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Weeklies on the opposition’s meagre chances

July 24th, 2017

Analysts on both Right and Left believe that the fragmented left-wing opposition stands no chance whatsoever of winning next year’s elections, at least not in their present shape. Right-wing commentators suspect however that the Socialist Party is doomed even in the longer run.

In 168 Óra, Zoltán Lakner, a leading left-wing political analyst starts his column by predicting that ‘there is nothing that can prevent Fidesz from winning in 2018’, as it has preserved its strong core constituency. It does not command a majority within the electorate but the opposition confronting it reminds Lakner of a heap of splintered glass. He enumerates all the conflicting plans left-wing players have put forward to unite their disparate groupings into one electoral alliance and finds all of them unrealistic. MSZP front-runner László Botka wants all left-wing parties to have one single electoral list and joint candidates in all constituencies, but refuses to co-operate with DK leader Ferenc Gyurcsány, whom he considers as the symbol of the pre-2014 era. Mr Gyurcsány’s party, however, remains far stronger than any potential allies of the MSZP.  Marxist philosopher Miklós Gáspár Tamás has called on all parties apart from the MSZP to abstain from putting up candidates and invite their supporters to vote for the Socialists, if they want to remove the incumbent government. Lakner deems it impossible for both of these proposals to be accepted by the other left-wing groups. He also dismisses an idea by Miklós Haraszti, a former prominent liberal MP, that a temporary alliance should be concluded with Jobbik to send the present government packing  and introduce a proportional electoral system which would free them from the constraint of forming electoral aliances. Lakner thinks that if the Left wants to appear as a force fighting for the rule of law and human rights, it should defeat Jobbik rather than cooperate with it. On a more general note, he remarks that left-wing actors speak about technicalities a lot more than about programs that could win over voters who are passive at present.

In Magyar Narancs, Ferenc Gegesy, who served as the successful liberal mayor of the 9th district of Budapest for twenty years, thinks that the plan put forward by his former fellow liberal Gáspár Miklós Tamás to unite all left-wing voters behind the MSZP is unviable. An MSZP list, even if it features members of other parties, he argues, cannot win, because the Socialist Party has shown no signs of renewal over the past years. During its first four year term in government, Fidesz lost 600 thousand voters. Of these the MSZP, which had lost twice as many by 2010, could only recuperate a third. Since then Gegesy has seen no improvement on the part of the Socialist Party. However, without some discernible performance in politics, Gegesy writes, the MSZP cannot be perceived by the electorate as a serious alternative to Fidesz. It can, of course, strive to be confirmed as the leading opposition force, which might serve its ambitions well – and Fidesz’s too, but not the interests of the country, he concludes.

In Magyar Demokrata, Péter Farkas Zárug suspects that we are witnessing the ‘last hours of the MSZP’. He identifies Ferenc Gyurcsány as the main culprit for the Socialist Party’s demise. He therefore finds it logical that since 2010, successive MSZP party leaders have tried to make people forget that their’s was Gyurcsány’s party. Such attempts have been blatantly unsuccessful, he suggests. Three years ago, they were forced to team up with Mr Gyurcsány in the electoral campaign, and their alliance predictably failed to produce any substantial progress. Meanwhile, the old conflicts within the Left continue to divide its various factions. On the opposing side, Fidesz has substantially broadened its media space and sees no threat in the new MSZP chairman, Gyula Molnár, who in reality is a representative of the old guard. The real question is not whether the MSZP will lose the next election, which is taken for granted by Zárug. He ponders rather whether the Socialist paty can survive a third consecutive term in opposition. And If yes, whether they should seek to survive by struggling to grab power from Fidesz or by striking a deal with it in order to lead a comfortable life in opposition. Zárug thinks that Népszava, the Socialist daily which has former party treasurer László Puch behind it, has opted for the latter choice. In one way or another, he suggests these are perhaps the last hours of the MSZP as we came to know it in 1989.

In his weekly editorial in Figyelő, Tamás Lánczi views the weakness of the left-wing opposition not just as an electoral phenomenon, but as an expression of its ideological disorientation. He sees uninterrupted continuity in the ideological base that has helped left-wingers frame the disparate situations they have faced over the past seven decades. From 1945 until the regime change, they saw their opponents as promoters of nationalism against their allegiance to the Soviet Union, which thought it was superior to ‘particularisms based on ancestral links and loyalties’. They regularly branded their critics as right-wingers, therefore chauvinists, therefore fascists, therefore anti-Semites. Similarly, nowadays leftists and liberals represent a universalist ideal against national interests and condemn those who do not conform with their ‘Wilkommenskultur’ (welcoming immigrants to Europe). They believe in a world without nations, genders and borders, fascists and thus anti-Semites, he claims. The problem is that these accusations have been debunked by the presence of the Israeli Prime Minister in Budapest. Lánczi believes that such ‘20th century dogmas have passed their expiration dates’ and the left should get on with the painful and drawn-out process of mourning over their graves.


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