Election 2018: Opposition parties hopelessly divided

September 18, 2017

Photo: The Budapest Beacon

Party events at the end of the week further divided Hungary’s divided opposition. On Friday former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Democratic Coalition (DK) accepted a cooperation policy that effectively rules out cooperation with the Socialist Party (MSZP). Socialist prime minister candidate László Botka presented his election promises on Saturday and once more ruled out including Gyurcsány on a joint party list. Meanwhile, Együtt (Together) also presented its 491-point election program, indicating plans to run its own slate of candidates in next year’s general election.

One love, one Gyurcsány

On Friday, DK presented the results of an internal vote on the party’s cooperation policy for the election next spring. The vote brought no ground-breaking revelations as 94 percent of party members rejected any joint party list that excludes Gyurcsány. Some 97 percent of DK members, on the other hand, agreed that DK should immediately start talks with other parties about joint candidates in all 106 constituencies.

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Photo: MTI/Lajos Soós

The party members’ decision is final and binding on the party’s leadership, which means that DK cannot accept Botka’s terms, namely, that Gyurcsány (pictured) run only as an individual constituency candidate and not be included on a joint party list.

Change of government is only possible in a (Botka-led) alliance

The primary goal of Botka’s Saturday event was to officially present the group of left-wing politicians of various micro-parties with whom Botka plans to campaign and share power should he form a government. Compared to the list that the Budapest Beacon published on Friday, there was one notable absentee: Dialogue for Hungary (PM) co-chair Gergely Karácsony opted to attend Együtt’s event instead.

Botka’s Saturday speech made it clear that a compromise between MSZP and former prime minister Gyurcsány’s DK is currently one of the unlikeliest occurrences in Hungarian politics. In his speech, Botka said he understands those who voted for Viktor Orbán in 2010 because they were disappointed, and went on to say that “the financial crisis [of 2007-2008] was only made worse by the clumsy but most of all unprincipled governing [of Gyurcsány].”

Botka also said that not all opposition parties want a change of government, instead  “they are fighting for their own political survival.” Although based on their results in the last seven years, this accusation could apply to virtually any of the opposition parties, including Botka’s MSZP, Botka’s comments clearly targeted Gyurcsány and DK.

“If their aim was indeed to change the government, then they should be aware of the fact that this is only possible in an alliance,” said the Socialist candidate for prime minister.

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Photo: MTI/Noémi Bruzák

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán also got his fair share of strong words from the mayor of Szeged and Socialist prime minister candidate. Botka (pictured) painted a grave picture of Hungary’s future, should Fidesz win the 2018 election, saying the Orbán government had consciously led the country into despair, dismantled democracy, occupied the economy and “plundered the country.”

“Our nation will stick with the losers and we can give up the rest of our freedom rights,” Botka said.

In a possible attempt to win over a crucial group of the electorate for a change of government, namely rural voters, he insisted that he stands on the side of “the honest, busy people of the countryside.” Botka also announced a series of promises directly aimed at pensioners, such as reintroducing the 13th-month pension, doubling the minimum pension and significantly raising pensions of those who currently receive less than HUF 100,000 (USD 390) a month.

According to Botka, MSZP’s program is a genuinely social democratic one that aims to raise the poor, increase pensions and improve the quality of schools and hospitals. “We will make good everything that politicians in the past 16 years have spoiled,” he concluded his message.

Together – Alone

On Saturday morning Együtt also presented its election program consisting of 491 points. Party president Péter Juhász said they envision a Hungary different from the current one and stressed that they want “a truly developing European state which is sympathetic, brings peace and where everybody feels equally good.”

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Photo: MTI/Zsolt Szigetváry

Juhász summarized Együtt’s program in five main points:

  1. Együtt would introduce a fair family allowance scheme because they think every child is equal and should be provided equal chances.
  2. Instead of “Orbán’s education policy” that seeks to produce “slaves,” students would be taught to think in autonomous schools.
  3. In addition to reintroducing the freedom to choose textbooks, Együtt would make upper education free.
  4. Együtt would spend much more on the public healthcare system and would create modern conditions in hospitals. Együtt would also stop the outward migration of doctors and nurses.
  5. The party would introduce the euro as soon as possible and would maintain tight cooperation with the Member States of the European Union.

Juhász vowed that Együtt is preparing to dismiss Prime Minister Orbán next year. The lack of any reference to cooperating with Botka’s MSZP or any of the other opposition parties indicates that, for the time being at least, Együtt, which inherited its name from the botched multi-party election alliance of the 2014 election, might also plan to run alone in 2018.

Contrary to previous expectations, instead of standing on stage with Botka, Budapest 14th district mayor and PM co-chair Gergely Karácsony along with co-chair Tímea Szabó attended Együtt’s event.

You can go your own way

The Hungarian majority electoral system and the prevalence of governing Fidesz party propaganda in national media afford little opportunity to opposition parties to stand their ground, let alone gain a majority in the Parliament. Despite the known obstacles, it seems that opposition parties just do not want to face reality. While according to recent polls they would barely make it into the Parliament, both Momentum Movement and Politics Can Be Different (LMP) have vowed not only to go it alone in the election but to oust Orbán and his party. It is also worth mentioning that apart from Együtt, MSZP, DK, PM, LMP and Momentum, other opposition parties, namely radical right-wing Jobbik, the Liberals, center-right newcomers Civil World (Civil Világ) and New Beginning (Új Kezdet), all want a piece of the pie.

It is generally understood that if all opposition parties run their own slate of candidates, ruling party Fidesz will certainly emerge not only victorious but with a two-thirds parliamentary majority.

Sources used for this article: