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Commentators weigh up the weaknesses of opposition and government

October 22nd, 2012

Analysts are busy assessing how much credibility the government has lost due to its two successive adjustment packages, and whether the divided opposition will be able to  capitalize on the Prime Minister’s supposed weakening.

Within twelve days, György Matolcsy Minister for the National Economy announced two consecutive packages worth a total of 764 bn forints, and the EU is still not entirely satisfied with the proposed budget (see BudaPost October 19 and October 8). Most commentators think the government’s decision to go back on its word and postpone the promised raise for teachers damaged its credibility (see BudaPost October 15). The Democratic Trade Union of Teachers (PDSZ) threatened strike action on Friday. As the halving of the present extra levy on banks was also postponed, the President of the Bankers’ Union, Mihály Patai announced that he is considering resignation. Meanwhile two demonstrations announced for October 23rd promise a showdown between supporters of the government and its opponents. With former Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai scheduled to speak, feverish speculation has begun on the possibilities and pitfalls of left-wing cooperation (see BudaPost October 16 and 17).

Gábor Török, a popular centrist analyst, writes in his blog that the present government may have reached a “breaking point” where it must face the same disillusionment that brought down the previous Socialist government. With a two-thirds parliamentary majority behind it, Török argues, the government had a fair chance to move things ahead, but so far results have been slow to materialise, while the PM and his associates are forced to come up with ever newer and more convoluted explanations for their abandoned promises. The analyst thinks the most recent turns in the EU/IMF negotiations signal that the government has lost the initiative but it has to go on for fear of losing the cohesion funds. In the event that Fidesz ends up with both its competence and credibility in doubt, it will be seen as no better than its predecessors – Török warns.

Gellért Rajcsányi, deputy editor of Mandiner, writes in Magyar Narancs that the real surprise in Hungarian politics is how little the political landscape has changed in a period that brought so many upheavals. Although Fidesz has lost some of its popularity, it still leads the polls. Disappointed Fidesz-voters are far from ready to vote for a “post-Socialist” formation, since the divide between anti-communists and post-communists is still important, no matter how many ex-Socialist politicians there are “unfortunately” in Fidesz’s ranks too. The opposition is only united by its desire to see Orbán go, Rajcsányi continues – it is hard to find any other common ground. Bajnai for the moment “is more of a myth than a real person,” and even in his mythical form, he is divisive. In the real world of politics, a new political force needs many years of patient work to create a suitable background, networks and a viable political platform. Even if a cooperative opposition headed by Bajnai could by some miracle garner a majority at the next elections, the hard work of governing would require some solid ideas, even if under the disguise of some Machiavellian moves, and a thorough knowledge of how the state works. We will see if he can live up to that task – Rajcsányi concludes.

In a Népszava interview, constitutional lawyer Péter Hack, a former leading member of the Free Democrats who left the party in 2002, says the proposed voter registration scheme (see BudaPost, September 26) may eventually become the doom of Fidesz. The rule of law – he argues – is fundamental to democracy; people need a secure and predictable legal environment. The governing style of Fidesz has brought constant turmoil, and no political actor can be sure that the present or proposed rules will last till the 2014 general elections. And if we can expect the same turnout – about 5 million people – as in 2010, we might ask ourselves what those 5 million will think as they stand in the queue at a registration office. However, he adds, what moves voters is not legal issues but the economy: especially the fact that unemployment is high and enterprises are wary of investing in a country where certain tax rates can be doubled any day – a reference to the latest Matolcsy package, which includes a rise in the planned banking transaction levy.

Zsolt Bayer in his regular column in Magyar Hírlap points mockingly to the strange cast of characters expected on stage at the upcoming Milla demonstration on October 23. He notes that Péter Juhász, who has become chair of the newly formed association of Milla, is best known as an advocate of the legalization of weed (Juhász led an NGO advocating legalization, but left his post before he became a leading figure in Milla), another prominent Milla member is a rapper who is known for his explicit lyrics and who was “elected” as “the alternative president” by Milla sympathisers last year. Moreover, he continues, Milla fans can hear Bajnai speak and Gáspár Miklós Tamás (a liberal-turned-Marxist former dissident philosopher) will also address the crowd, even though he made clear that he would not support any attempt by Bajnai to return to the political stage. And finally, Bayer says, there is a third speaker, György Balavány who a few years ago wrote anti-Roma columns in Magyar Nemzet but on Thursday called for the punishment of Jobbik leader Gábor Vona for his racist remarks (see BudaPost October 20). (Balavány worked for Magyar Nemzet for more than ten years but in 2009 left the paper and publicly apologized “to all people he hurt unjustly” during his spell there. He then became an anti-establishment Christian columnist). Bajnai’s “casting” as Prime Minister in 2009 was one of the most entertaining weeks in Hungarian political history, Bayer adds, and recalls that he was Ferenc Gyurcsány’s candidate at the time. This time round, Gyurcsány has warned him that he has chosen “the wrong stage.”

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