The new Hungarian cabinet

One cannot say much about the six new ministers except that, in their photo flanking the prime minister, they are a singularly unattractive lot.  One is wearing a pair of slacks that seems to be about three inches longer than his legs. Another one stands with his legs at least a foot apart. However, it would be unfair to judge them by their looks or poses. What is a bit worrisome is that for the most part they are political unknowns. I’ve heard of three of them: one for a longer period of time, the other two only recently. The one whose name has been familiar to me for some time is István Gyenesei, who will head the ministry dealing exclusively with the local governments. He is the sole independent in parliament (elected with some help from the MSZP). Considering that most of the local governments are in Fidesz hands, perhaps Gyenesei’s appointment will help relieve the tension between the central government and the localities. Also Gyenesei as a member of the cabinet will certainly vote with the MSZP delegation. The second person’s name resonated with me only when I heard that he was the president of the Budapest Engineering University. An academic who started his career as an assistant professor and climbed the necessary academic rungs to reach the top. He will be minister without portfolio, a new post, dealing with research development. The third name is Tamás Székely who until now was the director of the National Health Fund. His name wasn’t exactly a household word until about two weeks ago when Ferenc Gyurcsány asked him to negotiate with the family physicians who threatened to strike if the government doesn’t compensate them for the revenues lost from co-payments. The doctors are happy but whether this is good for Hungarian health care we don’t know yet. In any case, he will be the next minister of health (in twenty years the eleventh!). Then came three appointees unknown to me: Erika Szűcs, an MSZP old-timer who is very much liked in MSZP circles. She is also the deputy mayor of Miskolc, a formerly thriving industrial town now on the decline in a poor part of the country. She will be the new minister of Labor and Social Services. Mónika Lamperth who has been in the cabinet since 2002, was asked to leave her government position and busy herself with party affairs. Everybody keeps repeating that this is not a demotion. Then there are the two unrelated Szabós, Imre and Pál. Szabó (Taylor) is a very common Hungarian family name. Imre Szabó will head the Ministry of the Environment and Waterways (Gábor Fodor had praise for him). He is also an MSZP insider (president of Pest County MSZP). And Pál Szabó will be minister of transportation, telecommunication and energy. He has an extensive business background (already in the Kádár regime). For a while he worked in the private sector, but in 2002 he was named head of the Hungarian Postal Service where he did apparently a very good job.

And there is Gordon Bajnai who keeps going up and up and up. First he was entrusted by Gyurcsány to handle the European Union subsidies, later he became minister in charge of local governments and regional development. Now his work also includes the country’s economy plus national development. Bajnai is perhaps thus became the most important minister in the cabinet. Needless to say that the favorite pastime of Hungarian journalists continues concerning Bajnai’s future. There are some who think that he will be Gyurcsány’s successor. Of course, the whole thing is ridiculous; Bajnai is a technocrat without any political background or connections. If MSZP thought that Gyurcsány were not suitable for the job they would not turn to Bajnai but to someone in the upper echelons of the party. However, for the time being that doesn’t seem to be on the agenda.

As for the future accomplishments of this cabinet, only time will tell.

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So Gyurcsány broadened his base out in the country-side and is trying to defuse the HealthCare-problem as bipartisan issue.
He did it also by taking in more “technocrats”, something Orban suggested already in the hot Summer of 2006 (but then of course Orban would have called the shots).
So far so good, from a Government-Control point of view, but what can be worrying is that the main emphasis seem to be to control the EU-funds. That is of course extremely important, but it is a bit introvert. Not so much forward-looking with much needed reforms etc.
We have to see what is played out in the background, especially with MDF. Maybe we will get some proposals on much needed reforms from there.

Antique cabinets

I would like to see the picture that you are talking about in the first paragraph.