Ex-PM Gyurcsány: 2014 election “will be brutal”

Elections

In an interview with Austria-based Da Standard, former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány expounded on a number of topics concerning his term in office, the infamous speech which cost him his job, the current leadership of Viktor Orbán’s government and the upcoming parliamentary elections. Gyurcsány also dropped hints about his own political future and his quite frankly astounding expectation for his Democratic Coalition (DK) party in the election.

An extrapolation of the interview runs below; the entire German-language version may be read here.

daStandard.at: You were prime minister from 2004 to 2009. How does it feel to now be leading a party which is fighting to get over the 5% hurdle?
Gyurcsány: Liberating. As Prime Minister, you often have to make compromises with which [can be] difficult. If one introduces a new party, one can consistently insist on one’s own ideas. 

When abroad, you are known mainly because of the Őszöder speech and its violent consequences. At the time, you said your colleagues to lied to the public in order to win the election in 2006. Knowing the consequences, would you make the speech today?
For me and my party [DK], the Őszöder speech is in a sense the founding charter. It’s a moral proof on what the politician must pay, and why one must reach a compromise on fundamental moral issues and not in the interests of power. It was a very good rhetorical performance. Had I known that it would reach the public and take on a life of its own, I would not have used some bad words…

DK wants a broad coalition of opposition parties, but there hasn’t been much interest. Why is this? 
The other [left-wing parties] have no problem with DK; they fear me. [There is a question among them of] who will be the face of the opposition after 2014 and therefore they don’t want to compete with me. If we are the opposition after the election, I will show as a party leader how to really fight against Orbán. If the left-wing is in power after the election, I will not disturb the circles of the new prime minister … my job is not to cause problems for the new prime minister. If we win, I will indeed lead my party, but I will not take over the chairmanship of the parliamentary faction.

If the opposition wins the election, which tasks they confront?
The most important question is whether there is growth again in Hungary. Economic and political trust must be restored to the country. The second question is, how do we return these powers … after the forced centralization and nationalization of health and education. Third, it is unacceptable to us that the present government uses the great Christian churches for the consolidation of their political power. … The state should be radically separated from the Church. The churches have received benefits that were unimaginable in other countries. Finally, we must do something about the tremendous poverty [in Hungary].

Poverty is not solely a product of the last three years.
During my term, the difference between the poorest and the richest populations decreased 10%. The dramatic change took place after 2010. The latest research data show that there have never been so many poor people as there are today. Hungary has slipped to among the four or five poorest countries in Europe, which is understandable if one lowers subsidies, minimum wages and unemployment benefits.

…What should we expect in the general election?
The election campaign will be brutal. Fidesz has adopted an election law that enables the government thousands of opportunities for manipulation, perhaps even fraud. We must now organize travel services, give small packages full of food in the last days before the election and drive voters to the polling stations en masse in the morning on election day. Fidesz is trying to buy the votes of those who are located in the most difficult situations, including the Roma. I don’t think that's right. When people decide based on such influence, there is no real social support, but manipulation.

Are you planning to invite international observers for the parliamentary election?
They will definitely come. But if you look at how the OSCE assessed the Ukrainian and Belarusian elections, one cannot expect that the combination of many small manipulations will cause the international community to invalidate the election.

Is the right-wing party Jobbik a temporary phenomenon or has it become a long-term alternative in parliament since 2010?
The rise of the radical right is not only a Hungarian phenomenon. I have noticed in Austria that the radical right is also growing. In part of the European population, there is big disappointment, a fear of the future. This leads to the search for scapegoats and easy solutions. At this, radical parties are always much better than the [mainstream] parties.

Since 2010, Jobbik has not expanded its base of 600,000 to 700,000 voters. One of the reasons is that Fidesz borders Jobbik and satisfied the needs of radical right-wing voters to a large extent. One-third of the Fidesz MPs could easily belong to Jobbik. For this reason, I believe that Jobbik will be permanently present as a small, marginalized party in Hungarian politics with no chance to join a coalition.

What would you do about the mass exodus of young people from Hungary?
These people leave because there are no jobs at home. … There are only jobs when there are masses of new investments. The current investment rate is 16% of Hungarian economic performance. It will take years to stop this development. … If we cannot achieve a growth rate of 3% to 4% in Hungary, we will have no more than the current 3.9 million jobs, and the 20-year-olds will continue to migrate en masse. A special group is that of the doctors, for whom there are enough jobs. But a young doctor who recently completed his studies, earns €400 to €500 euros in Hungary. If he drives a few hundred kilometers to Austria, he earns €3,000. That we cannot offer, but doctors’ wages should be doubled in the near future. Then maybe we can slow the exodus of doctors.

With what result do you expect for the DK in the parliamentary elections?
In 2014, we will get 7% to 10% of all votes.

If DK does not get representation in Parliament, what will you do?
That is probably the end. I do not think [the party] could endure four years outside of parliament. And if DK comes to an end, my political career probably ends.

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