I'm not at all surprised that the Hungarian president who, according to the constitution, is supposed to symbolize "national unity" is refusing to attend a national summit. He is that kind. Instead of rising to the occasion in a time of crisis he wants to engage in finger pointing. He doesn't think that the summit called together by the prime minister "serves the clarification of responsibility." In plain language Sólyom's most important consideration is not finding a solution but ferreting out the guilty parties. And it is obvious whom he considers to be the guilty ones. This government and its prime minister. An international financial crisis? Irrelevant. How provincial can you get? He also explains to an obviously ignorant Ferenc Gyurcsány that "the state doesn't work that way." Well, how is the state supposed to work? On the other hand, he was happy to hear that Fidesz and the Christian Democrats didn't walk out of the chamber during the prime minister's speech.
As far as I can see Sólyom misunderstood the purpose of the meeting. It is clear to me that Gyurcsány had at least two aims when he came up with the idea. First and foremost, to show the world that Hungarian politicians are ready to present a common front in a time of crisis. Second, to receive input from people outside of parliament and government. To gather ideas. Sólyom, on the other hand, thought that the National Summit is supposed work out a program and complained that the invitees have no competence to sanction programs. He further elaborated on the lack of expertise of the participants: how can they, for example, decide about the date of the introduction of the euro? I doubt whether Gyurcsány expects the National Summit to make such a decision. Either Gyurcsány didn't explain himself well or Sólyom completely misunderstood his message. Or there is a third possibility. Sólyom is desperately trying to justify his refusal to attend. I'm inclined toward the third possibility.
Sólyom's refusal, of course, has consequences. If Sólyom isn't going to attend then his predecessor, Ferenc Mádl, won't either. After all, Mádl and his wife normally sit in the front row every time Viktor Orbán speaks at the many Fidesz meetings. Mádl is certainly a man of the right. Perhaps even more so than Sólyom. And if Sólyom says no, then the chief justice of the constitutional court will also say no. But he said it more politely and accompanied by some encouraging words. He will be abroad at the time. The spokesman for the court was less polite: even if he were in Hungary he wouldn't attend because he believes in the separation of the three branches of government. Whether the spokesman spoke on his own or not is unclear.
The party leaders of Fidesz and the Christian Democrats will still attend but, as Viktor Orbán said, he is going there to fight a government that is taking advantage of this so-called crisis and that is planning to introduce the largest austerity program of all times. His friend/foe (who knows) Lajos Kósa, mayor of Debrecen, contemptuously called the National Summit as useful as raking water.
Today I had the opportunity to hear the speeches at the beginning of yesterday's parliamentary session and I must admit that Gyurcsány as well as Ildikó Lendvai were very conciliatory. Practically begging Fidesz and the Christian Democrats to participate in a dialogue, to be ready to work on compromise solutions. Not to repeat rigid positions. In return, they are ready for compromise and have already accepted a number of suggestions offered by Fidesz.
What will happen on Saturday? Who knows. Orbán today showed no signs of compromise. He called Gyurcsány "the stone around the neck of the nation" and resurrected the call for early elections. It sure doesn't sound too promising.
There is at least one good piece of news. October 23 is approaching and all of you who have been following events in Hungary in the last couple of years know that this means trouble. Fidesz holds a huge demonstration and independently from but obviously inspired by the Fidesz demonstration come those who take advantage of the situation and throw stones and bottles, set fire to garbage cans and even cars. Fidesz of course righteously points to its own peaceful demonstrators. Two years ago the so-called peaceful demonstrators intermingled with the less peaceful blokes. Although the two demonstrations were organized in such a way that it was inevitable that the two groups would mesh, the police were blamed for the outcome.
This year, to my great relief, Fidesz decided not to "celebrate" October 23. I must admit that yesterday as I was thinking of the coming date I had the feeling that Fidesz would perhaps not hold a huge demonstration this year. Why did I think so? It was a vague kind of premonition. Nothing specific. Perhaps that Fidesz would think that the time was not appropriate. After all, the economic situation is too grave and people have other things on their minds than going out to listen to Viktor Orbán. Moreover, to go a little farther in thinking about this whole thing, what could Viktor Orbán tell his people? All his promises uttered at these meetings have come to naught.
This morning came the news: no Fidesz mass demonstration. Why? A friend of mine suggested that Fidesz has no money left for such an extravagant event. After all, according to rumors the party owes billions. It is possible that under the circumstances Fidesz will not get more loans. But somehow I think there is more to it.