As I mentioned yesterday, Ferenc Gyurcsány agreed to spend an hour in front of a laptop at the headquarters of ATV, a television station whose political leaning is to the left-liberal side. ATV has very good political programs, and I often cite in this blog Újságíró Klub (Journalists' Club), Egyenes beszéd (Straight Talk), Pont7 (Exactly at Seven), A tét (The Stake), among others. Over 1,000 written questions were submitted and Gyurcsány answered about 100 of them. Most were friendly, which is not terribly surprising given ATV's liberal reputation and its mostly pro-government audience. But there were some decidedly antagonistic questions as well.
With great gusto Gyurcsány types with two fingers and seems proud of his typing speed. Accuracy is something else. (To their credit the staff didn't correct his typos.) He obviously wanted to answer as many letters as possible because his answers were very short: one, rarely two sentences. The overwhelming impression after reading the questions and answers is that he is an optimist. A man full of energy and enthusiasm. He is sure that the budget will be voted on and not by convincing individual stray members to vote with the government but with the assistance of SZDSZ. He is sure that he and his party will win the elections despite the current situation where Fidesz has twice as many supporters as MSZP. It is going to happen because Orbán is using the same strategy Fidesz followed in the last two elections and that strategy ensures failure.
He didn't mince words when it came to the behavior of Orbán and his party. One of the questions involved a demonstration planned for this weekend called Tarka Magyarország (Multi-colored Hungary) organized by over one hundred so-called civic organizations. Like the Rainbow Coalition it is supposed bring Hungarian groups together to demonstrate against discrimination. Apparently the organizers approached all the party leaders who assured them of their support; Gyurcsány also announced that he would attend. Well, this seemed to be too much for the civic groups, or at least one of them, Amnesty International Hungary. They implored the prime minister not to attend because they don't want politics to expropriate their nonpolitical demonstration. But the planned demonstration by its very nature is political and in fact they should have asked all party leaders to attend. In this connection there was a question about Gyurcsány's attendance. He didn't answer outright but he alluded to the fact that Viktor Orbán signed the declaration of Tarka Magyar but, as he said, "it is easy to sign something. It is more difficult to keep away from Jobbik," a far-right, antisemitic, anti-Gypsy party with whom Fidesz politicians cooperate on the local level. He used a Hungarian expression that highlights someone whose words do not comport with their deeds. Perhaps one of you can come up with a good English equivalent. The expression is: "Vízet prédikál, bort iszik." (He drinks wine while he is preaching water.) And he added: "and the wine is spiked."
Not surprisingly someone inquired about the the UD Zrt. affair and rather unfortunately talked about "scandals" in the plural. Gyurcsány immediately emended the question: there is only one affair, one scandal. Fidesz came into contact with a firm that was engaged in criminal activities. Now they are trying turn the table, but these attacks on the National Security Office are all too obvious. There was another question, a rather sticky one, concerning the role of Sándor Csányi, president of OTP. The person wanted to know "why the media is shielding Csányi. What are the members of the media afraid of?" Gyurcsány was very diplomatic. He didn't know whether anyone is shielding Csányi. "They are just cautious as they should be." Another question was also quite pointed. Does he have any idea who leaked Gyurcsány's fateful speech at Balatonőszöd that gave so much trouble and heartache to Gyurcsány and his party and so much ammunition to Fidesz about "the lies morning, noon and night"? It is quite obvious that people are speculating that UD Zrt. had something to do with the tape that Fidesz got hold of. Gyurcsány's answer was brief: no, he doesn't know, but those in charge of the investigation did everything in their power to find out. To no avail.
In addition to these questions there was a complaint about subsidies to Hungarian organizations in the neighboring countries. And why should people whose apartments are heated by distance heating receive subsidies? And what about local governments "who throw money out the window?" And whether he still runs on Margit Sziget (Marguerite Island between Pest and Buda in the Danube). He assured the readers that he does. He ran yesterday morning twice around the island and his time was about 50 minutes "which is not bad." Then he said good bye and urged them to watch ATV.
As I said yesterday, the two leaders are very different and their ideas are worlds apart. Who will win in the end? Of course, we cannot predict at this point. Right now Fidesz seems unbeatable, but as we know political fortunes can turn on a dime. And I think Orbán knows that. That's why he wanted to gobble up MDF and why he doesn't want to alienate the far right. Whether this attempt to unify all the forces on the right will work or not, we will see. I somehow don't think so.