Political fortune tellers in Hungary

"Political scientists" are asked at this time of the year to use their non-existent powers to look into the future. Of course, the idea itself is absurd but political reporters in the media cannot restrain themselves, especially as we turn the calendar to a new year. Moreover, during the period between Christmas and New Year’s (and in Hungary a good week longer) not much is happening politically, so they have to think of something to keep their listeners happy. And why not a little fortune telling.

On the public radio station (MR1) there was actually a program called "Looking into the Future," and one of the invited guests was an English professor turned sociologist whose name is Elemér Hankiss. He is definitely entertaining. A few years ago his great idea was (I think he may have been written even a book or a longish article on the subject) that one ought to "invent Hungary." A fantastic idea, don’t you think? He may even have had a weekly TV program with the title "Let’s Invent Hungary" which I had no patience to watch. It seems that there were many like me because after a few months Hankiss’s program folded.

Mr. Hankiss has a new brilliant idea: Hungary ought to import foreign politicians who could more successfully steer the ship of state than the native lot. For example, there is poor Tony Blair who is jobless at the moment. Surely, said Mr. Hankiss, he would be happy to accept the job of prime minister of Hungary. Admittedly, according to the constitution the prime minister must be a Hungarian citizen, but that is no problem. Within a year this citizenship business could easily be fixed.

Should I continue? The amazing thing is that a man like Hankiss is not ignored but taken seriously. Well, I don’t think that Mr. Gyurcsány takes him seriously but the media and the "intellectuals" do. Hankiss, by the way, reminds me of the type of professor about whom Americans like to say that "he is unable to tie his own shoes." Hankiss, in consort with an American educated economist, lawyer and financial expert, is writing a book about what Hungary ought to do in order to carve out a niche for itself in the world economy. This will be one book I surely will not buy since his co-author’s idea is that Hungary should concentrate on agriculture. I am no economist but even I know that this is nonsense.

Then we have other fortune tellers. Those who already know who is going to win the elections in 2010. The right-wing political scientist (István Stumpf, former head of the prime minister’s office during the Orbán government) is sure that the MSZP will never recover and the Fidesz’s victory is certain. The left-wing political scientist (Attila Ágh) is equally certain that the MSZP will recover and Orbán will definitely lose. Then there are those who are convinced that Gyurcsány’s position will be weaker next year because they already bank on a successful referendum from the point of view of the Fidesz. There is another political scientist, László Kéri who in a long interview (in 168 Óra) reviews possible successors to Ferenc Gyurcsány. The list is endless. In order to maintain balance he does the same with Orbán’s successors. In neither case is there the slightest chance of any such event in the short run, but obviously small things like that don’t bother our fortune tellers.

And finally, there is a realistic view and typically not from a native political scientist but from the Austrian Paul Lendvai who in an Austrian paper wrote a fine article about the current political situation in Hungary and pointed out that if the MSZP got rid of Gyurcsány it would amount to the party’s suicide. I think that any thinking observer must agree with Paul Lendvai. Moreover, I’m certain that 99% of the MSZP parliamentary members know that very well. The parliamentary faction’s behavior lately is proof of their sanity.

Meanwhile the Hungarian "political scientists" can dream and come up with some brilliant ideas and analyses which strike me more and more as fillers.