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Parties already in campaign mode

May 15th, 2017

Commentators try to make sense of the bitter campaign which parties have launched, less than 12 months before the next parliamentary elections. The battles rage both across the main political fault line, and within the opposition camp.

In Figyelő, editor in chief Tamás Lánczi describes the typical opposition campaign slogans as a series of self-defeating moves. He recalls the mistaken tactics of Fidesz in 2006, when the right-wing party based its electoral campaign on the untrue claim that ‘we are worse off than four years ago’. In reality, living standards were higher than in 2002 and Fidesz lost those elections. Nowadays, Hungary has one of the lowest jobless rates in Europe (4.3%); the gross average wage has increased by 8.2% over the past two years, while public deficit is below the level required by the European Union, and public debt is decreasing year by year. This is why Lánczi believes the latest wave of opposition protests have had no political impact and left the governing forces with a 47 to 48% score in public opinion polls. The pro-government commentator finds it self-defeating for the opposition to claim that the government is producing widespread misery in Hungary. Politicians, Lánczi concludes, usually lose their sobriety when they are in a ruling position, but in Hungary it is the opposition that appears to be losing its sense of reality.

In Heti Válasz, Gergely Prőhle, a former high ranking Foreign Ministry official who is now the director of the Petőfi Museum of Literature in Budapest, deplores the tone of the campaign. He reminds his readers of the toughest poster of the 1990 electoral season which showed a Russian officer’s head from behind and the subtitle read ‘Tovarishchi koniets’, that is ‘Comrades, it’s over’. At the time, that was considered to be a borderline move, but today it would hardly be noticed. Prőhle finds two recent posters especially rude. One portrays leading government personalities, including the Prime Minister, with the text: ‘while you work, they steal.’ The government side responded with posters showing the leaders of the Socialist Party and Jobbik as puppet figures pulled on strings by the philanthropist George Soros and the oligarch Lajos Simicska respectively. “Such civilizational retardedness should not be publicised,” Prőhle writes. If that remains the style of political communication, sane people can hardly be blamed for turning away from politics completely, he warns.

In the same weekly, editor Gábor Borókai also complains that words nowadays, rather than aiming to convince the other side, are meant to destroy it. The reason, he speculates, is that a completely new set-up is being built by the ruling majority. The regime change did not deliver on its own great promise of opulence and happiness and after the financial crunch of 2008 the public demanded a kind of new order. The new government formed in the wake of the 2010 elections started redistributing the wealth inherited by the old elites from the Communist era and as a result of the ensuing bitter fight politicians see each other as enemies. Hatred, Borókai fears, might ‘destroy everything’. Before that happens, he writes, ‘we should stop snarling at each other’.

Magyar Narancs fiercely condemns the accusation by Ferenc Gyurcsány that PM Orbán is being blackmailed by Russia, on account of unspecified misdeeds discovered by the Russian secret services. In their regular weekly editorial, the editors ask why the international media has not picked up on that colossal news and why masses of Hungarians have not demonstrated demanding the immediate resignation of the Prime Minister. The answer is that nobody takes Mr Gyurcsány seriously any longer. He gave an ultimatum to the Prime Minister to sue him or be considered guilty of high treason. But the editors ask why Mr Gyurcsány has not denounced Mr Orbán himself if he wants to the matter to end in court. As a public figure, it would be his duty to alert the authorities. Magyar Narancs is convinced that the Russian side doesn’t refrain from interfering with politics abroad. But Mr Gyurcsány’s unfounded claims only corroborate the opinion of those who believe that fear of Russian interference is nothing more than a conspiracy theory.

In 168 Óra, Zoltán Lakner wonders if the Socialist candidate for Prime Minister can successfully exile Mr Gyurcsány from the political scene, or the two of them will fall together. Mr Botka called the charge brought by the DK Chairman against the Prime Minister irresponsible, and said it was one additional reason for him to retire. Lakner finds it obvious that the Socialist candidate is bent on building his party’s new profile rather than on an electoral alliance. He intends to win back lost supporters with a markedly left-wing policy, and by distancing himself from the unpopular former Prime Minister. The feud between the two will end sooner or later with the defeat of one or both of them, Lakner concludes.


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