András Schiffer: The Orbán regime will collapse after 2018, regardless of the state of the opposition

András Schiffer, the former chair of the Politics Can Be Different green party (Lehet Más a Politika – LMP), gave a noteworthy interview to the news site, alongside another former LMP parliamentarian, Gábor Vágo. Both men left active politics, disillusioned with the party that first entered parliament in 2010. That said, they do still appear regularly in the media. Mr. Vágo writes for the Átlátszó–a news site dedicated to uncovering corruption–and Mr. Schiffer recently ruffled feathers with his spats with former Socialist Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, who now heads the Democratic Coalition (DK) opposition party. Mr. Schiffer’s interview stood out for me primarily because of what he said–rather confidently–about the prospect that the Orbán government and the ruling Fidesz party will likely collapse in the not too distant future.

“I have no illusions that it is possible to build a huge mass movement in Hungary. But between October 2014 and June 2015 we came to the realization that no matter how robust Fidesz may appear, the ship may develop a leak at any time and in just a few quick moments, the whole structure may come tumbling down. I think that with the migrant crisis, the governing party found some respite. But the collapse will be inevitable after 2018, regardless of the state of the opposition,” said Mr. Schiffer to journalist Dávid Dercsényi.

András Schiffer. Photo: Csaba Krizsán/MTI.

András Schiffer. Photo: Csaba Krizsán/MTI.

The journalist asked the former LMP politicians whether they would support an opposition boycott of elections in Hungary, considering that the nation’s electoral laws are meant to heavily favour the governing Fidesz party. Both dismiss this idea. Mr. Vágó notes that if the opposition parties were to boycott the 2018 parliamentary elections, Fidesz would simply launch fake left-wing parties, probably bankrolling people like convicted fraudster and former Socialist MP János Zuschlag. Mr. Zuschlag collaborated with Fidesz during the 2014 parliamentary elections, shortly after being released from prison, and helped fledgling parties apply for public campaign funds–parties that nobody ever heard of before the vote, and nobody ever heard of again after the election was over.

András Schiffer added that the left-centre opposition’s preoccupation with the electoral system introduced by Fidesz is merely “striking evidence of their ineptitude.” Mr. Schiffer noted that there are countries in Europe where the victorious party in any national legislative election is rewarded and bolstered ever more than Fidesz is in Hungary. Mr. Schiffer did not provide an example, but he may have been thinking about Greece, where the party with the most votes gets a bonus of seats in the legislature. “There are places where the victorious party only beats the runner-up by half a percentage point, but still gets a whole pile of additional seats,” said Mr. Schiffer.

“Soon we will find ourselves in a space where we have nothing to lose,” said Mr. Vágó, adding “Because they have taken even that away from us.” He then noted: “The biggest problem with the left’s mental machinations is that they are awaiting somebody to ride in on a white horse–someone who will solve all of the problems and a new party that will re-establish liberal democracy. Give me a break! So long as there are no democrats, there can be no democracy.”

That’s a stinging rebuke for the opposition–which often refers to itself as the “democratic opposition.”

“We have to understand that Fidesz is making come true its famous sociological theorem: the hegemony of a well-organized minority over the disorganized majority,” said Mr. Schiffer.

That said, LMP’s former leader is convinced that even with a relatively modest crisis or a moderate electoral loss, and especially if community groups organize and mobilize effectively around very focused societal issues, Fidesz can be dislodged. “Even a small defeat can be fatal and catastrophic for the party. If you remove the carrot of personal financial advancement, these types of franchise systems disintegrate in a few short moments,” said Mr. Schiffer.

Mr. Schiffer was also critical of the party he once led. LMP passed the 5% threshold for parliamentary representation in 2010 and 2014 because it was a protest party lacking a very specific and divisive identity. Mr. Schiffer now feels that this may have been the wrong approach. If he could do it all again, he said that he would be inclined to launch a radical left-wing party, which might then moderate somewhat once it made it into parliament.


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