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.