Two verbal duels: Gyurcsány versus Orbán and European Commission versus Matolcsy

Quite a day. I must say that I was looking forward to it because I knew that Viktor Orbán could no longer refuse to answer Ferenc Gyurcsány in Parliament. Parliamentary rules stipulate that if an MP insists on an answer from the addressed government official he/she must do so within three weeks. It was three weeks ago that Ferenc Gyurcsány expressed his desire to address the prime minister. His brief interpellation bore the title: "What are you afraid of, Mr. Prime Minister?"

Gyurcsány began: "I would like you ask about freedom and democratic politics. What do you offer the people? Freedom or subjugation? Do you wish to transform Hungary into a western type democracy or into an eastern type, autocratic country?" It was difficult to hear the former prime minister because the Fidesz and Christian Democratic MPs began to clap and boo. The Jobbik MPs simply turned their backs to him, but before he said anything they yelled: "You lie!"

Gyurcsány went on. "Many years ago you still believed in the idea of a democratic Hungary. You talked about a country whose citizens dare, who are able and want to work and learn, and who take responsibility for themselves, for their families, and for their nation." He considers individual savings part and parcel of such responsibility and therefore a middle-class virtue. By "forcibly nationalizing" people's savings Orbán's government destroys the slowly developing self-reliance and thus civic (polgári) Hungary.

As for the creation of a new constitution, Gyurcsány claimed that Orbán has not received authorization from the electorate to unilaterally change the basic laws of the country. But if the government is bent on scrapping the old and introducing a new constitution, it should at least ask the people's opinion. "If you believe in the people, if you think that the people still believe in you, then allow the people to decide. I'm asking freedom for the people, so they could decide on issues of the constitution, their own retirements, and the future of the country." And finally he asked why Orbán is afraid of the people.

Orbán's answer came in the form of a counterattack. "It is an old truism that only those talk about fear who are afraid themselves." He understands that for certain representatives of MSZP fear is a personal problem. "That is called fear of retribution. The electorate decided that those people responsible for the sins of the last eight years must be named, must be called to account. It must be difficult for the socialists to get accustomed to all this because in the last eight years they could do anything without the slightest fear of consequences." In any case, "personal problems" shouldn't be discussed in parliament. Finally, he made it clear that there will be no referendum on the question of the new constitution because the issue will be decided in parliament. After all, this is how the parliamentary system works.

Gyurcsány answered in a few sentences. "You stole the money of three million people and you are even proud of it. In your place I would be ashamed of myself. … If you are a democrat, if you are a decent human being, if you are at all interested in what the people think of your constitution, then don't threaten us or anyone else, but stand in front of the people and tell them 'I have a proposition for the constitution of the country and I ask your support.' Don't hide, don't be afraid, don't be a coward and, most importantly, don't be a thief."

Viktor Orbán replied that he doesn't want to hear lectures about decency from MSZP, especially not from the former prime minister. "I understand that you're brave people. You were brave enough to beat and hurt peaceful demonstrators with rubber bullets. You were brave enough to falsify the budget, and led people by their noses… Thanks we don't need such bravery. The only thing we are doing is fixing all the mistakes you made, we are removing all the debris and are renewing Hungary."

Anyone interested in seeing the exchange should visit this site.

The other verbal duel took place long distance between Brussels and Budapest. The European Commission put out a forecast on Hungary's economic development in the next few years. According to their estimate the economic growth will be 1.1% this year, next year 2.8%, and in 2012 3.2%. The government's own forecast is more optimistic: 0.8% this year but 3% next year and 3.5% in 2012. On the question of the deficit the two estimates differ greatly. According to the European Commission the deficit will be 3.8% this year (if we are lucky), but next year it will be 4.7%, and in 2012 back to 6.2%.The government naturally has entirely different predictions: this year 4%, next year 2.4%, and in 2012 2.3%.

Well, Matolcsy hit the ceiling and responded angrily. Although he answered in Hungarian, I'll bet that in a day or so his words will be reproduced in excellent English, German, and French in front of the European Commission. Matolcsy called the forecast "professionally unfounded and ethically unacceptable." He noted that not once in the last five years were the European Commission's forecasts accurate. In addition, the European Commission should keep quiet because it took part in two "large deceptions" when the Commission accepted in 2005-2006 the Hungarian budget that included a deficit prediction of 4.7% while it turned out to be 9%. In 2009 the Commission played along with the Hungarian government when it accepted the Hungarian budget with plans for a 3.8% deficit when the real deficit was much higher. If this current government didn't do something the deficit would have been 7% today. (They keep repeating this but actually it is untrue. Most of the additional deficit came as a result of their own tax cuts and extra spending.)

