THE WAR of words between Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) chairman Pál Csáky and former chairman Béla Bugár is heating up.
Bugár stated recently that a meeting took place between representatives from the SMK and the governing Smer party before the vote on the Lisbon Treaty on April 10, which both Smer and Csáky deny.
Bugár mentioned the meeting for the first time during a discussion on the private TV channel Markíza on April 20. He said that the point of the meeting was to give the SMK a chance to explain its reservations towards the Education Act currently being drafted by the Education Ministry.
"There was a meeting with [Speaker of Parliament] Pavol Paška concerning the Education Act," Bugár repeated for The Slovak Spectator. "One that Fico joined at a later point."
Bugár said the SMK was represented at the meeting by Csáky, vice chairman József Berényi, and himself.
Smer spokesperson Katarína Kližanová-Rýsová told the Sme daily that the party strongly refutes the veracity of Bugár's statement.
"We regret and express concern about Mr. Bugár using Smer to play out a personal vendetta against Mr. Csáky," the statement reads.
Csáky also reacted sharply against Bugár's comment.
"I do not know why he is doing this," Csáky told Sme on April 21. "He must have gone mad. We will have talk about why he is being so foolish."
However, Berényi has confirmed Bugár's version of the facts.
"What Bugár said is true, but I do not wish to comment on it," Berényi told Parameter.sk.
Even though Bugár has said that a meeting took place, he denied that ratification of the Lisbon Treaty was discussed.
"The Lisbon Treaty was never the issue," Bugár told The Slovak Spectator. "No one should try to connect it with the Lisbon Treaty."
Parliament's opposition parties - the SMK, the Social Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ) and the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH) - had conditioned their support for the Lisbon Treaty on changes to the Press Code, which they argued infringed on the freedom of the press.
But the SMK changed course on April 10 and voted in favour of the treaty, enabling the Press Code to proceed to the president's desk without changes from the opposition. As a result, the SDKÚ and KDH have suspended cooperation with the SMK.
The SDKÚ and KDH immediately accused the SMK of forging a secret pact with the governing coalition in exchange for a guarantee that the Education Act would not disenfranchise schools that hold lessons in Hungarian.
In addition to that guarantee, Bugár said that Csáky asked the prime minister to approve a subsidy for the Madách Posonium publishing house, a publisher of Hungarian-language literature that recently released Csáky's book.
But according to the Culture Ministry website, Culture Minister Marek Maďarič signed off on a Sk2.4-million subsidy to Madách on March 7, a month after a commission recommended it be granted. And Csáky signed his contract with Madách on April 1.
"Csáky's request at the meeting was for another Sk1 million," Bugár told The Slovak Spectator.
Csáky denied this as well. He said Bugár is acting out of revenge because he defeated Bugár in last year's party election for SMK chairman.
"It is tasteless and inappropriate," Csáky told Sme.
"One of the Hungarian-language publishing houses published my book," he continued, "but all the publishing houses got the subsidy."
SMK MP Zsolt Simon sharply criticised Csáky's leadership.
"Mr. Chairman Csáky made mistakes and he should bear responsibility for that and resign," Simon told the Hospodárske Noviny daily on April 23. "If he has any integrity, he will do so."
But Bugár favours dialogue to calls for Csáky's resignation.
"There must be a discussion within the SMK about where we are heading," Bugár stressed for The Slovak Spectator.
Bugár does not expect the current crisis to cause a split in the SMK, but said the party has started to form some bad habits.
"This public blame game has not occurred before," Bugár told the Spectator. "These tactics just developed now, after 10 years [of the SMK's existence]."
Bugár agrees that the opposition has the right to be angry at the SMK for voting to ratify the Lisbon Treaty. Bugár emphasised that he approves of the treaty, but said Csáky should have communicated with his opposition partners about the SMK's course of action.
"And the result is that they, justifiably, think Csáky lied to them," Bugár said.
But Bugár predicted the opposition will begin working together again next year during the campaign for Iveta Radičová, whom it is supporting in the presidential race.
Grigorij Mesežnikov, head of the non-governmental Institute for Public Affairs, told The Slovak Spectator that he thinks Bugár is being truthful.
"It seems trustworthy," Mesežnikov said.
"The meeting took place," he continued, "but the participants have different interpretations of its contents."
According to political analyst László Őllős, the backbiting between Bugár and Csáky clearly shows that the SMK has two centres of power.
"This fight will never completely calm down," Őllős said. "It will erupt again and again in each new situation."
Őllős is convinced that the infighting will weaken not only the SMK, but also the opposition, which continues to factionalise.
"The SMK's fighting removes the focus from other crucial tasks, such as deciding where the opposition is heading, so that they can get together somehow," Őllős said.