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Controversial 1956 commemorations

October 25th, 2013

Analysts across the political spectrum agree that politicians used the anniversary of the 1956 revolution to kick off the election campaign.

In his speech on the anniversary, PM Orbán said the revolution was crushed by external powers aided by Hungarian traitors. Addressing the participants of the Peace March organized by pro-government groups, he suggested that the current opposition parties are again cooperating with foreign powers and would deliver Hungary to colonizers if only they could. He asked the audience to support his government at the 2014 election and thereby defend the achievements if the past three and a half years.

The opposition rally on October 23rd day ended with an unexpected scene, with part of the audience chanting slogans during Socialist Party Chairman Attila Mesterházy’s speech. Heeding to demands by former PM Ferenc Gyurcsány, the Socialists and Gordon Bajnai’s Together-2014 party invited liberal speakers and Mr Gyurcsány to address the rally (see BudaPost October 23). Three liberal speakers sharply criticized the electoral pact concluded by Bajnai and Mesterházy, while Gyurcsány openly called it undemocratic and urged all opposition parties to nominate a new candidate for prime Minister. MSZP spokesman Zsolt Török said the rally had been “hacked” by Mr Gyurcsány’s Democratic Coalition.

Politicians both on the left and the right seem to agree that there is no middle ground between the government and the opposition and frame the 2014 election as a freedom fight, György Sebes comments in Népszava. The left-wing journalist finds it counterproductive that the leaders of the opposition spend so much time criticizing each other. As for the likelihood of including Gyurcsány’s Democratic Coalition in the left-wing alliance, Sebes notes that the crowd clearly endorsed this option, but such cooperation is not possible if the MSZP rejects it. Concerning the Premier’s speech, Sebes accuses PM Orbán of falsifying history by linking the current government’s policies to the aims of the 1956 revolution.

In Népszabadság, Miklós Hargitai likens the pro-goverment demostrators to the zealous pro-Communist crowds attending official events before 1989. The columnist dismisses claims that over half a million people took place in the Peace March and contends that there were fewer people in Heroes’ Square than in earlier peace marches..

In the light of the commemorations, there is a huge contrast between the right and the left,” Zsuzsanna Körmendy writes in Magyar Nemzet. While PM Orbán spoke mostly about the 1956 revolution, national independence and freedom, the opposition parties used the occasion to bash the current government, she continues. The pro-government commentator notes that Mr Orbán’s supporters should prepare to weather a harsh and aggressive left-wing electoral campaign.

Writing in Magyar Hírlap, Gyula T. Máté also finds it sad that the opposition parties were busy waging their internal battle even on the anniversary.  The conservative columnist finds the speeches of the left-wing politicians daunting and boring. He accuses the left of intending “to have an IMF commissar in charge of the country, to pass a party decree overruling the constitution in order to promote the interests of multinational companies and to put Hungarians at the unconditional service of EU bureaucrats and of foreign investors colonizing the country.”

The leaders of the left have no political programme other than replacing the Orbán government, György Vári writes in Magyar Narancs. The centrist pundit believes that the only message of the left was that Orbán should get lost. “The opposition demonstrated that it is not the solution, but part of the problem”, Vári contends.

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