Election 2014: Left wing in unified front

Elections

From the Budapest Business Journal print edition: To the surprise of few, the political left has reconciled its differences and reached an agreement to tackle the 2014 general elections with a unified front. the left-wing parties have finalized the terms of a new, expanded cooperation agreement that includes not only the socialist MSzP and former prime minister Gordon Bajnai’s E14-PM group, but also Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Democratic Coalition (DK) party, not to mention another familiar old face, the late arrival Gábor Fodor.

According to the pact, MSzP chairman Attila Mesterházy will lead the joint party list, making him Viktor Orbán’s challenger for the premiership. The top five include Bajnai, Gyurcsány, Fodor representing the Liberal Party (MLP), and Tímea Szabó of Dialogue for Hungary (PM).

The biggest debate was over the role of Gyurcsány, who still has a loyal following, but is a highly controversial figure and is essentially reviled by a large part of the public for his activities as prime minister prior to 2009.

The agreement called for revising the constituency arrangement that the Mesterházy-Bajnai deal laid out, giving districts to Gyurcsány’s party mostly at the expense of E2014-PM.

Occupying the top five slots of the party list, the leading figures will surely have a seat in the next parliament, but it is doubtful whether any of the parties on their own, apart from MSzP, will have the necessary votes to form a parliamentary caucus. According to a projection from think-tank Political Capital, this would only be possible if the individual candidates are able to defeat the right in the districts where they are running, which may prove a tall order.

Earlier the Mesterházy-Bajnai pact had been declared final, categorically stating that there would be no further participants. This was directed at Gyurcsány, who was seen as too much of a liability and a turnoff in the eyes of many voters. However, the former socialist PM campaigned actively for reconsideration of the pact, to the extent that his DK party gained strength, mostly at the expense of E14-PM, prompting wider cooperation.

The governing parties and other opposition groups have criticized the agreement, saying that it is nothing but the reunion of the same group of politicians that once ruined the country and consequently suffered a huge defeat in 2010.

“The political left has failed in three aspects, even after a year and a half of long bickering and bargaining,” stated Fidesz parliamentary caucus leader Antal Rogán. It has failed to nominate a genuine candidate for prime minister. It has failed to introduce a single new face. And it has failed to protect the country from Ferenc Gyurcsány.”

“The pact announced by the opposition parties should be called ‘Together 2006’ since it is held together by those who governed the country between 2002 and 2010,” said green-centric LMP party co-chairman András Sciffer. “LMP remains the only hope for those who wanted a change in governance in 2010 and still want the same now,” he added.

While the participants of the leftist pact expressed positivity and confidence, even in unison, they have plenty of ground to make up. A Századvég poll from the end of December has Fidesz at a 31% approval rating in the entire population. In contrast, adding up the support rate of the newly united opposition only yields 24%.

A subsequent Századvég survey conducted after the announcement found that the majority finds Gyurcsány’s presence a major deterrent.

In a January survey taken by Nézőpont pollsters just before formation of the new alliance reaffirms such results. In the survey taken in early January, the ruling Fidesz-KDNP coalition was the preferred choice of 37% of respondents; 21% said they would vote for a left-wing opposition party. Within this group, MSzP was the choice of nearly half.

Among decided voters, 46% said they’d vote Fidesz-KDNP in 2014, with left-wing parties getting about 25% support.

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