At least that is what a representative sample of 1,200 people said about the first 100 days of the second Orbán government. It was Vasárnapi Hírek that entrusted Szonda Ipsos to conduct the poll, and the final result is that “the majority” of those asked considered the performance of the second Orbán government no better than a C. (C is 3 in Hungarian schools and F is 1.) This is a surprising result because recent polls indicate that over 60% of the people would still vote for Fidesz if elections were held this Sunday.
Even Fidesz voters responded that the government’s accomplishments deserve only a B. Predictably, MSZP voters would give Orbán and team a D; Jobbik and LMP voters would give them a D+. The uncommitted voters graded the government a 2.8 (that is, somewhat lower than C).
Forty percent of the sample stated that the “situation of the country” hadn’t changed at all. Thirty-seven percent claimed that it was turning around, while 15 percent thought that it got worse.
When asked about their own fortunes, 61 percent considered their situation unchanged, 29 percent claimed that it got worse, and only 8 percent announced that it got better.
As for the rest of 2010, 47 percent of the people were hopeful, 27 percent answered that it will not change one way or the other, and according to 16 percent their situation will get worse.
When asked about the most memorable steps taken by the government, the two most frequently mentioned items were the lowering of taxes and that women will be able to retire after forty years of work regardless of age.
Fifteen percent of the people welcomed all the new legislation while 7 percent found all of it objectionable.
Szonda Ipsos also simultaneously conducted a poll on party preferences. Fidesz still leads by a huge margin. In the last three months MSZP has stagnated. However, Jobbik has grown stronger. Today 15% of the population would vote for them.
I find this poll rather interesting. I guess a grade of C is not really a bad grade; it simply means “middling.” Most foreign and domestic economic experts would grade the Hungarian government’s performance much more harshly. But ordinary Hungarian citizens don’t have either the knowledge or the perspective to appreciate the fine points of international finance and Hungary’s vulnerability. Here is an amusing cartoon: “Just watch his mouth and if he opens it it’s time to sell,” says the caption.
So, instead of improving its standing in the region Hungary is moving farther and farther toward the end of the line. Something Fidesz was so unhappy about during the socialist-liberal governments. Naturally, the government doesn’t tell the truth to the population. Instead, they are making optimistic long-term pronouncements. On Friday Matolcsy gave a speech in which he predicted that by 2030 Hungary’s economic development will surpass the European Union’s average. He also mentioned reforms that the government allegedly will introduce in 2011 and 2012. He mentioned ten or fifteen “forceful structural reforms” but didn’t specify what they would be. Forceful structural reforms usually don’t bring popularity to a government, and in the last twenty years only Ferenc Gyurcsány’s second government tried making changes in health care which were unequivocally rejected by the medical profession and the public. Therefore, one is a bit skeptical about these forceful structural changes–especially ten or fifteen different ones. That would inevitably result in a decline in the government’s and Fidesz’s popularity, and therefore if reforms take place at all, they certainly will not be forceful, structural, or too numerous.
Viktor Orbán also gave a speech to the party faithful at the traditional Fidesz picnic in Kötcse. In a nod to economic reality, he indicated that the 2011 budget might be restrictive. He also said that his government will put an end to the “the left’s utopian attempts at modernization.” This sounds ominous. After all, in many ways Hungary is not really a modern democratic country and modernization is badly needed. However, already there are signs that Fidesz wants to turn the clock back to earlier times. This is certainly the case in education which was entrusted to the Christian Democrats with their very backward educational ideas. But I see similar developments in the agricultural field. It is enough to think of making pálinka in one’s own kitchen or allowing farmers to sell their produce and meat directly to nearby schools and hospitals. I understand the “buy local” movement, but at least in the U.S. agribusiness is well established. In Hungary the government seems to be fostering old and ineffective methods of agriculture.
In any case, we will see whether public sentiment will change once the summer and the honeymoon is over.