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.