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Weeklies on left-wing infighting

November 4th, 2013

Left-wing analysts fear fatal consequences for the left after the mutual recriminations during and after the joint opposition rally on October 23rd . Right-wing commentators say the reason is that the Left has nothing to say about the main problems of our age.
In his regular 168 óra editorial, Tamás Mészáros calls on left-wing leaders to be more thick-skinned and moderate their tone, as continued infighting within the opposition would inevitably reduce their chances of voting Viktor Orbán out of office next year. Those who chanted “unity, unity” during Socialist Party Chairman Attila Mesterházy’s speech at the opposition rally on the anniversary of the 1956 revolution (see e.g. BudaPost, Otober 28), Mészáros believes, caused grave damage to the Left “at the worst time and at the worst place” (“unity” to DK supporters means the inclusion of the DK into the already established MSZP-Together 2014 pact). If the opposition proves unable to create a common front, then the masses of undecided voters whose votes would be decisive to defeat the present government, can hardly be expected to join in. In fact, he explains, no matter how “repulsive” government policies may be, “active resistance needs more than disgust: it needs a real chance of victory”. Mészáros also suggests that the future opposition front should be confined to parties that have a palpable constituency, namely the Socialists, Gordon Bajnai’s Together 2014 and Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Democratic Coalition. He hints that former Liberals only represent themselves and are “merely led by personal ambitions”. The problem is that the two main actors “could not agree” with Mr Gyurcsány. That won’t change until a possible tilt in the balance of forces, he predicts, and meanwhile suggests patience and moderation.

In Magyar Narancs (print edition), the editor (Endre B. Bojtár) thinks no co-operation among opposition forces is possible unless they accept Mesterházy as their candidate for Prime Minister. His MSZP is by far the most popular opposition party and “he will get more votes for his list than Bajnai”. Bojtár does not raise the possibility of finding a third candidate, although this is precisely what Ferenc Gyurcsány proposed in his controversial speech on October 23rd. The editor quotes that speech as proof that the leader of the Democratic Coalition intends to ”derail” voters from the MSZP and Together towards his own party, and “aims his punches at the head”. The other two parties want him on their side “without anyone noticing”, as they need his votes but know that he would repel at least as many voters as he has behind him. In other words, the editor of Magyar Narancs writes, all parties concerned are acting in a completely rational way, the only problem is that such rationality will inevitably ruin them in the long run. In fact, the effects of the rally on October 23rd have been catastrophic, since effective communication between Gyurcsány and the rest has become virtually impossible. Under these conditions, Bojtár concludes, “not a single lie will be necessary from Fidesz propagandists to prove that they are unfit to run the country.” He has three suggestions, nevertheless, for the left-wing parties if they still want to fight a decent campaign:
– They should resign themselves to Mesterházy’s candidacy for Prime Minister;
– They should run on separate lists to offer the broadest possible choice to the electorate;
– Gyurcsány cannot be ignored, for the votes he can contribute are indispensable.

In Heti Válasz (print), editor Gábor Borókai pokes fun at the damage left-wing leaders did to themselves on October 23rd, saying “they managed to catch up with the amateurism of the Baja video-providing corporation”. (For the forged Baja election fraud video, see BudaPost, throughout October.) He describes the video as an expression of the Socialists’ frantic efforts to smear their opponents, and suggests that they resort to such methods because they have nothing substantial to offer. As long as public finances seemed to allow for lavish welfare spending, “left-wing and liberal parties targeted the electorate with material promises and with the prospect of a welfare state, but never cared for their souls”. Now that great promises are no longer credible, they are left with nothing but to accuse the government of  annihilating liberal democracy, and when they are not heeded, they accuse Fidesz of vote rigging. “Why should Fidesz buy votes, when it has a firm lead in the polls and wins most by-elections?, Borókai asks. A further problem, he continues, is that the video they produced as evidence of Fidesz wrongdoing turned out to be a forgery.

In Demokrata (print), Gábor Bencsik thinks the stakes are extremely high for the opposition, as an electoral defeat would result in immediate joblessness for the leading personnel. Therefore he predicts an exceptionally nasty campaign. Although he cautions the right against being too sure about electoral victory, he thinks the left has no proper leaders. He characterizes MSZP chief Attila Mesterházy as “featherweight”, Gordon Bajnai as “an untalented dilettante”, while Ferenc Gyurcsány, he admits, “is a character, albeit completely empty inside”. He dismisses the former liberal leaders who spoke at the rally on October 23rd as “zombie leftovers of their party”, but argues that the main problem of the left is not a shortage of proper leadership. What they really lack, is a programme, he continues, since the only message they have is “down with Orbán”. As for global finances, threatening demographic trends, ecological risks and the rest, they have no meaningful ideas to propose to the public. If they had proper strategies, Bencsik thinks, they would produce proper leaders as well. “Petty goals produce petty politicians, while great ones produce great statesmen” Gábor Bencsik writes, hoping that “voters will confirm that bipolar natural selection”.

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