Left-wing parties fail to reach an agreement on first day of cooperation talks

March 19, 2018

Left-wing parties fail to reach an agreement after first day of cooperation talks
L-R: DK chairman Ferenc Gyurcsány, MSZP-P prime ministerial candidate Gergely Karácsony and MSZP chairman Gyula Molnár, LMP co-chair and prime ministerial candidate Bernadett Szél | Source: MTI

Leaders of left-wing opposition parties Hungarian Socialist Party-Dialogue (MSZP-P), Democratic Coalition (DK) and Politics Can Be Different (LMP) failed to agree about cooperating in the April 8 general election at the Sunday meeting of the parties, reports the Hungarian state news agency MTI. Although radical-right party Jobbik was also invited to the meeting which had been initiated by DK chairman Ferenc Gyurcsány on March 15, the self-declared conservative people’s party did not attend.

MSZP-Dialogue for Hungary prime ministerial candidate Gergely Karácsony told reporters after the meeting that they regarded the Sunday meeting to be “only the beginning of a process” and had not expected to “reach an agreement about anything.” Karácsony also said the fact Jobbik was not willing to begin talks with them should not prevent left-wing parties from cooperating with Jobbik on the level of individual electoral districts. At the same time, Karácsony stressed that voters of the so-called democratic opposition (opposition parties excluding Jobbik – ed.) are more open to accepting one another’s candidates than those of Jobbik, and that only the parties of the left are capable of changing the current government.

Regarding cooperation in the individual electoral districts, MSZP chairman Gyula Molnár said that the opposition could have won 14 additional mandates in the 2014 election if they had cooperated. Molnár stated that this time the opposition has better chances and the cooperation of MSZP-P, DK and LMP could effectively prevent a Fidesz majority. Replying to a question from the press, Molnár declared that his party cannot imagine LMP as a mediator between the left-wing opposition and Jobbik.

Gyurcsány stated that although his party understands that LMP would like to include Jobbik in the electoral cooperation, cooperation between the attendees of the Sunday meeting is the primary requirement of a change of government. The former prime minister stressed that if MSZP-P, DK, and LMP effectively coordinate in the individual electoral districts, they will be able to drive Fidesz back into a minority role. Gyurcsány also reassured that LMP’s talks with Jobbik would not hinder a possible agreement with his party.

Addressing the press outside DK’s office, LMP co-chair and prime ministerial candidate Bernadett Szél stated that a change of government is only possible with a full-scale opposition cooperation, but that “apart from LMP, there is no one who is committed to this.” The LMP co-chair noted that both the results of the 2014 election and recent polls show that the left alone will not be able to prevent Viktor Orbán and the Fidesz-KDNP political alliance from being returned to power.  Explaining that victory requires a broader cooperation, Szél stressed that LMP “is not willing to share the values of anyone either on the right or the left,” but that the Hódmezősvásárhely mayoral by-election had shown that with an adequate candidate the opposition can win.

Despite the somewhat friendly statements from the party leaders after the meeting, the Sunday event eventually managed to spark yet another controversy among the ever-fighting opposition parties. Former LMP MP Gábor Vágó, who recently reemerged as LMP’s candidate in Kecskemét and was also present at the Sunday meeting, made some obscure allegations to reporters of 444.hu after the meeting about their hosts being drunk “both physically and figuratively.”

On Monday, DK spokesman Zsolt Gréczy issued a statement according to which Gyurcsány and DK executive vice-president Csaba Molnár would sue Vágó for defamation, claiming he was clearly referring to the party chairmen. Later that day, Gyurcsány held a press conference where he accused LMP of endangering a possible change of government by failing to coordinate with other left-wing parties in the Budapest electoral districts. Gyurcsány also accused LMP of arriving to the Sunday meeting “without a concrete proposal and leaving without making one.”

At a Monday press conference, Jobbik vice-president and leader of the party’s parliamentary delegation János Volner made it clear that any form of cooperation with DK or MSZP-P is out of the question. Volner said Jobbik would never cooperate with Gyurcsány or “his eye-shooting associates” the Socialist politicians, referring to the 2006 street riots that left many injured after riot police fired rubber bullets at demonstrators.

Less than a month before the April 8 general election, it remains to be seen whether the democratic opposition parties can put aside their differences for the sake of denying Fidesz a parliamentary supermajority, if not an absolute majority. Many experts and even some opposition politicians argue that the only chance to beat Fidesz in the current heavily rigged election system is to run a broad election alliance against the governing parties.