Hungarian Socialist Party president won’t rule out his party’s disappearance after 2018 elections

Complete dysfunction continues in the Hungarian left-centre opposition and the president of the Hungarian Socialist Party (Magyar Szocialista Párt–MSZP) appeared to exacerbate the situation with a defeatist, bewildering and unnecessary statement. Gyula Molnár was speaking to the conservative HírTV news network within the context of the shambolic negotiations between left-wing, democratic parties aimed at launching primary elections as a first step to opposition cooperation ahead of national elections in April 2018. But few people expected him to suggest that an unsuccessful election result may open the way to the dismantling and the folding of MSZP.

Gyula Molnár standing in front of the MSZP logo.

Gyula Molnár standing in front of the MSZP logo.

First off, Mr. Molnár recognized that negotiations amongst opposition parties needed to be relaunched on a different footing. In contrast to the second largest opposition party, former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Democratic Coalition, Mr. Molnár now wants these negotiations to be as inclusive as possible, open to both classical liberals, as well as to representatives of the hard left. It would appear that both Gábor Fodor’s Hungarian Liberal Party as well as the Left Party (Balpárt) left the negotiating table, or were forced to leave, due to opposition to their presence by Mr. Gyurcsány. The former prime minister, whose own party is a mix of social liberalism and some elements of fiscal conservatism, was uncomfortable with the hard left ideology of Balpárt–a fledgling party that has a fairly visible presence in Budapest’s 8th District, with many of its members involved in charitable work with the homeless and working poor in this economically disadvantaged area of the Hungarian capital. If you walk down the streets of the 8th District, also called Józsefváros in Hungary, you are likely to bump into the party’s posters plastered on metal doors, walls of crumbling apartment buildings and other surfaces. Mr. Gyurcsány was also apparently unhappy with Mr. Fodor’s Liberals, for that party’s decision to campaign for “yes” vote during the October 2nd migrant quotas referendum, rather than support the opposition boycott.

Mr. Molnár was asked whether it is possible that MSZP would fold after another embarrassing election defeat–which would be the third in a row. Rather than suggest that he would not entertain hypothetical scenarios and is instead focusing on the 2018 elections, Mr. Molnár opened a Pandora’s box by remarking: “I have heard this opinion many times. Let’s give it time, and let’s talk about it again after 2018.”

The reporter than reiterated his question about the possible folding of MSZP, at which point Mr. Molnár said: “After each and every election, if it is not a victorious election, every question can be brought up.”

The HírTV reporter then once again asked: “Even the question about whether MSZP should fold?”

And Mr. Molnár responded: “We will be open to all questions at that time, but for now we ask for a year to a year and a half of patience.”

I trust that Mr. Molnár will find a better way of rallying what remains of his party’s base during the elections and getting them to the polling booths.

The question of MSZP’s shuttering and the dismal state of the entire Hungarian democratic opposition was raised by historian Krisztián Ungváry this week, who recently punched in the face by a Fidesz supporter.  Speaking to András Stump of the the conservative Mandiner website, Mr. Ungváry said that the current Hungarian opposition has no chance whatsoever of defeating Prime Minister Viktor Orbán in 2018, or at any other time. He then declared: “The whole country would win if MSZP disappeared.”

Mr. Ungváry was even tougher when speaking about former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, who was opposed to those on the opposition (including Mr. Ungváry) who decided to blow whistles out of protest during Mr. Orbán’s speech on October 23rd.

“If Ferenc Gyurcsány is the opposition in this country, then the end is truly nigh. I have not lived my life according to his direction and I won’t be starting now,” said Mr. Ungváry.

Undoubtedly some of our opposition readers will agree that MSZP is now past its “best before” date and its disappearance from the political scene may not be a tragedy. That said, it is important to dispel any belief that there is any other party or political leader amongst the current opposition parties that would be able to do what is absolutely necessary to truly become a viable alternative to Fidesz in elections: reach out to a younger generation of voters who probably never voted for either MSZP or its defunct former coalition partner, the Alliance of Free Democrats. And the opposition cannot do this with a rhetorical arsenal, narratives and people that have hardly shown any signs of renewal.

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