Maybe. Initially, most political commentators were very cautious when they analyzed the possible effects of Viktor Orbán's leaked "informal chat" with former students of the political scientist, László Kéri. Some of them, for example Attila Gyulai of Political Capital, were sure that the contents of Orbán's speech "would not affect the present political balance." (Gyulai's conversation with Ferenc Vicsek in Klub Rádió's Saturday afternoon program, Hetes Stúdió.) Others with perverse logic suggested that the leaked speech "may even be advantageous to Fidesz and Viktor Orbán." Why? After all, two very damaging things emerged from what Orbán had to say. First of all, that he was lying all along when he promised the Hungarian people an earthly paradise once he takes over. Second, that he would introduce an austerity program far more stringent than the current government's. A population that refused to cough up a couple of dollars in co-payment was not likely to be jumping with joy after hearing what Orbán had to say.
In any case, I didn't believe any of these off-the-wall predictions and had a sneaking suspicion that this whole business would be detrimental politically to Fidesz. My feeling was reinforced after seeing Orbán's desperate attempts at explaining himself away. Every second day he appeared on different television programs and tried to "refine" (finomítani) the message. However, no refining could get him out of the hole. I said to myself: Surely Orbán himself knows that this speech was a big mistake. But let's wait and see what the opinion polls say. Well, the first opinion poll's results became public yesterday. Fidesz, of course, still leads by a mile, but in one month Fidesz lost quite a few voters while MSZP gained some. In May, the difference between the two parties among those who say that they would definitely vote was 42%. Today it is only 33%. Fidesz's support dropped to its lowest in the last six months: in the voting-age population it is only 41% while MSZP managed to climb up to 20%. (If you recall, MSZP's support was as low as 13-15% in this category a couple of months ago.) The pensioners were not happy with Orbán's plans to change Swiss indexing to an indexing based solely on the inflation rate. Orbán's popularity among retired people last month was 41%; today it is only 36%. In the population as a whole Orbán's popularity dropped from 51% to 48% while Gyurcsány's very low 19% moved up to 23%. Of course, one must keep in mind that 30% of the sample claimed no party preference or affiliation.
Another blow to Fidesz may have been István Stumpf's rather careless remarks concerning the possibility (advisability?) of changing the constitutional prerogatives of the president. A much stronger position would be desirable, said Stumpf, and perhaps Orbán would be just wonderful as a president but of course with much greater powers. According to rumors, the Fidesz leadership is mighty upset with Stumpf, especially since it was through Stumpf that Kéri approached Orbán for a visit with his students. In fact, Stumpf was present at the ill-conceived gathering. Again, I think the Fidesz leadership's radar is pointing in the right direction. Stumpf's ominous words worried the left-liberal segment of the population and most likely frightened SZDSZ away from any kind of deal with Fidesz, if this rather confused SZDSZ leadership ever thought of such a deal.
On Monday Gyurcsány appeared on Az Este, a late evening political program on MTV. He seemed to be in a very upbeat mood and was his old combative self. Yesterday morning he gave a long interview on Mokka, an early morning show on TV2. Here his performance when confronted with a rather antagonistic reporter reminded me of his debate with Viktor Orbán when he basically won the 2006 elections. He had at least three reasons to be happy. First, parties learn about polling results before they are released to the public, and he saw what may be an inflection point in Hungarian political sentiment. Moreover, by then he must have known that Mercedes Benz had chosen Hungary for its new factory that will employ some 2,500 workers. He must also have known that the European Union's Center for Technology and Innovation would be established in Budapest. All this is, of course, excellent news for Hungary and helps the cause of MSZP and the government.
The media is very excited about Daimler-Benz's decision. The shrinking camp of left-liberal journalists note that the German automaker wouldn't be investing money in a country that is in the throes of economic and political collapse. I understand that this particular foreign investment is the largest in the history of the Third Republic. According to Gyurcsány himself (in his blog), once this plant is operative (2011) it could add between one and one-and-a-half percent to Hungary's GDP. It would, in addition to the 2,500 people employed at the headquarters in Kecskemét, also provide employment to about 10,000 people who will be working for different local sub-contractors. Admittedly, this is not 100,000 jobs a year as Orbán promised, but it is very significant indeed.
All in all, it's no wonder that Gyurcsány looked so happy and relaxed. Another interesting bit of information. Two days after Gyurcsány appeared on Az Este Orbán also appeared. What surprised me is that according to rating statistics kept by the television station, more people watched Gyurcsány than Orbán. In the case of Orbán people started to watch the program but eventually switched channels.