Total confusion in Budapest

It is hard to determine exactly what the Orbán government is up to. Saturday afternoon it seemed clear that Mihály Varga had made a total about-face and that the Hungarian government had realized that the EU and the IMF would not allow them to ratchet up the budget deficit. But since then there has been more Fidesz double talk in the Hungarian parliament. Perhaps the guys think they are among themselves. Oh, I'm not kidding. There is a tendency in certain Hungarian circles to think that as long as they are at home and they speak Hungarian they are safe. The problem comes when liberals who, according to the right wingers, don't love their country tell untrue stories to foreigners and these foreigners tell the world in English, German, or French what they learned in Budapest. Of course, we know that this is not the case. Reuters and Bloomberg, for example, employ local reporters whose mother tongue is Hungarian who report in English every newsworthy utterance in parliament or at press conferences.

The misconception that Hungarians "among themselves" can say anything without any consequence seemed to reach the highest levels of the new Hungarian government today. Zoltán Cséfalvy, the new undersecretary of György Matolcsy's Ministry of National Economy, in answering the MSZP criticism of Lajos Kósa's blunder in the Hungarian parliament announced that surely the market doesn't really care what  "a guy in Debrecen" says! And this fellow is an economist who at one point was on the faculty of the University of Cardiff. I don't know whether he is just pretending to be stupid or he really is a moron.

The other thing that adds to the chaos is that the new Hungarian government in the middle of a real financial crisis announced that it needs 72 hours to announce its economic policy. Fidesz should have known for at least a year that the party would win the 2010 elections. Who would think that they would put all their eggs in one basket: to convince the IMF and the EU to allow them to raise the deficit again? Didn't they look around in the world? Have they never heard of the Greek crisis? I must admit that I'm baffled. I'm afraid one must come to the conclusion that these guys really don't know what they are doing.

Mind you, as soon as I heard that the new minister in charge of the economy would be Matolcsy I started to be worried. I couldn't understand why Viktor Orbán would again rely on his expertise. He was the one who started Hungary on an economic slippery slope in 2000. But at least during his first tenure as minister in charge of the economy the times were less turbulent. The results of his activities then were only lower economic growth and a higher budget deficit. But now, it seems, it took only two weeks for his program to fail. It was only about two weeks ago that in front of the parliamentary committee that had to vote on his appointment he outlined his program that had to be scrapped on Saturday. This morning I saw him briefly on CNBC where in one or two short sentences he said exactly the opposite of what he said  in front of the parliamentary committee.

To summarize briefly the events of the day. Lajos Kósa didn't back down when the opposition questioned his summary of Hungary's economic situation on June 3. In fact, he asserted that he is the one who told the truth and someone who tells the truth shouldn't be punished instead of those who led the country into this terrible situation. Kósa received help from Peter Harrach, the leader of the Christian Democratic Party's parliamentary delegation. He expressed his surprise that "the student [meaning the socialists] who failed in school wants to teach others."  Zoltán Cséfalvy, who already showed his ignorance of the market earlier, blamed the former government for the nervousness of the market. Mihály Varga repeated that the Bajnai government gave false figures which had been discovered by his committee after studying the books. So, it seems that Orbán's government is going on with the charade that everything is the former government's fault.

But as János Avar said in tonight's "Journalist Club" on ATV, no one gives a damn whose fault the current situation is. The Greek prime minister can repeat till doomsday that it is not his fault that his predecessors lied about the state of the Greek economy. The responsibility is still his government's. Perhaps again, Orbán & Co. are thinking in terms of internal as opposed to external consumption of news, but I would advise them to give up their belief in this distinction. It will simply not work. It didn't even work in the past from opposition. But now that they are in power it is a totally different ball game. And they have been failing miserably.

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Mark
Guest
For the first time ever Hungary made the front page of the Guardian’s webpage yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately it was with this story: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/jun/07/hungary-fears-stock-markets-falling I know that Orbán has always wanted to have an international impact, but this sort of thing is really not good! “The misconception that Hungarians “among themselves” can say anything without any consequence seemed to reach the highest levels of the new Hungarian government today.” I found it interesting that Jean-Claude Juncker, chairman of the Eurogroup of Finance Ministers saw fit to rebuke Hungarian politicians for the fact that they “talk too much”. It is difficult not to notice the fairly crude attempts to play too different audiences for fools. Not only do they forget the Hungarian native speakers who work for the international business press, but those of us who are foreign experts who can understand Hungarian. “Kósa received help from Peter Harrach, the leader of the Christian Democratic Party’s parliamentary delegation. He expressed his surprise that “the student [meaning the socialists] who failed in school wants to teach others.” ” I found this one particularly hilarious. Who is the more stupid? The student who fails in school, or the other student who first insist the… Read more »
BudaFriend
Guest

Aren’t they just desperately trying to avoid any austerity measures before the local elections in the autumn? Total stupidity of political actors is not the most robust hypothesis in political science so I hope there is some perverse, yet logically acceptable explanation to this mess. Hungary can’t be that different …

