Too much self-confidence and the inevitable political mistakes

At first I thought I would write about the uselessness of the Hungarian practice of campaign silence. It was unnecessary twenty years ago but in the age of the Internet it is truly ridiculous. Every Hungarian political site starts off saying: "Campaign silence: For older news, click here!" You click and a second later every bit of political news concerning the campaign that was written before midnight of April 23 is at your fingertips.

However, campaign silence is good for one thing, at least from my vantage point: at last I have a little time to catch up with news I missed over the week. I usually read the hundreds of items released by the Hungarian news service MTI (Magyar Távirati Iroda) and the more important daily papers, but often I don't have time to see MTV's early morning political show Ma Reggel (This morning). And yesterday I learned from one of the MTI releases that Ildikó Lendvai, chairwoman of MSZP, accused the media of partiality toward Fidesz politicians because the reporters know that soon it will be Fidesz that butters their bread. She brought up two examples, both involving Lajos Kósa, one of the deputy chairmen of Fidesz, who had a rather unfortunate encounter with Olga Kálmán on April 12 during an interview on her Straight Talk (Egyenes beszéd ). I saw that interview at the time and I thoroughly enjoyed watching Lajos Kósa, who is never at a loss for words, being flustered when he couldn't find appropriate responses to Kálmán's probing questions about the Kubatov affair. I first wrote about this embarrassing business on April 7 ("A bit awkward: Fidesz caught red handed") and two days later in "Further developments in the Kubatov affair." Admittedly it was difficult to explain away the contents of the leaked tapes, but Kósa handled the questions surprisingly poorly. He must have realized that he didn't sound convincing and that Kálmán was basically making fun of him. He was getting redder and redder and at the end he pretty well warned Kálmán that from here on he will insist that only those topics can be covered that he has approved in advance. The reporter, on the other hand, insisted that a reporter is allowed to ask any question whatsoever. The politician has the right not to answer and Kósa could have avoided this embarrassing situation by simply saying at the very beginning that he knows nothing whatsoever about the whole thing.

Lendvai's other example also involved Lajos Kósa exactly one week later, on April 19, on the early morning show of MTV. There is a segment in this program called Szemközt (Face to Face) in which the invited guest must answer questions from the anchorman as well as from two invited outside journalists. Normally they ask reporters from opposite sides of the political spectrum to participate. On this occasion one of the reporters was Ildikó Csuhaj of Népszabadság, who apparently told Kósa before they went on camera that she intended to ask him questions concerning the Kubatov affair. At that point Kósa lost his cool, started to dismantle the mike already attached to his lapel, and began walking out of the room. He told the reporters that he came here to talk about the elections and the future of local governments, not about Kubatov. The reporters convinced him to stay, but Csuhaj in the last minute told Kósa that it was impossible not to ask the deputy chairman of Fidesz about Kubatov's lists. At that point Kósa stopped dead in his tracks and began dismantling his mike for the second time. The anchorman who wanted to have the already announced program on the air begged him to stay and promised not to mention Kubatov.

Lendvai felt that this kind of media response doesn't bode well for the future when it seems that reporters will not be able to ask questions from Fidesz politicians. This is not just a figment of Lendvai's imagination. In opposition certain Fidesz politicians refused to give interviews to reporters who asked tough questions or were deemed not sympathetic to Fidesz. In the last couple of years Fidesz went even further. The party insisted on the removal of certain reporters from Nap-kelte (Sunrise), the predecessor of the current early morning political show. MTV obliged, but that didn't satisfy Fidesz whose politicians decided to boycott the show. And finally, MTV, most likely under Fidesz pressure, broke its contract with the producers of Nap-kelte. From past behavior the independence of the Hungarian media is not at all assured.

While I was doing a little research for this post I happened upon an interview with Ildikó Lendvai on Ma Reggel. I must say that Lendvai is better in opposition than she was when her party was in power. Her performance leads me to believe that MSZP will not be entirely powerless in opposition. It might be in parliament but when it comes to the war of words there is hope.

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John T
Guest

It appears that Fidesz have their 2/3rds majority. It will be interesting to see what sort of topics we will be debating in 4 years time. My hope is that the situation might be better for Hungary, but whether my hopes match the reality…only time will tell.

John T
Guest

One noticable outcome is the small number of women who’ll be in parliament. I would guess just over 5% of the total MP’s are women.
I see Gabor Vona wouldn’t have been returned if he was running only as a constituency MP. Lucky he could rely on the list.

whoever
Guest

Yes, despite her somewhat breathless manner, Lendvai isn’t too bad at all, and I would argue that she maybe couldn’t have done any better, given the cards she was dealt.
In any case she has resigned, to be, no doubt, replaced by someone more lightweight, under the bogus aegis of a “New Generation”.
I don’t think the real architects of the this debacle (from the MSZP’s perspective) were on stage tonight. Step forward, Ferenc Gyurcsány and János Kóka.

John T
Guest

To be honest. I would like to see a credible, sensible centre party emerge after this election. If there are some intelligent, scandle free people who can organise this and produce a good policy platform, they can achieve a lot in 4 years. They also need to take on Jobbik head on.
To build a party that can heal the nation is an imperative. It is clear that there are large numbers of Jobbik supporters who have supported them because they feel disconnected from the mainstream society. Jobbik and the Garda give them a sense of belonging, however misguided we might consider them. It is crucial that there is a sensible alternative that can reconnect with them.

Pál Marosy
Guest

Landslide victory! 2/3 majority.

John T
Guest

Pál – it will be interesting to see how Fidesz uses it.

Pál Marosy
Guest

John- In any case they will not be able to steal, in the 4 coming years, as much as the Socialists did in the past 8 years or in the 45 years of the People’s Republic. In 2006, the Socialists wanted to win at ANY COST, bringing the country on the verge of bankruptcy.
I feal that it is not possible to govern the country any worse than the Socialist-Liberal coalition did.(Gyurcsány has admitted, that they did nothing for 4 years and lied day, night and evening) See the following recording about Gyurcsány’s confession in Balatonöszöd:



Thanks God, that my trip abroad has been postponed and I could vote today.

John T
Guest

Pál – Lets see how the next 4 years go then – they have such a clear mandate now. But if they govern poorly, they have nobody but themselves to blame now. I wasn’t impressed with the previous Fidesz government – I’ve said many times that I have a very low opinion of all Hungarian politicians and I think all of the parties have been corrupt. But I don’t want to see the country sink further.

Pál Marosy
Guest

“I think all of the parties have been corrupt.” Yes, indeed. I hope that Fidesz will manage somehow to steal in 4 years as much as the Socialists did in 8 years. It is a difficult task, but they should try it to reinforce and strenghten the party and the Right in Hungary.
Then in 2012, they should try to win AT ANY COST, NO MATTER IF THE COUNTRY WILL COLLAPS, in the same manner as the Socialists did in 2006.
I have no illusions.

John T
Guest

Pál – surely politics should be way better than what you’ve had so far. Maybe Fidesz never stole as much as the socialists, but a crook is a crook, regardless of the scale. And I have to say, no party seems to have any real talent.