In a rare show of unity, leaders from eight liberal, conservative, and left-wing Hungarian political parties shared a stage on Friday evening at the opening of the Agóra, a project aimed at securing electoral reforms.
The Common Country movement (Közös Ország Mozgalom), led by activist Márton Gulyás, launched the initiative and erected an outdoor structure, named Agóra after the Greek term for an outdoor space used for public assembly and markets, on the corner of Alkotmány Street, in front of the parliament building.
“A common country does not mean that there are uniform views,” said Gulyás. “It doesn’t mean that there are no differences in views. Of course not. It means that finally we can have diverging views, finally we can have debates,” he said.
“The parties standing here have fundamentally different views on many questions, and that is quite fine,” he added.
Over the next month daily discussions will take place at the Agóra, with the goal of bringing opposition parties closer together and formulating a common position on electoral reform ahead of Hungary’s parliamentary elections due to take place in the spring of 2018.
Several hundred people crowded on Alkotmány street for the project’s opening as politicians—from Democratic Coalition (DK) leader and former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány to Socialist leader Gyula Molnár and Modern Hungary (MoMa) head Lajos Bokros—gave short speeches on what they perceive as the unfair structure of the country’s election system, while also highlighting their parties’ ideological goals.
Hungary’s problem is that “the competitors did not formulate the rules together,” Gyurcsány told the crowd.
We want “to live in a just country,” said Socialist leader Molnár, who listed problems in healthcare, education, the criminal justice system, and the media among Hungary’s foremost challenges. “We are here in this movement because we need to take a first step, and we consider changing the unfair electoral system a first step,” he added.
But despite the show of unity, several politicians expressed doubts about the feasibility of pushing for real electoral reforms while Fidesz remains in power.
“We have experience with how Fidesz works,” said Gyurcsány. “We have yet to see such a cynical, high-handed power,” he said.
While participants were asked to avoid discussing the opposition’s in-fighting, most speakers alluded to the need for unity.
“We need to prepare for having one candidate run against Fidesz,” said Juhász, who heads liberal party Együtt.
While all speakers garnered polite applause, Márton Gulyás, Gergely Karácsony, Lajos Bokros, and Péter Juhász won the most enthusiastic responses from the crowd.
Former Prime Minister Gyurcsány revealed in his speech that his party, the Democratic Coalition, will run in the upcoming election together with Bokros’ conservative Modern Hungary party.
Notably, Momentum leader András Fekete-Győr was the only party leader who sent a deputy in his place to represent the party. Momentum has vowed not to take part in any coalitions ahead of the upcoming election.