NWO
Guest
Eva- I thought previously this was a nice mixture of cynicism and stupidity. Now, I am inclined to believe it really is just the latter. Their strategy of talking down the economy and receiving leniency from the EU and IMF on the deficit has already collapsed. They are now stuck having to pursue essentially the prior Government’s program (but while still refusing to acknowledge further austerity or walk back from their pledges on tax cuts). For me, this is all good news. They will need to make further deep cuts into the welfare state (enraging their core vote base, raise non income taxes-something they attacked the MSZP for doing and enraging their friends in certain industries, and perhaps even mess around with the private pension system (manipulating stupid EU budget rules)-thereby putting yet another dagger into the heart of any private, domestic capital market). Finally, it must really irk Orban that in Budapest, people are talking about him as if he is the fool not the brilliant political mind that he wants everyone to believe he is. And in Europe-outside Hungary-the perception is even worse. It is lucky for him that he prefers to read Nemzeti Sport instead of the… Read more »
Alias3T
Guest

Schadenfreude is so ignoble and yet….NWO nails it. After having lied in our faces for so long, after having thought they could bluster their way past the “reality-based community” with their dry and unpatriotic devotion to the data – they get this comeuppance.
It’s not good for Hungary, but, perhaps, in the long-run there is a silver lining, in that “patriotic”, reality-denying rhetoric may finally be discredited in the eyes of the electorate. Assuming the government doesn’t two-thirds the local elections back by a year or so, the results could be a very satisfactory slap in the face for Fidesz (….and KDNP, of course – another example of their offensive blustering, the way we are expected to pay dutiful lip-service to this phantom party.)
I don’t know, though, NWO. I have a feeling that Orban did see Budapest Blunderers, and I think it must have been a satisfying sight. You can surround yourself by second-rate yes-men for years on end. But, eventually, the message will get through.

Alias3T
Guest

By the way, NWO – is there anything concrete to be said about the plan to raid the pension funds? Anybody got any idea how close to realisation this plan is?

Odin's Lost eye
Guest
To quote from the article ** “The misconception that Hungarians “among themselves” can say anything without any consequence seemed to reach the highest levels of the new Hungarian government today” **. As well as ** “ “There is a tendency in certain Hungarian circles to think that as long as they are at home and they speak Hungarian they are safe” **. Finally ** “The problem comes when liberals who, according to the right wingers, don’t love their country tell untrue stories to foreigners and these foreigners tell the world in English, German, or French what they learned in Budapest” **. They have forgotten that there are many Hungarian speakers who live outside Hungary and are citizens of other states. This shows in stark detail the primary curse of the Hungarian language. That is no one will know what we are saying and it should be kept secret –ie hidden from the rest of the world. This does not surprise me because the only model of Government that Fidesz understand was that of the Kador regime where even the location of public toilettes was a ‘state secret’. I do not think they understand the degree of supervision that the IMF… Read more »
Alias3T
Guest

Very interesting quote from anonymous source on Hirszerzo.
After discussing the 200,000 people who’ll be sacked from the public sector, the source goes on to mention that in certain areas – “for example the courts or the prosecutor’s office” the cuts could “even be minimal.”
Now I wonder why that could possibly be the case?

Mark
Guest
Alias 3t: “Schadenfreude is so ignoble and yet….” I don’t see any reason for Schadenfreude. The only reason one ought to laugh, is that otherwise we would cry. Hungary’s crisis – which is political as well as economic – is a tragedy and one that is unfolding sadly predictably. Orbán was exposed as someone who wanted to be Prime Minister, but who had no idea of why he should be Prime Minister, in the Prime Ministerial debate by Gyurcsány in 2006 (rarely have I seen a politician so brutally exposed), and yet due to the corruption of Hungarian public culture and the scandalous mistakes of his opponents he survived. The Socialists and Free Democrats then pursued economic policies – especially after 2008 – which handed him his two-thirds majority on a plate, and gave us Jobbik to boot. Now, I suspect we are going to see the fragmentation of FIDESZ in parliament (and I’m guessing most of their members of parliament are to the right, not the left, of their leadership – so don’t expect the decomposition of Orbánism to be anything other than ugly, with the likes of Vona the most likely eventual beneficiaries), and politics polarize between the… Read more »
Mark
Guest

Budafriend: “Total stupidity of political actors is not the most robust hypothesis in political science so I hope there is some perverse, yet logically acceptable explanation to this mess.”
Aside of Italy it is difficult to think of a country where the quality of political leadership is so poor; on both sides of the political spectrum. It strikes me that the cultural polarization between left and right, and the dependence of the media and civil organizations on the state have been deeply corrupting of democratic norms – and this process is very well advanced. Strangely the fact the left and right have been living in parallel universes (to an extent that reminds me of the joke that the difference between the left-liberals and the right in Hungary is that the former are not clear about which country they are living in, while the other side are not clear about the era they are living in) has distracted attention completely from the really important questions that face the country and most affect people on a daily level.

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