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Analyses

The first half year of László Botka

The first half year – which is the most important for voters – of László Botka, who is also considered as the last hope of MSZP, is clearly a failure. The campaign of MSZP’s prime minister candidate obviously led to a dead-end: since appearing on scene he has announced a range of unpopular promises, moreover none of his efforts regarding the left coalition could have been realized. In addition, the socialist party is in a much worse situation than in the same period before the 2014 elections. Four years ago the party had approximately one million backers, and this number has now dropped to approximately 600 thousand.

Nézőpont Intézet has collected Botka’s 10 blunders from the first half year after his appearance on scene:

HE HAS DRAWN UPON HIMSELF THE HATRED OF THE LEFT WING AND LIBERAL OPPOSITION 

Half a year ago László Botka not only wanted to be MSZP’s prime minister candidate, but also the prime minister candidate of the united left wing. He wanted to close the negotiations by March 2017, but as a result of his unsuccessful dictates, the same exchange of messages between the left wing parties is to be expected like four years ago. The „coalition-debate” before 2014 is going to repeat itself as the „cooperation-debate”. This doesn’t only repel latent but also the confessed left wing voters.

INAPPROPRIATE MANAGEMENT OF THE GYURCSÁNY-PROBLEM 

The same dog-fight started with Botka like the one before 2014, the actual MSZP leader is sending messages through the press to Ferenc Gyurcsány on a daily basis. So despite of ignoring him, he directs the attention again to Gyurcsány. The DK leader exploits this, managing to keep his 250-300 thousand supporters together, against Botka’s will, and the Anti-Gyurcsány left wing voters didn’t become MSZP voters.

DIFFERENCES INSIDE THE PARTY BECOME MORE PRONOUNCED 

On last year’s election of officials, Botka was dismissed as committee president by a high ratio showing that he has numerous opponents inside the party. That is why he insisted on his right of veto regarding the 2018 candidates, and that the list should not contain any of those „leading the party to the two-thirds defeat of 2010”. He didn’t tell any names however, aiming to keep his opponents guessing. This on the other hand can make the already significant inner conflicts become more pronounced,  so that Botka won’t be able to rely on experienced leaders during the campaign who could otherwise help him. Indirect evidence is that none of the well-known faces of MSZP – despite of the wide congress support – are enthusiastic about Botka’s nomination.

DENIAL OF THE PAST AS SOMEONE BEING ACTIVE BEFORE 2010

All the socialist leaders after 2010 tried to describe MSZP as a renewed party separated from the mistakes of the past. László Botka however talks about the break with the period before 2010 as one of the dominant characters of that period, supporting decisions and standing for Ferenc Gyurcsány many times. Considering this, he can be blamed any time for supporting Gyurcsány, causing a credibility deficit.

NO RESIGNATION AS SZEGED MAYOR 

László Botka hasn’t resigned as Szeged mayor, telling voters that he is not absolutely sure about his 2018 victory, because he is keeping his position in Szeged for security reasons. This can also be considered as a vulnerable point moreover, it can ruin the remaining socialist supporters’ faith in victory. Botka presumably hopes that by 2019 no one will remember that he tried to leave Szeged for the more powerful minister president position a few years earlier.

PROBLEMS WITH THE DECLARATION OF WEALTH, SZEVIÉP-CASE

For politicians going in for the national political scene, especially for the prime minister title, one of the most important aims is to have a flawless declaration of wealth as it can have great press coverage. László Botka, not learning from previous cases, got into an especially embarrassing situation due to his incomplete declaration of wealth. This is a big vulnerable point for a minister president candidate campaigning with wealth tax and the taxation of the wealthy, making Botka launch into explanations right at the beginning of his campaign instead of popularizing his program. To make matters worse, the Szeviép-case can later be a problem for him similar to Gordon Bajnai’s Hajdú-Bét-case.

ATTACKING THE HUNGARIAN MIGRATION POLICY

Two-thirds (66 percent) of the Hungarian population supports the Hungarian government’s migration policy, regardless of party preferences, even 42 percent of left-wing voters find the government’s migration measures appropriate. Given that, it is beyond comprehension why László Botka keeps criticizing the migration policy measures,  on top of it all even his earlier statements can later turn to be embarrassing. In 2015, in the middle of the migrant crisis for example he talked about the government wasting tens of billions on the completely useless „new iron curtain”. Among others, as a result of this policy, the party’s support decreased or stagnated in 2015 and 2016.

BRUSSELS AND CURRYING FAVOR WITH SOROS 

It is a serious political blunder of László Botka that he stayed in Brussels at the same time with György Soros. Although he denied the „lucky accident”, next day he promised the withdrawal of the law affecting the Soros-university and the act facilitating the transparency of organizations supported from abroad. Creeping into the favor of the Brussels leadership is another self-goal similar to the support of the EU migration policy, while these are issues dividing and not expanding his supporters.

BOYCOTT OF THE PRO-GOVERNMENT MEDIA 

The fact that MSZP is disinclined to give interview for media investigating László Botka’s enrichment, corruption suspicious and other personal cases, they might make voters believe that they have no explanation for those cases. Moreover, for a prime minister candidate appearing for the first time, every media presence increasing recognition can be an advantage. As the price of media presence can be calculated, the MSZP could also cancel its state campaign support  (HUF 1 billion in case of independent campaign). Not mentioning that, with this step MSZP has also passed significant advertising surface to other opposition parties – among others to Ferenc Gyurcsány’s party or LMP.

INSPIRING FEAR IN THE MIDDLE CLASS

Under the slogan „Let’s make the rich pay!” Botka tries to increase the popularity of MSZP with such ideology-driven social promises which generate fear in the middle class. Namely the message „Let’s make the rich pay!” raises the questions: who are actually the rich according to the socialists, and what if those aren’t considered as rich today will be considered as such tomorrow? This is also intensified by the fact that they failed to support their promises with background calculations and concrete proposals. Hence this is only a proposal with the status of a superficial campaign slogan. Here we have the „visit fee effect”: its introduction ten years ago not only caused an outcry because of breaking an election promise, but also because no one knew the validity of the defined fee.

Full text of the analysis is available here (in Hungarian).