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Left-liberal thoughts on possible opposition strategies

August 17th, 2020

As the final editions of all the weeklies went to print before the agreement on Friday by opposition party leaders to stand behind a single candidate in all constituencies at the next general election in 2022, they carry commentaries on the opposition’s options in general terms only.

In Élet és Irodalom, philosopher Péter Béndek criticises the latest solution proposed by well-known liberal authors who, in last week’s issue of the same weekly, proposed a freeze on the activities of individual opposition parties, whilst they form a united electoral alliance. The authors, former Liberal party leader and cabinet minister Bálint Magyar and sociologist Márton Kozák argued that under the partially majoritarian Hungarian electoral system, the incumbent government can only be defeated by a credibly united opposition. Béndek, a staunch conservative who is nevertheless a fierce critic of the government, suggests that, first of all, the two liberal authors should have begun by admitting their own mistakes in failing to understand that for historical reasons, the bulk of Hungary’s population sees political issues through a nation-centred lens. This is why, Béndek continues, highbrow globalist liberal ideas could not take hold over the past three decades. He agrees otherwise that the opposition must be as united as possible to win the elections, but believes that the strategy put forward by the two liberals is asking too much of the political actors involved. Freezing party political activity would require a degree of self-sacrifice that political leaders are certainly incapable of, he predicts.

In 168 óra, Zoltán Lakner thinks left-wing and liberal opposition parties should find a way to channel their successes in the European Parliament into domestic politics. Of course, they find it a lot easier to put through their ideas in the European Parliament, where a majority can always be mustered against the policies of the Hungarian government, unlike in the Hungarian National Assembly, he writes. Such successes, however, are framed by the government side as connivance with Hungary’s detractors. The opposition, Lakner suggests, should try and change this ruling narrative and convince the public that they act in Hungary’s interest. One way to prove this would be to propose direct European subsidies to cities, some of which are ruled by opposition mayors. Lakner doesn’t ask opposition parties to melt into one single party, but urges them to outline shared positions on major issues, so that they can appear to the public as one single group instead of five or six scattered and competing ones.

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