Gyurcsány in his own words

I received a letter from somebody who wanted to know why Ferenc Gyurcsány is so hated when he thinks that Gyurcsány is perhaps the most analytical Hungarian politician. Perhaps he is not a communicator, added my correspondent.

Actually, I believe that Gyurcsány is an excellent communicator although he made quite a few serious mistakes with his off-the-cuff remarks. He speaks fluently without any notes on complicated subjects. When he became prime minister in 2004 he decided to visit the most important universities and give lectures to the students. MSZP had to make inroads in the universities where Fidesz was very popular, mostly because they abolished the very minimal tuition the Horn government had introduced as part and parcel of the austerity program of Lajos Bokros, Horn’s second minister of finance. Gyurcsány wanted to gain their sympathy. A friend of mine copied the whole series of Gyurcsány’s university speeches onto a DVD and sent it to me. I’m very glad that I have it because it’s an opportunity to see the novice prime minister in action as well as the students’ reactions. When Gyurcsány began, most of the students looked antagonistic. They snickered and exchanged sarcastic glances, but as time went on there was a decided change of attitude in the audience. The students realized that this guy knows what he is talking about.

Gyurcsány also gave a yearly mini-economics lecture at Corvinus University (formerly Karl Marx Economics University) where the students, faculty and anyone else who managed to get a ticket were much more sympathetic to him because the prime minister spoke a language they understood. Maybe I will be able to find copies of all the lectures, but at the moment I unearthed only a 9-minute video on YouTube. It is worth a look, especially for those who are not familiar with Gyurcsány’s lecture style.

Well, all this was just a little background to some of my readings of late from and about Gyurcsány. Let me start with the blog he launched a few months before the 2006 elections, obviously as a campaign tool. But, as opposed to others, he kept it up. Five times a week while being driven to his office he dictated that day’s blog, which his staff put up on the Internet. He is a good blog writer. Even after he resigned he kept up the blog. He doesn’t post as often now, but I have the feeling that in the future he will be more active simply because it seems that he is re-entering politics. How wise this re-entrance is is hotly debated, even on Hungarian Spectrum. Just like Viktor Orbán, he is either loved and admired or despised. Mind you, the hatred of him was artificially whipped up by Orbán and his crew because Orbán came to detest him. At first, he just feared him but later, after Orbán was badly beaten by him in the television debate that preceded the 2006 elections, he developed an almost pathological hatred of the man. József Debreczeni in his latest book on Viktor Orbán spends a whole chapter on how the Orbán-led Fidesz party systematically worked on Gyurcsány’s character assassination.

Well, let’s start with Gyurcsány’s latest blog post entitled “National radicals and the lemon sauce.” He tells a story about his daughter who is at home sick and he goes home at noon to cook something for the two of them. In the morning he took two pieces of fish out of the freezer, but he couldn’t find any butter for the lemon sauce. So, he thought that on the way home he would stop at a tiny store not far from their house. He bought a few items including the butter. When he was about to pay, this conversation took place with the man at the counter.

“You seem familiar to me,” said the man.

“People say so,” said I.

“You live somewhere near?” the man continued.

“Yes, only a few streets away from here,” I answered.

“Have you been here before?” came the new question.

“A long time ago and only rarely,” I answered.

“You know that we are in opposing camps?” he added.

“I am also,” although I had the feeling that we were not talking about the same thing.

“But we are national radicals,” he answered.

“Well, in that case we are not on the same side,” I answered, making the situation clear. “You see, that’s why democracy is a good thing. You and I can freely choose what we believe, what we support,” I said as I finished paying.

Gyurcsány didn’t turn back but he was sure that they followed him with their eyes. Perhaps they didn’t want to believe that he is not the devil incarnate.

* * *

Shortly after I read this piece I happened upon a blog that was new to me–Varanusz. The writer is trying to analyze Gyurcsány’s “political reincarnation.” How he is reinventing himself. According to Varanusz, this re-entrance of Gyurcsány is “brilliant.”

So, let’s see what is so brilliant about it. Political reincarnation is closely connected to “supply and demand” in the field. Varanusz thinks that the political leadership on the left-liberal side is so anemic that not one of them can possibly compete with Viktor Orbán. According to Varanusz, Gyurcsány started slowly and gingerly. After some nice blogs about planting trees and building a patio, he slowly moved toward “a full-court press.” By taking away the savings of three million people, Orbán and his government offered an opening for Gyurcsány, who now can turn the idea of a country of self-reliant and proud citizens against Orbán, who first came up with the idea of “polgári” Hungary. (I am completely at a loss what to do with that cursed “polgári.” Surely, Orbán decided on its use as a counterpoint to “socialist.” Maybe one day I will try to write something a little more detailed and serious about the whole topic.)

