I've written about Sándor Pintér a few times already. The appointment of the chief of the national police force as the minister of interior in the first Orbán government raised quite a few eyebrows. There was and still is a lot of speculation about why Viktor Orbán insisted on Pintér's appointment against all the criticism. I wrote about Sándor Pintér's checkered career again when the news surfaced that Pintér might be the minister of interior in the new Orbán government with even greater jurisdiction than between 1998 and 2002. Indeed, Pintér was tapped once again for the job.
Pintér started his career in the police force as a truck driver while being enrolled in the rather demanding College of Engineering. It seems that he didn't have what it takes academically. Eventually at the age of 30 he finished the police academy and in 1986, when he was almost forty, he received a law degree. In outward appearance he still looks more like a truck driver than a minister or the very wealthy businessman that he is. An amusing aside: when I was trying to get some biographical information on him and put in the search tag "Pintér Sándor," Google indicated to me that someone was already looking for him with a search tag "Pintér Sándor maffia"!
In any case, the leaders of the police loved Sándor Pintér since he was one of their own. The word was that all those civilian weaklings couldn't really handle the police. They didn't speak their language. Not like Sándor Pintér. Of course, one of the problems with the police force was that Fidesz in opposition made every effort to denigrate it by accusing it of all sorts of crimes. After a few years of this relentless attack, the police leaders became totally demoralized. They didn't dare do anything. If they took a hard line that was a problem. If they were soft then they were criticized for being namby-pamby. There was no way of pleasing Fidesz. As a result Pintér inherited a police force that was pretty useless. They had better equipment than before, but when it came to acting they simply didn't do what they were supposed to.
Pintér in the very first few days after taking office made a mistake. As far as Viktor Orbán was concerned, a very big mistake. While Orbán was busily hatching a witch hunt against former prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, charging him with being in cohoots with the police to kill "peaceful demonstrators," Pintér stood by the Budapest chief of police, Péter Gergényi. This was at the time that Gergényi was declared to be the co-villain in the drama in the fall of 2006. Pintér had to retreat.
It seems that Pintér has gotten into trouble again. On September 24 he gave a speech at a forum of service employees in which he said a few startling things. He predicted that in the near future the police will have added responsibilities because "the purchasing power of the population will considerably decrease, people will be poorer, and there will be a situation which cannot be solved without the police force." Moreover, he added, as a result of the worsening economic situation of the country, corruption will also grow, there will be more and more economic crimes. Criminal activities on the streets will multiply. "It is obvious that there will be more armed robberies." Thus the police will need more money. However, he had to admit that there is no possibility of raising the very low salaries of policemen as of January 1, 2011.
This was a pretty grim picture that indicated that after the municipal elections an austerity program will be introduced. Because, after all, why else would the living standards drop so dramatically that petty thievery, armed robberies, and corruption cases will multiply? MSZP naturally reacted to Pintér's speech immediately. Here it is, Viktor Orbán and Fidesz lied. After the elections a lot of people will lose their jobs. By now MSZP has demanded the release of the 2011 budget figures at least three times.
Several articles and opinion pieces appeared on Pintér's speech which came to the same conclusion as MSZP. After the elections will likely come a time of severe austerity. The right-wing papers simply ignored Pintér's words. The Ministry of Interior obviously felt that some explanation is necessary. So today they came out with such a cock-eyed story that Népszabadság, instead of just summarizing the MTI report, suggested that its readers read the announcement word for word because "the ministry's statement is difficult to interpret." The ministry's explanation was that MTI simply left out an important word or two from Pintér's speech that stated that "if more debt burden turns up that was not in the budget then…." In brief, the ministry tried to suggest that those "skeletons" still may fall out of the closet. A bit too late since by now it is fairly obvious that no skeletons were found in spite of diligent efforts to discover them.
It seems that Fidesz politicians themselves were surprised at Pintér's predictions. Apparently what he had to say wasn't part of the planned government communication in spite of the fact that Viktor Orbán himself in Kötcse and since then many times tried to temper lofty expectations. But Fidesz politicians who talked to Ildikó Csuhaj, reporter of Népszabadság, expressed their opinion that to utter such words a week before the municipal elections was unfortunate.
Fidesz remains hard at work cooking up schemes to raise money for the national coffers. Rumor has it that they are extending their reach to include not only the financial services industry but energy suppliers and communications companies as well. Or at least this is what János Lázár, leader of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation, indicated this past weekend. Unfortunately, squeezing all these sectors will most likely slow economic growth. And while the government says there's no money for teachers, doctors, or policemen, Viktor Orbán promises a sport stadium to Debrecen and a new bridge for Szeged. That is if the good people of Szeged vote for the Fidesz candidate for mayor. Just today I read that the government is preparing to invest in the Hungarian railways. Elsewhere one can read about a new bridge across the Danube between Komárom and Komárno.
All in all, it is difficult to to know what's going on exactly. No coherent picture is emerging about the economic plans of the government. A few days ago there was a report that Matolcsy's undersecretary in charge of taxation announced that the government had postponed the introduction of a flat tax until 2013. This morning the inimitable György Matolcsy said that as of January 1, 2011, there will be a flat tax. Meanwhile we know that this year a great deal less money was received by the treasury than the year before and by now 125% of the budget allocations for 2010 have been spent.