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State of Hungary’s Left

Combining the four latest opinion polls (Republikon, Závecz, Tárki, and Medián), the average support for Hungary 's Socialists (MSZP) is only 12% among active voters. In the same category, Fidesz would receive 50.25% and Jobbik 19%. DK's support is 6%.

Republikon also included a question about people's opinion of the four declared candidates for the post of prime minister. The respondents were offered a choice of three people in two combinations. The first included Viktor Orbán, Gábor Vona, and László Botka; the second, Viktor Orbán, Gábor Vona, and Gergely Karácsony (Párbeszéd, Dialogue). In the first option Orbán received 38% of the votes, Botka 16%, and Vona 15%. The rest had no opinion. In the second option, where Karácsony took the place of Botka, the results for Orbán and Vona were practically the same and Karácsony received 14%, compared to Botka's 16%. Once Republikon looked at party affiliations, it turned out that, as opposed to Fidesz and Jobbik voters who overwhelmingly support their candidates, only 60% of the left-of-center voters find Botka a desirable candidate. Karácsony, chairman of a party with 1% support, received a fairly impressive 48% popularity rating.
Hungarian Spectrum states that it looks as if MSZP's leadership is blind to the reality of the numbers presented here. Otherwise, it is inexplicable that the party hasn't considered changing course. After a while they should have recognized that László Botka's remedies aren't working. His "go-it-alone" strategy could have worked only if there was a spectacular growth in MSZP's popularity, which in turn would have inspired the smaller parties to flock behind him. Since this hasn't happened, a good politician would have changed strategy. But there was no sign of any soul-searching in MSZP until a few days ago, when Zsolt Molnár, one of the leading politicians in the party, wrote a short article in which he suggested that Botka should start negotiations with Ferenc Gyurcsány of DK, whom until now he had refused even to meet. I wrote about the subsequent unpleasant exchange between Botka and Molnár a few days ago.
It is hard to know exactly what happened at this "amiable meeting" in Szeged because it seems that Molnár either misunderstood what Botka told him or he was double-crossed. Probably the latter. Molnár was supposed to be in charge of negotiations with the other parties regarding the election campaign in Budapest and, as he recalled, this particular topic wasn't even discussed at the meeting. However, the other politicians in the party already knew that Molnár would be stripped of all of his functions related to the elections.
The official confirmation of that fact came today at a press conference Botka gave. There it became clear that Botka had already come to an agreement with József Tóth, the very successful socialist mayor of District XIII, to take charge of negotiating with the other parties regarding the allocation of candidates of the united front of the democratic opposition in all 18 electoral districts of Budapest. These negotiations would include DK as well but, according to Botka's wishes, without Ferenc Gyurcsány. Good luck to József Tóth, since there is no way that anyone from DK would sit down to negotiate with him if the price of cooperation is the shuttering out of the party's chairman. And, according to analysts, Budapest cannot be won without DK. Even Tóth's own very socialist district might be in jeopardy without it.
Botka, at least for now, is holding fast to his earlier position that every democratic politician will have to decide whether his own political future is more important than the removal of the Orbán government from power. He made no secret of the fact that he has Ferenc Gyurcsány in mind. Successfully pinning the blame on Gyurcsány, however, would work only if Botka himself weren't carrying so much baggage in the eyes of the electorate. First of all, there is the problem of his lackluster support among left-wing voters. His high-handed treatment of Ferenc Gyurcsány also alienated a great number of people. His belittling of the politicians of the smaller parties as dupes didn't endear him to the ones with whom MSZP is now supposed to negotiate. And finally, his ill-tempered attack on Zsolt Molnár is apparently disapproved of by the majority of the leading MSZP politicians. It can thus easily happen that it will be Botka who will end up being seen as the impediment to unity, not Ferenc Gyurcsány.
Since the Botka-Molnár controversy came to light there were a couple of interviews relevant to the subject. One was by László Botka himself on Olga Kálmán's "Egyenesen" on HírTV. Botka has only three or four sentences, which he keeps repeating over and over, even within the same interview. Otherwise, he is devoid of any vision. Botka desperately tried to wiggle out of accusing Molnár of betrayal (árulás). After all, 'betrayal' is a strong word, and Botka's use of it is widely considered to be politically damaging. Added to his discomfort was Kálmán's disapproving tone while questioning him on this point. How did he try to get out of this sticky situation? This is the relevant passage: "After democratic discussions on political strategy a decision was reached and a few weeks later a socialist politician questions that decision. One cannot really find another word but betrayal because he divulged a common decision." Although it is true that "elárul" means both "to divulge" and "to betray," "árulás," the noun he used, can mean only one thing–"betrayal."
Equally amusing was István Ujhelyi's interview on ATV's "Egyenes beszéd" on Wednesday. He also had a fairly lengthy conversation with György Bolgár on "Megbeszéljük," a call-in show on KlubRádió, last Friday. Bolgár stressed the seriousness of Botka's accusations and said that he hoped that Botka has proof to support his contention. Ujhelyi, who is perhaps the strongest supporter of Botka in the party, assured Bolgár that Botka is a man who doesn't talk through his hat. He must have tangible proof. What about the others Botka alluded to, asked Bolgár? Ujhelyi answered that he was certain that after Botka returns from his vacation he will make public the "background information" about other possible traitors in MSZP.
By Monday this conversation, which took place a couple of days before, had become an embarrassment because it turned out that there was no hard proof of any "betrayal." Moreover, the party bigwigs decided that all that talk about betrayal was damaging to MSZP. So, now Ujhelyi had to explain his words away. Luckily for him, András Sváby, one of the new anchors of "Egyenes beszéd," was pretty clueless when confronted with Ujhelyi's revised version of his conversation with Bolgár. Ujhelyi insisted that the only thing he said in the Bolgár interview was that "if there are people [in the party] who hold notions different from the official decision concerning electoral strategy Botka will put an end to their games."
