My head is spinning. One hears nothing else but talking heads spouting their wisdom about Viktor Orbán's monologue at a seminar of young political scientists, students of László Kéri. One interpretation is more bizarre than the next. At least to my mind. The best solutions in mathematics are the simplest. I think the same is true about political analysis.
The first hypothesis is that Orbán actually wanted his plans to become public. Oh yes, he wanted all the pensioners to know that he is going to freeze their pensions and that in general he doesn't care much about them because he is basing his strategy on the "active population." He did this, the argument goes, because he came to the conclusion that Gyurcsány's downfall was the result of not making his plans known ahead of time. He will do otherwise. So far so good, but it sounds mighty strange that he chose this way of making his plans public. I understand that Orbán somehow must close the gap between unlimited promises and the harsh reality that may await him if he wins the next election. Yes, I understand that sooner or later Fidesz must come out with a realistic campaign program. But this way? Out of the blue, instead of slowly and methodically introducing the different steps to be taken? Surely, this couldn't have been Orbán's intention.
A variation on the same theme but a bit more sophisticated is the following. Actually Orbán didn't want the contents of his speech to leak out, but now that they have, he doesn't mind. Oh, yes, he is jumping up and down for joy that people are comparing his speech to Gyurcsány's infamous performance at Balatonőszöd. That people make fun of his boasting and that they now hear that his austerity program will be more stringent than that of Gyurcsány. Sure thing! He is just thrilled that Gábor Vona, head of Jobbik and the spiritual father of the Hungarian Guard, is mighty upset that Viktor Orbán wants to slap him and his guardists around and send them home like Horthy did to the members of the Arrow Cross Party. After all, according to the latest polls Jobbik has 8% of the votes, and Orbán cannot write off the votes of the far right. Vona, in fact, hit back: he revealed that many Fidesz members are secretly members of the Hungarian Guard, whose numbers are growing rapidly.
Another widely held view is that the revelation will not hurt Orbán and Fidesz. They will keep on marching toward a two-thirds majority at the next election. Be that election this year or in 2010. Even people like József Debreczeni, whose opinions I respect, think that this speech will make no difference. Another political analyst whose writings I usually agree with also thinks that for a few days there will be a lot of talk about the speech but once summer comes (which in Hungarian is called the cucumber season) the whole thing will be forgotten. Well, that is a possibility if MSZP lets it be forgotten. In order to keep something alive a sophisticated modern political party must do what Fidesz does: its spokesmen must repeat every day at every turn the same story about the horrid consequences of a possible Fidesz victory.
Then comes the widely held belief that no negative reaction to the speech will make the slightest difference to the thinking of the "true believers." Indeed, there are many people for whom Orbán is demi-God who can do no wrong. He is perfection himself. However, it is not these people whose thinking might be changed as a result of the speech. Rather, it is the less devoted part of the electorate who vote according to their pocketbooks, those who two years ago voted for MSZP but at the referendum voted "yes" for the three questions. Perhaps this group will say: "Oh, after all, all these promises were nothing but lies and MSZP is at least trying to minimize the 'pain' while Orbán promises 'a lot of pain to a lot of people.'" These people might not vote for Fidesz at the next election because, while Gyurcsány keeps saying that "we are over the hump," Orbán is promising two more years of austerity, an austerity much worse than what they had to endure in the past two years.
So I don't think that Orbán is happy about the leak or that he thinks it will serve his purposes. Otherwise, he wouldn't have promised one million new jobs in the next ten years after his speech became public. Surely, he feels that he has to counterbalance the negative message that came through from his outlining the future of his government. He called on the socialists to leave. He actually used the imperative and the familiar form, giving a sharp and scornful edge to his call: "Menjetek el!" Simply: Leave! And he added: "It will be better for everybody." This way he can implement his plans and lead the country to economic paradise.
I think that there is a very simple, human explanation for the whole affair. Orbán is feeling very self-confident at the moment. Obviously when he is happy, he is very happy and when he is sad, he is very sad. He himself admitted that "he fell apart" after the lost 2002 elections. Most likely that was the case in 2006 as well because again he disappeared for months. Right now he is in his manic mode, with every good reason. He has bounced back to assume a commanding position when a year and a half ago people were burying him as a politician. I believe that in his happiness and newly regained self-confidence he said things that he shouldn't have. Add to this that according to reports he consumed some wine as he went on talking for three hours. (Gábor Gavra wrote in Hírszerző that Gyurcsány apparently also had a couple of drinks before he gave his afternoon speech at Őszöd.) Inhibitions fall after a few drinks, and surely a politician ought to be careful about giving speeches after or while drinking.
I am almost certain that Orbán didn't think that the contents of his speech would leak out: after all, László Kéri has been holding these Wednesday night seminars for a number of years. Several politicians were invited, and the public heard nothing. Yet this time the situation was different. Orbán doesn't even know whether there is a recording of his speech. So he can't even deny the different statements allegedly made by him in case there is. He is not happy. He knows that this leaked story is not to his advantage.
This morning a fairly rough-sounding woman phoned into Bolgár's program who in no uncertain terms summarized the real meaning of these revelations. According to her, people turned away from Gyurcsány and MSZP because of the austerity program. If Orbán now offers the same, his fate will be identical to that of Gyurcsány. Except Gyurcsány didn't tell about his program before the elections, and perhaps it would have been wiser of Orbán to keep his plans to himself. It is very possible that he will lose some of his commanding lead as a result of this speech.