Thanks to Photoshop, Varanusz came up with a montage which is of course not fair to Orbán. Varanusz obviously had a marvelous time positioning Gyurcsány’s finger periously close to Orbán’s nose.

 Whatever one thinks of Gyurcsány, one must admit that the fellow has guts. In 168 Óra there is an interview with him in which the reporter, Ágnes Karácsony, kept asking him whether he is not in fact trying to provoke Orbán. “Let’s face it, Viktor Orbán wants to see me in jail. This is what they are trying to achieve using all possible tricks. They pressure the prosecutor’s office and they ignore all democratic principles. But I still sleep well, I don’t need sleeping pills in spite of the Fidesz manhunt. They will have a hard time with me.” Varanusz thinks that “this man really is not afraid. He is bemused. Especially when he watches what Orbán and his government are doing.” They are doing a favor to Gyurcsány who can now say that “the trap of Viktor Orbán is Viktor Orbán himself.” This is what Gyurcsány is counting on.

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John T
Guest

Eva,
Much of what Gyurcsány is saying is absolutely correct. The trouble is that most people seem to loath him, so the importance of the message is lost. Hungary needs a new, sensible and articulate politician to put forward this message. But he / she doesn’t exist and is unlikely to come to the fore for sometime, if at all. And even then, I suspect they will be a forlorn voice.

John T
Guest

And as you know, I don’t rate him. He’d be nothing special in the UK, thats for sure.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

John T.: “The trouble is that most people seem to loath him, so the importance of the message is lost.”
This kind of observation is really anecdotal. You talk to people who loath him and I talk to people who like him. Thus you can say “most people loath him.” And I could say “but not so, most people like him!”
Most likely neither is true. I just checked Szonda-Ipsos all way back to 2004 and the approval rates of the two men were about the same. Suprisingly even after the speech at Őszöd. Popularity comes and goes. Just think of George W after 9/11 and a few years later. Or Barack Obama after the elections and now.
I happen to side with those who think that Gyurcsány one day will be a worthy opponent of Orbán. Orbán is doing everything in his power to discredit himself at home and abroad.

Kevin Moore
Guest

“The students realized that this guy knows what he is talking about.”
Yes he surely did, and he immediately proceeded to completely ruin the country.
Bah.

Kevin Moore
Guest

Eva, do you plan to take Zsolt Gréczy’s position as the most ridiculous pipsqueak submerged in Gyurcsány from the backside?

Minusio
Guest
Thank you Eva, that’s what I wanted to know and more. I happen to agree with you, that unless he is killed or put in jail, Gyurcsány will be Hungary’s only chance to return to democracy through all the adversity created by Orbán. And I happen to think he is the brightest politician in sight. Many another country would be proud of him in this dearth of political personnel everywhere. As for the ‘idea of “polgári” Hungary’, I think he doesn’t mean the bourgois-rightist (“bügerlich”) camp that we now find triumphant everywhere, but rather the build-up of a ‘civic society’. In order to illustrate let me quote my Hungarian girlfriend when she first saw the Basel “Fasnacht”. She said: “This would never be possible in Hungary”. Yet the Basel Fasnacht is a yearly civic ritual, involving lots of groups from all walks of life. When there are plans in Basel to rehabilitate a neighbourhood or build a new one, there is ‘civic’ participation from square one. In a direct-democratic country like Switzerland nothing big could ever be realised without this participative process. [At this particular time they are finishing the longest railway tunnel worldwide. It included years of civic participation… Read more »
An
Guest

“the trap of Viktor Orbán is Viktor Orbán himself.”
Gyurcsany is absolutely right about this one.

m
Guest

This is power-play. GYF has let himself “stabbed in the back” many times. Unforgiveble. Unqualified.

Sackhoes Contributor
Guest

I have no reason to doubt you, Eva, that the people you talk to all admire Gyurcsany. I also agree with you that he is a very intelligent person.
Unfortunately, the people who outside of MSzP stalwarts gave him the thumbs up in 2004 for the most part turned against him in 2010. Also, maybe undeservedly, he became the focal point of the rowdy rightist mob that kept the majority of Hungarians upset.
Of all the people who might knock Orban out of the saddle, Gyurcsany has the largest handicap. I, for one, would rather see the quiet and well prepared Bajnai on the ballot that the divisive Gyurcsany. I’d even venture that earlier this year, if Bajnai represented the alternative, the result would not have been so devasating to the MSzP.

An
Guest

If it wasn’t the country who suffered the dire consequences, we could just sit back and watch how Orban Viktor destroys himself. A truly Shakespearean character he is.

