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Left’s Budapest mayoral candidate Falus steps down

October 1st, 2014

Commentators from right across the political spectrum agree that the Left is in complete disarray and chaos, as the left-wing Budapest mayoral candidate resigns and left-wing parties fail to reach an agreement on whether they should back a conservative candidate instead of Falus in the October 12 local election.

On Monday, Ferenc Falus announced his decision to step down as a Budapest mayoral candidate. He said that he decided to quit so that a wider alliance of anti-Fidesz voters can be created at the October 12 municipal election. Together 2014 and the Democratic Coalition said that they will support former Socialist Finance Minister Lajos Bokros running now as a mayoral candidate for the conservative Modern Hungary Movement (MOMA). In poll published two weeks ago by the Nézőpont pollster company, Bokros had a higher popularity among Budapest voters than Falus. Together 2014 leader Szigetvári said that Falus’s unpopularity was weakening the chances of other left-wing candidates in the municipal election.

Former LMP politicians who joined Together 2014, however, have said that they cannot support the conservative Bokros. MSZP Chair József Tóbiás and other leaders of the Socialists also announced that they would not support Bokros, known for his fiscal conservative ideas and the so-called “Bokros package” austerity measures introduced in 1995. The Budapest leadership of the MSZP, however, encouraged their sympathizers to vote for Bokros. The Liberal Party refused to withdraw its own candidate for mayor and support Bokros instead.

Lajos Bokros welcomed Falus’s decision to withdraw from the fray. He added, however, that he had not made any promises to the Left and would not be willing to revise his conservative liberal economic ideas.

The left-wing alliance has utterly failed, Péter Magyari comments in 444. The liberal pundit maintains that “the Left is in total ideological confusion”. Magyari recalls that Bokros, who now positions himself as a pro-EU centre-right politician, in 1995 introduced the harshest spending cuts of the past decades as a Finance Minister in the then Socialist-led government. He then became an MEP, and between 2006 and 2010 was in the same political group with the British Conservatives and the Polish national-conservative Law and Justice Party. Bokros, however, has at least been consistent in his fiscal conservative economic outlook, Magyar admits. Bokros’ neoliberal economic vision is the exact opposite of the current Fidesz government’s policies, Magyar contends.

In Kettős Mérce, András Jámbor welcomes Falus’s decision to step down. Falus’s performance as a candidate has only further weakened the Left’s chances, Jámbor suggests. Bokros, however, has no chance whatsoever of winning the Budapest local election, he adds. Jámbor doubts whether Bokros, with his reputation for anti-welfare and anti-redistribution measures, could be supported by Social Democrat voters.

The resignation of Falus means that the Left has been taken over by Liberals, Gyula Máté writes in Magyar Hírlap. The pro-government columnist suspects that Falus’ decision to step down plays into the hands of former PM Gyurcsány. Máté suggests that both the Socialists and Together 2014 have lost what still remained of their credibility, and from now on, Gyurcsány can further increase his dominance on the Left. Máté believes that Gyurcsány aims to reunite the fragmented Left under his own leadership.

The state of the Left gives reason for despair,” György Sebes declares in Népszava. The left-wing commentator regards Falus’s last minute improvisation as a sign of complete chaos on the Left. Sebes also believes that the MSZP is the main loser in this story, since Falus’s resignation seems to have created new rifts within the party. In an aside, he adds that the Left has “betrayed” left-wing voters in Budapest. Sebes concludes by congratulating István Tarlós in anticipation of his re-election as Budapest mayor.

In Magyar Nemzet, Szabolcs Szerető suggests that left-wing voters in Budapest are unlikely to find a candidate they can wholeheartedly support.  The conservative columnist claims that Bokros may have changed parties several times, but has remained faithful to his neoliberal Thatcherite economic ideas which consider austerity a cure for all economic ills.


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