Well, this is how to make friends and influence people! I don't think that accusing the European Commission of incompetence and deceit will help Hungary's situation. After all, in large measure Hungary's fate depends on the goodwill of the European Union.

Meanwhile, the Hungarian forint fell precipitously against the euro during the day. On Friday it was still trading at around 280 Ft to the euro, by tonight it was 284.61. By now, it seems, most people in the financial world think that the Orbán-Matolcsy economic revolution will not succeed. And, as the Eurozone reels (one observer compared the current situation to a bunch of drunks trying to stay upright by leaning against one another), investors are in a "risk-off" mood. Even as the euro fell against the U.S. dollar, the forint fell against the euro. Hungary's currency and its government bonds seem like very risky bets right now.

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Paul
Guest

“It was difficult to hear the former prime minister because the Fidesz and Christian Democratic MPs began to clap and boo. The Jobbik MPs simply turned their backs to him, but before he said anything they yelled: “You lie!””
I’ve always thought the UK parliament behaved badly, but they are civilised elder statesmen compared to this bunch of hooligans.
But at least they answered the question loud and clear – they are afraid of democracy.
And they have so little belief in their policies and ideas that they can’t even bear to hear them questioned.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

To Paul and everyone else. The funny thing about the Hungarian political scene that the so-called “socialists” are not socialists at all but, just as Paul said, they trying to be good democrats and to realize that this is capitalism and not Kádár’s socialism. On the other hand, Orbán and crew discovered that one can appeal to the masses by appealing to their nostalgia for the good old days.

Paul
Guest

Incidentally, I’ve been a bit too busy to read HS as often as I used to, so I’ve been catching up whenever I can. And I’ve noticed something very worrying – the overall tone of posts has turned from the fairly optimistic, even jokey at times, assumption that OV won’t turn out to be as bad as we fear, to a depressed and angry acceptance that he IS going to turn out exactly as we fear. Even the FIDESZ trolls aren’t bothering to attack posters with the zeal they used to.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Paul: “And I’ve noticed something very worrying – the overall tone of posts has turned from the fairly optimistic, even jokey at times, assumption that OV won’t turn out to be as bad as we fear, to a depressed and angry acceptance that he IS going to turn out exactly as we fear. Even the FIDESZ trolls aren’t bothering to attack posters with the zeal they used to.”
Yes, pro-Fidesz voices are rather quiet because, let’s face it, it is fairly difficult to defend the government’s actions. Plus, just think of the consequences. Pretty bad: exchange rate, European Commission’s reaction, higher interest rates. One could go on and on.

An
Guest

Eva, have you been following the new media law? They practically want to impose hefty fines on all media (including internet newspapers) that are found to be in violation, but without defining what counts as violation…. what is violation is going to be decided by the new supervisory body in charge of the media (run by Fidesz delegates)on case by case basis , if I understand correctly.
If that’s true, they can basically run newspapers and online papers out of business by fining them all the time if they do not report events according to Fidesz’s taste.
See the following link (in Hungarian):
http://fedor.blog.hu/2010/11/25/ures_cimlap_a_sajtoszabadsag_felszamolasa

Paul
Guest

I seem to have an echo on my internet connection! 2nd day running I’ve double posted.
Éva, can you delete duplicate posts without removing the original? If so, can you do so please. Thanks.

Paul
Guest

So, they stop papers and TV printing/saying ‘lies’, they put opposition politicians in jail, and then ban parties with ‘criminals’ running them, and if anyone dares to protest publicly, rent-a-mob facist skinheads appear, as if by magic.
But, never fear, the EU is watching them.
Except that: a) the EU has its hands full trying to keep the Euro afloat and is far too busy to bother about funny little Hungary, and b) what can they do anyway?

Thomas Deri
Guest

The new media law is indeed scary. I wonder how it will affect this very site. I am afraid you will be up to high fines to your elbow.

