Viktor Orbán’s plans for Hungary?

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had read a sentence or two reporting rumors about Viktor Orbán's plans after his presumed certain victory at the next election. Whenever this election takes place. I think the initial piece of news appeared in Népszava. According to these rumors Viktor Orbán's answer to Hungary's economic ills would be the immediate cessation of all large government infrastructure projects. Currently there are five roads under construction. One toward Pécs, which will be one of Europe's cultural capitals in 2010. The only problem is that there is no modern highway leading to the city. Only an old two-lane road that goes through numerous villages; the trip from Budapest to Pécs takes three hours. Another important although smaller project is a bypass around Budapest that would divert many of the huge trucks clogging traffic in the capital. Another project that would be scrapped: the new metro line in Budapest under construction and postponed once before by Viktor Orbán in 1998. All these projects would come to a screeching halt, I presume in order to divert government funds to improved social benefits and lower taxes.

This vague talk about stopping current infrastructure projects was reinforced by Zsigmond Járai's repeated references to the unnecessary, expensive investments in this sector. According to Járai, one could easily save 1,000 billion forints this way. The rumors were repeated this weekend in Vasárnapi Hírek, and thus one increasingly had to give credence to them. Today, it all came out and more.

The usually well informed internet newspaper Index managed to get hold of an apparently reliable story that wasn't supposed to be public. Apparently some weeks ago Viktor Orbán in a seminar setting spoke with surprising frankness about his opinions and plans. What happened was the following. László Kéri, a political scientist who quite a few years ago wrote a book about Viktor Orbán and who was once Orbán's professor at the Law School, organizes from time to time meetings of his students with different politicians. I don't know how, but he managed to convince Orbán to be one of his guests. I found Orbán's acceptance of Kéri's invitation surprising because Kéri is not considered to be exactly an admirer of Orbán. Moreover, I am not sure how Kéri could promise that not a word would ever leak out of his seminars, but he did. Well, it didn't for a few weeks but it is public now. Orbán was brutally frank, and I'm afraid he did a disservice to himself, his party, and his cause by what he said at that seminar.

According to Index's informants (Index uses the plural), Orbán was brutally frank about his assessment of the present political situation as well as about his future plans after 2010. The informants were struck by his extreme self-confidence, a description that is most likely not exaggerated because the editor-in-chief of Népszabadság also commented on Orbán's self-confidence which he found "a bit too much." In any case, Orbán has no doubt that Fidesz will win the next election. He mentioned his amusement when he hears about alleged attempts at his removal by his colleagues on the right because in reality he has no rivals. Even if he resigned as party chief or if someone else were to become the prime minister, he would remain the leader of the right. He attributes his preeminence to the fact that his government was the first conservative government since 1948. (József Antall must be turning in his grave!) He is preeminent because important "national icons" are associated with his name, like the National Theater and the Széchenyi Plan. If I were Viktor Orbán I wouldn't be too proud of the National Theater. The foundations of a modern theater building had been already dug in downtown Pest when Orbán won the election. He immediately halted the construction because, according to him, it was too expensive. The winning plan of a modern building was scrapped and a new site and a new architect was found. The architect had never designed a theater building and the result is according to most people a disaster. A building not really fit for the twenty-first century. In addition, in the end it cost more than the original structure would have. As for the Széchenyi Plan: Orbán's government offered grants to small entrepreneurs. Giving money away free is never a very good idea. It wasn't in this case either. Moreover, the amount spent on the Széchenyi Plan was actually quite small but the noise around it enormous.

Apparently Orbán spoke highly of Gyula Horn's political talent while he called Gyurcsány "an idiot" and "a fool." According to Orbán, Gyurcsány confuses political tactics with communication. He talked about the infamous speech of Balatonőszöd which "could be even called sympathetic" (not from his point of view though) but politically one cannot make a speech like it. (Orbán is absolutely right about that.)

And then came the really interesting part of the speech. Although he didn't give a detailed account of his plans concerning governing, he said that "for two years there would be no traditional governing." What can that mean? "A lot of things will be painful to a lot of people." This last sentence is apparently a verbatim quotation. And he specifically mentioned scrapping road and metro construction.

Orbán also talked about the Hungarian Guard. He seems to have a simple, if not too democratic answer to the problem. When he becomes prime minister "he will do what Horthy did with the leadership of the Arrowcross Party. He would smack them a couple of times and send them home."

Well, the question is whether, after all, the Hungarian people would like to have a couple of years of non-traditional governing and a lot of pain. In addition to no metro, no new roads. And whether the far right supporters would like to be smacked and sent home.

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Paul Hellyer
Guest

And we all know who out of Horthy and the Arrow Cross lasted longer and who went “home” first.

Lia
Guest

“Although he didn’t give a detailed account of his plans concerning governing,…”
When has he ever? 🙂
Honestly, what does he have to GAIN by stopping road and metro construction? I don’t get it; this guy wants to chase us back to the stone age, and no one seems to care…

Adrian
Guest

Paul Hellyer,
“And we all know who out of Horthy and the Arrow Cross lasted longer and who went “home” first.”
I don’t think you can draw a useful parallel between Horthy and Orbán’s relationsip with facsism. After the election, Orbán will presumably be master in his own house.

Adrian
Guest

Eva,
“Orbán also talked about the Hungarian Guard. He seems to have a simple, if not too democratic answer to the problem”
Surely the nature of Orbán’s answer will depend on whether the far right gets into parliament or not. Do the opinion polls suggest that this will happen?
Confidence in a Fidesz victory may deliver more MIEP/Jobbik votes.