Sandor
Guest

It occurs to me that rating Gyurcsany as a prospective equal of Orban is an undeservedly low grade as far as Gyurcsany is concerned.
Gyurcsany is a rational, educated and talented man, unfortunately lacking the necessary finess required for a statesman. But that can be acquired and he is improving by the day.
Orban, on the other hand is a low class demagogue with no taste, no class and no imagination. His main occupation is pushing. Always pushing for something and even in that he is permanently inconsistent.
Therefore, while Orban is on his way to a gigantic failure and self-destruction, Gyurcsany just have to do what he is doing and hoping that by the time he climbs back on top, he will also gain the courage to govern, come what may.

Bálint
Guest
Eva, if Gyurcsany had had the class to retire from public life after Balaton Oszod you wouldn’t be looking at your two thirds Fidesz majority today. I think you need to talk to more people who run out of food money toward the end of the month. It shouldn’t be a mystery that people prefer a shoddy megalomaniac populist over a sly fox right out of restoration comedy. If the economy were in decent shape the fact that Gyurcsany is one of the country’s wealthiest men (and that that wealth was amassed in the era of privatization) perhaps wouldn’t matter quite so much. But someone like Gyurcsany trying to push through austerity measures? You must be joking. Moral authority does matter in politics. It matters so much that a sizable number of people are willing to settle for a cardboard mock-up rather than not have it at all. It shouldn’t be a mystery that people prefer a shoddy megalomaniac populist over a sly fox right out of restoration comedy. If Orban is Orban’s worst enemy, Gyurcsany’s with his continued insistence on remaining in public life is Orban’s most effective supporter. I’m skeptical that out of the ten million or so… Read more »
Odin's Lost Eye
Guest

Ferenc Gyurcsány has one huge problem. This is he looks the eternal school teacher ‘Chalkie’ who was drawn by great English cartoonist the late Carl Giles. Have a good look here http://www.cartoons.ac.uk/record/14855 . Chalkie or rather Mr Chalk is the one standing in the background. This no way detracts from his undoubted abilities. After his recent setback in the polls he will learn and mature into a very good and able parliamentarian. That is if the’Mighty One’ does not have ‘vanish’.

whoever
Guest

Eva, you really aren’t acknowledging the real basis for the MSZP-SZDSZ wins of 2002 and 2006 (In all honesty, 2002 was barely a win, more the result of a successful strategy to isolate Orbán).
In 2002, the MSZP had promised to reduce poverty and to increase the wages of public sector workers, combined with retaining some of welfarist actions of the 1998-2002 Orbán government. They carried out most of their promises in 2002 and 2003.
In 2006, the MSZP and their candidate Ferenc Gyurcsány promised to reduced taxes, in combination with a wide-ranging infrastructure programme. At no point did they refer to the need to better balance the budget. I believe it was only the MDF who mentioned this.
It was only after May 2006 that the ‘New Gyurcány’ emerged. After this, the MSZP have been reduced to less than 20% in the polls and can only hold 2 major areas in the whole country. I can only conclude people wanted the ‘lying’ version of the MSZP, all milk and honey, and not the ‘hard choices’ version. As Gyurcsány discovered his mission – to reform Hungary along the lines of a neo-liberal state – he also proved the MSZP’s undoing.

Joe Simon
Guest

Gyurcsány himself admitted that he is not competent to govern. He has no feeling for politics. Consider his handling of the dual citizenship for Hungarians. Consider his inept way dealing with Erdély, Felvidék, Délvidék. His own party pushed him out. Now you want him back. Most MSZP supporters live in the past, longing for the good old days. Under Kádár everything seemed ever so simple. At least Orbán wants to strike a new path. I hope he will succeed.

John T
Guest

Joe,
Seems to me thats essentially what Orbán is offering people – back to the old ways, just with him in charge and no real opposition. I don’t see much of a new path to be honest, but maybe thats just me.

Kevin Moore
Guest

John T: yes that’s just you. MSZP’s ways would still be to tax people to death and let all financial institutions, together with the many crooks, thrive, without any control.
It’s those institutions where MSZP politicians get their ‘feedback’ from after all. This was one of the biggest recognitions that led the electorate to vote this Spring the way they did.

An
Guest

@Kevin Moore: yes those nasty banks, bankers, and the MSZP.. like Csanyi Sandor, CEO of the largest Hungarian bank, OTP.. wait, isn’t he best friends with Orban Viktor?
Can’t wait to see the golden days returning to Hungary when OTP will be again the one and only bank in the country, after successfully chasing away foreign competition. Why do I think that it won’t mean better consumer service for the average Hungarian?

