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Left-wing coalition in the making

July 22nd, 2013

Commenting on the first round of talks between MSZP leader Attila Mesterházy and his rival and ally, Gordon Bajnai, analysts agree that their alliance is likely to prove an uphill battle until next year’s elections.

Mandiner publishes a long analysis by the pro-government Nézőpont (Viewpoint) think-tank on the six options open to Gordon Bajnai. Each suffers from severe drawbacks. The last left-wing prime minister failed in his original attempt to impose himself as the undisputed leader of the Left and is now bound to compromise with Mesterházy whose constituency is almost three times as broad as his own. Thus Bajnai will most probably have to give up his ambition to become the joint candidate for prime minister. He would find it exceptionally difficult to govern anyway, as Mesterházy will surely have an incomparably large parliamentary group than Together 2014, Bajnai’s new party. He could however ask a high price for stepping back, namely to become the left-wing candidate for Mayor of Budapest, which would enable him to build a solid power base in the capital. Alternatively, he could become left-wing floor leader, from which position he could run for the post of premier in 2018. A fourth option would be for him to lead the Left in next year’s election for the European Parliament – a kind of voluntary exile, hoping for a comeback some time later. He could also withdraw from politics altogether – an improbable choice, for in that case he could easily become the scapegoat to blame in case the left is defeated. Finally, analysts do not exclude the possibility that the two rivals will choose a third person to lead the opposition, who would take the blame for a probable defeat or could easily be replaced in case of victory.

On 444, a new left-liberal leaning news site founded by former journalists of Index, Péter Magyari remarks that the two partners show no great enthusiasm towards each other, but they know that they face certain defeat if they fail to reach agreement. Fidesz is well ahead in the polls, but the same surveys show four million undecided or uncommitted people, while Fidesz would get just over two million votes, if the elections were held next Sunday. The problem is that the Socialists have been unable to increase their own constituency, which numbers about 1.2 million. To cap it all, the opposition is even more unpopular among voters than the government. Although a slight majority of respondents would favour a government change, over 60 per cent are dissatisfied with the opposition. Magyari does not see any chance for that trend to change, for the new utility tariff cuts and teachers’ pay rises scheduled for the autumn might certainly further bolster the government’s position.

In its regular weekly twin editorials, Magyar Narancs (print edition) is certain that the two parties will eventually reach an agreement on all issues, but that optimism is based on a pessimistic consideration: should they fail to agree, they could not face their voters and tell them that they have done their best. Magyar Narancs, which only six weeks ago suggested that the two parties should run on separate lists and choose their prime ministerial candidate according to the number of votes cast for each list, now takes it for granted that the Socialists and Together-2014 will have joint candidates in the individual constituencies and will agree on a joint list and a joint candidate for Prime Minister.

Nevertheless, the editor believes that will not be sufficient in itself to win the elections. In his page 3 column, he urges the European Union to withhold agricultural and cohesion funds in order to promote a government change in Hungary. He recalls that although the IMF and “global financial circles” are perceived by the population as more or less hostile entities, that is not the case with the European Union, which still enjoys the support of over 60 per cent of poll respondents. Road-building anomalies and the transfer of the allocation of European funds under the control of the Prime Minister’s office would be sufficiently strong reasons to withhold financial support from Hungary. “This is the only way to topple Orbán,” Magyar Narancs suggests.  “Don’t send them money at least”, the editor concludes, “and we will take care of the rest”.

In Magyar Nemzet, business commentator Zsuzsa Nagy Vajda thinks the main problem the opposition is facing is the promising performance of the government. No left-wing government has ever managed to bring budget deficits below three per cent of GDP, therefore opposition leaders will have a hard time convincing the public that they are more fit to run the economy than the present administration, she writes. Hungary is getting further and further away from the danger zone of the ten most vulnerable economies, while under the last Socialist government she was only a few days away from bankruptcy – that is why a massive bailout loan from the European Union and the IMF was inevitable. Now Hungary is about to repay the rest of that credit ahead of schedule, Nagy Vajda remarks. She admits that last year the GDP did shrink, but believes that was the consequence of decades of mismanagement, and the past three years were too short a period to restructure the national economy.

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