Orbán’s Őszöd?

You will remember that Ferenc Gyurcsány's problems began with a passionate and not too diplomatic speech to the MSZP parliamentary delegation at Balatonõszöd in which he tried to convince the reluctant socialists that an austerity program had to introduced. Without which, he argued, economic collapse would be inevitable. As usual he didn't speak from a prepared text but improvised, and some of the sentences were–how shall I say it kindly?–more than sloppy. Outright misleading. He said things that could easily be turned against him.

Well, today János Kóka was, I think, close to the truth when he said that Orbán's monologue (apparently it was almost impossible for the students to ask questions) will be his Őszöd. The more that leaks out the worse it sounds. And it seems that an ever increasing number of the students present (who, by the way, were sworn to secrecy) are "telling all."

By now the date is known. Index was vague: a few weeks ago. It turned out that the speech took place on April 30th. We even know that it was an early meeting because Orbán, the soccer player and avid soccer fan, wanted to be home to see a game on television. Orbán came not alone but accompanied by István Stumpf, the "independent political scientist" and his former cabinet minister and college dean, who tries in public appearances to make us believe that he has no connection to Orbán. Orbán arrived in jeans and was in a jolly good mood. He was relaxed and was sipping wine between sentences. He was self-assured, nay, at times outright conceited. At times he made condescending remarks about the competence of his audience in political matters.

As reported earlier, he praised Gyula Horn, his predecessor, as an astute politician who based his power on the old folks, the inactive population. For example, said Orbán, Horn wasn't trying to find out too much about who was and who wasn't eligible for disability payments. He, on the other hand, relied on the active population and helped, for example, the smaller entrepreneurs with the Széchenyi Plan (about which I said a few words yesterday). He tried to establish a base by paying attention to those who worked and who already had some financial background. Ferenc Gyurcsány (whom he consistently referred to as the "current prime minister") abandoned the alliance between MSZP and the inactive population but made no "social contract" with others. Thus, Viktor Orbán got a free pass.

He spent some time on Gyurcsány's speech at Balatonőszöd and in this connection called the prime minister "a stupid idiot, let's face it." He concluded that Gyurcsány is not a pro because a really good politician cannot lose his cool. With him nothing like this could happen. (Well, we will see!)

He considers his tenure (1998-2002) an outstanding era in Hungarian history. He is very satisfied with the results of those four years. He again brought up the National Theater and the Széchenyi Plan. Why did he lose the election after such a successful term? The reason was wrong Fidesz strategy. They were sure that those active people whom they favored could win over the older inactive socialist base. They were wrong. He also confirmed the rumors circulating about him after the lost election: "he fell apart and didn't quite recover for about six months."

How did he explain the lost election in 2006? In fact, Fidesz didn't want to win because they already knew in what bad shape the economy was. (Of course, if they really knew in what bad shape the country was financially, why did they promise an additional month of stipends–a 13th month–to the pensioners?)

If someone had asked Orbán in 2006 when he would be prime minister again he would have said in 2008. In the intervening months he often thought that the end was near and in fact he is very surprised that Gyurcsány is still in power. He is now confident that Gyurcsány will not survive until 2010. The rope is around Gyurcsány's neck already, and his feet are laden with stones. (Is this the Fidesz version of concrete shoes, à la the Mafia?) By remaining in power he is pulling down the whole socialist party with himself. They will sink together to the bottom of the ocean.

As for the future, Orbán is certain that if they win now they will win at least two more times. So the country can prepare itself for a twelve-year stint of Orbán and his friends. His governing will be divided into two parts. The first two years will be hard. Austerity measures will be introduced. Pensions will be frozen. He will have an easier time introducing these austerity measures than Gyurcsány did because in 2006 people didn't really believe that these measures were necessary. But since then the population has been hearing nothing else from the prime minister but that the the economy is in bad shape and so they are already somewhat prepared. Moreover, from him the population would accept these austerity measures. Unlike from Gyurcsány.

His government would again give preference to the middle class and those who are active in the country's economic life. As for health care, they would change the system but they don't yet know how. But people will have to pay more for health care. Fidesz is in favor of long-term plans. He mentioned a ten-year plan. (Even in the Kádár regime there were only five-year plans!) Fidesz politicians, it seems, are also taken with the ideas of an economist who is warming up an old idea of "Garden Hungary," a hobby horse of the populists between the two world wars. He claims that Hungary has plenty of water that will be in short supply in the future. All the water that floods the country in the spring should be stored and used for agricultural purposes. This should be Hungary's economic niche. (I personally don't think that this is a viable solution for healthy economic growth.) The dry, barren lands between the rivers Tisza and Duna should be flooded with water, creating a green paradise from a wasteland. He thinks that Hungary's future lies in tourism and agriculture.

