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Left-wing weeklies fear an uphill campaign

September 23rd, 2013

Left-leaning weeklies think it will be extremely difficult for the Socialists and their allies to match the governing right wing. They accuse Fidesz of smart but unfair campaign methods.

In his thorough-going analysis of campaign stakes and methods in Figyelő, György Dózsa thinks President János Áder’s appeal to political parties for moderation in their campaigns came too late, as the campaign is already underway and its tone is anything but moderate. He quotes the warlike language of the “battle for tariff cuts” heralded by the Prime Minister, when he told a friendly audience last week (See BudaPost September 18) that tariff cuts will be the most important stake of the election. In other words the message will be: vote Socialist if you want higher utility bills. The left wing seems paralysed, Dózsa writes, as that message is too popular to oppose. To say that they would cut those utility tariffs by 30 per cent would backfire. On one point alone – the forex debt stricken masses – Fidesz has not been successful, despite its repeated efforts to bail out at least some of them (see BudaPost 2011 through 2013). The poorest debtors could not avail themselves of the subsidised payoff schemes offered by the government, and when some fell under the spell of the far right Jobbik party, Fidesz realised that new measures were necessary. The government called on the banks to come up with a solution by 1 November. 80 per cent of Hungarian society believes in a stronger state and more revenue distribution. These are in principle left wing values, but the right-wing governing party uses them in its own campaign. Fidesz leaves the opposition only a few options with which to counter attack, Dózsa thinks. They might argue that the government has not created enough new jobs, for instance, or that the football stadium to be built in the Prime Minister’s native village is a waste of money. He suggests that small issues should not be neglected, and recalls that micro marketing was one of the factors that made the first Obama presidential campaign a success.

In his regular weekly editorial, the editor of Magyar Narancs calls household utility cuts “a destructive magic weapon”, as they allow the government to distribute extremely expensive pre-electoral gifts to the population, without burdening either the party’s budget or public finances. He deplores but understands the fact that the Socialists don’t dare to oppose these measures, as in the six months remaining until the elections “everybody wants to be friends with poor, undecided voters”. The squeeze imposed on the providers is accompanied by a drive by the government to buy back those utilities, and the editor believes that such an approach will put off potential foreign investors. In addition, he suggests that the tariff cuts and the drive for nationalisation will end up impairing those services. If higher education and the public health service face difficulties nowadays, this is due to the Fidesz-promoted referendum which cancelled co-payment reforms in those two fields in 2008, the editor of Narancs concludes.

In his 168 óra editorial, Tamás Mészáros calls on left-wing opposition parties to end their infighting and unite forces to defeat the government next year. He remarks with satisfaction that although the Socialists concluded an exclusive  electoral pact with Gordon Bajnai’s Together party, they did not “close the doors”, and the alliance might later be broadened. If former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Democratic Coalition turns out to be a weighty factor in later polls, he continues, things might be re-negotiated. At the same time he warns all parties that after campaigning against one another it will be difficult to get their followers to eventually vote for each other’s candidates.

In Élet és Irodalom, Mátyás Eörsi suggests that Gordon Bajnai’s quest to become the leader of the Left has been a complete failure and now it is even doubtful if his party will be able to make it into parliament. Eörsi was a founding member of the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats and served first as their floor leader, then State Secretary for Foreign Affairs in the 2000s. He is now a member of Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Democratic Coalition. Bajnai’s idea was to offer an umbrella-organization to the existing left-wing forces, uniting them under his own leadership. In other words, he offered to become the Messiah of the left. The problem in Eörsi’s view is that Messiahs tend to quickly lose their appeal. This is precisely what is happening to Bajnai, whose popularity has been slowly but surely sinking over the past eleven months. Had he not been impatient, he would only have those problems after the elections. First of all, because he would be unable to fulfil the unrealistic expectations people usually have towards a Messiah. And secondly, because all the party leaders he would unite would inevitably feel more competent than him, and since they all have what he lacks, namely a party behind them, they would certainly have the upper hand. Another mistake Eörsi reproaches Bajnai for, was to come forward as a candidate in the first place. Messiahs have to be longed for, summoned and desired, rather than auto-candidate themselves.  Nevertheless, Eörsi thinks a Messiah would be quite welcome on the left, and hopes for one to appear on the horizon. But Bajnai, he believes, has spoiled his chances.

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