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LMP’s decision not to join Together-2014 draws criticism and praise

November 20th, 2012

While centre-left columnists find the decision self-destructive, and suggest that it plays into the hands of Fidesz, centre-right bloggers celebrate it as a triumph of principles over political pressure.  Some analysts forecast a split in the party, while others claim it was high time for LMP to decide where it stands. Major right-wing papers have not commented on the decision as yet.

Early on Sunday morning, after weeks of tension and speculation, the small opposition green party, LMP decided not to accept an invitation to join Together 2014, an umbrella alliance formed by former PM Gordon Bajnai and two NGO leaders with an eye on the next elections. With 84 votes to 77 among the elected representatives, the congress decided not to join, although they declared they were ready to have talks with Together 2014. This may mean that LMP prepares to enter the campaign with its own candidates in at least most electoral districts. The decision is a victory for one of the founders, András Schiffer, who relied on members from outside Budapest, while his opponents had the support of Budapest candidates. Benedek Jávor, the LMP floor leader resigned on the spot as did his two deputies.

In Népszabadság Miklós Hargitai characterizes LMP’s move as a sign of a real division within the party. While Schiffer insisted on independence, claiming that an alliance with Together 2014 would further entrench a two-party system, deputy floor leader Gergely Karácsony warned that by taking a “tough stance”, LMP may easily help Orbán strengthen his “wannabe one-party state.” Hargitai believes the decision puts an end to a potential rainbow-coalition, and means that LMP does not forgive the losers of 2010. During the debates, reports Hargitai, LMP leaders acknowledged that they may have to look for new supporters. Although the celebrated courage looks rather like the daring of a blind horse, in a popular Hungarian saying, if it succeeds the story will be textbook-material, he concludes.

Political analyst Gábor Török was the first among well-known pundits to comment on the decision. He argues that whatever the content of the decision, the very fact that a decision was taken benefits the party, which has been under constant fire from the media and political pressure groups to opt for or against a broad left electoral cooperation. Now the chips are down. It is too early to tell how the decision will affect the future of LMP, Török writes.

Magyar Narancs, on the other hand, echoing many left-liberal commentators, finds the decision unfathomable. It is hard to see – they argue – what kind of base constituency Schiffer is aiming for, as apart from a tiny green-minded group, their only pool is made up of disappointed left-liberal voters. The decision, apart from its apparently suicidal aspect, writes an obviously angered author, is a threat to the country’s future, because it weakens centrist forces and helps PM Orbán keep his grip on the country.

One of Mandiner’s founders – Ákos Gergely Balogh, alias Turul-2k2 – compares LMP to Fidesz in the year 1992: both small parties, with dismal election results but relatively high popularity. At the time, writes Balogh, tensions grew within Fidesz between Gábor Fodor (a co-founder) and Viktor Orbán over the relationship to the liberal Free Democrats. Fodor and many of his followers left the party in 1993 and Orbán took the rocky road of independence, while the Fodor-wing eventually joined the Free Democrats. However, the decision of Orbán and his backers paid off in 1998 when Fidesz won the elections and could form a coalition government. Yet LMP needs to add further elements to its political package beyond green issues and the fight against corruption, concludes the author, so they are at the beginning of a difficult journey.

Péter Magyari on Index celebrates the decision as the recognition that apart from Jobbik, there is only one small party that can attract voters who are disenchanted with the political elite of any hue. LMP decided not to serve as a fig leaf for Bajnai’s coalition, which will eventually lead to a victory of the MSZP, despite Bajnai’s statements to the contrary. The road ahead for LMP will be difficult, as many LMP voters will prefer Bajnai if they are forced to choose, yet LMP may attract disappointed Fidesz-voters in their stead. LMP’s staunch anti-capitalism might seem a disadvantage in this respect, but Fidesz is not a champion of the markets either.

János Dési in Népszava calls the decision a balm for Viktor Orbán’s wounds, at a time when the PM has just been praised by Lukashenko for recognizing the drawbacks of democracy.  LMP representatives might have had the best of intentions, but the road to hell is paved with good intentions: they have just presented “the Dear Leader” with a gift that supports his tactics in keeping his right-wing empire together, while counting on the fragmentation of the opposition. The good news is, he concludes, that the vote proves there are reasonable people in LMP, there is still time, and if LMP finally disappears from the map, no one will grieve over its tomb.

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