As far as the Hungarian Guard is concerned: it is a reaction to a real problem. The state is weak, especially in the countryside. There are not enough policemen. The innocent population is not defended. Therefore the answer is (beside slapping the guardists around and sending them home) to strengthen the police force in the villages.

Finally, at the end, he praised himself profusely. He is the only important politician today who was already an important figure at the birth of democracies in the Eastern European countries. Vacláv Hável is too old, Péter Tölgyesy (SZDSZ/Fidesz)  abandoned politics, Iván Pető (SZDSZ) has spent himself, László Sólyom at the time of the change of regime was not in the center but rather on the periphery of political life. For at least fifteen years he will remain the leader of the Hungarian right unless he makes a very stupid mistake.

Is it possible that this pro already made his first mistake?

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>Is it possible that this pro already made his first mistake?
I’m doubtful as there were no recordings available that we know of. At least with today’s consumers of media, it is more difficult to make something “stick” if there is no recording.
Secondly, such bold and, quite frankly, not-too-bright statements do not contrast too much with Orbán’s reputation. Orbán’s forte is volume, in terms of both quantity and loudness. So even if these comments are repeated, he is sure to make other controversial statements that will make this secondhand account seem less important.

Odin's lost eye

*** “Orbán’s forte is volume, in terms of both quantity and loudness.” ***
There is an old English saying ‘Empty vessals make most sound’. Is this true here?

Reading what he says he’d do during his first two years in office (again) just goes to show what an absurd, crass, purely political stunt the March 9 referendum was. He himself sees the needs for serious reforms (also paying more for health care, lowering pensions, etc.), so I don’t see the huge difference between his plans and the ones that MSzP-SzDSz wanted to implement. The more I read about what this speech of Orban’s, the more that I think that Orban is TRYING as hard as he can to make the country as poor and bankrupt as possible before the elections. I’m sure he’s thinking that the ignorant voting populace, brainwashed by most of the media, will blame the Socialists and therefore give Fidesz a 2/3’s majority, allowing him to personally reshape the basic laws of the country as he sees fit. This is the absolutely most inexcusable form of politics – he’s purposely trying to impoverish a nation in order to bolster his own support. It’s obvious he’s not stupid – he knows that reforms are needed, otherwise Hungary’s bloated government is going to crush the life out of the country. Why wouldn’t he let MSzP-SzDSz implement real,… Read more »

I agree will Bill, Odin’s lost eye and Vladimir! It is terrible what Orban is doing. This just shows that Gyurcsany is right and should continue to lead us. His economic policies are exemplary.


Orbán’s is indeed an empty vessel in terms of philosophy. It’s clear he is about himself and is pretty good at manipulating people for his own ends. Unlike Gyurcsány, Orbán understands the football fan culture. Essentially these people want to rejoice or scorn the exploits of their team (in this case Hungary) without having to do anything but wear the colors and be a vociferous spectator along with the rest of their like-minded crowd. Most Hungarians seem to have a great need to exalt one of “their own,” and Orbán knows that statues aren’t made of people who rescue a health care system.
As for Gyurcsány, he has only been able to accomplish what has been politically possible after shooting himself in the foot. A bold politician he is not.
By the way, has it ever been found out who and how those recordings of Gyurcsány came about?

Peter I. Hidas

Even before reading the above summary I thought that Orban, if he wins in two years time, will introduce an austerity programme. If Gyurcsany is able to reform the economy the result will not show much before the next election and if no substantial reforms are coming forth Orban can blame the current government for the necessary austerity. From the economic policy oint of view this is a win-win situation from Orban’s point of view. Luckily, there are other factors as well and in politics two years is like a century in life.


Peter I. Hidas,
Exactly, Gyurcsany’s cutting of bureaucracy and his management of taxes has been exemplory. It will only now pay dividends leading Orban and others to get all the credit for his reforms. What is more the way that all government has become honest and open under Gyurcsany will be his lasting legacy.
(p.s. I also am a retired History Professor)