MSZP nominates Botka for prime minister but debates over primaries still divide opposition

January 19, 2017

Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) leadership unanimously agreed Wednesday to support Szeged mayor László Botka (pictured left) to be their party’s candidate for prime minister in 2018 elections. Party chairman Gyula Molnár (pictured right) announced that Botka would receive full powers from the party to conduct closed-door negotiations in coming weeks with other left-wing parties about gaining their support as the opposition left remains fragmented with little more than a year before voters cast their ballots.

Botka said in a short press conference that he would reveal his program, called “the New Justice”, in coming days. He said the majority of voters want a change in government, and it is the responsibility of democrats to provide the conditions for this.

“There is a need for a united alternative, capable of governing, and of running together in the election on a common list with 106 common candidates,” he said.

Botka earlier had predicated his acceptance of a nomination on splintered opposition parties running on a common voting list with MSZP in all of Hungary’s 106 constituencies, and on the strongest candidate being nominated in each single-member constituency. MSZP has reportedly determined which candidates it will run in 80-90 percent of the 106 constituencies, but for the remainder, chairman Molnár has expressed a desire to hold primaries, something Botka has spoken against.

“We have only one issue with Laci [László] Botka,” Molnár said a few days ago. “It is in his and our interests that several prime ministerial candidates run in a primary. This would strengthen us toward the outside. We don’t have to be afraid that other parties or organizations make nominations for this post. So it must be understood that MSZP didn’t nominate László Botka, but expressed a recommendation of the politics he represents to Hungary and to other partners. We are prepared that in this system which we will build together it will be decided that he or someone else will be the candidate for prime minister. We haven’t stepped away from the concept of holding a primary.”

The primary issue isn’t only contentious within MSZP. Other opposition parties have also insisted on holding primaries, and Együtt (Together) has maintained it will run on its own party lists. Democratic Coaltion (DK) co-chair Csaba Molnár says his party agrees with Botka’s statement that a new left-wing program is necessary to defeat Fidesz in April 2018, but insists that DK will stick to its party program which it drew up a year ago with the help of over 300 experts and policy makers, and will send that program to Botka for review in coming days.