Orbán’s revelations and their afterlife

The storm around Orbán's alleged government plans has not quieted down. On the contrary, it has intensified, especially after the appearance of the Népszabadság-Szonda Ipsos poll today. Last night when two newspapermen at Népszava were putting together their joint article for today's issue, they were still receiving the opinions of "experts" who were convinced that "as things stand today, it is outright advantageous to Orbán that what he said in private came to light." I wonder how Ágoston Mráz, head of the think tank Nézőpoint Intézet (View Point Institute) and author of this opinion, must have reacted when he woke up this morning and saw the results of the Szonda Ipsos poll. It highlighted the remarkably negative opinions of all segments of society about the important points Orbán brought up in László Kéri's seminar. Before the poll appeared Mráz dug an even bigger hole for himself by saying in what a brilliant manner Orbán "neutralized people's preconceived ideas about him." Not one thing Mráz predicted seemed to have panned out. Attila Ágh, a political scientist close to MSZP, thought that, although Orbán's speech was a mistake, "the clever Fidesz communication according to all indications has managed to change a mistake into a virtue." Ágh too was wrong. No clever communication could turn things around. Sándor Fekete, another political scientist, was the only one who was right. He thought that it was a huge mistake and was certain that opinion polls would attest to that fact. He didn't have to wait for long.

Here are some of the results of the opinion poll, based on a sample of 1,000, taken on Monday. Sixty-five percent of all those questioned were against freezing pensions, 56% against the suspension of the metro project in Budapest, and 55% against stopping road construction. So none of Orbán's ideas met with the majority's approval. This had to be cold shower for the right. Heti Válasz, a relatively moderate right-wing weekly, could muster only this lame comment: "Too bad I wasn't among those who were asked by Szonda Ipsos." Apparently the Fidesz-supporting newspapermen doubt the professionalism of the poll takers. Indeed, if the results are not advantageous, that is usually the reaction.

Nothing has been settled about whether Orbán was just careless or whether he wanted his plans to become known. According to some people, Orbán is a very calculating fellow, and he must have known that what he said could not be kept secret. If these observers are right, then Orbán simply miscalculated the reaction of the public. However, this is hard to fathom given Orbán's natural political savvy: miscalculating that much? Since when would a stringent austerity program be welcomed? Anywhere in the world. In Hungary especially.

I still maintain that Orbán in his euphoria became careless. He thought that thanks to SZDSZ's short-sighted policies there would be early elections and his party might receive two-thirds of the parliamentary seats. In this case, he could do anything he wants. To change the constitution, for example. His former minister and confidante pretty well admitted that they would like to strengthen the position of the president and that one nice day Viktor Orbán might occupy the presidential palace. The schedule would presume a three-term Fidesz government. Out of the twelve years two hard years but then ten good years. After which perhaps Orbán would move over to the position of the president. Reverse of the Putin trick. Putin moved from president to prime minister, Orbán would become president from prime minister.

However, I somehow have the feeling that it will not be such smooth sailing. Especially if MSZP takes advantage of this huge blunder.

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“To change the constitution, for example. His former minister and confidante pretty well admitted that they would like to strengthen the position of the president and that one nice day Viktor Orbán might occupy the presidential palace” The more I think about this idea, the more I like it: not because I am an Orbán fan, but because it could get Hungary out of the constitutional impasse it currently finds itself in. The problem is that the executive is given to whoever can command a majority in Parliament (British style). However, the proportional representation system on which parliament in elected means – in practice – that majority government is coalition government. The government’s program is no longer a direct result of the general election but a result of coalition politics. If there was an executive president (French style) elected by popular vote, the executive would again be accountable to the electorate rather than to its coalition partners. The legislature could continue to be as arithmetically representative as anyone would like (we could even scrap the 5% threshhold). The immediate benefit of this would the elimination of marginal parties from the executive. In a direct popular election the candidates would have… Read more »

Considering how two years ago a Gyurcsany-supporting academic compared Orban to Lukashenko, comparing Orban to Putin now is progress.

Eva- A couple of things. First, just because a vast majority of Hungarians when asked do not support Orban’s “proposals” does not mean he will suffer long-term political damage. Does it? Everyone knows that when asked if they would like the “punch bowl” removed, Hungarian give a resounding “no” answer. Maybe for some former MSZP supporters this will be the begining of a basis for them to rethink their flirtation with FIDESZ. Anyway, MSZP is trying to capitalize on this by running newspaper adverts focused on the content of his speech. We will see how much this sticks. My sense is that it might have some negative impact (as mentioned above), but that this will not fundamentally alter the direction of public opinion in the country. What I find interesting, and that does not seem to have really been picked up, is that I believe Orban has tacitly admitted he was also lying before the last election. He said FIDESZ did not want to win the last election (here, btw, is a new lie) because they knew how bad the situation was and that reforms would be necessary. If that is true, then was he not lying by making all… Read more »