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The chances of broad opposition cooperation

January 14th, 2019

Weeklies and the weekend editions of dailies try to asses the chances of a broad anti-government coalition emerging, and whether it might prove a challenge to Fidesz.

In Magyar Hírlap, historian Károly Szerencsés likens the opposition’s strategy to that of the Communists in 1919 and 1946. The pro-government columnist accuses the opposition parties of trying to mobilize the ‘mob’ to get back into power. Szerencsés, however, is confident that they will fail as Hungary is now a strong democracy. Szerencsés calls on the pro-government camp to express their insistence on freedom, law and justice by remaining calm and letting the opposition shout to their hearts content.

In Magyar Idők, Zsolt Jeszenszky also fears that unless taken seriously, the opposition may turn violent, as the Communists did in 1919. The pro-government commentator thinks that the Hungarian public is unlikely to sympathize with the current leaders of the opposition who he claims want first to provoke violence, then pose as martyrs. Once they realize that Hungarians need strong heroes rather than pitiful victims, the opposition will be taken over by violence-prone individuals “trained by the Open Society Foundations and other globalist organizations,” Jeszenszky speculates.

Magyar Demokrata editor-in-chief András Bencsik cautions the government side against self-complacency. The pro-government pundit remarks that even the colossal Titanic could be sunk by an unforeseen iceberg. Bencsik does not rule out the possibility that the opposition parties may create a unified platform that could challenge Fidesz – if not at the spring European Parliamentary election, then at the fall municipal elections. Bencsik speculates that the capture of Budapest by the opposition could further boost support for a united opposition.

Gábor Török in an interview with 24.hu thinks that a single list of opposition candidates at the European Parliament election could be a turning point in Hungarian politics. The centrist analyst contends that voters dissatisfied with the Orbán government clearly expect the opposition parties to cooperate, and if they fail to do so, they may lose what remains of their battered popularity. If they join forces and unite against the government, Fidesz will no longer be able to claim it is the central force on the Hungarian political stage (with two irreconcilable camps on its right and left), Török notes.

On Alfahír, Gábor Balogh argues against the joint opposition platform. The right-wing blogger suggests that the joint party list of the opposition parties would probably only very slightly strengthen their chances as the EP election is more proportional than Hungarian legislative and municipal elections. Balogh believes that the ‘silent majority’ has indeed had enough of Fidesz, but at the same time, they absolutely do not want any of the pre-2010 left-wing parties back in power, least of all former PM Gyurcsány “whom we can thank not only for Orbán’s rule but also for the victory of political psychopathy.”

In Heti Világgazdaság, Sándor Révész is also sharply opposed to catch-all opposition cooperation. The veteran liberal pundit thinks that Fidesz and Jobbik are equally enemies of those who want to “live in a Hungary which belongs to Western civilization”. Révész suggests that Jobbik is an even a bigger threat to “Western values” than Fidesz, as the governing party is willing to change its views if their interests dictate it, while Jobbik may dogmatically stick to their unacceptable views. Révész does not buy the argument that in government Jobbik would be more democratic and less corrupt than Fidesz.

In 168 Óra, Ervin Tamás, on the other hand, finds the idea of a broad anti-government platform at the EP election highly desirable. The left-wing analyst sees opposition cooperation as a pragmatic deal, an ephemeral alliance of diverse parties. In the case of the European Parliamentary election, the opposition is not expected to come up with a cohesive vision or a consistent plan to govern, Tamás notes. Their deep ideological divergences would thus not frighten voters away, he thinks, adding that their victory could be a huge symbolic blow for Fidesz.

Magyar Narancs in its weekly editorial also calls for the cooperation of all opposition parties. The left-wing liberal daily writes that the two-thirds majority for Fidesz in the 2018 Parliamentary election was due to the “complete inability of certain stupid jerks” who did not understand that only a broad opposition coalition can stop Fidesz. Magyar Narancs hopes that this time the ‘slave law’ will help opposition actors to recognize their absolute need to join forces.

In Élet és Irodalom, Márton Kozák goes so far as to claim that an opposition alliance including Jobbik “would be of historical importance”. The liberal pundit believes that the ability of the diverse opposition parties would reassure voters that the opposition consists of reasonable individuals and organizations. He adds that in a loose cooperation at the EP election, the opposition parties could retain their diverse political identities. Uniting against the government would send the clear message to voters that they stand for “the West, the rule of law, the separation of powers, and peace”, while Fidesz represents “the East, servitude, dictatorship and unrest.” Kozák thinks that if Fidesz wins again, Hungary will lose any chance of returning to “Western civilization” and “normalcy”.