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The future of the Hungarian Socialist Party

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The Hungarian Socialist Party and its governance between 2002-2010 was named “one of Europe’s most incompetent” by the Washington Post in one of its articles. After parliamentary elections the Fidesz-KDNP coalition marginalized the former ruling party by its two-third majority. Does the party still have a future?
Source: flickr

Its past, present and future: all incompatible

Tóth Szilvia | translated by: Kummer Lívia | 2012. May 31. 01:07

After the recent turmoil within the party, MSZP could still keep its determinant position on the left-wing in Hungary. However, its future perspectives are not very promising. It runs the risk of disappearing from the Hungarian political scene.

Past: we have to go back in the history of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) until 1956, when its predecessor, the extreme left-wing party, the Hungarian Socialist and Labour Party (MSZMP) was founded with Soviet support. The leader of the party at the time was János Kádár, who, with the support of his party, exercised a monocracy. The situation was no different in the other communist countries. However, before the change of the regime, things started getting out of his hands. The internal division of the party started in 1989. On the 7th of October, 1989, during the XIV. congress of the MSZMP, the creation of a new party was decided. That party became MSZP, defining itself as a party of social-democratic ideology of central left. The Marxist-Leninist ideology was left for the MSZMP, MSZP took the fortune of the party.

*The challenges the party has to face

After the change of the regime, MSZP became an opposition party after the first elections, but came back into power in 1994 under the leadership of Gyula Horn and in coalition with the association of the Free Democrats (SZDSZ). They repeated that victory in 2002 and 2006 as well. During the government years of the party, there were two Prime Ministers who were replaced. In 2004 Medgyessy Péter (ex-MSZMP member) was dismissed by his party in agreement with SZDSZ. The D-209 agent scandal can be associated with his name, but was not the direct cause of his dismissal, since he was forced to resign only two years afterwards by his party. His big rival by the time, Ferenc Gyurcsány, was elected Prime Minister. At the time the media were speaking of nothing but a “big governmental crisis”. In 2006, however, MSZP won the elections again with the governance of Ferenc Gyurcsány. The new cabinet could not escape a governmental crisis either, because of Ferenc Gyurcsány’s notorious “Speech of Balatonőszöd”, in which he openly admitted (to his fellow party members) the political lies and hidden truths during his previous mandate. After the speech came to the attention of the public, he became the most unpopular Head of State since the change of the regime. In 2009, he announced his departure from his position of Prime Minister. The post was taken from him, with the support of MSZP, by Gordon Bajnai who emphasized from the very beginning that he only wished to stay for a year and not present himself in the upcoming elections. In 2010, MSZP presented itself under the leadership of Attila Mesterházy and lost the elections.
Mesterházy emphasized in his campaign opening speech he wanted to and eventually would change the politics of his party. Also, he wanted renewal and to welcome the future with new elan. It is not up to me to decide whether the elections were won by Fidesz or lost by MSZP. In any case, the party has since had a new phase of crisis. Katalin Szlil has left the party and founded a new one by the name of Social Union in 2010. After that it was former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány who claimed in front of a steadily growing audience he did not agree with the new line of politics the renewed MSZP wanted to represent. Others (4000 members) shared his views to such extent they quit the party in 2011 and founded the Democratic Coalition, with Ferenc Gyurcsány as its leader. During the elections for the socialist candidate for presidency in 2012, suprisingly (?) Attila Mesterházy had a strong opponent, Tibor Szanyi, who urged reforms from within the party - the abolition of strict and disciplined party politics, in which members have to conform above all to the opinion of the party president. Although after the election Attila Mesterházy stayed president of MSZP, Szanyi held 30% of the votes, which is a remarkable result against a reigning president.

*The future

If previous tendencies are followed, until the next elections (2014) Szanyi-supporters will quit MSZP claiming “irreconcilable differences”, in order to found a new left-wing party. If this happens the division of the left-wing will be so strong it will disable MSZP from regaining power. After losing the battle, Attila Mesterházy will obviously be the scapegoat. First dismissed from party presidency in 2016, he too will leave the party and found a new one with his supporters. At that point the number of MSZP members will be so low they are forced into continuous coalitions with any left-wing party, but they will bump into walls everywhere since the memories of political battles do not disappear easily from the memories of the new parties’ leaders.

During the elections in 2018, because of the division of the left-wing, MSZP will not even get into the Parliament and with the new generation leaving with Mesterházy, and the old generation aging and disappearing, by 2022 MSZP will cease to exist.

The red carnation will blow again

Tóth Zoltán | translated by: Kummer Lívia | 2012. May 31. 04:16

.After its severe losses, MSZP fights a battle with Jobbik for the second place after the ruling Fidesz-KDNP coalition. Although it is a tough fight, MSZP is still the most important party on the left-wing.

The support of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) shrunk from 43% in 2006 to 19% in 2010. According to Tárki Polls by the third quarter of 2011 the circle of its sympathizers began to grow, but by the end of the year the dynamically growing Jobbik Magyarországért Mozgalom (Jobbik) caught up with it. While the latter became the second most popular party among young people, MSZP stagnated.

After the secession of the Democratic Coalition, six platforms remained operative, having as leaders former politicians or important members within the party. Further fragmentation is indicated by the fact that for the first time, during the party elections in 2012, the incumbent president was challenged by an opponent, Tibor Szanyi.

