What a blow: Hungarians like the “Compact”

Szonda Ipsos moved swiftly and conducted a poll on what people think of Ferenc Gyurcsány's proposals as outlined in his essay, "Compact." The results are unexpected and fascinating. Almost three-quarters of those asked believed that it would serve the interests of the country if SZDSZ would support the MSZP program on tax reform.  Eighty percent of them felt that such support would be in the interests of SZDSZ as well. The SZDSZ voters (I don't know how many they found in this group of 1,000) practically all agreed that their party should back the plan. Even Fidesz respondents embraced the prime minister's suggestions. On a scale of one to five, the polled group gave a four to the main thrust of the proposals. Especially popular were the plans to increase tax compliance (4.4 out of 5). They also supported the program of providing scholarships to students learning understaffed trades. They liked the simplification of the very complicated tax system. They also approved of giving tax breaks to companies that settle in poor regions with high unemployment.

After these stunning and unexpected results one can only hope that Gábor Fodor, Gábor Horn, József Gulyás, and János Kóka, i.e. the most prominent leaders of SZDSZ, can at least read even if they don't quite know how to lead a party. Maybe they will realize that it is to their advantage to change course.

And in case the Szonda Ipsos poll isn't enough, perhaps an open letter by Tamás Bauer addressed to Gábor Fodor (Népszabadság, September 2, 2008) will have some effect. Tamás Bauer is one of the founders of SZDSZ and was a member of parliament from 1994 until 2006. In 2007 he quit SZDSZ. An economist, he now teaches at Corvinus University. Lately he has written extensively on political topics often related to the economy. He always has something thought-provoking to say.

Bauer has known Fodor for a long time and obviously thinks highly of him. He considers Fodor a man of integrity. Fodor also respects Bauer's opinions. Apparently Fodor sent a third person to Bauer to get his reaction to the "Compact." But since Fodor had already announced that "the program contained in the study of [Gyurcsány] doesn't serve the interests of the Hungary but only the political survival of Ferenc Gyurcsány" and therefore SZDSZ finds it unsuitable for discussion, Bauer didn't think that it was worth bothering with a personal exchange of letters. Instead he chose an open forum. He begins: "I consider the only decent solution to be if you people support Gyurcsány's efforts." And he continues: "This wouldn't serve his survival but the restoration of the cooperation between MSZP and SZDSZ and with it the survival of a democratic political option that these two parties represented against the Fidesz-led right."

Bauer doesn't agree with all of Gyurcsány's proposals but writes, "I have to admit that Gyurcsány is trying to find solutions to the problems that confront us today. He is seeking solutions, and he puts his ideas before the public in an honest manner." Bauer reminds Fodor and his friends that SZDSZ must share the responsibility for the present economic difficulties. "And this responsibility is not a small one." After all, SZDSZ was a partner in the overspending between 2002 and 2006 despite Bauer's warnings. Moreover, Bauer reminds Fodor that SZDSZ pushed hard for a decrease in the VAT just before the elections that had to be raised again after the elections. It was a terrible blow to the government, and it was mostly because of SZDSZ insistence. "You all share the responsibility that you like to shift to Gyurcsány alone. Fixing the present situation therefore is not only his duty but also yours. The fact that you abandoned the coalition doesn't change things. By leaving the coalition, you cannot leave the moral debt behind."

Bauer in an interview today (in József Orosz's Kontra) complained that even János Kóka in his article in yesterday's Népsszabadság didn't mention one possible solution to finding the extra 200 billion forints. Bauer asks: "Do you, like Fidesz or MDF, speak about cuts in expenses only in general terms without mentioning a single 'sensitive' area'? … In plain language: are you ready to bear the odium of the necessary cuts in expenses?"

Well, that is hard hitting and we will see whether the findings of the Szonda Ipsos poll and this "friendly letter" from Bauer will make a change in the thinking of the SZDSZ leadership. There are signs already: Gábor Horn said that if Gyurcsány asks them to come and talk they would be willing. That's nice and, of course, Gyurcsány did ask them today. However, they will be able to decide only on Friday! It seems that the needs of the country don't demand swift action on their part.