Viktor Orbán’s latest pep talk

I must admit that I admire the optimism Viktor Orbán can occasionally muster in the middle of crises. In fact, I read somewhere that he is in his real element when the going gets rough. And let's face it, the going is rough now and will get even rougher when we learn more about "polypgate" and the role of Fidesz in this whole sordid affair. Today I'll summarize a speech he delivered while cruising the Danube on the Polgári Gondola. Magyar Polgári Együttműködési Egyesület compiled the distinguished guest list that made up his audience. And now to a translation of the sponsoring organization. The first problem is the word "polgár-polgári" which in the good old days simply meant "citizen-bourgeois," but Fidesz expropriated the word to mean "the right," specifically Fidesz and its sympathizers. Thus the Fidesz government became "polgári kormány." This is an insidious use of the word because in Hungary between 1948 and 1989 "polgári demokratikus rezsim" was contrasted with the Soviet-type socialist system. So if they are "polgári" then the other side must be communist. A decidedly non-mellifluous translation of the name of the organization is Association of Cooperation of the Hungarian Right.

Orbán's theme was appropriate to the occasion: "Where is our ship heading?" I read two summaries and didn't find answers to the four questions that allegedly structured his talk. (1) Where is the world going? (2) Where is Hungary going? (3) What are her interests? (4) And which way is the Hungarian right going? As I have often said, I really hate people making wild predictions about the future. If anyone could tell us which way the world is going, it would be a cinch to make plans, lay down strategy. In Orbán's remarks I couldn't find answers to where the world is going or what Hungary's interests are except to have Viktor Orbán as the country's prime minister as soon as possible. What I did find out was that according to Orbán "the importance of Central Europe will significantly increase." From the summaries it seems that his optimism lies in a reassessment of Russia's renewed strength that will perhaps make East-Central Europe strategically more important than previously. That's a potentially deja-vu scary scenario. He also alluded to Russia, China, and India as important new players in world affairs and argued that Hungary "does absolutely nothing in reacting" to these new challenges. I found this criticism especially interesting considering that Viktor Orbán refused to deal with Russia, didn't visit either China or India, while Gyurcsány went to all three and signed all sorts of commercial deals.

As for the Hungarian right's situation, according to Orbán it is absolutely fantastic. Today's Hungarian right is "dynamic, ambitious, ready to act." It has remedies to all the ills of the country. It is ready to govern and to govern effectively. On the other hand, there is "a burned out left." They are unable to give answers to the questions that need immediate attention. "Their intellectual reserve has been exhausted. They are tired of their own government, they hate everything and everybody, the country, each other, us, perhaps even themselves."

More and more people see that "life will not be like this forever." "A new world is coming, and a new era." And, of course, they "are ready." Orbán added that the western world has recognized that they bet on the wrong horse (the former communists) and are turning toward the Hungarian right. (Perhaps more about this self-delusion in another post.)

Well, wishful thinking would be the best way to describe this speech. Most of the criticism of Orbán himself and his party is that they have absolutely no new ideas about the future of the country. In 2006 Hungary faced a huge deficit and a resultant convergence program. It was rough going but the deficit in two years got down to less than 4%. Yes, the economy slowed, living standards suffered a bit, but on the whole it was a successful undertaking. While this was going on Fidesz irresponsibly demanded more and more money for all sorts of projects. The fact is that the current government handled the problem quite well without cutting deeply into social services. Meanwhile, not once did Orbán and his party come up with any alternative plan. So who is devoid of ideas? In fact, critics of Orbán claim that it is he who is burned out. He is the one who has absolutely no program but is lost in political intrigue.

Perhaps if he continues to give upbeat speeches his audience will forget about "polypgate" and what might happen when the investigation uncovers all sorts of nasty things about Fidesz's connections to UD Zrt. What we know already is pretty bad, and I think the worst is still ahead of us.