László Kövér, as I indicated yesterday, is prone to say outrageous things. I already mentioned that his advice to pessimistic people–defined as the opponents of Fidesz–that they should go down to the cellar and hang themselves badly misfired in 2002. A couple of days ago Kövér gave another speech, this time in Makó. Makó is a town not far from Szeged close to the Romanian border, famous for its paprika and onions. It is a town of about 20,000 and in the local government MSZP is in the majority. One of the local Fidesz leaders invited Kövér; after dinner in front of a rather small audience he delivered a speech. Unfortunately for him in addition to the Fidesz faithful there was the stringer for Népszabadság who usually reports on events in the southeastern corner of the country. Whether Kövér knew the reporter is unclear but in the audience there must have been quite a few people familiar with István Tanács, the reporter.
This latest outburst of Kövér was most likely prompted by the results of the by-elections in District VIII (Ferencváros) of Budapest. The district is a stronghold of MSZP and SZDSZ, but the SZDSZ mayor who was also a member of parliament, without discussing his move with anyone in his own party, resigned his seat. Thus by-elections had to be held. The whole campaign was a disgrace in which the parties accused each other of cheating and a number of candidates were actually barred from entering the race. The SZDSZ's candidate was a young woman in her ninth month of pregnancy whose chances from the beginning were slim. In addition, there were accusations of impropriety concerning the party's campaign. However, MSZP's candidate, the deputy mayor of the district, should have done relatively well. But his campaign, it seems, was not exactly vigorous. On the other hand, the extreme-right Jobbik campaigned with great gusto. In the end the results were invalid since only 23% of the voters showed up. But the Fidesz candidate received almost twice as many votes as his MSZP rival, which by the end was not a great surprise. The big jolt came when the Jobbik candidate ended up in third place with 8.5% of the votes while Emese John (SZDSZ) ended up fourth. Since then she has abandoned her quest for office and will not run in the next round in two weeks.
One shouldn't draw far-reaching conclusions on the basis of these few thousand votes, but it seems that Fidesz, or at least Kövér, did. It is clear that Jobbik's gain is Fidesz's loss. Part of Kövér's speech dealt with the issue of a united right. His message was that in unity there is strength. There is nothing terribly new in this as far as Fidesz strategy and communication is concerned. Viktor Orbán's idée fixe is that there should be only one party on the right and that should be Fidesz. In order to achieve this Orbán came up with the idea of transforming his party into an alliance of right-wing parties. He even devised a slogan "One camp, one flag" (Egy a tábor, egy a zászló). He managed to get the Christian Democrats on board who by that time actually had no independent base (and still don't). Orbán planned to do the same with MDF, but because of Ibolya Dávid's insistence on MDF remaining an independent party the only thing he managed to achieve was to split the party. To Orbán's obvious chagrin Ibolya Dávid refused to cooperate and MDF managed to get a little over 5% of the votes in 2006. Orbán was furious. He figured that if MDF had been under the Fidesz umbrella he could have won the elections. And now here is this Jobbik on Fidesz's right while MDF is on its left. What will happen to the overwhelming Fidesz victory this year or next?
I'm sure that these were the kinds of considerations that occupied Kövér's mind in Makó. He talked about the elections of 1994 when MSZP did exceedingly well. MSZP had an absolute majority in parliament (54.15%) and therefore could have formed a government alone. SZDSZ with 17.62% and Fidesz with 5.18%, both leftist parties in 1994, waged a joint campaign that year. On the right were MDF with 9.84%, the Smallholders with 6.74%, and the Christian Democrats with 5.7%. How did Kövér manage to get a right wing majority out of this? He counted Fidesz as well as SZDSZ as right-wing parties. A rather gross falsification of history and bad arithmetic to boot. The lesson learned, according to him, is that there mustn't be any party on the right other than Fidesz . He accused Jobbik of being the creation of MSZP, a suggestion Jobbik vehemently denied. Not surprisingly.
Further falsifications of history followed. According to Kövér, in 2002 MSZP-SZDSZ cheated at the elections. That is a very interesting proposition considering that it was under the watchful eye of the Orbán government that the elections were held. Another interesting observation followed: out of the almost twenty years of democracy there were only four decent years–when Fidesz was in power. People on the right will think of those four years as fondly as people on the left think of the Kádár regime. Then came the usual name calling: everybody who is not a Fidesz supporter is a "communist." What the communists couldn't achieve prior to 1990 with weapons, they almost achieved in the democratic market economy: "to cut our throats in our own country."
Then he turned against the intelligentsia, the intellectual elite. Obviously he was talking only about those who are not in the Fidesz camp. According to Kövér "no other country has such a no good, gangster-like intelligentsia, real prostitutes" as Hungary has. (It is rather hard to find good English words for this incredible description, so here it is in the original: "ilyen gazember, senkiházi, protituált értelmisége egyik országnak sincs.") I'll bet the Hungarian intellectual elite is thrilled to hear that. So too the IMF when they learn that their director belongs the same "base gang" of communists as Gyurcsány. They can call each other comrades. The IMF didn't really want to help the country, only Ferenc Gyurcsány.
Kövér more or less sidestepped a tricky question when someone asked whether there is any comparison between the fate of Hungarians and Palestinians. He first rejected a conspiracy theory but at the end he said something that might have satisfied his audience. "The trouble starts only when someone thinks as Biberach did: my fatherland is where the profit is." The reference is to a nineteenth-century Hungarian play, Bánk bán, in which Biberach is a rather unsympathic foreigner in the entourage of the queen eventually killed by Bánk for patriotic reasons. I leave the interpretation of this reference to the reader's imagination.