Politicians and their “private” lives

Post-socialist Hungary saw the introduction of tabloids, although they are tamer than their American or English counterparts. Their name in Hungarian is "bulvár," obviously from the French "boulevard."

This morning one of these tabloids, the Blikk, broke the news that a member of parliament cheated on his wife. The object of his ardor is his secretary who happens to be twenty-four years his junior. His wife went to the Blikk with the story and she didn’t make a secret of her motivation: revenge.

The politician in question is István Jakab, the very combative head of MAGOSZ (Magyar Gazdák Országos Szövetsege), one of many farmers’ associations but certainly the one most closely allied with the Fidesz. In 2006 Jakab and five of his associates were rewarded for their assistance (demonstrations with tractors in Budapest, partial road blocks also with tractors, constant demands for more subsidies, endless negotiatons, the fall of a minister of agriculture) with parliamentary seats. The MAGOSZ is again negotiating, this time for compensation for loss of income due first to killer frost and more recently to drought.

Mr. Jakab’s affair in and of itself is singularly unimportant. But it serves to highlight two issues: (1) should politicians have a right to privacy and (2) should the Fidesz electorate be concerned about the conflict between the rhetoric and the actions of their party officials.

The first issue is still subject to debate in Hungary. Politicians, especially on the right, think that their personal lives are off limits to the press. And they sue with great frequency to bring this point home.

The second issue–do what I say, not what I do–is particularly difficult for the Fidesz. There have been well publicized cases of marital infidelity. Tamás Deutsch-Für, a close friend of Viktor Orbán and former minister of sports, had an illegitimate child by his secretary while married. Or, there is Antal Rogán, currently mayor of the 5th district in Budapest who is often mentioned as possible successor to Viktor Orbán, who after a few years of marriage and a very small child left his family and now is living with his lover. One would say "who cares?" but for the party’s great emphasis on morals, family, children, and religion.

As for István Jakab. He already announced that he is planning to marry Andrea A. This will be his third try.