Gyurcsany and his Democratic Coalition Platform had put in proposals which they wanted delegates to vote on, such as new direct elections for the party leadership and county leaders and making the party’s and officials’ financing more transparent with strict controls.
Nearly two-thirds of delegates at today’s congress were of the opinion that Gyurcsany should be asked to reconsider his initiative.
Gyurcsany told journalists after the decision that he was surprised by it, because it had appeared earlier that there was an agreement the presidium would assign a date for the vote as soon as his platform had finished collecting signatures backing the proposals.
Socialist Party leader Attila Mesterhazy said in response that no agreement had been broken, the delegates had merely addressed “a polite request” to the Democratic Coaliton.
Earlier in the day, Mesterhazy addressed the congress, calling for efforts to build a “strong and united Left”, which he said was instrumental in replacing the “detrimental” Fidesz government.
Mesterhazy said the Socialists offer a “real alternative” to the centre-right government, and represent the poor and those who “value freedom and constitutional rights”, Zsolt Torok, the party’s spokesman quoted Mesterhazy as saying.
Mesterhazy noted that while a year ago analysts foreshadowed a split in the party, recent polls put the Socialists on 28 percent support among decided voters.
Arriving at the congress, Gyurcsany denied recent rumours about a party split and assured reporters that he would not quit the Socialist Party.
Concerning his infamous “lies speech” made at a closed-door party meeting in 2006, he said that its leaking to the public and the resulting scandal were a “political and moral plague” and it should be clarified who had disclosed the recording to the press.
Asked about whom he thought to be behind the leak, Gyurcsany said he would not make a public accusation before he was absolutely sure about the person’s identity. He also said he did not intend to disclose any information about the case unless the congress asked him to do so.
Before the congress, Mesterhazy announced that his party would initiate a referendum seeking to ban legislation of a retroactive effect as well as ones depriving people of acquired rights.
Explaining the initiative, Mesterhazy insisted that the government majority had repeatedly passed laws which restrict acquired rights, such as cutting severance payments or early retirement pensions. He added that those laws were seriously in violation of the constitutional state, and weighed heavily on early retirees, people on disability pensions, or holders of private pension accounts whose payments the government had re-channelled to the state pension fund.
Zsolt Torok, the party’s spokesman, said several speakers addressing the congress advocated “rejuvenation of Hungary’s Left”.
Ildiko Lendvai, former party leader and parliamentary group leader, submitted a set of proposals for changes to the party’s presidium, Torok said. She called for deeper dialogue within the party instead of “certain groups looking for scapegoats”. She added that the Socialist party’s politics had been marked by leftist values in the recent past and that there had been successes in the areas of education and public works, for example, besides the “botch-ups”.
Tibor Szanyi, a presidium member, also called for the party to take a turn to the left, Torok said.
Laszlo Kovacs, a deputy leader, said the presidium’s proposals called for the Socialist party to define itself as “a democratic party and not one driven by a single leader, a party with a strong leftist character which values cooperation with liberals and democratic conservatives, while not wanting to co-opt them,” Torok quoted him as saying.