Days of expectations in Hungary

Of late the Hungarian political scene has been rather quiet. The calm before the storm, one could say. On Monday, the fate of the Hungarian health care bill will be decided. According to most observers the bill will pass, although one still doesn’t know how Katalin Szili will vote, if at all. If she is presiding over the House she can’t vote, although István Mikola, former minister of health and the Fidesz’s health expert, already suggested that she should hand her duties over to one of her assistants for the day and vote against the bill, abandoning her own party. The other person who most likely will not vote for it is József Karsai, whose irrational behavior is legendary. He is the one who literarily became ill when Prime Minister Gyurcsány suggested that double duty politicians, like Karsai himself, should relinquish one of their posts. However, even if these two vote against the bill, the government parties have a large enough majority to succeed.

Against this backdrop it is ridiculous that István Gaskó, the trade union leader, is organizing a strike for an indefinite period starting Monday morning in order to prevent the final vote on the bill. Gaskó organized a bit of a warm-up Saturday morning in form of a demonstration close to the parliament building. It was supposed to be a mass meeting, but according to all reports fewer than a thousand people showed up. It’s true that it was snowing, but the speeches should have warmed the hearts of the participants. I heard a few lines uttered by Gaskó and couldn’t get over the outright falsifications that left his lips. Wrong information about the health care bill and wrong information about the size of the pensions for those who will be eligible to retire come next year.

Who knows what Szili’s game is. It is possible that her motives are principled, although it is a well known fact that she despises Ferenc Gyurcsány. She is also very ambitious. Recall that at the time of Péter Medgyessy’s resignation as prime minister she offered herself as a candidate to succeed him. The party did not choose her. Later she didn’t have the good sense to withdraw her name from consideration for the post of president although it was clear that the SZDSZ would not support her candidacy. The result was devastating for her party and for the coalition. Her behavior right now helps only Viktor Orbán and the Fidesz. One can’t help but wonder whether Szili has received some assurances for the future from the leader of the opposition party, which right now looks like a winner. I do hope that Szili is not "silly" enough to believe Viktor Orbán. She should remember what happened to József Torgyán. He was promised the presidency in exchange for helping Orbán become prime minister of Hungary. Not only he did not become president but he even lost his job as minister of agriculture. Even his party, the Smallholders’ Party, disappeared beneath him thanks to the clever political games of a very cunning man, Viktor Orbán. At any event, this chapter in the political drama is nearing its end.