After Attila Mester was re-elected head of MSZP, he stated they would have to face the false politics of the past eight years. According to him, future success would lay in telling people when and what they did wrong in the past.

*Performance

In big lines four things determine the performance of MSZP at the upcoming 2014 elections. The first and most important factor is the performance of the parties in power. In general, “protest votes” expressing popular opinion on the government’s politics only come up at European elections. This is how the deputies of Jobbik got into the European Parliament without holding seats in the national Parliament. During the 2010 parliamentary elections a similar phenomenon occurred in favour of the Fidesz-KDNP coalition. This April, Ipsos Poll measured a relapse of 2% of support for both MSZP and the ruling parties. Just like in 2009, Jobbik’s support grew by 3%. However, according to the Századvég Polls, Fidesz-KDNP is keeping up a strong supporter base and the growing circle of the “undecided” is draining the opposition party’s support.

MSZP cannot at present show up with an alternative which would persuade voters of their competence. After eight years of curruption-driven politics, the ruling parties behave different. First they stopped the excessive spending and fortune-making of the deputies - for example by changing previous prestigious cars to Skoda Superbs and maximizing salaries to 750.000,- HUF (2.500,- € approx.) With the latter they ended the accumulation of positions since deputies cannot earn more even if they have a number of legal employments.

Second, they drew a line for corruption-suspicious cases. In 2012 the “country without consequences” hypothesis has been reversed. An example to this is the voluntary repayment of Tamás Fellegi’s wrongfully received compensation money, the publication of an ex-agent list aiming to clear past actions, and the demission of former President Pál Schmitt after his plagium scandal.

Third, national but not radical rhetorics, the proposition to the European Union and to the IMF, protectionist economic politics, Elizabeth-vouchers, a moratorium on land-purchasing, all assure a stable lead for the ruling parties.

*Media

Information societies attitudes are best influenced through printed and electronic media. As András Nagy Bíró and Dániel Róna have shown in their analysis, the presence of MSZP in the media has dramatically decreased from 2006 till 2010. Since the National Media and Broadcasting Institute’s Media Council votes are closely tied to the deputy numbers in the Parliament, left-wing happenings face the risk of not qualifying for “news of value”. Commercial channels have an apolitical philosophy and only announce the most important political events. National broadcasts, according to the lay people, always favour the ruling party. Nevertheless, each party statistically has a time-span proportional to its size. Since MSZP does nothing sensational, does not propose action-plans to increase its popularity, it extrudes itself from the media.

*Mobilization and recruitment

The fractioning of the left-wing strikes above all MSZP, since its former voters base is migrating to the new parties. While Politics Can Be Different (LMP) attracks the younger parties, the new Democratic Coalition led by former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány aims at the middle-aged. The other problem is that the voters base of MSZP has the highest average-age of all voters. The elderly are hard to be included in campaign-work or to mobilize and because of the nature of this age-group, one has to count with decreasing support. At an advanced age people are not perceptive of change, so if someone has voted right his whole life he will not join the left-wing solely because of his age. Since the majority of the middle-aged support the right, future does not look very bright for the left-wing.

 

Furthermore, happenings such as the MSZP-LMP coalition in the second disctrict of Budapest during the interim parliamentary elections, which ended with the departure of András Schiffer, or the initiation of a referendum by LMP which never attained the required number of signatures, are not favourable to the left-wing in general.

Will MSZP have the chance to form a government after the next elections? In 2010, Median Polls showed that migration between parties such as Fidesz (centre-right), KDNP (Christian-democrats) and Jobbik (radical-right) happens mainly within the ideological wing. The increasing support of the radical right (see on the page: What can radicalization bring? by the same author), the glorification of national values, the attachment to Hungarian past and to the Hungarian communities living outside the borders can be due to the antipathy towards the supranational European Union and calculated party programs. These things do not fit into the social-democratic, third-way ideology of MSZP. The quest of MSZP is well presented by the fact that during the 2010 elections, they tried to copy the schemes of LMP’s and MDF’s billboards and flyers. Now they use the background, decorated with flags, of Fidesz-KDNP, with the more active use of national colors.

The false politics of eight years do not give a wide margin to MSZP in public or political debates, since, as a counter-argument, one of their wrong moves could be brought up. Althought DK and LMP are mainly built from the successor of MSZMP, they do not represent a big force of attraction by themselves. Right now MSZP is still representing the left-wing alone.

Attila Mesterházy has attained the top of the hierarchy from within the party and does not have the huge mobilization capital of Viktor Orbán, who has been on the scene of politics since 1988, or of Gábor Vona, who has openly declared solidarity and cooperation with the Hungarians inland and outside the borders throught the support of the Hungarian Guards Movement (since 2009, the New Hungarian Guards Movement).

At present, among the 27 member states of the European Union, only 5-6 have a left-wing / liberal / social-democratic government. According to data released by The Economist in 2011, left-wing political capital has shrunk to a size never seen before. The 2008 economic crisis has forever destructed the concept of a social-democratic welfare state. On the one hand, MSZP suffers from the internal loss of popularity, on the other, its ideological statement does not fit the international mainstream. It is doubtful that 2014 will be the party’s year. Next to Jobbik, its most important task is to keep its uncertain second position.

This article convinced me.

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

This article convinced me.

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

The state of votes

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Its past, present and future: all incompatible

Tóth Szilvia|translated by: Kummer Lívia

The red carnation will blow again

Tóth Zoltán| translated by: Kummer Lívia

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