Social Democratic Party (Hungary)

Social Democratic Party (Hungary)
Social Democratic Party
Szociáldemokrata Párt
Leader Tibor Sztankovánszki
Founded November 1989
Headquarters Budapest
Ideology Social democracy
Political position Centre-left
International affiliation None
European affiliation None
European Parliament Group None
Official colours Red, White
Politics of Hungary
Political parties

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The Social Democratic Party (Hungary) often known as the "Historical" Social Democratic Party ("történelmi" Szociáldemokrata Párt, SZDP) is a Hungarian political party that emerged following a split within the Hungarian Social Democratic Party (MSZDP) in 1989. Both the SZDP and MSZDP lay claim to the same heritage: the Social Democratic Party which was part of a governing coalition in Hungary between 1945 and 1948, and a short period in 1956, which itself was renamed from the Hungarian Social Democratic Party, previously established in 1890. Traditional areas of support have been the industrial areas of Budapest, especially Obuda, Pesterzsébet and Angyalföld.




Hungary as part of Austria-Hungary:

  • 1868–1890 The General Workers Association (Általános Munkásegylet)
  • 1890–1918 The Hungarian Social Democratic Party (Magyarországi Szociáldemokrata Párt) - independent party

Hungary as an independent country:

  • 1918–1939 The Hungarian Social Democratic Party (Magyarországi Szociáldemokrata Párt) - independent party
  • 1939–1948 The Social Democratic Party (Szociáldemokrata Párt) - merged with Hungarian Working Peoples Party
  • October 1956 - November 1956 The Social Democratic Party (Szociáldemokrata Párt)
  • 1989 Social Democratic Party (Szociáldemokrata Párt)
  • 1997 Known as "Historical" Social Democratic Party („történelmi” Szociáldemokrata Párt)

Election results

  • 1922 National Assembly: 17% - 26 seats
  • 1926 National Assembly: 11.1% - 15 seats
  • 1931 National Assembly: 11.0% - 14 seats
  • 1935 National Assembly: 6.7% - 11 seats
  • 1939 National Assembly: 3.4% - 5 seats
  • 1945 National Assembly: 17.4% - 69 seats
  • 1947 National Assembly: 14.9% - 67 seats

European Parliamentary Elections

History up to 1989

The party grew in power and influence until the First World War, which resulted in the party fracturing into pro-war and anti-war factions. The chaos which followed the war resulted in the collapse of the Dual Monarchy. The MSZDP leadership entered into government as part of an unsuccessful post-war socialist administration. Revolution and counter-revolution resulted in a brutal backlash against opposing political camps. This led to both the Red Terror and the White Terror. Many MSZDP supporters were killed during the White Terror. The entire left-wing boycotted the elections of 1920, which resulted in a right-wing victory and continued right-wing government for the inter-war period.

The MSZDP made their peace with Horthy's government in 1921 with the Bethlen-Peyer pact. More radical elements were suppressed, and trade union activity was increasingly driven underground during the 1930s. After 1939, the party became officially known as the SZDP, dropping the "Magyarorszagi" moniker. The environment became increasingly hostile during the Second World War and activity virtually drained to a halt. With the Nazi takeover of Hungary in 1944, the party was declared illegal. Many of the leadership were executed, with the remainder imprisoned or driven underground.

The SZDP fought the election of November 1945, finishing in a strong second place. From 1945-1948, the SZDP governed in association with the Smallholders Party. They were placed under increasing pressure to cooperate with the Hungarian Communist Party. For the 1947 elections, the SZDP was forced to join a "workers' bloc" with the Communists. Eventually, the right-wing were forcibly excluded from the SZDP, and in 1948 the remnant was forced to merge with the Communists to form the Soviet-sponsored Hungarian Working People's Party.

The SZDP re-emerged defiantly in the 1956 revolution. Under the leadership of Anna Kéthly, Gyula Keleman and Joseph Fischer the MSZDP took a prominent role in Imre Nagy's Provisional Government. For the first time in many years the party newspaper "Népszava" was published independently. Following the suppression of the Revolution in 1956 and 1957, the MSZDP disappeared again under state repression, and much of the leadership escaped into exile.

The gradual softening of the official government policies in Hungary in the 1970s and 1980s led to many in the governing Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party (MSZMP) being associated with reform communism. This was sometimes not easily distinguishable from social democracy.

History after the transition

Originally a very small breakaway from the MSZDP, Imre Takács and the other founders were joined by many individuals who left the MSZDP in 1997. They objected to the increasingly centralised leadership style of László Kapolyi, by now funding and leading the MSZDP into a close association with the formerly communist MSZP. Among this group of new recruits were a number of veterans from the post-war coalition of 1945-1948 and the government of Imre Nagy, such as Róbert Gábor, Sándor Bácskai and Ernő Nagy.

Electorally, the SZDP have remained a marginal party, with some limited success in local elections. Under the co-leadership of Mátyás Szűrös from 2003-2005 the party took a sharp turn towards populism and the right-wing Fidesz party. By the time Szűrös was finally forced out in 2005 the party had suffered some loss in credibility, which it has been attempting to restore under the leadership of Tibor Sztankovánzki.

In April 2009, the party announced that Anna Petrasovits, leader of the MSZDP from 1989-1992 would lead the party's list for the European Parliament elections in June 2009.


Both the Social Democratic Party and the Hungarian Social Democratic Party claim to be the natural successors to the Social Democratic Party which existed before 1948 and the imposition of one-party rule in Hungary.

The Historical Social Democrats argue that they are in the historical tradition of Hungarian social democracy as they have retained their distance from the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) - whilst the MSZDP has formed a close, shared platform with the MSZP. The MSZP are regarded by the SZDP as a post-communist formation and not within the social democratic tradition.

Ideologically, the SZDP is closer to what is described as democratic socialism in the United Kingdom, and aims to provide a democratic critique of capitalism. Anna Kéthly is regarded as one of the historical leading figures, providing the SZDP with its own philosophy of ethical social democracy. The party is opposed to wholesale privatisation and "extreme" neoliberalism, and is committed to building up the "indigenous" Hungarian economy.


  • Kulcsár Péter: A szociáldemokrácia az eszmék történetében Hungarovox Kiadó, Bp. 2007
  • Gábor Róbert: Az igazi szociáldemokrácia. Küzdelem a fasizmus és kommunizmus ellen 1944-48 Századvég, Bp. 2001
  • Sztankovánzki Tibor: SZDP története 1989 nov.től dokumentumok alapján Bp.2oo6
  • Varga Lajos (főszerk.): A magyar szociáldemokrácia kézikönyve. Napvilág Kiadó, Bp. 1999.
  • Kulcsár P. Az eredeti és a kiscseréit szociáldemokrácia Egyenlitő, Bp. 2008/

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