Political interview, Hungarian style

Viktor Orbán has been very active lately, which is a sure sign that as far as Fidesz and its leader are concerned the election campaign has begun. This assessment is based on past experience. Four years ago the same thing happened. Prior to the campaign one practically never saw Orbán on TV, and the party chairman judiciously avoided the left-liberal papers. However, one day he came out from the shadows and started granting interviews to Népszabadság and other liberal papers and magazines. Something like that is going on right now. First Viktor Orbán was a guest on MTV's new morning program ("Ma reggel") and a few days later he appeared twice on the commercial TV2–on "Napló" (Diary) and on the morning program "Mokka." (TV2 has "mocha" while ATV has "jam." Obviously, Hungarians like to pick names for their early morning shows connected to breakfast.)

The interviewer for the "momentous" interview was Róbert Kárász. Kárász aims to be stylish, normally appearing in jeans and sporting the unshaven look. So it was not surprising that Orbán was also casual for the occasion. From the first moment one sensed that Kárász was a bit nervous, but he screwed up his courage and asked some uncomfortable questions about the mayor of Edelény, Oszkár Molnár, who is also a member of parliament (Fidesz). I don't remember whether I wrote anything about him earlier, but this guy personifies stupidity. Of course, he's virulently prejudiced: he hates Gypsies, Jews, and gays. But he also proudly announced that "scientists" had proved that mankind's first language was Hungarian!

In any case, Oszkár Molnár was caught several times saying things that might reflect badly on his party. Fidesz, quick to boot out the mayor of Püspökladány, Sándor Arnóth, after he yelled "you will hang" in parliament, this time said nothing. One wonders why. Afer all, what Molnár said repeatedly in public was much worse than Arnóth's short sentence uttered in parliament. It was much more embarrassing. At least in my opinion. The only conclusion I can come up with is that if the party stripped him of his membership in the Fidesz caucus, dear Oszkár would immediately leave Fidesz and appear on the doorstep of Jobbik, a party that would welcome him with open arms. Moreover, since almost everybody is certain that Jobbik will be represented in parliament after the next elections, his new party would make sure that Molnár had an elegant place on the list and therefore most likely he would be in the chamber as a representative of Jobbik. Not only that, but because Edelény is in a district where Jobbik is strong, it is possible that Molnár might be able to get into parliament on his own. After all, he managed to win in the eighth electoral district of County Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén twice. First in 1998 and the second time in 2002. Apparently Molnár is popular in the district and most likely he would also take away with him thousands of Fidesz voters. So it's no wonder that Tibor Navracsics, after speaking with Molnár, was unwilling to express the party's dissatisfaction. In fact, he bravely announced that Molnár was no antisemite.

Anyway, going back to the interview, Kárász collected himself and after a few words about soccer plunged into this embarrassing affair. He asked Orbán whether it was not "awkward" for the party to have Oszkár Molnár in their midst. To everybody's surprise, Orbán admitted that indeed it was. Kárász, encouraged by his first successful question and the answer given, asked another uncomfortable question. If it is embarrassing and awkward, why don't they put an end to the whole thing? Why not make it clear that the party doesn't share Molnár's views on Gypsies, Jews, and gays? Orbán, who earlier claimed that Molnár's behavior was a "local affair" and that Molnár's fate was in the hands of his voters, this time was less resolute. Instead he stated that he is expecting Molnár to explain himself to everybody's satisfaction. Yes, the constituents' opinions are important, but….. Orbán didn't make himself quite clear, but one gained the impression that although Molnár a couple of days ago was quite sure that his seat was safe that might not be the case. After all, it depends on Viktor Orbán. (Then again, Orbán is a master of verbal appeasement.) Kárász further inquired why they don't expel Molnár from the party. The answer was that they have no reason. The party's by-laws don't allow for such a step.

What about Jobbik? Isn't he worried about this new party that did so well at the European Union parliamentary elections? Answer: not at all. It is a new party without serious parliamentary experience. Jobbik has no chance. Fidesz doesn't need Jobbik. Of course, we know that this is not the case. Viktor Orbán is worried sick about Jobbik because he knows that among the Fidesz politicians and voters there are many thousands of people like Oszkár Molnár. According to some polls perhaps one-third of Fidesz voters could see themselves voting for Jobbik.

At this point it seemed to me that Kárász had either exhausted his brain power or lost his courage. Moreover, by then Orbán was in full swing. The roles were switched: Orbán took over the lead and said whatever he wanted to say. When Kárász tried to remind him that he hadn't answered his question, he told him that he had answered what he found more important. And added: "if you insist, I can say something about what you wanted to know." Big smiles at his own witticisms. He became increasingly flippant. Meanwhile poor Kárász lost his wits and when Orbán's proposal for a smaller parliament came up he forgot to remind the party chief that it was Fidesz that refused to endorse Ferenc Gyurcsány's proposal for a 199-member parliament in place of the current one that's twice the size. Kárász was also satisfied with Orbán's answer that the reduction in the size of parliament should be achieved "as soon as possible." Under the best of circumstances we're talking about 2014.

By the end, Orbán acted like a cat with a half-dead mouse. One could see how much he enjoyed this twenty minutes and how self-satisfied he was. A few minutes before the end of the interview, Kárász  was reduced to asking permission to pose another question to the great man: "if you don't mind to answer." The whole thing was pitiful. The interview is available in good quality video at http://webcast.tv2.hu/mokka/index.php?m=video&video_id=404625