On October 15 I wrote a blog entitled "Political Interview, Hungarian style" in which I summarized a twenty-minute interview with Viktor Orbán on TV2's early morning show "Mokka." My impression was that the reporter, Róbert Kárász, was so awed or frightened by the former prime minister that by the end he completely ran out of steam and/or brain power. The roles were switched: Orbán took over the lead and said whatever he wanted. When the reporter tried to remind him at one point that he hadn't answered his question, he told him that he had answered what he found more important. He became increasingly flippant until, by the end, Orbán acted like a cat with a half-dead mouse. One could see how much he enjoyed the interview and how self-satisfied he was.
Yesterday Orbán was interviewed by Olga Kálmán and it was an entirely different story. First of all, the campaign must have started in earnest in spite of Fidesz's protestations to the contrary because Viktor Orbán goes to ATV only if he thinks he can't avoid it. It is necessary to make the rounds even of the liberal media. While Kárász in the earlier interview was visibly nervous and Orbán cool as a cucumber, this time the roles were reversed. One could feel a certain tenseness in Orbán's body language while Olga Kálmán behaved in her normal manner: hard questions with lots of smiles. At the beginning Orbán tried his old tricks: short ironic comments coupled with self-satisfied smiles. The message was: "You see how clever I am." He also tried once to play the wise teacher who will explain how politics works. But it was obvious that with Olga Kálmán these tricks didn't work.
Orbán began the interview with the by now empty accusation that the socialists' only goal is "avoidance of early elections." That may have been the case a few months ago, but by now this claim is ridiculous. After all, the official date of the elections is only about five months away. Moreover, the first round of voting on the budget went off without a hitch, just as expected. To say that the goverment is "not thinking of the future" doesn't sound believable.
In response to this obvious misrepresentation of the facts Olga Kálmán very rightly pointed out that the budget that was passed was very tight and that it will not bring popularity to the government and the parties. If they cared only about their own interests, this is certainly a very strange way of promoting them. Moreover, she added, international financial institutions and leading economists are more than satisfied with the performance of the Bajnai government. That didn't impress Orbán who doesn't give a hoot about the opinion of these experts because according to him the numbers presented as part of the budget are false. Either the finance ministry's officials falsify them or they just don't know their job. According to his own experts, the deficit by the end of 2010 will not be 3.8% as calculated by the government but at least 7.3-7.5%. At least 1,300 billion forints are missing somewhere.
Again Olga Kálmán interjected. She knows that Mihály Varga, Fidesz's financial expert, claims that the debt of MÁV (Hungarian Railroads) and BKV (Budapest Transit Authority) is huge, but their debt is not the central government's responsibility. These are separate entities. Moreover, even if it were, the loans don't come due by the end of 2010. Orbán was not deterred. He switched gears. He was not talking about 1,300 billion forints (of course, he did!). What he meant was that 300 billion is missing from the daily operations of these two companies. The "engines will not be able to run after a while." The amount of money taken away from the cities and towns will make it impossible to open the schools half way through the school year. Further horror stories followed. Therefore, surely, more money will have to be spent. Where this money is coming from remained his secret.
So what would he do? He would immediately lower taxes. He has in mind large tax cuts. When pressed about the approximate figures, he refused to answer. After all, he still doesn't know the exact financial state of the country. You know, all those skeletons in the closet! But as soon as he slashes taxes new job opportunities will present themselves. Olga Kálmán again questioned the economic wisdom of such a policy. After all, if there is less demand for goods and services then it is unlikely that either large factories or smaller companies will hire more people. Orbán had his answer: Gyula Horn did this and, behold, it worked. The reporter came back again, reminding Orbán that then there was no world economic crisis.
World economic crisis? That didn't impress Viktor Orbán at all. He announced that the ailing Hungarian economy is in no way connected to the international situation. One can imagine what Olga Kálmán's reaction was to that absolutely ridiculous statement. But Orbán didn't budge and repeated this nonsense, adding that if the world economic crisis were such a controlling force there would be no need to have elections and change the political leadership! Surely, he and his team will turn things around radically. There will be plenty of work, greater prosperity, happier people because everything depends on what the government and politicians decide. If they decide to achieve all this there are no outside forces that can hold a country back! I think this is called "voluntarism," and it doesn't have a very good ring to it.
Ferenc Gyurcsány, who is no longer a faithful blogger, felt compelled to say something today. Gyurcsány announced that Orbán "swears that black is white." In brief, what he said was a pack of lies. The spokesman of MSZP, István Nyakó, said that there was only one truthful sentence in the whole interview: Viktor Orbán was the prime minister of Hungary between 1998 and 2002. Jenő Ranschburg, a wise old psychologist, disagreed. He thinks that the situation is worse: Viktor Orbán by now believes everything he says. If Ranschburg is right, the trouble is really serious. It shows that the man has lost all sense of reality.