March 21, 2009
In a little-awaited party conference Mr Ferenc Gyurcsány, the prime minister of Hungary’s minority Socialist government has offered his resignation in case the five parliamentary parties agree on a new government. First polls show that about 80% of the population would like to see him stepping down.
Mr Gyurcsány has been leading two successive governments after he was elected by a badly lost EP campaign by the Socialist-Liberal parliamentary majority in 2004, replacing the ineffective Mr Medgyessy. Mr Gyurcsány has lead a very effective uphill battle and his coalition became the first one to be re-elected in 2006. Later in 2006 he had to initiate very unpopular fiscal austerity measures and admitted with dirty words that he had lied about the state of the budget in the campaign. The oppositions popular approval has been extremely high ever since. The junior partner Liberals have left his government after an unsuccessful referendum on the government reformist agenda. However, facing extinction, they have turned down a number of opposition proposals for early elections.
Fidesz, the most popular opposition party calls for immediate early elections. The two small parties, the Liberals and MDF, which have a good chance to fall out from the parliament, have shown a lot of interest in a new power-sharing agreement with the Socialist party. Expect a lot of horse-trading in the next weeks.
Mr Gyurcsány has proved his tactical skills again. He has not resigned and with his move he wanted to pre-empt the threat of an early election that deliver Fidesz, the major right-wing party a two-thirds majority. According to the Hungarian constitution, an early election could be called by next Thursday and held at the same time with the EP elections. Fidesz might loose some of its support is it will not participate in the negotiation, or does not support a multi-party care-taker government. With the surprise announcement Mr Gyurcsány also avoided a possibly very inconvenient party conference. There was little chance that the extremely unpopular prime minister would be removed, as any new contender would have to deal with a very serious economic crisis in the face of an election next year. By moving ahead of his party, the minority government may even gain some force if the five parties do not find another feasible solution to govern Hungary through the crisis.Dániel Antal