We talked to Lehet Más a Politika (LMP: Politics Can Be Different) party leader Bernadett Szél about Hungary’s need for a party outside the prevailing left-right split, the creation of employment opportunities and the upcoming parliamentary elections.
On 26 February LMP celebrated its fifth anniversary. Originating from non-governmental organisations, the green-liberal party succeeded in polling 7.44% in its very first parliamentary elections in 2010, giving it representation in Parliament. The young party seeks to fight corruption, promote political transparency and overcome the ideologies that divide the country and its people into two camps. Besides renewing the political system LMP wants to introduce energy-efficient programs and environmental policies it hopes will propel Hungary into a new era of sustainability. Still, after four years on the opposition benches LMP seems unlikely to return to Parliament in this year’s elections on 6 April.
What are the roots of your party?
LMP was originally established to give the green movement parliamentary representation. That is why we promote the creation of green jobs and the long-term expansion of renewable energies. This can be seen in our rejectionist stance on the capacity upgrade of the Paks nuclear power plant. Besides that there is a very special political situation in Hungary because of the political split in society. We want to offer a platform to all those who realise that this is the 21st century and that the old political reflexes should not define our actions any more. Because the challenges we have to manage today are different from those of the past century.
How exactly do you want to create jobs?
Unlike Prime Minister Viktor Orbán we do not promise a million new jobs within the next 10 years. Instead we have worked out a plan to gradually create more and more jobs. We call this our “Initiative for Green Employment” and we will introduce it to the press this month. The program consists of three major points. First, we want to intensify efforts on the expansion of the renewable energy sector. This is a major step towards a sustainable future and a key issue for the energy independence and sovereignty of this country, which is debated quite often in the media these days. Another point is energy efficiency in Hungary. Most real estate in Hungary was built a long time ago. They are badly or not at all insulated. We are heating the streets with Russian gas through these houses and for that the utility costs people pay are very high. The government has given a very bad answer to this with the “rezsicsökkentés,” which is unsustainable lowering of these costs. We call it a “rezsi” – bluff. We would start “insulating the country” with EU funding. Already during the first year this could create 100,000 jobs. Our last point is development of local economies. We have to distance ourselves from only trying to attract foreign capital that invests in factories for the assembly of parts and only uses employees that are easily exchangeable. As Professor Péter Róna strongly emphasised: “It is important for Hungary to create values and its own products in this country.”
In the last years, more and more eurosceptic voices have been raised in Hungary. We only have to think about slogans like “We are not a colony”. How does LMP position itself on this issue?
Right after we established our party we joined our European party family and actively participated with our ideas and criticism. The European Union is surely a great opportunity for Hungary, but even the Union needs to go through certain reforms in order to serve the interests of the people living in it. We especially have to make sure that the inner-core countries don’t break apart from the peripheries, so finally we can all step forward together and deal with the big issues of our century.
As you mentioned, LMP sees itself as neither right nor left wing. When it comes to coalitions is LMP going to be all alone? Do you see any opportunities for cooperation with other parties, for example 4K!?
Among the current parties running for Parliament there are none with whom we could imagine a coalition. About 4K!: by criticising the system and standing against corruption we are natural allies but we are different in many other things. LMP is unique in its constellation, as well as in the values we believe in. I regard the people as our most important allies. The old political elite is responsible for the fact that broad sections of the population are disenchanted with politics. The people are tired of all the lies and of the intolerable polarisation in Hungarian politics. In this sense we are absolutely not alone because we have a large part of the population behind our backs supporting us.
How do you evaluate the formation of a left-wing electoral alliance?
To be brief, we call it “Together 2006” because this is the same group of people that led Hungary into crisis in the past.
On the other hand this left alliance could take away potential voters from LMP. In latest polls your party only scores 3% of the votes. Do you regret that you did not seize the opportunity of uniting at least the moderate left wing under your own shield?
We do not regret anything. It was a pretty long fight within the party and part of our party left us and joined the left alliance [as PM: Dialogue for Hungary]. But we keep the course we agreed on. We do not make politics according to the latest numbers but according to our ideas and beliefs.
The internal fights date back to before those people seceded from LMP to form “Dialogue for Hungary”. Since then we have rebuilt our networks and reorganised our internal structure. Now we are ready for the campaign. We have left all these problems behind us.
Experts point out that the new electoral laws favour big major parties like Fidesz. How do you estimate the chances of smaller parties like LMP?
The new law will place smaller parties at an unfair disadvantage. We expressed out rejection pretty strongly in Parliament when it was first discussed. We tried to do everything to prevent this law from coming into effect but we did not succeed. Now we have to accept this and make the best of it. I believe that if a party consistently does politics according to their ideas and values they will find people who trust them. This is what we need to believe in now.
And do you believe that LMP can repeat the success it had in 2010?
I would like to see an even greater success than what we had in 2010. But under the given circumstances even the same percentage would be a success. There is a lot at stake here. During the last legislative period LMP proved that we do not bow to any side. Hungary needs a political party that represents those who would like to live a normal but fair life in this country, who would like to work, or if they cannot work at least can feel safe because the society stands by them and doesn’t let them down. In short, I believe Hungary needs LMP and if our voters place their trust in us again we will make sure to prove that we truly deserve it.