It was on Friday that I heard a discussion of Ferenc Gyurcsány's twelve-point proposal to address the fallout from the international financial crisis. The prime minister also indicated on that day that he was asking all parties to come together to find a common solution to Hungary's financial problems– the plummeting forint, the huge selloff on the Budapest Stock Exchange, and so on. For emphasis the president of the Hungarian National Bank was by his side during the announcement and throughout the meeting afterwards which all the heads of the parliamentary delegations attended.
Let's start with the positive. Although Fidesz is not enthusiastic about the twelve points and is not at all sure whether they will attend the National Summit Gyurcsány proposed, they didn't leave the chamber when Gyurcsány spoke about the economic crisis today in parliament. That is a first in two years when Viktor Orbán decided that his people will not listen to a liar. (I think that this was in part his way of saying that he doesn't want to have another television debate with Gyurcsány in 2010 or whenever. One experience was quite enough. It was a knockout.)
Another, I assume, positive development was that even the opposition parties' representatives during their meeting with the authors of the twelve-point proposal were open to having constructive joint moves to battle a potentially dire situation. The reason I added "I assume" is because Fidesz and the Christian Democrats in public appeared a great deal less cooperative than they did within the four walls. This is either a continuation of old habits or a message to their followers that they don't fall for such deceptive attempts by this man whom they have called everything from mentally unbalanced to a psychopath and, of course, a liar. They announced that they are not at all sure whether they will attend the proposed summit.They have to think about it. SZDSZ and MDF were willing to go but had reservations. MDF's reservations were not clear to me, I guess because the party was so preoccupied with the real possibility of losing its status as an independent parliamentary caucus that they didn't have time to formulate a response. SZDSZ's objections were predictable. Tax cuts are missing. Serious tax cuts. They are not satisfied with the twelve points especially since the government is planning to withdraw the prepared new tax law altogether and postpone any decision until next year when it should have a better sense of the long-term effects of the international financial crisis.
Over the weekend the opposition parties had time to flesh out their objections to the twelve-point proposal, which they presented in parliament today. The most constructive was MDF–and yes, they managed to solve their numbers problem. (More about this perhaps tomorrow.) Ibolya Dávid was all for common action but added that the financing of the parties must at last be solved. (I agree with her but I'm not sure that this is the right time to worry about such a contentious issue.) SZDSZ's Gábor Fodor wanted to reduce spending and lower taxes–the same old song. If Fidesz could be convinced to decrease the number of local governments 1,200 billion forints could be saved. However, Fidesz has refused to consider any such move which is perfectly understandable from its point of view. Most of the local governments are in Fidesz hands. Tibor Navracsics of Fidesz was also in great form. The style was reminiscent of his earlier speeches in parliament. He accused Gyurcsány of doing nothing, acting too late. The government should have known what was coming. Gyurcsány instead of writing a blog should work. Fidesz wants tax cuts. As for taking part in the National Summit, not a word. Zsolt Semjén, president of the Christian Democrats, was his usual populist self. The current crisis is the result of "the greed of corrupt banks and bankers" and now the government wants to make "Uncle Joe and Aunt Mary pay the bill."
As for the National Summit. Sixty-one invitations are being sent out, to (among others) the president of the republic, the head of the constitutional court, the acting chief justice of the Supreme Court, all former presidents of the National Academy of Sciences (three are still alive), all presidents and caucus leaders of the parliamentary parties. I assume that the president of the national bank will be also there and of course the finance minister. They also invited former prime minister Péter Boross of MDF. The academy presidents are eager to accept, so is the acting chief justice of the supreme court. The president in his usual manner hasn't committed himself. He is waiting for the invitation to arrive and also wants to know the topics to be discussed. With Sólyom one never knows. The sticking point for Fidesz is the invitation to the presidents of the five parties, including Viktor Orbán. Viktor Orbán refuses to be in the same room with Gyurcsány. Today, however, he remained in his seat, although I saw one picture that shows him burying his head in his hands.
Late breaking news that I almost missed because it appeared on HírTV only a few minutes ago. When Viktor Orbán was asked whether he will attend, he said: "I received an invitation and everybody who received an invitation will attend. Me too." However, he added that the government's proposals are the worst possible and he must be there to save the country from disaster.