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Editorial: Left-wing marriage heavy with baggage

Elections

The political opposition can finally see a long-awaited and much-needed glimpse of hope after a strenuously formulated cooperation agreement, followed by a commanding local election victory for the candidate jointly nominated by the left. 

Sándor Ladányi won in a landslide in a Szigetszentmiklós by-election with the joint support of socialist party MSzP, Gordon Bajnai’s Együtt 2014 and Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Democratic Coalition (DK). He took 52.03% of the vote: his nearest contender, of the governing Fidesz party, could only muster 29.13%.

The supporting parties immediately declared the result as a sign of widespread discontent with Viktor Orbán and an indication that close cooperation from the democratic opposition could topple Fidesz in 2014, even though the government has revised the election system to put the varied opposition at a disadvantage.

Supporters of the opposition parties could use the encouragement, especially seeing the bickering that flavored the recent tug-of-war between Gordon Bajnai and socialist leader Attila Mesterházy.

Still, despite the margin, Ladányi’s victory came from just 359 votes at a local ballot with a turnout of 30.94%, in a town where the left wing is traditionally strong. The sample isn’t in any way indicative of the country as a whole, not to mention the fact that local elections over the past three years have gone either way without any clear trend formulating.

The opposition should be more concerned about somehow cleaning up the mess that came from the continuously souring talks. The negotiations revealed that, despite their claims of focusing purely on the goal of ousting Orbán from power and putting aside all personal ambition in the process, neither Bajnai nor Mesterházy would be satisfied with anything less than the premiership.

The fact that they have reached a tentative deal about allocating support for individual candidates could be a favorable sign, but not naming a formal joint candidate for prime minister shows that the desired rock-hard unity on the political left is nowhere in sight. If anything, the negotiations that preceded the pact, involving plenty of petty arguments and backstabbing, have opened plenty of wounds, just as the two parties should be preparing for the 2014 campaign to truly take off.

In the meantime, the governing party isn’t sitting idly by. The fall brings another 10% reduction in utility costs (and already another wave is being hinted at), another bailout effort is on the table for foreign currency debtors, and January could bring a reduction in meat prices through the cutting of VAT on poultry and pork.

The opposition can only rely on rejection of Orbán and his party’s values intensifying, but even then, the dormant antagonism among the sides involved doesn’t bode well for the campaign. Of course, if there’s already this much baggage, it wouldn’t exactly point towards seamless governance if the left wing beat the odds and emerges victorious next year...

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