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Meagre left-wing chances at elections in October

September 15th, 2014

Analysts agree that the municipal elections next month will bring another victory for Fidesz. Left-wing chances of victory are confined to a few municipalities only. Rebuilding the Left seems to be only possible in the long run.

In Magyar Narancs (print edition), Csaba Tóth, director of Republikon, a liberal think tank explains that the left-wing alliance may win five, perhaps even seven of the twenty-three district mayoral posts in the capital, but Ferenc Falus, their candidate for Mayor of Budapest will almost certainly be defeated by the incumbent, István Tarlós. The seven challengers will in fact mostly compete for Falus’s potential voters. Fidesz will most probably win a majority in all nineteen County councils, with far right Jobbik expected to emerge as the second strongest party in each case. Of the big cities, Szeged is the only one, with an incumbent Socialist mayor, where the left-wing candidate is the favourite. After the elections, Tóth predicts, the rivalry within the Left will continue, but it will be as futile then as it is now. He believes the main stumbling block is Ferenc Gyurcsány’s personality. With him on board, the left runs no chance of ever offering a viable alternative to Fidesz. Without him and his increasing number of followers, however, they will find it more and more difficult to recruit a majority of voters.

In Magyar Hírlap, philosopher Ervin Nagy, one of the co-founders of Jobbik, who left the radical right-wing organisation when it started voicing racist opinions and opposing Fidesz, thinks that we are witnessing the death-throes of the Socialist Party, “and can write its obituary” before the mandate of the Parliament elected this year expires. He doesn’t find that agony surprising, on the contrary he believes it would have been only too natural for the post-communist party to die out as soon as dictatorship was replaced by democracy. He warns the right wing, however, not to gloat over the sight of such rivalry within the leftist camp, because this is only the prelude to a stronger and more viable opposition to the present government. What is at stake within the Left is which group will replace the Socialist party as Fidesz’s leading challenger. The only question is whether any of the contenders will be able to come up with convincing and charismatic personalities. For the Socialist Party has been a stagnant pool of people who had no talent and were morally weak. They have been no match for Fidesz and therefore their disappearance will be a positive development not just for pro-government groups, but for left-wingers as well.

In 168 Óra, historian György Földes, who served as chairman of the National Board of the MSZP in the mid-90s, suggests that the Left must start reorganising itself from scratch. In his contribution to a debate on the crisis of the Left in the left liberal weekly, Földes suggests that the roots of the failure of the Socialist Party lie in the unfulfilled promise of the regime change, namely that the enrichment of the elite will be accompanied by higher living standards throughout society. The right wing has skilfully exploited the failure of modernisation and united around itself a majority of people left without a future who hope at least for a certain degree of security which might only be guaranteed by the state. The Socialists, on the contrary, were too confident that European integration would solve the problems of the majority. In consequence, they did not work out a strategy promising more social justice and more inclusion. By now it is too late for them; they are not considered either credible or fit for the job. As a result of the financial crisis, the Left is bumping into a similar problem in the West as well: the desire for safety and security might overwrite expectations of social justice. Under such conditions a new beginning is needed and in the short run left-wing forces should not hope to defeat Fidesz but rather to systematically rebuild themselves, Földes concludes.

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