There is a sense that key politicians and thinkers on the left are gradually introducing the possibility–and for many opposition voters the bitter pill–of a possible partnership between the country’s main left-centre opposition parties and Jobbik. After former Prime Minister Péter Medgyessy declared that those in the left-centre opposition who refused an alliance with Jobbik were being unnecessarily “squeamish” and after the Budapest President of the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) Ágnes Kunhalmi said that “we will cross that bridge when we get to it,” and did so at a thoroughly bizarre press conference, with the politicians at times laughing uncontrollably, Philosopher Ágnes Heller has now also suggested that a working agreement with Jobbik may be necessary if one is to defeat Fidesz.
Ms. Heller, an 87-year old Holocaust survivor, one of Hungary’s most recognized philosophers and with nearly a dozen monographs published abroad in English, French and Spanish, spoke to ATV and said the following:
“Cooperation can happen if both sides desire it. Purely based on numbers it is true that if they went up against Fidesz together, they would defeat the governing party. It would not be bad if they did so. But if they don’t want to do it, then they should not…Maybe the word ‘cooperation’ is not the right one. They could just support each other. This, of course, would be very difficult to explain to their voters, even if today there is basically a state of emergency in Hungary. If this is impossible due to their divergent identities, they do not need to make ideological compromises. Instead of a public agreement, they can simply decide to support each other’s candidates, even as they both develop their own campaign strategies. And then, if Fidesz has been defeated, the current electoral system would be reformed and new elections would follow between the victorious parties.”
Ms. Heller’s suggestion is not entirely new. I have heard many informal, private discussions and musings among people on the left (politicians, activists and public thinkers) about the possibility of a grand, but technical MSZP-DK-Jobbik coalition, which would not really ever govern, but would simply pave the way for a new, free and fair electoral system, to replace the once introduced unilaterally by Fidesz in 2011. That said, the mundane, yet important tasks of actually governing do exist, were the opposition to win in 2018–the parties have few plans for that remote possibility.
But what does one do with a defeated Fidesz in such a scenario? Fidesz may, indeed, wither and collapse into a rump, once the party no longer has free access to lavish public funds, with which it can buy loyalty. Does one create the ground work and legal framework to disband and ban Fidesz, were it to lose an election to MSZP-DK-Jobbik? Would this technical coalition use police infrastructures and powers in place to conduct mass arrests and imprisonment of Fidesz politicians suspected of corruption, as well as of those who played an active role in dismantling parliamentary democracy in Hungary, and would it do so despite protests and possible legal challenges from the European Union? In other words, would it be willing to use illiberal methods to permanently dismantle Fidesz and politically incapacitate its key politicians?
If there is talk about a coalition with a party like Jobbik and forcing through an overhaul of the nation’s electoral laws, built on a cooperation only between “the victorious parties,” then one has to ask the question: what happens to Fidesz? Does it have any role in the future of Hungary?
I think that it is appropriate to say that at the national level, Jobbik may have largely distanced itself from his hard, far-right past and Jobbik leader Gábor Vona in particular has diligently tried to cultivate a much more moderate, reasonable image–one that puts him to the centre of the governing Fidesz party. The same, however, cannot be said for local Jobbik organizations. Dig below the surface, and your will find a Jobbik mayor who just recently introduced unconstitutional legislation targeting gays and Muslims (much to Mr. Vona’s chagrin, reportedly), or the local Jobbik organization in a suburb of Budapest, which crudely rejected the idea of ever sending Hanukkah greetings to Hungarian Jews.
I trust that the “democratic opposition” will exercise great caution in their deliberations.