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Bajnai Says 2014 May Be Hungary Opposition's Last Chance

Gordon Bajnai, the former Hungarian technocratic prime minister who last month formed an opposition umbrella group, said the 2014 election may be the last chance to roll back Premier Viktor Orban’s consolidation of power.

Bajnai’s Egyutt 2014 group, which one poll showed last week as the biggest opposition force, is working to build an alliance to challenge Orban’s Fidesz party. It will publish an economic plan in January and write a comprehensive program in the next nine months, Bajnai told reporters in Budapest today.

Orban is being criticized by the opposition for using the two-thirds parliamentary majority he won in 2010 to consolidate his power. The Hungarian premier has said reducing the highest debt level in the eastern European Union and shielding the country from the euro region’s turmoil require political stability and “unorthodox” steps.

“It is clear that the intention of the current government is to use its two-thirds parliamentary majority to cement its power well beyond any election,” Bajnai said. The vote in “2014 is probably the last chance for decades to try to block or destroy this regime before it becomes cemented for a very long period.”

Government steps that drew such criticism included ousting the chief justice of the Supreme Court, narrowing the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court, writing a new constitution and replacing an independent Fiscal Council with one dominated by the premier’s allies.

‘Inevitable’ Co-operation

One of the opposition’s challenges will be to keep pace with changing election rules, said Bajnai, 44. Ruling-party lawmakers yesterday voted to ban campaign ads on commercial television and news websites. They earlier introduced voter registration and redrew voting districts.

The regulations favor Fidesz and forces the opposition to form a pre-election coalition, Bajnai said. Egyutt 2014’s co-operation with the Socialist party, the largest parliamentary opposition group, is “inevitable,” he said.

Bajnai replaced Ferenc Gyurcsany as premier in 2009 after serving as his economy minister for two years at a time when Hungary slid into its worst recession since 1991, government debt surged and the country was dependent on an International Monetary Fund bailout to finance itself.

During Bajnai’s year in office, the cost of ensuring government debt against default fell to a low of 169 basis points from 630 basis points before he took office. He also steered Hungary back to international debt markets as the economy returned to growth in 2010.

Orban’s Policies

The economy is now in its second recession in four years as Orban’s policies, including the nationalization of private-pension fund assets and special taxes on several industries contributed to curbing investments and lending. The government has been in talks for an IMF loan for a year.

Bajnai is part of the “forces of the past” that has “wrecked the country several times” and he wants to return to power to “help the banks and foreign multinationals,” Gabriella Selmeczi, a spokeswoman for Fidesz, said on the party’s website on Nov. 8.

Fidesz leads all parties with 22 percent backing, according to a Median poll published on HVG weekly’s website on Nov. 7. Egyutt 2014 had 14 percent, compared with 10 percent both for the Socialist Party, and the radical nationalist Jobbik, Median said.

Without Bajnai’s group, the Socialists would be the largest opposition force, it said. No methodology or margin of error was given. Undecided voters account for 37 percent, Median said.

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