I don't want to underestimate the brain power of the people around Viktor Orbán, but the last few days have shown an incredible confusion in Fidesz. One gets the distinct impression that the people involved with policy making haven't got the foggiest about the steps to be taken or the difficulties they will most likely encounter.
There is no polite way of saying the following: Fidesz politicians in the past eight years became accustomed to fibbing, to falsifying data outright, giving examples from other countries that turned out to be wrong. In brief, lying was the order of the day. But now, under the changed circumstances, when the responsibility will soon be theirs, this kind of lying just won't do. It seems to be difficult to break an old habit, however.
Here are a couple of examples. They might be small things but they say a lot about the mentality. Orbán and his fellow politicians kept repeating that Hungary lost stature in the world because the socialist government lost "credibility" when the world learned that Ferenc Gyurcsány was lying before the elections. They will be the ones to restore it. But I fear that one cannot convince the world of their moral fortitude if they start with lies. Here is the first example. Viktor Orbán in his speech before naming his cabinet emphasized that he hoped that the ministers would pick very able undersecretaries because they will be the ones who will have large responsibilities earlier handled by ministers. So far so good. But two or three days later I was listening to an interview with the new superminister of National Resources (health, education, welfare, culture, sports) and during the conversation it became quite obvious that Dr. Réthelyi didn't know any of the already appointed undersecretaries. But even without his admission anyone who knows Orbán's style should have suspected that no one but no one has any right to appoint undersecretaries on his own in his government. It will be he who decides such weighty matters.
Then there is the case of the new leader of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation, János Lázár, who on May 5 on MTV's "Az este" claimed that in the preliminary discussions about parliamentary positions it was MSZP who helped Jobbik receive one of the positions of deputy speaker of the house. Jobbik didn't even demand such a thing, claimed Lázár, the lover of truth. And he said that despite the fact that cameramen videotaped the negotiations. In no time a video turned up on YouTube that proved that Lázár was lying. The original Fidesz suggestion was that there would be only three deputies, two from Fidesz and one from MSZP. On the video one can see and hear Ildikó Lendvai saying that this arrangement was satisfactory to MSZP. And then came Gábor Vona who demanded a post for Jobbik. The same Vona Lázár claimed didn't even bring up the subject, that the MSZP delegation foisted the position on them. This, I guess, is supposed to be proof that Jobbik and MSZP are working hand in hand!
The Hungarian media's reaction to such a revelation is interesting. They don't dare call such statements lies, I assume for legal reasons. On ATV's website one could read that Lázár "sumákolt" which means something like "dodged" the issue or "cowered." Well, that is not what I would call it. It was a brazen lie in order to give the impression that the two "extremist" parties are working together against the democratic middle. Absolutely shameful but after all Fidesz politicians have been lying all along when they called the socialist party extremist. If anything, MSZP is faulted by most critics for not being socialist enough.
What I don't understand is that these guys don't seem to realize that lying is a difficult business in the best of circumstances. Let's say that a woman claims she is younger than she really is and says that she was born in 1943 rather than in 1940. A small lie, not a very important lie. But the woman who made herself three years younger must adjust her whole life accordingly. It is easy to make a mistake when recalling some event from the past. The date of her graduation from high school, the names of her classmates in college, the date of her marriage and so on and so forth. Most liars are caught after a while. And I'm talking about ordinary people in earlier times without YouTube, without videos, without the Internet.
With a politician this kind of lying is a very dangerous business. Even when in opposition. But from a man who will be prime minister within a few days or the head of a parliamentary delegation of 260 some people it is really unforgiveable.
And I haven't talked about the other, truly big lies. About the skeletons or about promises of drastic tax cuts when it is almost certain that the IMF will not allow a higher budget deficit. Look at what happened in Romania. The IMF said no only a few days ago and the Romanian government is giving many thousands of government employees pink slips as a result. Where do these people live? Do they really believe their own lies? Viktor Orbán was talking about the High Street of Europe where he is going to lead Hungary but they behave like lost travelers in some God-forsaken village wandering aimlessly on a dirt road.