It’s time to take a quick look at internal political developments, specifically party politics on the anti-government side. This is especially justified in the present circumstances, when there are signs of more energetic political interest on the level of civilian resistance to the ever-growing dictatorial governance of the Orbán regime. What I have in mind is the courageous reaction to government pressure by the editorial staff of Index and the resolute stand by the students of the University for Theater and Film Arts (SZFE) demanding academic autonomy. There have been a few, unfortunately not enough, indications of solidarity among fellow students, and leading scientists are also showing a certain amount of restlessness over the arbitrary measures being taken by the new tsar of higher education László Palkovics, minister of innovation and technology.
Under these circumstances, when many people see a glimmer of hope that Hungarians are becoming more politically engaged, the unification of forces on the democratic side would be an urgent task. Given the nature of the current electoral system, the optimal road to victory would be the creation of a new party for the sole purpose of winning a parliamentary majority in 2022. Although we hear a lot about all the successful talks among party leaders that are held behind closed doors, as far as public activities are concerned, each party, even those who don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of ever getting more than a couple of percentage points of the popular vote, are still campaigning furiously with their own favorite slogans. Surely, we know that Párbeszéd and LMP will never get close to parliamentary representation. Of the remaining four parties, two might each receive more than 10% from the determined, active voters: DK and Momentum. Support for Jobbik and MSZP hovers around 7-8%, according to the latest polls. Pooling their forces would greatly increase voter enthusiasm and enhance their appeal.
In the last few days, the media outlets have been brimming with embarrassing news coming from MSZP. Considering MSZP’s already greatly weakened state, the last thing it needed was a public quarrel only days before the party congress, to be held on Saturday. But this is exactly what has happened. It was clear early on that the present chairman, Bertalan Tóth, would throw his hat in the ring again in the hope of reelection. The party also decided that, following LMP’s practice, the chairmanship would be held jointly by a male and a female party leader. Given the popularity of Ágnes Kunhalmi within the party and in the electorate at large, there was never any question that she would be the prime candidate for the co-chair position.
In addition to Tóth, Attila Mesterházy, MSZP chairman between 2010 and 2014, decided to enter the race. He felt that he would be more successful and more popular than the somewhat colorless Bertalan Tóth. He pointed to his success as party leader; during his tenure, support for the party increased significantly. He predicted that, without his leadership, MSZP by 2022 will be lucky to get 1% of the votes.
Seemingly independently from the upcoming congress, at the end of July the party suspended the membership of Zoltán Fekete, the Pest County chairman, allegedly because he recorded a conversation without the knowledge of the participants. Curiously, the letter informing Fekete of the decision ended up in Magyar Nemzet’s mailbox. The Fidesz propaganda media interpreted the suspension of Fekete as the beginning of a purge of those who are critical of the present leadership. According to the paper, the party leadership “began negotiations with Ferenc Gyurcsány’s party in order to secure winning positions on a common party list.” Fekete’s suspension was soon followed by the dissolution of the entire Pest County MSZP, which was apparently the strongest base of the pro-Mesterházy forces.
The Tóth faction was worried about Mesterházy, who apparently doesn’t support close cooperation among the opposition parties. The concern was that he might actually be working for Fidesz. The suspicion that Mesterházy and Fidesz are colluding is not at all new. And now, the obvious support of the Fidesz propaganda machine for Mesterházy lent credence to this long-standing accusation, even within party circles.
Gyula Budai, a Fidesz member of parliament best known for his unsuccessful career as the government commissioner for accountability and anti-corruption in 2010, suddenly became an enthusiastic supporter of Mesterházy. He informed his followers on Facebook that Mesterházy is the only one who deserves the job because he is “the last man of morality and normalcy on the left.” In Budai’s opinion, panic broke out in MSZP when Mesterházy announced his candidacy. Therefore, “Ágnes Kunhalmi and Bertalan Tóth, the best disciples of Ferenc Gyurcsány, immediately began a counteroffensive against supporters of Mesterházy.” Hence the dissolution of the Pest County MSZP. All the other leaders, Budai said, are slavish followers of Gyurcsány.
Zoltán Fekete and his followers are not taking the membership suspension lying down. They organized a demonstration in front of party headquarters and threatened to go to court over the decision.
Today one problem was resolved. Mesterházy withdrew his candidacy for party co-chairman. I don’t know what prompted his decision.
Still, this brouhaha was the last thing the long-ailing party needed because, as 444 said, “perhaps MSZP is waging its last big internecine war.” Very possible. Perhaps the decision has already been made to disband the party in the hope of a more promising arrangement. Of course, I’ve already buried MSZP several times and have consistently been wrong.