Socialist unity key to unseating govt, says Mesterhazy

Budapest, February 26 (MTI) – On the day that former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany succeeded in establishing his Democratic Coalition Platform within Hungary’s opposition Socialist party — seen by political observers as a potential splinter group — Attila Mesterhazy, the Socialist leader, said that without a unified party it would be impossible to unseat the current centre-right government.

At a party board meeting on Saturday, Mesterhazy insisted that a strong and unified Socialist party, capable of forming a new democratic majority, was needed.

    He called on party members to put aside their differences, otherwise they would not be able to rebuild the left wing.    

    At the same meeting, the board decided the platform run by the former prime minister should be qualified as a national party body. There will now be seven platforms operating within the Socialist party. Mesterhazy himself endorsed the decision.

    The party leader accused the Fidesz-led government of being adrift and incapable of decision-making, a state of affairs which was pushing the country to the verge of precipice.

    ”What the Socialists restored, Fidesz is gambling away,” he said.

    Mesterhazy said the government had made a big mistake, punishing the poorest people by making them pay for its reform of the tax system.

    The Fidesz government implemented a 16 percent flat income tax on January 1 this year. Due to changes in the system of tax compensation, most earners receiving below 280,000 forints (EUR 1,000) before tax will be worse off. Fidesz is putting pressure on employers to compensate employees by giving them compensatory pay rises.

    Mesterhazy accused Prime Minister Viktor Orban of seeking to form the country in his own image. Orban, he said, was counting on people to stay quiet rather than raise their voices in protection of their interests.

    ”If he turns out to be right, then Hungary’s fate will take years to be decided. If we turn out to be, then a new Hungary will be built out of the ruins of the change in political regime,” he said.

    Gabor Simon, the party board chairman, said Hungary was drifting away from Europe as a result of the government’s decisions, becoming more eastern, autocratic and harking back to the last century.

    Gyurcsany established the Democratic Coalition last October with the stated aim of realising the ideals of the 1989-1990 change of political system. He has said the left wing should also embrace the liberal centre. Mesterhazy has said he wants to take the party back to its traditional worker roots. Gyurcsany, despite being associated with a bitter and unstable period of Hungarian politics, is still popular among the grassroots. Gyurcsany has said he wants to pursue his political aims within the Socialists party, but many see him as a potential rival to Mesterhazy.

    The party board voted unanimously to endorse his new platform.