András Schiffer, the 44 year old Member of Parliament and co-chair of the Politics Can Be Different (Lehet Más a Politika – LMP) green party announced Monday night that he is resigning from all party positions and is leaving politics. Mr. Schiffer told the online Index news site, in a thorough interview on Monday, that he would be resuming his law practice and also has plans to establish a foundation. He indicated that his departure from LMP is not the result of a rift within the party. Yet his tone in the interview speaks of his disappointment and disillusionment with the Hungarian political process.
“Between 2010 and 2014, I truly did enjoy debates in parliament, but the orgasmic experience has now passed…the new House rules have now effectively gutted meaningful parliamentary debate. Over the past three months I have given serious thought to my mission in life and how I could best spend my energies,” said Mr. Schiffer.
A certain bitterness runs through Mr. Schiffer’s parting words. He believes that the fact that so many Hungarian politicians only stay in politics to guarantee their livelihood, and that the media seem uninterested in any story other than those of almost salacious corruption, means that a small party like LMP cannot bring concrete ideas, such as its critique of globalization or green politics, into the public discourse.
“I don’t want to criticize the media, but it was a shock for me that while the Dutch, German and Austrian parliamentary debates on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership was on the cover pages of newspapers and magazines elsewhere, here the lead news items were all focused on who stole what, or who is battling whom (…) The sad reality is that in other European countries, it’s not just anti-establishment movements that stand on a stronger foundation, but civic, union-based and even church-based movements as well. In Hungary, we haven’t had a general strike since the 1989 change in regime,” remarked Mr. Schiffer.
Mr. Schiffer suggested that LMP simply did not have the ability to effectively share its ideas far and wide in Hungarian society, especially at moments that would have been critical for an anti-establishment protest party, such as during the refugee crisis. The former party founder added that he does not support building party media platforms, but finding–or perhaps establishing– those radios, news sites or television stations that are open to the party’s ideas would be critical.
Mr. Schiffer noted that while LMP was successful in gaining significant attention for press releases and its exposé of Fidesz corruption, as well as its efforts to force the government to declassify files from the communist era state security, it failed to popularize its leftist, ecologically-guided economic policies.
Index asked Mr. Schiffer if he was perhaps hoping to fill one of the upcoming vacancies on Hungary’s Constitutional Court, considering that it would appear that some people affiliated with the opposition may be given a chance to serve. And, as some of our readers will know, Mr. Schiffer is a much more palatable opposition politician with Fidesz and its supporters than anyone else on the left. Mr. Schiffer, however, rejected the idea.
Then Index cleverly (and a bit humorously) suggested that since Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is not likely to permit János Áder, Hungary’s current ceremonial President, to serve another term when it expires in 2017, perhaps Mr. Schiffer’s name could be thrown in for the job.
Mr. Schiffer responded like this:
“Oh come on, give me a break! Firstly, there too the minimum age is 45. But if we are into jokes at the moment, then let’s just say that I am undoubtedly not a Protestant, but at least I’m not a Roman Catholic either!”
Mr. Schiffer was referring to his Jewish heritage. (Mr. Orbán is Protestant and Mr. Áder is a Roman Catholic.)
The Index journalists tossed in another possibility to explain Mr. Schiffer’s sudden departure: perhaps he pla…