Yesterday I summarized what Viktor Orbán had to say at the outdoor celebration of the Fidesz victory. He talked not as prime minister but as the leader of a party that for eight years worked hard, through thick and thin, to arrive at the gates of a better future. According to Fidesz ideology the last eight years were nothing but devastation, lies, and corruption. The country was falling behind instead of leading the pack of East European countries that joined the European Union. According to Fidesz politicians this lamentable situation will now change. First, it was promised that earthly paradise will arrive practically overnight but lately Orbán is more cautious. In his speech he even talked a bit about the very hard work ahead. Obviously he is trying to cool expectations that are being measured by pollsters as dangerously high.
Thanks to two readers of this blog we can set the story straight: there were not 200,000 people waiting breathlessly for Viktor Orbán but perhaps 20,000, and the old enthusiasm had largely faded away. According to the people who were present, there were fewer rounds of applause and fewer cries of "Viktor, Viktor!" The fact is that it doesn't really matter how often they talk about revolution, it is hard to maintain that level of enthusiasm. The crowds at Fidesz gatherings have been visibly shrinking, the average age of those in attendance is increasing, and this is just the beginning.
Viktor Orbán ran out of steam and I can't even blame him. People have only a certain number of ideas and therefore eventually they are apt to repeat themselves. I enjoy listening to politicians who go from TV station to TV station on the same day, often a few hours apart. Practically the same questions are posed on the same topics and the answers therefore are inevitably the same. Sometimes the same sentences roll off their tongues. Orbán's speech on Kossuth Square contained no new elements. His audience most likely had heard the message time and again. Repetitious speeches uttered with the same speech pattern eventually become tiresome.
Those in attendance also pointed out that some of the other speakers were more popular than Orbán. I can see several possible reasons for the success of the other speeches. One might be that Zsolt Semjén, chairman of the Christian Democratic Party and now deputy prime minister in charge of national and religious issues, and Lajos Kósa, successful mayor of Debrecen and newly appointed managing director of Fidesz, are less often heard at public gatherings. Therefore they are new faces to the audience. A second reason is that both men are prone to unspeakable exaggerations. And it seems that Fidesz voters like to hear such outlandish sentences. There might be a third reason, and that again says a lot about the Hungarian right. Both Semjén and Kósa continued the Fidesz habit of verbal abuse against their "enemies." Instead of looking forward they dwelt on the horrible past and the guilty ones who must be punished. Last, one ought to mention nationalism as a topic that usually arouses the folks. Semjén is especially good at this.
So, let's start with Semjén's speech. He emphasized the fact that the new parliament's first act was to change the law on citizenship which in legal terms means "the unification of the nation." A year from now Hungarians living anywhere in the world will be not only co-nationals but "fellow citizens." He repeated that there is no "category A and category B Hungarian citizen." There is "no first- and second-class" Hungarian and that to my mind can only mean that all Hungarian citizens regardless of domicile will eventually be able to vote in Hungarian elections. This feeling was reinforced by what János Martonyi had to say last night on MTV's "The Freedom of Expression" (A szólás szabadsága). He emphasized that at the moment the question of voting rights is not on the table but he strongly suggested that in time it might be.
Semjén went on and promised that the Orbán government will defend all Hungarian citizens "regardless of where they live on this globe." Thank God he didn't try to explain how, because it would be an almost impossible task. The fact is that no Hungarian government can defend people of Hungarian nationality if, let's say, the Slovak government decides to take steps against those who declare themselves to be citizens of Hungary. This nationalistic outburst was greeted by "it was a nice job, boys!" from the crowd.
In order to heighten enthusiasm he called attention to the fact that "Ferenc Gyurcsány and two of his accomplices in crime" dared to vote against the new citizenship law. He made sure that people remembered that Gyurcsány already in 2004 had campaigned against the idea of dual citizenship, but he added that even some of the socialists realized their sins and "these three are now condemned even by their fellow MSZP members. These people will end up in the garbage heap of Gyurcsányism." The crowd loved that. Semjén and his Christian Democratic friends love the word "Gyurcsányism." They looked upon the elections of 2010 as the obliteration of "Gyurcsányism." When András Bánó, talking with Péter Harrach, head of the KDNP delegation, this morning pointed out that after all Gyurcsány resigned as prime minister more than a year ago, Harrach answered that "even his footprints must disappear." It is quite obvious that it is still Ferenc Gyurcsány who is the chief enemy for Fidesz-KDNP.
The theme of "hard times ahead" is obviously an idea that must be propagated. Semjén also spoke of "the darned hard times" (kutyanehéz) ahead and asked the crowd not to abandon them in these difficult times but to stand behind them. Semjén, it seems, managed to stir the crowd who yelled: "We will be there!" Well, we will see.
It seems that for Lajos Kósa "Gyurcsányism means that everybody should take home or give his friends whatever he can reach or see that belongs to the public." In brief, Gyurcsányism here means corruption. As the mayor of Debrecen he felt compelled to vent his frustration and anger at Budapest. Budapest is much more liberal and much more socialist than any other part of the country and the lord mayor of the city who has been running the city for twenty years is a liberal politican, Gábor Demszky. According to Kósa, "Gyurcsányism has a deformed twin brother called Demszkyism and Demszkyism has a cousin called Hagyóism [Miklós Hagyó, earlier MSZP deputy lord mayor of Budapest, is accused of financial wrongdoings in connection with the Budapest Transit Authority scandal]. Nice little family. But let's not forget that we won the elections although the capital is the last den of the mentality we want to get rid of forever." It sounds as if a Fidesz attack against the "sinful" capital is underway. This is not a new theme. The first Orbán government did everything in its power to turn the countryside against the liberal Budapest that is not really Hungarian.
And then Kósa got a bit carried away. He compared the damage inflicted by the liberal-MSZP leadership in the last twenty years on Budapest to the 150-year Ottoman occupation or the harm done by the Red Army's military encounters with the retreating Germans. When the mayor of Debrecen says things like "we are ashamed of our own capital" he is most likely reflecting the anti-Budapest sentiment widespread among those who live elsewhere in the country.
I'm sure that these speeches will be analyzed endlessly in the Hungarian media in the next few weeks. Meanwhile this morning the new ministers moved into the ministries, the new government spokeswoman, Anna Nagy, gave her first press conference, and the cabinet held its first meeting. The good news is that this time there will be records of these meetings, unlike between 1998 and 2002. Another good piece of news. Viktor Orbán, at least for the time being, is satisfied with the offices of his predecessors. That is something because during his first tenure as prime minister he insisted on recreating the 1910 office of then prime minister Count István Tisza. Millions of forints were spent on an office that no longer could serve a modern prime minister. Well, at least he learned that much.