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Botka becomes officially Socialist Prime Minister candidate

The Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) officially nominated Szeged mayor László Botka as its candidate for Prime Minister during a party nomination congress Saturday, giving him sweeping powers and placing him at the head of MSZP as it struggles to overcome Fidesz in 2018 parliamentary elections.

The party's delegates, by nominating Botka, formally accepted the political program he authored and released on May 10. The program, titled "Let's do justice!", requested a number of powers from the party which, as reports, give him substantial sway within MSZP and could cause serious conflicts in the party.
Perhaps most importantly, Botka has insisted that any MSZP candidate running in any of the country's 106 constituencies first be personally approved by him. Botka also demanded that he have personal rights of approval in the formation of the party's nationwide elections list.
Botka made no secret of which MSZP figures he would not be willing to approve to run on the party's list: another element of his program states that "the main actors in the 2010 failure, those embodying the policies that led to Fidesz's two-thirds victory, must be brought into the background. These politicians may not appear on MSZP's 2018 national elections list."
This cleaning-house of prominent MSZP politicians from the 2010 election, in which Fidesz inflicted a catastrophic defeat on the party, could result in conflicts. Botka casting such a wide net will result in quite a few current politicians being barred from running in this election, including former party chairman and current MP Attila Mesterházy, who was MSZP's prime ministerial candidate that year, and former party president and education minister István Hiller. According to, both prominent MSZP figures, while present in the 2010 election campaign, did not play substantial roles in the party's leadership at the time which would have led to the political failure.
Nonetheless, based on Botka's strict conditions, both men can count on being sidelined in 2018.
Botka has also forbidden any MSZP politicians from collaborating with Fidesz.
"Any and all future cooperation with Fidesz, the main enemy of Hungarian democracy, is prohibited," he wrote in his program. "Whoever cannot abide by this rule is not worthy of our party and has no place among us."
It is also rumored that Botka will stand at the head of MSZP's Nationwide Elections Committee, which will manage the party's preparations for the election. This body, which is expected to be formed by the party on Monday, will contain members of the party's leadership, including party president Gyula Molnár, who will lose his powers over the party during the campaign, supplanted by Botka.
With the acceptance of Botka's many conditions for running, and his placement at the head of the MSZP election committee, he is endowed with sweeping powers over his party for at least the remainder of the campaign season leading up to 2018 elections. Whether MSZP can maintain unity, and its collective support for the Szeged mayor as he takes the reins of the party, remains to be seen.

Commentators both on Left and Right agree that Mr Botka will face an uphill struggle to challenge Viktor Orbán.
In Magyar Nemzet, Mariann Katona believes that Mr Botka's left-wing slogans calling for the taxation of the rich may successfully mobilize the MSZP rank and file, but he would also need to woo more liberal voters in order to challenge PM Orbán in 2018. The independent conservative columnist recalls a recent poll according to which more voters would like to see him as Prime Minister than Viktor Orbán, but remarks that the opposition is too fragmented for Mr Botka to have more than a slim chance at the 2018 election.
Despite the overwhelming support of MSZP delegates, Mr Botka faces a very difficult task, György Sebes comments in Népszava. The left-wing columnist points out that Mr Botka will not only have to unite voters dissatisfied with the current government, but may also have to fight other luminaries within the Socialist Party if he really wants to sideline those MSZP politicians he blames for the Fidesz landslide victories in 2010 and 2014.
Magyar Idők's Ferenc Kis points out that in the six months since Mr Botka's rise as the likely Socialist frontrunner, the MSZP has gained no support. The pro-government columnist thinks that Mr Botka has no credibility and voters do not believe that Hungary would become a less polarized or less unequal place with him as Prime Minister.

Last Updated on Thursday, 01 June 2017 11:54

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