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Opposition divided on 1956 anniversary

October 31st, 2016

Print weeklies agree that the left-wing opposition was unconvincing in its celebration of the anniversary of the 1956 revolution.  Opinions diverge on whether the opposition can recover – any time soon – from its current state of paralysis.

In his weekly Heti Válasz editorial, Gábor Borókai describes the ‘whistling demonstration’ of one part of the opposition during the official commemoration in front of the Parliament building a ‘miserable initiative’.  (For the ‘whistling scene’ on October 23, see BudaPost, October 25)  The opposition missed an opportunity to present its own view of the past and future on the anniversary, he argues. Most of the left wing forces gathered to listen to speeches which had just one basic theme – opposing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. No wonder that they did not make a great impression. On the other hand, those who used the official state ceremony to express their dissatisfaction with the Prime Minister fared even worse, Borókai suggests. They accuse him of dictatorial ambitions while it was them who prevented the pro-government public from celebrating. They shot themselves in the foot, the editor of Válasz believes and concludes that they did a great favour to Mr Orbán, who at the sight of such a wretched performance from his opponents, ‘can lean back and order a cup of coffee’.

In 168 Óra, Zoltán Lakner explains the whistling show in front of the Parliament building as an attempt by Together to build its own independent image, and as such it may mark the birth of a new strategy which may result in opposition forces withdrawing from Parliament and other elected institutions altogether. Lakner quotes Together chairman Viktor Szigetvári’s recent comments that he sees less and less chance of sending ‘the Orban regime’ packing peacefully. The Democratic Coalition on the other hand has already withdrawn its MPs from Parliament (See BudaPost, October 13). Lakner then asks whether the opposition should not also boycott the next elections. For the moment, however, negotiations on running in one single group in 2018 are underway, but the Left is in a much more discouraging shape than it was in 2012 when such a unity yielded pathetic results. Lakner believes that it is useless to repeat the old errors and that following an uncharted road makes more sense than driving into a familiar blind alley . He doesn’t explicitly call upon the opposition to boycott the next elections, but suggests that their only chance lies in a profound renewal aimed at mobilising new segments of society.

In Magyar Narancs, Dániel Hegedűs a researcher of DGAP, a Berlin based German think tank warns the opposition that it is futile to believe that the European Union or the West in general will do the job for them. All forces of the democratic opposition, as he calls them, share the view that Europe should do more in order to protect democracy in Hungary, but there is hardly anyone who could tell the West what it should do for them. The European Union and Hungary’s Western partners, he explains, cannot win elections for the Hungarian opposition. If the latter wants to use them as a political resource, it should tell them what it expects them to do. Would it be prepared for instance to support financial sanctions against Hungary?, he asks. The Western community is in fact passive in its dealings with Hungary about divergences concerning political and constitutional issues, Hegedűs writes, but that is largely due to the fact that the opposition in Hungary doesn’t look like a credible alternative. The West makes cost-benefit calculations before embarking on political initiatives, the analyst continues, and it has very little to reap from supporting the Hungarian opposition, while it risks losing a lot in clashes with the Hungarian Prime Minister, who has turned himself into an international actor with his stance in the migration crisis. As long as the opposition doesn’t turn itself into a real alternative with clear international strategies, “nothing will change on the Western front” Hegedűs concludes, paraphrasing the title of the Erich Maria Remarque’s 1928 novel, All Quiet on the Western Front.

In Demokrata, on the other hand, Sándor Szarka suggests that the European Commission is constantly trying to corner the Hungarian government, although successive attempts to occasion it serious difficulties have failed and failed again. OL AF, the anti-fraud agency of the European Union has even increased the number of employees dedicated to scrutinising the use of EU funds in Hungary tenfold, while the commission itself is preparing a report on this topic which may lead to the partial or total suspension of European funds to Hungary. Szarka finds the timing suspicious, and believes that it is related to Hungary’s increasingly resolute stance against compulsory migrant relocation plans by the European Commission. He then lists a series of earlier procedures which eventually yielded nothing and believes that given Hungary’s strong budgetary position, even if the rumours about the intentions of the Commission do prove correct, the government would be able to bridge the period during which the payments would be suspended.

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