effort to unite the opposition parties and groups, but the main left-wing daily finds it somewhat disappointing that Bajnai has not yet specified the details of that co-operation . As for PM Orbán, Népszabadság contends that the Prime Minister has again avoided talking about the economic and social problems the country faces. Instead, he singled out two enemies to bash – the European Union and Hungarian left-wing parties.

In a separate column, Róbert Friss asks to Bajnai’s claim to lead the opposition and whether they will manage to assess their own past performance critically.

In the same daily, Miklós Hargitai finds PM Orbán’s parallel between the Soviet Union and the European Union disturbing. In his most critical remark he likens the Premier to János Kádár, who four months after the Revolution was crushed, staged a mass rally to show that he was in command.

Gábor Török thinks that Bajnai”s strategy is to position himself in the centre and align not only left-wing and liberal voters, but also moderates who are disappointed with the current centre-right government. In his popular blog the political analyst suggests this might change the rules of the game in Hungarian politics. If Bajnai succeeds in bridging the traditional right-left cleavage and manages to address centrist voters, Fidesz will also have to change its polarizing strategy in order to reclaim the support of the moderates, instead of focusing exclusively on the mobilization of its fully committed and partisan base, Török points out.

There is no centre in the Hungarian political spectrum, Szabolcs Szerető writes in Magyar Nemzet. The pro-government pundit finds Bajnai”s promise that he will help the lower classes odd. Szerető remarks that as Prime Minister Bajnai acted as “the lieutenant of the IMF and the European Commission”, and bowed to the dictates of international investors instead of helping Hungarian families struggling to meet their loan payments. Szerető adds that in contrast to 2006, this year”s event went peacefully and apart from one nasty case, no incidents were reported. He expresses solidarity with a reporter of Index.hu who was beaten up by a group of skinhead protesters shouting anti-Semitic slogans. Since anti-government demonstrators can freely gather and protest, the left-wing fear mongering about the end of democracy in Hungary is groundless, Szerető concludes.

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