Lia
Guest

Éva “You imagine I am also baffled. Moreover, if all these constructions stop what about unemployment?”
Not to mention having to plug all those holes that have been dug and drilled for the metro and the stations 🙂 I mean, really, do you think they want to start a chain of ‘Gödör klub’-s a la Erzsébet tér?

ICouldBeAnyone
Guest

Lia,
Yes, it will be more of a Hungarian “spectre” wouldn’t you say?!! 😮
The good news is I am sure that the economy will recover, just as Eva has pointed out and the socialist will win, with new found faith in Gyurcsany.

Lia
Guest

I don’t think the economy will recover any time soon, and I certainly don’t think Gyurcsany has any political capital left to pull off another election victory (I’m not in favor of that anyway).

Odin's lost eye
Guest

If it is true that Fides and their fearless leader (Viktor Orbán) do stop the Hungarian infrastructure projects I fear that he is ‘riding for a fall’. Where the projects are subsidised by European money I think the other ‘Contracting Party’ (Hungary) has either to see them through to conclusion or pay back the subsidies already paid. If this is true – what price the savings – as we Europeans are paying the ‘Lion’s Share’ of cost of many of them. Also where Hungary has agreed to provide the ancillary services (feeder roads, fly-overs etc.) the Europeans will insist that they do so.
As to things like Jobbic the it will be interesting to see how well they do in the up-coming European elections. If they get any seats most of Europe will freeze them out.
The Magyar Guard can be disposed of by laughter!!! As were Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts. It is a pity that you cannot get ‘PAXO’ in Hungary because every Magyar Guardsman needs about 1Kg of it!

Adrian
Guest
Odin’s Lost Eye, ***The Magyar Guard can be disposed of by laughter!!! As were Oswald Mosley and his Blackshirts*** “Mosley’s British Union of Fascists (October 1932) won some important early converts, like Lord Rothermere, publisher of the mass-circulation London Daily Mail’ Mosley’s movement aroused revulsion, however, when his black-shirted guards spotlighted and beat up opponents at a large public meeting at the Olympia exhibition hall in London in June 1934. Hitler’s Night of the Long Knives, at the end of the same month, provoked the departure of 90 percent of the BUF’s fifty thousand memmbers, including Lord Rothermere. At the end of 1934, Mosley took an actively anti-Semitic tack and sent his Blackshirts to swagger through London’s East End, where they fought with Jews and Communists, building a new clientele among unskilled workers and struggling shopkeepers there. The Public Order Act, passed soon after the “BattIe of Cable Street” with antifascists on October 4, 1936, outlawed political uniforms and deprived the BUF of its public spectacles, but it grew again to about twenty thousand with a campaign against war in 1939. Mosley’s black shirts, violence, and overt sympathy for Mussolini and Hitler (he was marrried to Diana Mitford in Hitler’s… Read more »
Mark
Guest
Let’s think about this one …. c.70% of Hungary’s budget is spent on ongoing social expenditures (pensions, health, education). He might also cut infrastructural projects (though this would also risk the loss of European moneys, and some expenditures, including some by FIDESZ run munipalities has been incurred against the assumption of European incomes, some of which are paid on the basis of completion of the project), but he is not going to have the money to reduce taxation without substantial cuts in these expenditures. My tip would be to look at cuts to pensions (the pensioners vote for the MSZP after all), forms of social assistance targetted at the poor, and a further trimming of public sector employment. The targetting of tax cuts on entrepreneurs, and the tight budgetary situation will mean little, if any benefit will be felt for a while by most people. This means that FIDESZ after promising social improvement, will be faced with an almost Gyurcsany-like problem of credibility (winning the election, and then in power turning 180 degrees). Orban clearly wants a two-thirds majority, so that I assume he can implement a Gaullist solution to secure control over the political system, i.e. ensure parliament elects… Read more »
Adrian
Guest

Mark,
“Orban will raise the stakes – just as he has done for. Fasten your seat-belts, a very unpleasant period is about to begin.”
Do you think he is capable of moving from a Gaulist solution to Mugabe-an one “as his authority and credibility crumble”?
Orbán has stepped away from power before, and my view is that he is a populist not a dictator in waiting. My bigger concern is that he will try to co-opt the far right into his political program and underestimate their seriousness. How far this will go depends on the state of European economy.

Dan
Guest

Don’t believe ALL that you are told-Research!
http://www.ihr.org/jhr/v05/v05p139_Row.html
Sir Oswald Mosley…Decorated Soldier and true Eurpean- not in the EUSSR sense!

Dan
Guest

http://centurean2.wordpress.com/2009/05/24/hungarys-jobbik-movement-hopes-to-win-eu-seat-getting-nazi-tag-l-ol/
Of special interest all post’s referencing the EUMED what is really in store for ALL of Europe.

Andras
Guest
What will be Orban’s space is really depending on the EU and IMF. He has already publicly suggested that he would ask a new IMF loan,and permission to have a deficit target around 6-7% of the GDP. If he would get this deal, his government may have some more space than the MSZP had after 2006. Without such a margin, he would face a very difficult period between 2010 and 2014. He himself nurtured, reinforced a political culture, which believes that good governance really could turn around a country from hell to heaven within short period without sacrifices on behalf of the population through state control of the market. Would be difficult a task within the framework of the European single market, and in an stagnating wider economic environment, even with 6-7% deficit. He may try to divert the anger against the MSZP and liberals, but such a new “class warfare” or “cold civil war” may only strengthen the extreme right. Maybe the MSZP would be in lethal disarray, but, I guess, the real problem for Orban will be the Jobbik. What worries me is not only the current strength of Jobbik, but that Vona has the potential of becoming… Read more »
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