It's way too early to celebrate. So far it is quite uncertain whether or not this weekend's shipwreck of András Schiffer will indeed lead to any substantial and lasting change within the opposition LMP party. Many hope that it won't. Above all: Viktor Orbán. But he is not the only one.
Last week I wrote an article analysing why the faction leader of LMP has so ostentatiously refused any organised and continuous co-operation with the Socialist Party (and the Democratic Coalition). Because he thought that LMP indeed had a chance to supersede the parties of the left, and become the main challenger to FIDESZ in the next national election. Therefore, he sought to strengthen the profile of his party against all others. Which – under different circumstances – could have been a legitimate strategy. But here and now, it was liable to serious criticism on two counts:
1. It's a fact that, due to the new electoral law, the oranges can only be beaten by a wide alliance. Therefore, the tacit refusal of co-operation with the democratic opposition would, in the end, result in nothing else than keeping Fidesz in power.
2. Schiffer's strategy – provided of course that he would really have upheld it to the end – placed the short term political interests of his party ultimately before the resurrection of the Republic.
I believe that Schiffer would have preferred if LMP came in as the first loser of the 2014 elections, leading the opposion, than to see as the 2nd or 3rd force of a victorious "olive tree" alliance. Given the way Fidesz is governing the country, this is – at least as I see it – unacceptable from any democrat. Hungary does not have six more years to wait before it can turn around.
Can anyone demand from LMP to actually "love" the Socialists, or the Democratic Coalition? Of course not. But yes: one can expect them to do all in their power to maintain – or to restore – democracy. And this must include the readiness to co-operate with democratic parties, and regard all others as adversaries.
Reading the commentaries one sees that many are afraid: with the change LMP could risk losing its identity. In any case, no one can deny LMP's right to propose a 3rd alternative, different from both FIDESz' populism and the parties of the left. A stable, functioning democracy is only possible if all colours of the political spectrum – apart from the ever-present extremes – are represented by parties of strong democratic conviction. In today's Hungary this must also mean that LMP can have a strong, unique character, a character that is different from that of the socialists or the democratic coalition. It would be a grave mistake to counter the "one camp – one flag" doctrine of Viktor Orbán by a leftist bloc. That would end in the exact same void that it produced on the right, where ruthless power politics and forced unison replaced conservatism with uninhibited populism, and reduced Christian democracy to a parody.
LMP's mission is not to stand aside and make way for a "socialist restoration". "Merely" to sit down to the table and make their contribution to a real, new political alternative. That much, however, is a must.
Whether or not the co-operation of the opposition parties enters a new era cannot be known as yet. Even after one and a half years, there are many who do not understand why a democrat should make a sharp distinction between "the past eight years" and orange rule. It is the responsibility of all three opposition parties, LMP included, that there will be fewer of them by 2014.
András Schiffer was navigating into the opposite direction. Therefore it is good news that he no longer leads LMP. As far as I am concerned, I hope that LMP will emerge stronger from this crisis.