László Botka has resigned as the Socialist Party’s candidate for prime minister, he told MTI on Monday.
Botka said he had informed the party’s leaders as well as its allies that had backed his candidacy of his decision.
Explaining the reason for the withdrawal of his candidacy, the Szeged mayor said
he had “made a mistake”, because he did not think “that the democratic parties do not want to win in 2018” but rather “aim to win some opposition seats in the Orbán regime’s parliament”.
Botka said that he had also misjudged “how badly the political mafia has infested the democratic opposition”, adding that
he had also “underestimated Fidesz’s vileness”.
He noted that last week he had put forward a proposal to the six “democratic opposition parties” concerning a joint party list for the election. Under the proposal, the Socialist Party would have offered half of the places on its party list to be distributed among leftist opposition parties LMP, the Democratic Coalition (DK), Dialogue, Egyutt, Momentum and the Liberals.
“Unfortunately this alliance has not received the backing necessary to bring about a change in government,” he said.
He noted that both LMP and DK had announced last week their intention to set up their own election lists.
By contesting the election alone, these parties “will only succeed in further fragmenting the democratic side”, Botka insisted. This would either entice those who want a change in government to stay home on election day, or drive them to Jobbik, he added.
Botka noted that last December he had announced a new political strategy based on a joint opposition election campaign.
“In spite of the overwhelming support from congressional delegates, the hope shared by leftist sympathisers, the last four months were filled with public attacks on my policy of unity from within my party,” Botka said. “I had to battle the opponent to be defeated in the election even within my own party.”
The Szeged mayor conceded that his plan to unify the opposition around a joint election programme and to create an alliance capable of governing had failed. He added that he would take responsibility for this.
“I served the democratic voters to the best of my ability and with all my heart. I consider the opposition parties’ behaviour a historic crime,” he said.
“I believe in the millions who want change,” Botka said.
“I could not lead them to victory, I could not create a unified opposition, although this is still what I believe in. But if someone else succeeded on this front, I would support them,” he added.
As we wrote, leftist Democratic Coalition (DK) is setting up its own election list for the 2018 elections but wants to coordinate with opposition parties on individual constituency candidates, the party told on Saturday.
Also we wrote on Saturday, Bernadett Szél, the co-leader of green opposition party LMP (Lehet Más a Politika – Politics Can Be Different) was beiing nominated as candidate for prime minister for the 2018 election.
Ujhelyi resigns as Socialist Party’s deputy leader
István Ujhelyi has resigned as the Socialist Party’s deputy leader, he told MTI on Monday.
Explaining the reason for his resignation, Ujhelyi said that although he still “desires change”, he could no longer take responsibility for the Socialist Party’s future or its performance in the 2018 general election.
“I cannot get behind the notion that the Socialist Party’s internal affairs and policies can be influenced or obstructed by outside dealings,” Ujhelyi said in a statement.
Ujhelyi said that “what goes on among the democratic parties is humiliating and personally unacceptable”.
The “Orbán regime has sneaked into the opposition lines and has agents in almost all potent movements,”
the statement said. “It seems that the coup supported by dirty tricks of the powerful has succeeded and the democratic forces are fragmented and broken for good,” Ujhelyi said.
Ujhelyi noted that he has been a Socialist party member for 24 years, and proud to have worked with politicians like [former prime minister] Gyula Horn and [former party leader] Ildiko Lendvai. He asked for the voters’ pardon and forgiveness for stepping down, “but I cannot take responsibility and cannot take a part in what lies ahead”, he said.
Ujhelyi said the root of the conflict was not in discrepancies between the Socialists and leftist Democratic Coalition (DK), Ferenc Gyurcsány’s party which announced its intention to withdraw from setting up a joint party list on Saturday.
He said his personal relationships with politicians and members of DK were “harmonic”, adding, however, that ousting the “Orban regime” would only be possible with the cooperation of all opposition parties.
he would continue “to work with all my strength” for the interests of a democratic Hungary as a member of the European Parliament.
Fidesz reacted by saying that Botka had been “mired in scandals”, adding that his “failure is not surprising”.
“Botka was no different from Gyurcsány and other Socialist candidates,” the party said in a statement. “He voted for the Bajnai austerity measures like all the other Socialists.”
“The next Socialist candidate will be just like all the others. Nothing ever changes on the left,” Fidesz said.
Opposition Jobbik said the Socialists had reached a “point of no return on a path to failure”. Jobbik spokesman Péter Jakab told a press conference that with their respective resignations, both Botka and now former Socialist Party deputy leader István Ujhelyi had admitted that “not only are the Socialists incapable of unseating the Orbán government, they don’t even want to.”
“The Socialists don’t want a change in government, just a group in parliament with a few seats and some hefty allowances,” he said. Jakab questioned whether the Socialists would even make it into parliament, arguing that “everyone knows that a vote for the Socialists will now only boost Fidesz.”
the left wing as “nothing more than a cat-fight of small parties”,
adding that they were weak both on their own and together.
He said Jobbik, on the other hand, was offering an alternative to all Hungarians, including left-wing voters.
Democratic Coalition reaction
DK said that with his resignation, Botka had admitted the failure of his strategy. Party spokesman Zsolt Gréczy said that the “confusion” within the Socialist Party half a year before the election harmed the entire opposition.
He said DK regretted to see that Botka “was unable to adjust his strategy” when he saw he was failing to achieve his goals. DK has tried to talk with Botka several times, Gréczy said, and cited Ujhelyi as saying that the “disagreement with DK was not the root of the problems”.
DK will not appoint a PM candidate
, Gréczy said. The party’s list will be headed by leader Ferenc Gyurcsány, he said.
Opposition LMP said in a statement that it respected Botka’s resignation as an internal affair. It added that the party would continue to fight against the Orban government and fight for social justice while striving to represent those who have lost faith following Botka’s resignation.
Liberal Party reaction
The leader of the Hungarian Liberal Party, which had recently entered into an election pact with the Socialists, said he regretted Botka’s resignation, since he had been a candidate not only of the Socialists but the democratic opposition overall. Gábor Fodor said the liberals continued to stand ready for talks on cooperating with the Socialists, adding that it was up to the Socialists.
Dialogue, Együtt reactions
Opposition Dialogue co-chair Gergely Karácsony said Botka’s resignation was a loss but also an opportunity for the opposition to start talks concerning individual candidates. Dialogue still believes that it is possible to replace the governmet, he said, and is open to talks with all opposition parties in order to select just one opposition candidate for each of the 106 constituencies to compete against Fidesz, he added.
Opposition Együtt said it acknowledged Botka’s withdrawal but continued to have trust in cooperation with LMP, Momentum and Dialogue in order to ensure that a single candidate of the democratic opposition competes in every constituency.