10/01/2019 06:32

Bertalan Tóth: End of Times We Used to Challenge Ministers as Gentlemen!

Bertalan Tóth: End of Times We Used to Challenge Ministers as Gentlemen!
Bertalan Tóth does not want the EP campaign to be seen by the government media as an opposition struggle, thus, the MSZP Chairman is not pushing for joint candidacy. Nonetheless, he believes in one-on-one competition.

Will you return to Parliament at the beginning of the new term?

Nothing can continue as before. That time has come to an end when we kept asking ministers as gentlemen, and tried to enforce our right by means of polite parliamentary tools. In December, the Hungarian Socialist Party chose a different path, and the success of the parliamentary actions organized in the context of the slave law indeed justified the change of political style.


Will you stay away or go back?

It would be a mistake to renounce the publicity provided by Parliament: the success of obstruction has also shown that people and the media are both interested in what is happening in the House. All opposition parties and independent MPs agree that the complete boycott of the National Assembly does not help us achieve our goals; however, we are not willing to work according to the parliamentary rules of pseudo-democracy in the future.


How far are you willing to go?

Let’s just say: we do not want to allow violence in parliament. But we shall use all the tools of obstruction; of course, this only puts a strong enough pressure on the government if the opposition stands united.

The unity of the opposition was partly forced by the street. Will you keep going even when there will be no demonstrating masses in public areas?

Electoral pressure obviously determines the framework of this unity. But the fact that opposition voters want to see cooperative parties was clear even before December. Formations that did not, or only hardly worked with the others, lost many of their supporters. Now the expectation of co-operation has intensified, it is not enough to move together on the level of words, people want actions. The fact that there will be two elections in 2019 will provide an opportunity for active cooperation, which will allow the democratic opposition to achieve a message-worthy result in the EP elections and a major turn in the municipal elections. But the two only work together: if a bad EP-performance kills the belief that the system can be dismissed, then the municipal elections will go down the drain, too, as well as the parliamentary elections.


It is not an option that the four opposition parties grow their support-base on their own ...

... Sorry, let me make one thing clear. I am ready to believe that each opposition party will jump over the 5 percent threshold for EP entry. But if not, then the votes given to them are not simply lost, but strengthen Fidesz. The system works by distributing unallocated mandates which finally land on the large block, that is, Fidesz in Hungary’s case, so the government party could end up being massively over-represented.


When you talk about acting together, do you mean coordinated actions, a joint list or what do you have in mind?

As the alpha of cooperation, I see what the opposition parties had agreed on at the initiative of MSZP today, that is, mobilizing for the EP elections together, shaking up those over 2.5 million voters who voted for opposition parties in the spring. The omega could be the joint list. And while I consider this to be the best solution, I won't force it.


What makes you so reserved?

The government media would just grab the opportunity to spread the news that opposition parties once again are sinking into the swamp of position struggle and they would try to blur the demands of the trade unions, the petition of the opposition, the slave law, and the smelting of the courts with similar lies.


Would the Socialists lose or win EP seats with a joint list?

That is exactly what the voters and the protesters said, so that in the future it should not be a matter of which party would win or lose what, that so we should not try to take away the votes from one another. Thus, I'm not willing to count in these terms, because this principle of thinking makes it impossible for us to act together. And the joint list I will definitely propose to the other opposition parties, but as I said: I will not push for it.


We shall see how the opposition will prove to work together. But what can you say to those who protest on the street and don't want to wait three and a half years for the change?

They don't have to wait three and a half years. If there are opposition mayors in big cities, if István Tarlós falls in Budapest, then in October we will wake up to an entirely different Hungary.


The Cabinet trimmed the power of municipalities and bled them out financially. It would be difficult to change government from this base even in case of good performance.

Walk down the main street of a village or a rural town and ask people who the most important person in the settlement is. It will not be the head of the government office, neither the MP, nor the local Fidesz oligarch, but the mayor. Because he's the first man. And if you manage to take over the municipalities, the anti-Fidesz forces will have media space of and the possibility of mobilization. If the municipalities are lost, Fidesz’ National Cooperation System shall crack. Moreover, opposition settlements, as Péter Márki-Zay, Mayor of Hódmezővásárhely, or Pécs's MP Tamás Mellár have proposed can be operated in a network, and to organize the change of government together from below.


Pécs runs  an independent candidate supported by all opposition parties. Will this be the model in big cities?

The MSZP Board has authorized all local organizations to find and support the person who could challenge the local Fidesz candidate. The Socialists of Pécs saw chances for this in the person of an independent candidate, and in many big cities the person of the suitable candidate is being outlined.


For example, MSZP in Budapest will pick  the best suited person via  pre-selection. Anyone who wants to pre-register for the challenge can do it now. How many do you expect to vote in Budapest?

I don't like number wars, they don't make any sense.


At present it seems the competition will have two rounds: first the candidates of the left-wing parties will play, and then the winner will be compete with Róbert Puzsér. The positive message is that only the most popular left-wing politician is worthy of dueling with an anti-elite writer?

The situation is much simpler. Róbert Puzsér is supported by LMP. If LMP is only willing to take part in the pre-selection this way, MSZP accepts it. We will do what it takes to find that single challenger who shall stand against István Tarlós and win the mayoral election.