Hungarian Jambalaya

Jambalaya is a famous Louisiana dish made of rice, ham, sausage, chicken, and shrimp or oysters. In addition, "jambalaya" means "a mixture of diverse elements." So a little of this and a little of that. That's the nature of my post today: snippets of news from Hungary that might be of some interest to readers.

First and foremost, there was a serious train crash between Szolnok and Budapest. Four people dead, four more people in very serious condition, and scores of people with less serious injuries in three different hospitals. The cause of the accident is not yet known, but it seems that the Intercity express stopped where it wasn't supposed to and a milk train rear ended it. As someone rather cynically said: only in Hungary can an express train be hit from behind by a milk train. Train crashes happen everywhere in the world and this is not the first one in Hungary either, but today there was something  new: the minister of transportation and both the chairman of the board and the chairman of operations (CEO) of MÁV (Magyar Államvasútak = Hungarian National Railways) tendered their resignations to the prime minister. While in other countries this seems to be a fairly common practice, in Hungary until now it wasn't the case. And what is even more surprising is that Ferenc Gyurcsány accepted two of these resignations. The CEO of MÁV stays. I don't know, it is possible that Gyurcsány is the best actor in the world, but the man appeared to be really shaken. During his press conference announcing the resignations and his decision and remembering the victims, he fought back tears. He almost didn't manage to finish his last sentence.

An interesting piece on the op/ed page of Népszabadság caught my eye this morning. Károly Herényi, leader of the MDF parliamentary delegation, in no uncertain terms demanded that Viktor Orbán, László Kövér, and Ervin Demeter disappear from political life. He didn't name names but it was clear whom he meant. Not that any of these people would consider such a step, but that MDF takes such a firm position against Fidesz is noteworthy. It seems to me that the leadership of MDF is convinced that Fidesz's handling of its political opponents is unacceptable in a democracy. I might add that Herényi is second in importance within the party after Ibolya Dávid. Whatever information Herényi and Dávid have seems enough for them to be bold and make accusations of this kind. They don't seem to be afraid of Fidesz's threats of legal steps against anyone who dares to mention the party's name in connection with UD Zrt.

If Herényi and friends were not convinced of Fidesz's innocence I don't think that the latest Fidesz explanation will change their minds. This morning there was a meeting of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation where, not surprisingly, the main topic was the "wiretapping affair." According to Fidesz sources (names not revealed), Orbán announced that there is the strong suspicion that behind the "wiretapping" was none other than "the Russians." And the real target was Sándor Csányi. One could ask: "What does that have to do with the price of tea in China?" And then comes the explanation. Csányi has business interests in MOL, the Hungarian oil company, and a lot of people think that the Russians were behind the Austrian oil company's takeover attempt of MOL a few months ago. Thus…. The whole thing sounds contrived, but perhaps members of the Fidesz delegation might believe it. However, I just checked the results of on-line voting on the "wiretapping affair." Sure, this is not a scientific survey but over 52% of those who voted think that Fidesz was behind it. Mind you, the choices didn't include the Russians. That didn't occur to anyone except Viktor Orbán.

And finally, Tarka Magyar, the demonstration of civic organizations, was somewhat of a flop. Admittedly, the weather was lousy, but the organizers who expected 100,000 people managed to convince only 4-5,000 people to join. Depending on one's political views there are two opposing explanations. The right blames Ferenc Gyurcsány who insisted on being present. According to this theory, a lot of people wanted to join but as soon as they heard that Gyurcsány would be there, they decided to stay at home. On the other side, the explanation is that the purpose of the demonstration was so vague that it didn't have strong appeal. One of the organizers said, for example, that he wanted even the guys with the "Árpád-striped flags" to come along. They wanted to appeal to everybody, including the far right, and they were expecting the left to go along. But if the right didn't want to be seen with Gyurcsány, the left might have found it difficult to demonstrate alongside those who rail against Jews, Gypsies, gays, and foreigners. Hence, the small attendance.

A footnote. A week ago there were about 20,000 people at the Magyar Democratic Charta's demonstration initiated by Ferenc Gyurcsány.