Thoughts about the referendum

Yesterday I quoted a first-rate opinion piece about pseudo axioms. In it, among other things, the author, Kornélia Magyar, stated with great conviction that the referendum would be a sweeping victory for Viktor Orbán and his party. There are others who think differently. Perhaps even Viktor Orbán himself. After some delay I managed to watch a fairly lengthy interview with Orbán on MTV’s "A szólás szabadsága" (Freedom of Speech), a weekly political program on Sunday nights. György Baló, who was a bit braver than usual, asked a few uncomfortable questions from Orbán. But Orbán is no fool: he can get out of sticky situations by simply talking about something else. The interview began with one of these sticky questions. It went something like this: "In one of your speeches you talked about the necessity of a sweeping victory on March 9th which would result in sweeping political changes. What would you consider to be a ‘sweeping’ victory?" Well, that was a very uncomfortable question. "Sweeping" is a strong adjective and when we hear the word we really think of something very, very big. Orbán refused to answer. Wisely, I think, because although no one dares to predict exact figures there are more and more signs that a sweeping victory might be in doubt. As a political commentator said just today: "The direction of the wind hasn’t changed yet but there is something in the air." I also feel a certain change although I cannot put my finger on it. However, here are a few signs of the change.

The very fact that Orbán’s speech about the state of the country was moderate in comparison to his earlier belligerent harangues raised my suspicions. There have also been other signs since. While a month ago 21% wanted to see Viktor Orbán as prime minister of Hungary, today it is only 15%. Only half of the Fidesz voters want to see a government headed by Orbán, the rest are not sure, or rather 18% are sure that the prime minister should not be Orbán. Acccording to an undisclosed source, a political scientist close to Orbán warned him that he shouldn’t raise the stakes too high because even if the referendum is successful but nothing monumental happens afterwards the disappointment in his camp might be so severe that "it may negatively influence the party’s chances in 2010." Others apparently went even further: if there is "no sweeping victory," the influence of the referendum will have a negative effect on the Fidesz voters.

At the same time there are more signs that the medical profession no longer shows a united front. Since the government made it clear that if there is no co-payment and no daily fee at hospitals the doctors and hospitals are not going to be compensated, an ever increasing number of doctors and hospital directors are urging people to say "no" on March 9th. The Magyar Demokrata Fórum (MDF), which initially was against these fees, has changed its position. A few days ago one could read on MDF’s home page that in the opinion of its leadership the abolishment of these fees will be harmful to the profession. Therefore the party urges its followers to either boycott the referendum or vote "no." As for tuition, a clear victory there has always been in doubt; the presidents of the 72 universities are solidly behind tuition.

Then there is Lajos Kósa, the mayor of Debrecen, who is currently the most popular Fidesz politician. A few days ago Kósa gave an interview in which he pretty well indicated that if circumstances were appropriate he would be glad to become a candidate for the prime minister’s office in 2010. The next day Orbán visited Debrecen and, when asked about the Kósa interview, he remarked: "Lajos gives very entertaining interviews." Some commentators, in my opinion, overcomplicate matters when they claim that this is just a game that Orbán and Kósa have agreed to play. I don’t think so. Kósa knows what he is talking about. He and many others in the party most likely know that Orbán’s position is anything but solid and that his position might be further weakened if the victory is not sweeping, or, even worse, the referendum is not valid.

And finally, TV2, a commercial station, conducted an on-line survey (not a random sample, of course, but interesting nonetheless) on the question of whether co-payment should remain in force. Twenty-five thousand people voted: 56% yes, 42% no. Perhaps, after all, the victory will not be so sweeping.

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New World Order
Guest
Eszter: I hope that your analysis is correct. I agree in part that within certain limited elements of the country [i.e., educated, well-off Budapesters] there is some increased understanding that personal co-payments for things like health and education make sense. Nevertheless, I suspect you are probably still over interpreting the “tea leaves”, and your analysis is in part seeing what is happening and in part seeing what you want to see. Having said that, there is no doubt that Orban has (again) put himself in a difficult position by effectively over promising on this vote, and thereby fueling expectaions on the “right”. He is now, as you say, trying to reset expectaions, which will be difficult because the consensus in Hungary is that the vote will be a sweeping victory for FIDESZ. If the results don’t actually feed the perception of a “sweeping victory” and if the MSZP holds its nerve and does not panic from a loss, then Orban may be in an uncomfortable position (not for the first time-given he is a serial loser since 1998). Nevertheless, Kosa and the other pretenders to the FIDESZ crown (Pokorni, Antal?) still do not have, I believe, sufficient support within the… Read more »
Odin's lost eye
Guest
All the polls I have analysed show an underlying insatbility. This seems to come from two sources, voter indecision and voter apathy. To some extent the weather on the 9th March may well be the deciding factor. Although it is a little early, if 9th March is warm and fine, many will be in their gardens getting things ready for planting. Out here in the ‘Boondocks’ this is thirsty work, so few will go to the polls (most who go out will go to the ‘Pub’) The rest will drink at home. If it is ‘dreek’ (cold dark and wet) most will stay at home especialy if there is football on TV. Later on they will watch the latest in the seriel of Magyar Guard VV the ‘Old Bill’ punch ups in Budapest. Most of those I know, actualy do not care too much about paying 200 Ft to visit the doctor. If you have to do this often -as my wife does- we ‘send in’ the tickets and get a refund! If it is a victory for ‘Apathy’ and a waste of money. The G&O show will go on. If Gyurcsány and MZSP keep their nerve they have two… Read more »
Varangy
Guest

****I believe, sufficient support within the grass roots to unseat Hungary’s version of Fidel Castro****
@NWO
Er, last I checked Viki isn’t a long-sitting brutal dictator who has jailed, tortured and killed thousands…
We know which parties have extensive ties to such a past.

New World Order
Guest

Varangy-
Point taken, but it certainly feels like “Viki” is able to control and manipulate FIDESZ in a manner similar to how Fidel controlled and manipulated the CCP (while at the same time losing, on a fairly regular basis, elections).
Not to mention-though I did not mean to infer this when I wrote the original sentence-that Viki seems to admire socialised medicine, which is arguably Fidel’s greatest accomplishment (among the very few that he can claim)in public policy. No visitation fees in Cuba!

Varangy
Guest

@NWO
Viki is no different than say the Clintons and their control over the Democratic Party. Remember Viki founded FIDESZ.
Unfortunately, Viki DOES admire socialized medicine. Regarding Cuba’s ‘free’ healthcare — there are actually 3 distinct levels of healthcare in Cuba.
1) Gold standard for Latin American healthcare tourists, heads of state etc etc. Probably almost as good as healthcare in the States or Europe.
2) Silver standard for Party members.
3) Horrific lack of any sort of standards for ordinary Cuban citizens. The ostensible ‘greatest accomplishment’ you write of.
Take a look at this piece in the NYT of all places…
http://www.healthcarebs.com/2007/05/27/cuban-health-care-stinks-according-to-the-new-york-times/

NWO
Guest

1. The three levels of the Cuban system sound somewhat similar to the present Hungarian system where levels of service and availability and speed are also a function of wealth and connections.
2. As we are witnessing now, the Clintons control of the Dem Party have such substantial limits that I don’t think “control” is the apt word any longer.

Varangy
Guest

@NWO
1) Great point.
2) Fair enough.

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