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What Did Gyurcsány Promise? Debate on Former PM’s Future Role between DK and Momentum

Ábrahám Vass 2020.08.18.

In the wake of the opposition’s recent agreement on joining forces for the 2022 general elections, the leader of Momentum stated that Ferenc Gyurcsány won’t take on a position in a future, opposition-led government. DK’s Ágnes Vadai, while not outright denying the statement, insisted that the former PM would have a key role “in the creation of a new Hungary”, thus leveling a veiled threat at Gyurcsány’s opposers.

In response to tabloid Blikk, liberal Momentum president András Fekete-Győr, in reference to a private talk, stated that the Democratic Coalition’s leader promised not to take up any government role in a potential future opposition government. Gyurcsány keeping his distance from this hypothetical government “is important in our cooperation,” the Momentum leader added. His words were later confirmed by another, unnamed opposition party leader.

DK’s deputy chair, MP Ágnes Vadai first reacted on Facebook. Although she didn’t deny Fekete-Győr’s words, she praised Gyurcsány, arguing that he is an irreplaceable figure in Hungarian politics, who built up the strongest opposition party from nothing. “He did more to replace the Orbán system than anyone else on the opposition side,” she claimed, adding that, he also had a key role in setting up the opposition pact.

She also gave an ultimatum to those within the opposition who are against the DK leader. “Those on our side who have so far defined themselves against him have all failed. Should I list the names?,” she writes. “Whoever is against Gyurcsány is against DK, and whoever is against DK is also against the opposition cooperation, and as a consequence, in favor of Fidesz,” she argued.


Ferenc Gyurcsány, the controversial strongman of the left

Ferenc Gyurcsány’s term as Prime Minister in the mid-2000s left a long-lasting bad taste in the mouths of those who remember his leadership. He did not only massively increase state debt due to bad governance, but his infamous Őszöd speech, in which he admitted lying to the country to win the 2006 elections, is possibly the most infamous event of the past 30 years of Hungarian politics. His reputation worsened further when police brutally attacked peaceful anti-government protesters later that year. The global financial crisis of 2007-2008 hit Hungary very hard, the economy was about to collapse and the MSZP government could only avoid state bankruptcy through severe austerity measures. Ferenc Gyurcsány stepped down theatrically in 2009 and a few years later left the Socialist Party to form his own. Although Gyurcsány’s reputation is still horrible among  most voters, including opposition voters, he has maintained a small but very devoted base over the years. The Democratic Coalition, polling at just over 10 percent, has become the strongest opposition party in Hungary, so its presence is inevitable in the opposition cooperation that aims to win the 2022 general elections.

About Gyurcsány’s future role, she stated that “that he doesn’t intend to be the PM or a member of the government only demonstrates his commitment to the common cause (…) But I assure everyone: Gyurcsány remains. And he will play a leading role in the creation of a new Hungary.”

Later on ATV, she said she doesn’t know what András Fekete-Győr meant when he said that Ferenc Gyurcsány will not take up a position in 2022. “Gyurcsány stays,” she insisted and repeated her words made on Facebook.

Vadai’s words generated uproar within the opposition as well. Green-centrist LMP’s former leader András Schiffer, for example, in reference to Vadai’s way of thinking (“who isn’t with Gyurcsány is with Fidesz) sarcastically wrote that “I was wrong when I called them post-Bolsheviks. Regarding the prefix “post,” at least.”

According to Fekete-Győr, Vadai offended hundreds of thousands of voters with her statement. “It is clear that disliking Ferenc Gyurcsány doesn’t mean that someone is for Orbán,” the Momentum chairman argued. He also clarified that he values Gyurcsány as a party president, but in his view “Gyurcsány realized that under his leadership, Hungary would not be able to renew. And why? Because, with Gyurcsány’s leadership, the country was guided into chaos before 2010.”

The opposition parties made headlines last week when they decided to field joint candidates in all of Hungary’s 106 constituencies and launch a joint program in the 2022 general election. Specifics have yet to be agreed upon, but DK, Jobbik, LMP, MSZP, the Momentum and Párbeszéd would govern jointly if they win the election, through “a program and principles accepted by all parties.” This is not the only ongoing skirmish between the two most popular opposition parties, recently there was a scandal in Göd, where a battle between DK and Momentum at the municipal level created a situation where a by-election may be required.

featured image via Zoltán Balogh/MTI