Former PM Gyurcsany quits Socialists, sets up new party

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Budapest, October 22 (MTI) – Ferenc Gyurcsany, a former Prime Minister, has announced he is leaving the Socialist Party and will set up a new parliamentary group after succeeding in persuading the necessary number of lawmakers to join him.

The new Democratic Coalition party is to be a “Western-style, civic centre-left” formation with ten lawmakers, Gyurcsany announced on Saturday, the first anniversary of the establishment of its forerunner, the Democratic Coalition Platform.


Gyurcsany, who also used to lead the Socialists, said the new party would stand for “freedom and solidarity”.


He said the reason why he had decided to leave the Socialists was because the party had failed in its efforts to transform itself.


Nezopont Institute analyst Orsolya Szomszed told MTI the advantage for the Socialists was that they had now been freed from the taint of Gyurcsany’s infamous speech just after the 2006 election admitting to lying about the state of the economy, as well as the burden of internal wrangling. But Gyurcsany’s move could equally mark the first stage of the left’s downfall, she said.


The risk for the Socialists is that the party’s current leader will no longer have the conflict with Gyurcsany to hide behind and his own performance will come under the spotlight, she said, adding that sooner or later he would have to prove himself.


“Right now we cannot know for certain whether the players will be stronger or weaker apart,” she said. Any future left-wing alliance could be hampered by enduring personal conflicts between the two formations, Szomszed added. Socialist lawmakers on Saturday strongly condemned Gyurcsany, who had only last week signed a pledge to stay on in the party.


In his hour-long speech, Gyurcsany vowed to “wake society from its nightmare,” in which community and individual well-being is “dependent on the will of the government”. Instead, he said he wanted to realise the dream in which each person was clear about his own responsibility to himself and his country.


Csaba Molnar, a one-time party group leader in parliament, will head the new group, which is to be formed next week.


The new political force is to take over the legal apparatus of an already existing one called the Democratic Party, whose name will be changed to Democratic Coalition. He said the reason for this procedure is that establishing an entirely new party would require the approval of the public prosecutor.


Gyurcsany is under investigation by the prosecutor on suspicion of over-stepping his authority during his premiership.


He said the new party group had not asked for the parliamentary speaker’s approval, adding that he trusted that their opposition would not use “underhand and dishonest” means to undermine the decision.


Whereas the house rules state that lawmakers who leave a party group must be independent for a period of six months before they can join a new formation, a precedent from 1996 shows that an exception can be made.


Attila Juhasz, an analyst with Political Capital, said that the house rules would not allow the possibility for the Democratic Coalition to form a parliamentary group, and the lawmakers departing from the Socialists would have to wait the full six months as independents.


Juhasz told MTI that Gyurcsany believed he would manage to appeal to new voters from the centre as well as attracting former Socialist supporters. Meanwhile, the Socialists hope that, freed from Gyurcsany, they will be able to win back people who deserted the party at the last election in 2010.


He added, however, that the chance of Gyurcsany putting such a scenario into practice was slim. The findings of not a single pollster suggest that Gyurcsany would be able to attract new support. Moreover, he remains one of the least popular politicians, with an even lower rating than the Socialist leader Attila Mesterhazy, Juhasz said. He added that neither was it likely former supporters of the near-defunct liberal party, the Free Democrats, would join him either, since this tendency would already be apparent from his time on the Socialist bench.


Most likely the Socialists and Democratic Coalition will split the Socialist camp of supporters which currently account for between 10 and 20 percent of the electorate, he said, adding that he doubted the split would give either party an lift in the polls.


The drawn-out process itself of setting up the new party was sure to prolong antagonism with his old party, said Juhasz.


Gyurcsany said friends and enemies remained in his former party. But he also pledged to avoid making statements about the Socialists which could play into the hands of the Fidesz leader and prime minister, Viktor Orban.


Gyurcsany said the left wing in Hungary had been most successful when it had simultaneously represented classical left-wing values and progressiveness, at once civic and Socialist. He insisted that it was impossible to give a traditional left-wing response to a “right-wing Christian course”, and the job should be to organise a “diverse civic centre” instead.


He branded the new constitution as “illegitimate”, and insisted that members and heads of the independent branches of state such as the constitutional court and the public prosecutor “exclusively serve Viktor Orban”.


The Socialist group will be left with 49 seats once Gyurcsany’s ten quit, as against 261 seats for Fidesz, 46 for Jobbik and 15 for LMP.