Thomas
Guest

Eva: I wanted to post something to introduce myself and to explain in some detail why I’m so pessimistic. But the website said: Sorry, we cannot accept this data…

mouse
Guest

An – “that are found to be in violation, but without defining what counts as violation…”
This is an interesting as it ties in with what I feel is a real fear in Hungary of controlling authorities. Creating an authority which can more or less please itself will probably shut down a lot of lets call it dissent.
Often at work I’m struck how difficult it is to get someone to try something different mostly due to fear of upsetting the authorities.
Too many lawyers, too many badly frames laws.

Sandor
Guest

To Thomas: I am also curious to see what the effect of the new media law will be in general, but am not a bit worried about this blog. In fact, I expect that if the domestic media will be truncated, and it shall be, then the interest in this site and the importance of it will be immensely elevated.
As I discovered today, The Economist has quoted the Hungarian Spectrum: (http://www.economist.com/blogs/easternapproaches/2010/11/hungarys_economy) a few days ago and when the fidesz-rules will come into effect, this forum will be probably the very few surviving liberal voices in the autocratic Hungarian wilderness.
In fact, I am expecting eventual concerted attacks against it and already spoil for the fight.

Sandor
Guest

Sorry, this is the corrected link to The Economist:
http://www.economist.com/blogs/
easternapproaches/2010/11/hungarys_economy

Rigo Jancsi
Guest

I’m not sure what an economic forecast has to do with ethics, but maybe I’m just dumber than Mr. Matolcsy… Is it unethical to tell the truth? Of course, a forecast is never a fixed figure, but I would put my money rather on the experts in the Union than on Matolcsy.

Sackhoes Contributor
Guest

It’s a sad day when the best the MSzP can put up agains Orban is its own failed Prime Minister that they themselves fired. I simply can not envision a day when the majority of the uncommitted center returns to vote for the MSzP as Gyurcsany is lurking somewhere in the leadership. Now would be the time to reorganize and establish a sound opposition that those who voted for the Fidesz and regret it could vote for.
My impression is that both parties enjoy a 15-20% comitted support from those we in the US call “yellow dog party voters” (if their party nominates a yellow dog as a candidate, they would vote for it). Jobbik also might have a 10% core. The remaining 40-50% “slosh” back and forth. For them, I suspect, Gyurcsany is repulsive and as long as he is the standard bearer on the other side they will not surge back.
IMHO.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Paul: “the overall tone of posts has turned from the fairly optimistic, even jokey at times, assumption that OV won’t turn out to be as bad as we fear, to a depressed and angry acceptance that he IS going to turn out exactly as we fear.”
There isn’t much reason to be optimistic. At home they can do whatever they want and László Kövér said two days ago that they are building “a new model of democracy.” That is quite worrisome because there is no such thing as a new model of democracy. It is either democracy or it is not.
The only hope is economic pressure of the market and threats from the EU. If they fail financially they will fail politically.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Comment on An’s note on the media. You’re 100% right. Meanwhile I see that there is also an article on the subject in Népszabadság.
I wrote about the media and the inimitable Annamária Szalai in the past. I don’t know whether you saw my piece on her and that she was editor of a porn magazine in the early 1990s. Rather amusing.
On the other hand, she herself is not amusing at all. Lately she has been trying to sell herself as a reasonable democratic human being, but unfortunately I remember her interviews while Fidesz was in opposition.
This Media Council is made up completely by Fidesz men and one woman and they appointed far right people to head MTI, MTV, Duna TV and MR. And, listen to that one: MTI will edit the news and the two public television stations and the public radio will spout the canned-in news. And one even wonders whether MTI will report domestic and foreign news in an impartial manner. I doubt it.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Thomas Deri: “The new media law is indeed scary. I wonder how it will affect this very site. I am afraid you will be up to high fines to your elbow.”
No, it won’t be affected because it comes from the United States. But I very much worry about Hungarian blogs and online newspapers. Moreover, one must be concerned about the fate of the only liberal radio station, KlubRádió. Last year, they applied for frequency and they got one, but Annamária Szalai and her right-wing crew refused to sign the contract. So, at the moment their fate is hanging in the air. The fines can also ruin ATV, again the only liberal television station. So, it is bad news.
As for the readership of this blog, the news is good. While in January we had around 300 readers today we have 1,300.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Rigó Jancsi: “I’m not sure what an economic forecast has to do with ethics, but maybe I’m just dumber than Mr. Matolcsy… Is it unethical to tell the truth?”
Putting myself into Matolcsy’s shoes (rather difficult!), he thinks that the European Commission has no right to say anything because it was in cahoots with the former government that submitted false data and last year it was stupid enough not to notice that the deficit will be not 3.8% but 7%.
The fact is that the data submitted were correct but the Gyurcsány government badly miscalculated the economic trends. As for the 3.8% Péter Oszkó, former finance minister, weekly tells the world that the budget was tight but the 3.8% deficit could be maintained.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