A left-wing columnist excoriated the leaders of the MSZP for wasting time waging internal wars rather than channelling social discontent and representing a credible alternative to the incumbent government.
In an angry OpEd piece in Népszava, Róbert Friss dismisses the reconciliation between MSZP frontrunner László Botka and Zsolt Molnár, a member of the Party Presidium, as uninteresting for anyone in Hungary save for a few people absorbed by politics. Friss believes after such skirmishes left-wing voters will have a hard time finding a party worth voting for, while the smaller potential allies of the MSZP will be even more reluctant to join the Socialists in an electoral alliance. If the MSZP, he writes, has been unable to fill 'even a telephone booth with protesters for the past ten years', it is because it doesn't understand that its job would be to translate popular discontent into a political project. Politicians should 'be the voice of the people' and those who don't feel the ensuing tremendous responsibility must disappear from the scene. 'And they will', Friss concludes.
Other commentaries continue to flow on Botka's surprisingly candid accusations against 'traitors and collaborationists' within his own party. Commentators tend to agree that a left-wing victory at next year's election is highly improbable.
On Mozgástér, Béla Galló describes the infighting within the left-wing opposition as a scene of flashing rusty knives in an oxygen-poor environment', as he finds the succession of new proposals for electoral alliances against Fidesz equally unreasonable. The first which he describes as bewildering, is a suggestion by former leading liberals who would seek an alliance with Jobbik. Galló remarks that if party leaders happened to issue such instructions, their voters would never obey. Similarly, he also thinks Mr Gyurcsány's name would be a strong repellent on the joint left-wing list. At the same time, he believes, László Botka's branding of opponents within his own party as traitors is also a self-defeating strategy.
On 444, Péter Magyari quotes a series of unnamed Socialist sources to corroborate Mr Botka's allegation that 'Fidesz has built-in operatives and paid beneficiaries within the MSZP'. They told him that before the last parliamentary elections, then campaign director Zsolt Molnár played from Fidesz's score in promoting Mr Gyurcsány's candidacy on the joint left-wing party list. (Molnár is the only Socialist politician mentioned by Botka by name as an example of 'traitors' within the MSZP. Fidesz wanted to see the extremely unpopular DK leader on that list, and Magyari's sources believe this is why it could gain a two thirds majority in Parliament. The unnamed Socialist politicians also told Magyari that the government and the Fidesz-led Budapest city council regularly instruct their suppliers to subcontract companies linked to certain Socialist luminaries. Some believe that Fidesz has by now 'bought influence' over Népszava and Vasárnapi Hírek, two newspapers 'thought to be near to the MSZP', Magyari writes.
On Kettős Mérce, András Jámbor accepts that analysis, but thinks that Molnár 'and other MSZP people close to Fidesz' represent the majority of regional MSZP leaders. Their problem is that if Gyurcsány is not on board, his people will run on their own in the individual constituencies and MSZP candidates will have a hard time winning in the first past the post system. On the other hand, Jámbor thinks Botka is right in trying to silence his opponents, otherwise 'they will eat him alive during the campaign'. He warns however that without co-operating with Gyurcsány the MSZP cannot prevent Fidesz gaining a two thirds majority in Parliament next year. That is what he can realistically set himself as a target, as victory is definitely out of sight.
In Heti Válasz, Anita Élő warns the leaders of the opposition that hopes to send the incumbent government packing are futile as long as they hate each other more than they dislike Viktor Orbán. She finds it inexplicable why Botka chose to 'raise' Zsolt Molnár, who until now has been practically unknown to the public, and remarks that the recent skirmishes may severely impair the recruiting potential of the MSZP, for there are hardly any undecided voters who would opt for a leader who is unable even to keep his own people in line and who, instead of explaining how he would lead the country, spends his time arguing against an article by Molnár on a small news site.
In Magyar Nemzet, Albert Gazda recalls that in the 90's, Viktor Orbán cleared his way to being elected and re-elected by eliminating or annexing competitors within the right-wing camp. The Christian Democratic Party, the only survivor of a large array of right-wing parties is a mere annex to Fidesz. Botka has tried to convince the public of the uselessness of the new small parties on the left-liberal side, arguing that they only divert votes from the MSZP and therefore play into Fidesz' hands. His problem is that rather than coalescing with his party, they seem to proliferate. The elections will perhaps seal their fate, but the MSZP can itself be happy not to have sunk to the level of those small parties. 'Although who knows how that story will end', Gazda remarks.
In 168 Óra, Péter N. Nagy laments that the opposition constituency has been waiting for about ten years 'for some kind of a solution', but it is still not in sight. Sure, he continues, the disparate opposition forces would find it easier to coalesce into one single alliance if it promised to be victorious. It is much more difficult to unite those forces with the promise of a probable defeat. And still, Nagy explains, the stakes are high. He fears that if the opposition is not strong in the next Parliament, then what he already defines as a semi-autocratic regime, will develop into 'situations of eclipsing freedom'. The main obstacle to left-liberal unity, he writes, is the paradox of the similarity of all those parties. That is what turns them into competitors trying to win over the same segments of the public. On top of it all, the small parties are afraid of being swallowed by a big one, as happened to many of their predecessors. Given the importance of the stakes, however, parties should not ask what they may gain from the alliance, Nagy writes, but what sacrifice they are ready to make for it.
Source: kettosmerce.hu; 168ora.hu, hungarianspectrum.com; mno.hu; Mozgaster, budapost.eu; nepszava.hu

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