Viktor Orbán on Facebook: Hungarian politics moves to the Internet

This is a surprising move, indeed. Not a long time ago I reported that Viktor Orbán, as opposed to Ferenc Gyurcsány, is not exactly a computer wizard. For example, while in the mornings Gyurcsány opened up his laptop and started reading the news, Orbán claimed that he doesn't even own a cell phone. As for newspapers, he reads only the sports pages. (This was probably an exaggeration.) When Orbán moved to the Internet his role was entirely passive. His staff devised "OV TV" where he delivered staged interviews. Meaningless answers to meaningless questions. Or really phony family scenes where he is ostensibly trying to barbecue although it is obvious that he just grabbed the equipment and is standing in front of the grill doing nothing.

I'm sure that he knows mighty little about Facebook, that someone on his staff came up with the idea. But he's popular! There are already over 7,000 fans registered. Mind you, the problem with his pictures here is exactly the same as what is wrong with his OV TV interviews. They are not realistic. Take this picture, for instance.

Surely one doesn't shovel snow with a broom. Or who on earth would start shoveling or "sweeping" snow in an outfit that is appropriate for a business meeting? Most likely, as he was leaving his country house in Felcsút one of his staff said that they would like to take a couple of pictures for Facebook and just stuffed a broom into his hands.

Orban sepreget2

No problem. Not everybody is as critical as I am. Over two hundred approving comments appeared in no time. By the way, I'll bet that as soon as Orbán wins the elections this whole flirtation with the Internet will come to an abrupt end. I do have some personal experience in this department. It was in the spring of 1998 that Fidesz began a political discussion group. Most of the commentators were Fidesz supporters and I don't think that the few liberals on the list were exactly persuaded by their arguments. In any case, it was not a bad idea and it was a fairly pleasant place. But, behold, the very day after Fidesz won the elections the list was closed. Gone! They didn't even bother to tell the people "terribly sorry but we don't need you anymore."

The same thing happened to a daily press survey that was very useful in those days when the Hungarian media didn't have an Internet presence. A day after the elections no more press survey. It turned out that the man in charge was hired by the prime minister's office.

Orbán's Facebook appearance is interesting in one substantive respect. He or one of his campaign strategists wrote a one-liner in which Orbán indicates that he has a high opinion of György Surányi, the former chairman of the Hungarian National Bank. Well, that is an interesting development because Orbán could hardly restrain himself from forcibly removing Surányi from his post after 1998. But no amount of pressure worked and Surányi stayed on until 2001, the end of his tenure. In 1995 Surányi worked hand in hand with Lajos Bokros, who managed to introduce an austerity program that put the Hungarian economy in order. The Fidesz government, although it subsequently benefited greatly from the so-called Bokros package, at the time took the position that the source of all evil was Bokros's austerity program. Now it seems that Orbán is changing his mind, especially since last weekend Surányi wrote a long piece in Népszabadság (January 30) entitled "Wrong Diagnosis, Wrong Therapy" in which he blames the current leadership at the Hungarian National Bank for not stockpiling enough foreign currency and therefore when the crisis hit Hungary there was an acute shortage of cash. The current chairman of the Bank was appointed in 2007 and his tenure ends only in 2013, but apparently he could be fired if the president relieves him of his duties at the suggestion of the prime minister.

There are other signs that Surányi and Orbán have made up in the last few years. For example a Viktor es Gyuripicture taken at a conference in Vienna last year is still available on Orbán's web site with the caption: "Gyuri, were you here already yesterday?" Orbán also expressed his satisfaction when Surányi rejected MSZP's offer of the premiership. Surányi's reaction was that he would accept the post only if he were assured of Fidesz support. So it is no wonder that Orbán concluded that "Surányi is after all a serious and responsible person who doesn't take part in this comedy. He made the right decision."

It is too early talk about what will happen to Surányi after a Fidesz electoral victory. After all, first they have to win the elections. But one thing is sure. Surányi was an excellent chairman of the central bank. His colleagues think highly of him. And he would be a great deal better than Zsigmond Járai, Orbán's choice. On the other hand, I can't quite see Surányi working hand in hand with such people as György Matolcsy, Orbán's economic minister, who was largely responsible for the ever increasing deficit after two years of a careful fiscal program. If Orbán insists on Marolcsy, and until now there have been plenty of indications of such a move, he couldn't also have Surányi as bank chairman. At least that is my hunch.

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Erik the Reader
Guest

Hail to Orbán Viktor! Éljen Orbán Viktor!
MSZP = SZDSZ = BKV = Thieves

Mark
Guest

Erik the Reader: “Éljen Orbán Viktor!”
Surely you’re being ironic? After all wasn’t Rákosi the last Hungarian leader to attract that kind of greeting – and wasn’t it termed the “cult of personality”?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Erik the Reader: “Erik the Reader: “Éljen Orbán Viktor!” Surely you’re being ironic? After all wasn’t Rákosi the last Hungarian leader to attract that kind of greeting – and wasn’t it termed the “cult of personality”?”
He wasn’t around then. Too bad. Perhaps if he had experienced those “happy days” he would hold different opinions.

Erik the Reader
Guest

Dear Eva you have to make distinction between popularity and the cult of personality. Rather your problem is that you don’t like the popularity of Orbán. If you mention Rákosi you should also note his heirs: the corrupt MSZP clique.
The parallel you tried to imply simply does not stand up.

Joe Simon
Guest

I agree with Erik the Reader. Orbán deserves his popularity with the electorate. He stood up for minority rights in Transylvania and Újvidék. He is
a committed democrat, very much in the centre of the political spectrum. Eva S.
Balogh is much biased against him, favouring the discredited Gyurcsány, which
is hard to understand.
Joe Simon, Ottawa, Canada

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