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MSZP-Together 2014 negotiations

June 17th, 2013

On the eve of a new round of left wing opposition talks, a left-wing analyst argues that the two major competing leaders should find a quick compromise. A libertarian commentator describes Mesterházy and Bajnai as locked in a power-struggle, predicting that Bajnai”s best offer, to have joint candidates in individual constituencies but run on separate national tickets, will only show which of the two is the worse candidate.

The Socialist Party and Together-2014, a new party comprising various former anti-Fidesz protest groups and headed by Gordon Bajnai, acting prime minister in 2009, are at loggerheads on the issue of the prime ministerial candidate of a 2014 election coalition, with Mesterházy arguing that the Socialists have a more extensive political network and a completely renewed image, and Bajnai claiming to attract voters who would never vote for a Socialist candidate. (See BudaPost June 7 and May 27.)

In his Népszabadság article, Balázs Böcskei, founding director of the IDEA think tank, says the two opposition parties fail to notice and acknowledge their assets and liabilities. He describes Mesterházy as a much-better-than-expected tactician who succeeded in reining in the older generation of Socialists and getting rid of former PM and party chairman Ferenc Gyurcsány. Yet, according to the polls, the MSZP”s present support is only 14% –worse than in 2009 when Ferenc Gyurcsány stepped down as prime minister. While the majority of respondents would like to see Fidesz go, he explains, they prefer Bajnai to Mesterházy as a candidate for prime minister – except Socialist voters who prefer Mesterházy. Bajnai has a much smaller reach and support, he says, but despite the complaints that his party bites into the Socialist base, Together-2014 has also mobilized 250,000 undecided voters. The MSZP is the best organised and the strongest component of a future opposition alliance, Böcskei remarks, but it is the least capable of attracting new voters. He suggests that it will not be difficult for Mesterházy to agree with Bajnai’s drive for “an epochal change”, but does not go so far as to propose that the Socialist leader give up his ambition to be the candidate for Prime Minister.

In Heti Világgazdaság, László Seres, a libertarian columnist, thinks Bajnai has already failed and was only able to show how the opposition could never beat Viktor Orbán. Fidesz targets Bajnai in its campaign, thereby selecting him as PM Orbán’s “preferred challenger”, while Mesterházy”s supporters accuse him of harming the future left-wing union when criticising the MSZP from a centrist position.  However, he argues, Bajnai’s real sin of is not that he intended to occupy the centre but that he has obviously failed. He did not manage to reach out to the masses of disappointed former Fidesz voters, and is now stuck with an MSZP that happily emulates Fidesz in campaigning with populist promises. Bajnai as a transitional crisis-managing prime minister (in 2009-2010) did comparatively well, Seres believes, but leading the opposition to victory is a different job altogether. His centrist rhetoric rings hollow when in his entourage one finds a banker who used to be a former Communist party militiaman, while his main ally is a splinter group of former LMP MPs who “nurture the delusion that the promised new political era” will start with the implementation of their eco-social vision. Despite that gloomy picture, Seres still hopes that Fidesz can be beaten. While other dejected centrists advocate a boycott, he still intends to cast his vote because “those who stay at home, will support the past.”  In a final twist to his tale of woe, he suggests that those who vote may end up supporting the past anyway (meaning that they will, at best, bring the Socialists back to power).

In Vasárnapi Hírek, Budapet’s left-wing Sunday newspaper, veteran political analyst László Lengyel for insisting on their own candidate for prime minister even at the price of facing certain defeat. He also suggests Gordon Bajnai was mistaken to try to set up his own party, instead of offering his experience in government and good international relations to the Socialists. Lengyel reminds Bajnai of Napoleon’s feat upon his return from his St Helen’s island exile, when he turned the royal army against their commander in chief by telling the soldiers: I am your emperor, we fought together at Austerlitz, etc. He suggests Bajnai should face the National Board of the Socialist Party and tell them: “Here I am and let’s replace the Orbán government in alliance with all opposition democratic forces.” He believes Gordon Bajnai has failed so far, but suggests that the government will make many more mistakes during the months ahead, opening the way to an opposition victory.

Magyar Nemzet“s columnist Miklós Ugró notes that “Together” is a misleading description of the anti-Fidesz coalition and entitles his piece “Separately”. Mesterházy and Bajnai would rather go for it without one another, not to mention Ferenc Gyurcsány whose party, despite the efforts to exclude him from a leftist coalition, might end up tipping the scales. “To select the better candidate” for the joint campaign has never sounded convincing, Ugró says, as both Mesterházy and Bajnai think of themselves as the better choice, the former having a powerful party machinery behind him and the latter with “his virtual voters” and the allegedly non-existent financial support of (Hungarian-American professor) Charles Gáti as well as “the moneyed American lobby”.  Ugró predicts that Bajnai”s best offer will be an arrogant ultimatum: to have joint candidates in individual districts but separate lists, both party leaders running independently for the premiership. So much the better – he concludes – their competition will only show which of the two is the worse candidate.

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