Paul Lendvai: No hope of left-wing, liberal parties forming grand coalition in Hungary

August 5, 2015

lendvai

The success of populist and partially anti-EU and xenophobic right- and left-wing extremist parties and movements in more an more countries, accompanied by the stagnation, weakening, or collapse of social democracy in Austria, France, and Scandinavian countries, signifies that the economic, financial, and political crisis in Europe will bury the moderate left and right-wing.  But the challenge does not come from the left-wing or liberals, but primarily from the right or the far-right.  In this sense, Jobbik’s prospects is significantly stronger than the so-called left-wing’s. – Paul Lendvai, Austrian historian and publicist

Translation of Paul Lendvai’s op-ed piece appearing in the July 30th, 2015 edition of 168 Óra under the title “No hope” (“Nincsen remény“).

I hesitated for a long time whether to accept Ákos Mester’s flattering invitation to state my opinion regarding the possibility of an emotional large coalition, party because I have lived in Vienna for more than half a century and am rarely in Budapest (and I do not know the capital outside of the capital).  But the reason was primarily because I do not believe that the system can be changed within the foreseeable future, and perhaps not after the 2018 election either.

Contributing to my hesitation was the fact that in the country where I live an extreme right wing party by western standards (in comparison to “Jobbik” they can only be considered right-wing) would win the general election according to a public opinion poll, placing ahead of the People’s Party and the Social Democrats.

In analyzing the situation in Hungary I took two points of view into consideration: the national and the international political trends.

The traditional phony stability is characteristic of the present situation in Hungary.  Viktor Orbán is an extraordinarily capable power politician without principles or morals, who positioned himself vis-a-vis (former social prime ministers-ed.) Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gyula Horn, not in the western media, but in the international arena, making remarkably clever use of his his connections established with eastern European dictators within the EU.  Differences within Fidesz and hardly hidden power struggles or maneuvers hardly threaten the leader’s unlimited personal power, neither now nor in the foreseeable future.

Today in Hungary it is not possible to speak of an active, viable political opposition.  It is not even possible to hope for unified action within parties, let alone between parties.  The least real chance was the the joint list lead by (former prime minister-ed.) Gordon Bajnai (or rather symbolically led).  After the failure of the election and the undermining of Lajos Bokros’ promising Budapest mayoral campaign, opposition parties fell to squabbling among themselves rather than arguing with the government.  And they have not even been able or willing to use political corruption and other scandals to launch an offensive in the form of a well prepared, clearly communicated, united action.   The bitter truth is that essays and polemics cannot take the place of political action.

I agree with Iván Szelényi in his characterization of Ferenc Gyurcsány.  He is the only charasmatic opposition politician, who, according to my personal impression, hates more so-called left-wing or liberal politicians, journalists, and intellectuals than Orbán himself.  Even if not for the leading representative, it is easier to return to power in England, France, Italy and perhaps Israel than it is in Hungary.

And if we take into consideration the other parties, then I hardly see the possibility of forming a large coalition.  Here, as somebody write years ago in ÉS, one only finds sympathy in death, and solidarity is missing at every level.

In politics, of course, nothing is impossible, and that is why it is not possible to rule out a new youth representative, or a movement that works using modern communications, or even a new party later on.  In the first stage, however, a new power would only further atomize today’s opposition, and the birth of a large, national coalition would not move things forward.

The success of populist and partially anti-EU and xenophobic right- and left-wing extremist parties and movements in more an more countries, accompanied by the stagnation, weakening, or collapse of social democracy in Austria, France, and Scandinavian countries, signifies that the economic, financial, and political crisis in Europe will bury the moderate left and right-wing.  But the challenge does not come from the left-wing or liberals, but primarily from the right or the far-right.  In this sense, Jobbik’s prospects is significantly stronger than the so-called left-wing’s.

And for this reason I think a fundamentally right-wing country an emotional large coalition under Fidesz leadership and with the limited participation of Jobbik representatives unfortunately appears more realistic than an alliance which Ákos Mester would like to see among leftists.