Perspectives

March 24, 2009
Hungary’s premier resigns without clear successor

Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany has announced his intention to resign.

Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany officially announced his resignation to the parliament on Monday, leaving no clear successor in one of Europe’s worst-hit economies.

On Saturday, he had indicated his willingness to resign at a meeting of his Socialist party, saying “I hear that I am the obstacle to the cooperation required for changes, for a stable governing majority and the responsible behavior of the opposition.”

John Horvath is a citizen journalist for OhMyNews. He explores the political motivations behind Gyurcsany’s decision to resign and Hungary’s future.

Hungary descends further into chaos

In a bold political move, Hungary’s Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany announced his intention to resign at a congress of the ruling Socialist Party on Saturday. While this may have come as a surprise to some, for others this announcement was something to be expected sooner or later. Over 90 percent of Hungarians feel that the country is heading in the wrong direction and the prime minister’s popularity rating is at an all-time low of 18 percent.

The prime minister’s offer to resign, however, comes with strings attached. His offer only stands if parliament can agree within the next two weeks on a person to take his place. Already this looks highly unlikely. The country’s largest opposition party, the Young Democrats (FIDESZ), is refusing to nominate anyone and is calling for early elections instead. Accordingly, replacing the person of the prime minister will not do much as the ability to enact policy still lies in the way power is distributed within parliament. Only with new elections and a redistribution of power does FIDESZ see a solution to the present crisis.

Meanwhile, as the former junior coalition partner, the so-called “liberals” or Free Democrats (SZDSZ), has taken up the challenge and is presently looking for someone to replace Gyurcsany, the conservative Hungarian Democratic Forum (MDF) has already put forward its own divisive candidate, Lajos Bokros. Bokros was the finance minister during the Socialist government of Gyula Horn (1994-8) and was renowned for introducing a set of austerity measures commonly referred to as the “Bokros Package.” Recently his nomination as the MDF’s leading candidate for the upcoming European Union elections led to a major upheaval within the party, culminating in some members leaving the party and the MDF losing its faction status in parliament. This means that members of the party can now only sit as independents and are restricted in what they can do or take part in.

Although Bokros is so far the first concrete name to surface as a possible successor to Gyurcsany, the likelihood of this happening is remote. Many still have ill feelings regarding the Bokros Package some 15 years ago. Hence, while from an economist’s view Bokros would seem to be a fair choice, from a political standpoint he is unpalatable.

It’s quite clear that the prime minister’s offer to resign is nothing more than a calculated ploy to help bolster his popularity ratings within his own party. Knowing that the various parties can’t agree among themselves, Gyurcsany can claim to have ceded to opposition demands to step down. In turn, the inability of parliament to come up with a replacement then vindicates his position that the problem is not with him but with the opposition, for when given the opportunity to act it fails to do so. In the end, Gyurcsany is made to look like an honest statesman who is willing to do what is best for the country.

This ploy is also intended on helping to reconstruct the shattered coalition between the Socialists and the liberals, bringing them closer together. [...] Without a doubt, the political theater going on in parliament will only add to the economic chaos and social angst in Hungary. To observers on the outside, the political system in Hungary seems to be falling apart. For many within the country, the battles being raged are simply the clash of personalities of two leading politicians: Ferenc Gyurcsany on the left, and Victor Orban of the FIDESZ on the right. Neither side appears willing to leave the stage until it has seen the other utterly vanquished. As a result, the country appears to be adrift with no one capable of taking control of the situation.

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