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2010-11-21

On education, a disunited System of National Unity

With Fidesz’ former education minister Zoltán Pokorni launching a frontal assault on Christian Democratic education policy, the key question is whether Pokorni is just an old-timer with little to lose or whether he remains a well-connected figure whose pronouncements mark a warning to the KDNP’s ambitious education policy-maker Rózsa Hoffmann that she can’t set the course alone.
On education, a disunited System of National Unity

On education policy, a new front opens up between parts of Fidesz and KDNP. With Fidesz’ former education minister Zoltán Pokorni launching a frontal assault on Christian Democratic education policy, the key question is whether Pokorni is just an old-timer with little to lose or whether he remains a well-connected figure whose pronouncements mark a warning to the KDNP’s ambitious education policy-maker Rózsa Hoffmann that she can’t set the course alone.

It is still not clear in how far the Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) is a genuinely independent political organisation rather than the extended arm of Fidesz, and in particular KDNP’s patron and de facto leader, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. From the outside, it is often difficult to determine which of the “conflicts light” between Fidesz and KDNP are real and which are staged or blown out of proportion to showcase KDNP’s independence.

Two distinct divisions this week appeared real, though. The less noticed one was that the candidate favoured by both Fidesz and the KDNP leadership, junior minister Bence Rétvári, failed in his bid to become KDNP’s Budapest chair. The local politician who emerged victorious favours a more independent KDNP. While isolated incidents such as this hardly a trend make, they show subtle signs of old intra-party fault lines resurfacing.

The other conflict was over education policy, where the junior minister for education, KDNP’s Rózsa Hoffmann – in the absence of a separate ministry, Hoffmann is the highest official specifically in charge of education –, unveiled the government’s programme for the reform of higher education.

An unexpected attack among the relatively wide range of criticisms came from Fidesz elder statesman and former education minister, Zoltán Pokorni. Pokorni appeared to vent several months of pent up frustration and in spite of the occasional qualifiers, his criticism was neither reserved nor limited: he said he could only hope that Hoffmann’s policy would not serve to reverse previous progress in education policy.

Policy Solutions' analysis on Fidesz-KDNP's internal clashes over education policy can be downloaded from here.



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Policy Solutions is a progressive political research institute based in Budapest. It was founded in 2008 and it is committed to the values of liberal democracy, solidarity, equal opportunity and European integration. The focus of Policy Solutions’ work is on understanding political processes in Hungary and the European Union. Among the pre-eminent areas of our research are the investigation of how the quality of democracy evolves, the analysis of factors driving euroscepticism, populism and the far-right, and election research. 

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