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Sunday closing decision exposes inner tensions in government

April 15th, 2016

After several high-profile ministers and government MPs abstained from Tuesday’s vote on the bill to abolish Sunday shop closures, Index and Magyar Nemzet delve in intricate Kremlinology.

In Magyar Nemzet György Pápay writes about the unlikely alliance between the Minister of Human Capacities Zoltán Balog and Minister of the Prime Minister’s Office János Lázár. Both were absent when Parliament revoked its Sunday Closure Act. Pápay details how the two ministers made a joint statement defying Orbán’s threat to sack dissenting cabinet members, in which they announced they would not attend the Parliamentary vote as a way of opposing the bill ending the shopping ban (See BudaPost April 13th, 2016) while remaining loyal to the government at the same time. The author acknowledges that the vote affected Fidesz’s political ally, KDNP in a more unpleasant way (since the bill on the ban last year was originally KDNP’s pet project see BudaPost December 9th, 2014), but the Christian Democratic Party’s MPs were allowed to say a ‘polite no’ (the expression was actually coined by Péter Harrach, leader of the party’s parliamentary group) and abstain from voting. But the case of Balog and Lázár is different, the author suggests – the more so since the latter has tended to overstep the mark recently in other ways too. Whatever their original intention was, they have now demonstrated that it is possible to confront Viktor Orbán himself. If we add Parliamentary speaker László Kövér’s absence from the vote as well, we can see that this story is about much more than what shops do on Sundays, the author asserts.

With the demise of the law, cracks within the KDNP became obvious to everyone, András Dezső suggests on Index. In the liberal news site’s commentary, he identifies two main groups with two different strategies in the party, strategies that both aim to cope with the KDNP’s insignificance. The first strategy, the author asserts, strives to avoid the spotlight and just survive in the shadow of the bigger coalition partner, while the other struggles to be insignificant without appearing to be so. Dezső thinks the latter is an aggressive political stance (represented by Péter Harrach and other prominent MPs) which has now failed big time, since the Sunday closure law was its hallmark product. However, the author claims, the small party is ravaged with a myriad of further rifts, and in fact consists of as many factions as there are members in KDNP’s 17 strong parliamentary group, making its power play rather elaborate and unpredictable.

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