“Fidesz has a substantive program for solving the crisis”

That is what Viktor Orbán said today. However, Gábor Kuncze, former head of SZDSZ and nowadays a "radio reporter," appeared on an MTV program called "A szólás szabadsága" (Freedom of Speech). The conversation focused on Kuncze's interviews of leaders of the parliamentary caucuses, among them, of course, Tibor Navracsics of Fidesz. Kuncze related that in this interview he wanted to ask Navracsics about the "program" Fidesz keeps secret. He was expecting the usual answer: either "go to our website and read our program entitled 'Erős Magyarországért'"  (For a Strong Hungary) or "we have turned in hundreds of proposals that were ignored by the government." So Kuncze re-read the so-called program and looked up all the Fidesz proposals that were turned into parliament for discussion; he remained unenlightened. Moreover, it seems that he wasted his time. Navracsics, to the great surprise of Kuncze, said: "We can't get the necessary economic data and we therefore have no team analyzing them either." So, continued Kuncze, Navracsics basically admitted that Fidesz has no program.

Shortly after hearing this interview I read a transcript of a radio interview with Viktor Orbán on InfoRádió in which Orbán said that "Fidesz has a substantive program for solving the crisis." That sentence was used as the headline to the interview. Therefore, I read eagerly, hoping to find the answer. It was a fairly long interview but out of the eleven questions posed only two had anything to do with the "substantive program."  From the answer we learned that in fact Orbán has been talking about the main points of the program all along. If Fidesz wins the elections they will immediately implement the program. Period. Even InfoRádió's reporter was dissatisfied with this answer and asked, "Could we hear some details of this package?"  Orbán's response was that there are not enough people working in Hungary; Fidesz will create one million new jobs. "It will take some years, it will not be easy, but we will accomplish the task." When the reporter inquired how Fidesz would create these new jobs, Orbán repeated the old mantras: tax reduction, abolishing the grey economy, and reducing bureaucracy. The real problem, he repeated, is the present government. "Hungary's problems are not primarily economic but political." End of interview.

First of all, as we all know, the "program" outlined by Viktor Orbán is unrealistic. Can it even be called a program? Especially a substantive one? I don't think so. I'm afraid in this case Tibor Navracsics's admission that Fidesz doesn't really have a program is closer to the truth. By the way, contrary to earlier strict party discipline when it came to communication (the so-called parrot commando), Fidesz  no longer always speaks with one voice. Sometimes György Matolcsy, the Fidesz economic expert, says things that contradict Szijjártó or Orbán. Even Mihály Varga, former minister of finance, made the mistake of saying that tax cuts are out of the question under the present circumstances. An absolute no-no in Fidesz.

As for the suggestions of the Reform Alliance, Szijjártó made no bones about it: taking away any entitlement is out of the question. Orbán was less negative: he expressed his delight that the Reform Alliance's economists adopted some of Fidesz's suggestions. He didn't specify. If you ask me, I would guess that he liked the idea of tax cuts without the corresponding cuts in social services. And that is a non-starter.

Orbán seems to be putting his energy into trying to steal the limelight from Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány who on February 18 called for a €100 billion rescue plan from the European Union for the troubled banks in central and eastern Europe. Gyurcsány also announced that he raised the idea of an informal meeting of European leaders on March 1. Orbán is now championing a similar idea, but he is no diplomat. He accused the west of "breaking the contract with Eastern Europe"but not helping out the region. I'm not sure whether this is a smart way to go. In any case, he seems to be warming up an old idea of his: a north-south axis from Poland to Croatia that would in some way compete with the European Union.

Meanwhile, as I indicated in my comment this morning, MDF and SZDSZ love the unrealistic suggestions of the Reform Alliance. A couple of SZDSZ leaders, specifically József Gulyás and Gábor Horn, didn't even exclude the possibility of early elections, saying that from the point of view of SZDSZ the date of the elections makes no difference. They are most likely right about that: in either case they probably won't receive enough votes to participate in national politics. So at the moment the outlook is rather bleak. But in the past Gyurcsány could always pull a rabbit out of his hat. I remain hopeful despite everything.

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It is likely that there is no difference for SZDSZ as party to have early elections now or to wait until April 2010. As far as income stream of MPs of SZDSZ concerned, there is a major difference, whether they are MPs until April 2009 or April 2010. I have guess concerning whether they would vote or not for an early elections.


My guess is that the ability of the SZDSZ to use the threat of early elections to any effects depends on whether they perform creditably in the European Parliament elections in June. These are low turnout elections which should disproportionately benefit small parties with committed groups of supporters. If they fail to win seats in the European Parliament then they are effectively finished as a political force, and will have no real bargaining power. We shouldn’t, however, rule out small frustrated parties doing self-destructive things. In the UK in March 1979 the Scottish Nationalists angry at the defeat of proposals for a Scottish parliament determined to take their revenge on the then Labour government by combining with the opposition to force early elections. In those elections they lost most of their seats, and ended up with a Conservative government – utterly hostile to everything they wanted – for the next eighten years!


It may happen everything, but I think, there is no such fervour at SZDSZ for anything than may had at the Scottish nationalists back in 1979. Moreover, it is well know fact that parlamentiary fraction of SZDSZ is a diveded along many loyalties, and at least 8 MPs are more likely loyal to Gyurcsany than to their own party in such an issue.
Exactly, this hidden political support made possible for Gyurcsány to break up the coalition, and have minority government. This hidden political support makes unlikely there will be early elections. Save, Gyurcsány does not want otherwise.

Odin's lost eye
There is such a thing as ‘pocket book’ logic. At the next elections SZDS will almost certainly get a drubbing. It is un-united, faction filled and worse has no clear political consensus. All of its members are therefore concerned with their future. To dissolve parliament now would deprive them of over a year’s salary, expenses etc. So, for all their bluster, they will not do it Professor you have entitled this piece “Fidesz has a substantive program for solving the crisis”. Do they have one or are they just ‘blowing smoke’. They either do not understand the nature of the crisis the world (not just Hungary) is facing. As many of your readers understand Hungary is not part of another planet. Neither Fidesz nor any of the ultra right wing and nationalist parties seem to understand this. Part of the problem is language. This has always seemed to separate Hungarians from the rest of Europe. They are the some of the loneliest people in the world. The pictures you have included show the Fidesz ‘All Highest’ (Victor Orbán) giggling like a little child over Gyurcsány coming speech and his discomfort. What the ‘All Highest’ does not understand is that at… Read more »