A few days ago I referred to László Iván, Fidesz’s expert on retirees and pensions as an “old fool.” Admittedly, that wasn’t very nice but I have heard this gentleman to speak a few times and I had to draw this very negative conclusion.
Anyone who knows Hungarian can decide for himself/herself about Dr. Iván’s mental powers. Here is an interview with György Bolgár.
http://galamus.hu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=40348&catid=69&Itemid=106&limitstart=2

Thomas
Guest

ou might consider writing this blog in Hungrian as well, after all there is a small minority in Hungary who does not speak English.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Thomas: “You might consider writing this blog in Hungrian as well, after all there is a small minority in Hungary who does not speak English.”
Of course, it would be a good idea but only if a day consisted of not 24 but 48 hours. As it is, a friend of mine asked: “How do you manage to write about 1,000 words every day?” I answered: “With difficulty.”

Odin's Lost Eye
Guest

Thomas You say * *” after all there is a small minority in Hungary who does not speak English” * *.
Huh! Where I live very very few speak English and if there are of any of the ‘Local Thugi’ about no one speaks any foreign language what so ever.

frank
Guest
Professor: ”Yes, pro-Fidesz voices are rather quiet because, let’s face it, it is fairly difficult to defend the government’s actions. Plus, just think of the consequences. Pretty bad: exchange rate, European Commission’s reaction, higher interest rates. One could go on and on.” (may be you should go on and on….. to Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland just to name a few countries with similar issues) I am not a supporter of any parties in Hungary. However, the intellectual level of debate on this blog reached a new low. Let me quote you some recently made statements: “Oh, I don’t think that Gyurcsany is naive enough to think that Hungary is a true, western type democracy. He just would like if it became one. That’s why he is talking about the western values that Hungarians should emulate. But self-reliance, hard work, etc. don’t appeal to his audience.” (excellent, now I know how Gyurcsany got wealthy) “This was partly Gyurcsány’s fault who got carried away and didn’t express himself clearly. What he meant to say–and I think that’s true–that none of the governments since 1990 levelled with the Hungarian people.”(wow, finally a talented explanation/translation of the famous Oszod speech) “There is wide corruption… Read more »
Paul
Guest

Blimey Frank, just how many nerves did we hit?
And , much as I like to see my humble posts quoted, you could at least do your research more thoroughly first.
But, as it happens, my neighbour is a Debreceni copper and he did say exactly what I posted, and, yes, ‘no one’ is the correct spelling. If either of these tiny things upset you this much, I suggest you take a long look at your priorities in life.

GW
Guest

It’s really distressing that the Fidesz supporters here chose only to make personal attacks on others commenting here rather than attempt to make the case for the policies of Fidesz: let’s hear a defense of the new press law, for example, or the withdrawal of authorities from the supreme court or the financial oversight board.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

GW: “It’s really distressing that the Fidesz supporters here chose only to make personal attacks on others commenting here rather than attempt to make the case for the policies of Fidesz”
That’s exactly what I wanted to say. And one more thing as the owner of this blog. I’m warning you Frank, another personal attack on Paul or me or anyone else and you will be barred from here.

Kristian
Guest

I’d like to back GW’s last comment here. I’m sure that most viewers of this blog never post any comments but are still interested in reading them like me. And this blog needs people like Kevin Moore et al, otherwise it would become truly one-sided. So ridiculing these people doesn’t help, really, that is poison for any blog-discussion.
In the end, we will read only a string of sarcastic comments like above, which after a while becomes very boring.
So if there are any other Fidesz defenders I am genuinely interested in their arguments and any points of substance.

John T
Guest

Kristian – I think you are right.

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