Back to politics. On December 11 an interview appeared with Viktor Orbán in a tabloid called Blikk that excited the imagination of the political analysts. Orbán said that he and his party were willing to cooperate with anyone, including Ferenc Gyurcsány, on reforms that would save jobs. Great excitement followed these words even in government circles. The answer came: the government is eager to get all the help offered by the opposition. Deeds followed words. Fidesz politicians told members of the media that their parliamentary members would vote for a government proposal that would help the building industry. Companies already designated to receive grants from the European Union will get 40% of the sum ahead of time in order to ease the credit crunch. If one thinks about it, this is a fairly empty gesture on the part of Fidesz. First of all the law doesn't require a two-thirds majority, and the proposal would go through easily without the Fidesz votes. Also, it is easy to be cooperative when the proposal in question is one that will be most likely be welcomed by everybody. Cooperation would be needed when less popular pieces of legislation are on the table.
The next day a new Szonda Ipsos poll appeared in Népszabadság. Szonda Ipsos inquired from 1,500 people what they think of the conduct of Fidesz. The answers were surprising. The Hungarian people don't have a very high opinion of Orbán's political strategy. The first question was: "When Ferenc Gyurcsány rises to speak in parliament, members of Fidesz walk out of the chamber. Do you approve of this?" The answers were broken down by voter preference: pro-government, pro-opposition, undecided. For the above question only 3% of MSZP/SZDSZ voters approved of the walkout, while 95% disapproved. Interestingly, even Fidesz supporters voted against their party's conduct: 57% percent disapproved and only 30% approved while the rest had no opinion. And now comes the most interesting and telling part that doesn't bode well for Fidesz. Those who were not sure for which party they would vote also overwhelmingly disapproved of this practice: 74% were against it, only 8% approved and 18% had no opinion. Of all voters surveyed 71% disapproved of the behavior of the Fidesz delegation.
The second question inquired about Orbán's speeches in parliament. Actually this question is rather funny because he is very rarely appears in parliament and even more rarely speaks. Therefore I don't know how anyone can judge the quality of his speeches. Here the grading followed the Hungarian practice in schools: 5 is the best and 1 is failure (5=A, 4=B, 3=C, 4=D, 1=F). Predictably MSZP/SZDSZ voters gave him very bad marks. Only 1% would have given him an A. However, his own people are also not to keen on him: only 18% gave him an A, 40% a B, and 27% a C. The opinions of those unsure of their choices are very close to the MSZP/SZDSZ voters: only 4% gave him an A, 13% a B, 33% a C, 19% a D. Not too promising. Of all the voters only 8% thought he was excellent, 21% considered him to be a B student, 28% gave him a C and 19% a D. As one newspaper headline proclaimed, overall he got a C- from the electorate.
And finally the third question. "How much should the opposition push political considerations into the background in the interest of the country?" Again the scale was from 5 to 1. 66% of the MSZP/SZDSZ voters answered with a categorical 5, but even 36% of Fidesz voters fell into this category and 23% were not much behind with a grade of 4. With undecided voters the same thing: 48% voted with a 5, 17% with a 4, and 20% with a 3. Collectively: 47% categorically want to push party politics into the background, 17% fell into the next category and 20% voted with a grade of 3. All in all, if I were Orbán, Navracsics, Kósa, Varga, and the other leading politicians in Fidesz I would seriously consider changing tactics.
In fact, some people saw a connection between the Blikk interview and the Szonda Ipsos poll that appeared the next day. Perhaps, they argued, the Fidesz leadership knew the results and that is what prompted Orbán's change of heart. However, only a few hours later the mistaken notion that Orbán's words in Blikk signaled a new Fidesz strategy was shattered by János Lázár, Fidesz mayor of Hódmezővásárhely and member of parliament, who claimed that Ferenc Gyurcsány "spat into the friendly extended hand of Viktor Orbán" when he didn't accept the help of Fidesz concerning the early payments to companies in the building industry. Most readers were stunned. They simply didn't understand what Lázár was talking about. After all, the government spokesman immediately thanked Fidesz for the offer although as I mentioned earlier it was really an empty gesture. Lázár also claimed that the government lied again because the immediate payment of 40% of the whole sum was inaccurate. A long and involved explanation followed about a cap of 300 million and some lower figure given to local governments. That sounded as if the Fidesz offer wasn't serious. Perhaps it is one of those political tricks. The whole media is full of the Fidesz gesture and Orbán's promise of cooperation but it is just a communication gimmick. At the end they will find some excuse that would prevent cooperation. Again, it is the opponents' fault. They are willing but not if the figures the other side presents are false.
Tomorrow I will take a look at couple of speeches that Orbán gave yesterday and today. They sure don't sound very promising as far as cooperation is concerned. The Szonda Ipsos poll didn't really make an impression. Or, more likely, they are hoping that the growing economic crisis will change the current trends.