Matt Forney
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Green Politics and the Fragmentation of the Hungarian Left

NOTE: This article was originally published at Medium on June 5, 2017. I’m re-posting it here because I recently deleted my Medium account.

As I’ve written about extensively, the left has become a non-entity in Hungarian politics. In the 2010 elections that brought Viktor Orbán and Fidesz to power, the governing MSZP (Hungarian Socialist Party) lost all but 59 of its seats in a 386-seat legislature. Összefogás (Unity), the short-lived left-wing electoral alliance formed for the 2014 election, was only able to win 38 seats in a 199-seat legislature (during their first term, Orbán’s government passed a law slashing the size of the National Assembly). MSZP remains the most popular leftist party, but is languishing in the polls and has to contend with a number of new parties that are seizing the all-important youth vote.

One of these parties is LMP (Politics Can Be Different), Hungary’s obligatory green party. Green parties in Europe—particularly eastern Europe—are repositories for communists seeking to get (back) into power, hence the joke that greens are “watermelons”: green on the outside, red on the inside. In LMP’s case, they combine typical tree-hugging policies with claims of being outside the left-right spectrum, akin to Emmanuel Macron’s En Marche! party, but without oodles of Rothschild money to keep it afloat. Hence, they only have five members of the National Assembly at the moment.

Having said that, LMP is the only leftist party I’ve seen advertising anywhere in Hungary. Check out this flyer I saw on Andrássy út in downtown Budapest. In a irony that clearly flew over LMP’s heads, the flyer is posted outside the Terror Háza (House of Terror), the former headquarters of the ÁVH (State Protection Authority), which served as the secret police of communist Hungary.

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The poster translates to “Instead of Putin, you decide the future!” and “Instead of PAKS2, renewable energy!” Paks II is a nuclear power plant being developed in cooperation with Russia: Vladimir Putin made a state visit to Budapest in February to officially seal the deal with Orbán, and I reported on the pitiful leftist protest of Putin’s motorcade.

It’s extremely unlikely that LMP will win enough seats in next year’s election to matter: aside from a fanatical core of environmentalists (as signified by the Ligetvédők group pictured at the beginning of this article), Hungarians have little patience for Marxists masquerading as hippies. But LMP’s presence further undermines the left and strengthens Orbán by Balkanizing his opposition.

Read Next: The Death Rattle of the Hungarian Left