Joe Simon
Guest

Look, Gyurcsány is an intelligent man, but he is not fit to be a politician, notwithstanding Eva’s admiration for him. I am not calling him all kinds of names as you all seem to do when it comes to Orbán. He simply doesnot feel the pulse of his own people. Look the way the demonstrators were handled at the time of the 5Oth anniversary of the revolution. But he is honest, he admitted all at Öszöd.
‘A Socialist Revival’? It is a dead horse.

John T
Guest

Kevin – seems to me the crooks thrive regardless of which party is in power. And lets face it, many people have a racket of some sort and indulge in questionable / dishonest behaviour such as suppressing income or tax evasion. The truth is that corruption and dishonesty are embedded in Hungarian society and nobody will clean it up properly.
I think An probably has it right. Eventually the banks and foreign investment will either move elsewhere or be driven out because they are disproportionately clobbered by the government in comparison to Hungarian companies. Some (possibly you included) may welcome this, but the reality is that Hungary will be much the poorer if they do.

John T
Guest

Joe – I’d agree with you to an extent His message now is absolutely right, but he is not the person who should be delivering the message. He should realise his time has passed, as he will not carry enough of the Hungarian public with him. Trouble is, there isn’t anyone at the moment who has the capability to rally people.

GW
Guest

Joe Simon wrote:
“‘A Socialist Revival’? It is a dead horse.”
While we may not see a revival of the MSzP, with or without Gyurcsány, we are certainly seeing a revival of Kadarist socialist policies — from health care to censorship — by the present government. Again, I would very much like to read an articulate defense of these policies from a Fidesz supporter. From the way that Fidesz supporters here insist on droning on with attacks on the last government rather than that, I’m beginning to suspect that they, too, realize that an intelligent case in support of current policies cannot be made.

John G
Guest
Gyurcsány is perhaps the most analytical Hungarian politician”. Analytical he may be but a Hungarian “politician” he is not. He may be at home in the British or Canadian Parliament but as Hungarian P.M. he was a fish out of water. I had a great deal of respect for his ideas, a respect that keeps increasing now that he is out of office. But I was constantly frustrated by his lacka-a-daisical attitude to the Opposition while he was in office. I kept expecting that he was about to do something to counteract the Fidesz onslaught that marginalized his government. I was also frustrated that he did not give up his post when his health-care reforms failed to materialize. At that point his eventual return to power would have been all but guaranteed. It would have been almost certain death to the MSZP’s old guard’s political life, the cleaning up of its “holdudvar”, giving the Party a chance to re-invent itself, not just renaming itself. As it stands now the Hungarian Left is in total disarray, and will remain so for some time, unless Fidesz provides a causus belli in the near future. The current fragmentation of the Left and the… Read more »
Öcsi
Guest

John G wrote:”(BTW the labeling of the Hungarian Socialists as the Left and the Fidesz as the Right is really a joke since the reverse is almost true, but then in Hungary just like the last name and first name everything is reversed.)”
If that’s the case, then the Fidesz is a “national” socialist party. They certainly aren’t internationalists, like the former socialists.

John T
Guest

“(BTW the labeling of the Hungarian Socialists as the Left and the Fidesz as the Right is really a joke since the reverse is almost true, but then in Hungary just like the last name and first name everything is reversed.)”
John G – Very true :-). When I went to my summer Hungarian schools, I started to understand what my teachers referred to as “Hungarian logic” with the language. But it extends way beyond the language :-), which is why many observers looking at Hungary get so puzzled!

Kevin Moore
Guest

John T: An’s comment doesn’t reach the standard of deserving a response, but you also make a similar mistake: you imply that banks and foreign financial companies will leave the country.
The extra levies are already in effect, and tell me, what bank or anything of the like has left Hungary? There isn’t even a single bank office that has been closed.
You don’t seem to be aware of the fact that foreign financial companies have been pumping a LOT MORE profit from Hungary (in proportion of course) than what they make in any Western European country. This was due to their non-existent control, but an outright unprincipled support for them from the MSZP side that has been ruling the country up to this year.
This vastly increased profit margin is the only thing they must give up. Their investment won’t be yielding one cent less than what they make in the Western part of Europe.
John G: “Or as PT Barnum (Lincoln?)said:You can fool some of the people some of the time but you can’t fool everybody all the time.”
Exactly. That’s why Gyurcsány and his friends eventually lost power, badly.

Kevin Moore
Guest

Öcsi: “If that’s the case, then the Fidesz is a “national” socialist party. They certainly aren’t internationalists, like the former socialists.”
It is not far from the truth.
Fidesz is culturally right-wing, patriotic and respecting traditional values, but speaking of economic viewpoints, it is sometimes close to the left, with the exception that they are patriotic in the area of economy as well.
The MSZP can’t even be categorized. They have no ideology, no view of the world, their only and sole purpose of existence is to exercise power itself. To stuff their own kin by “creatively earning” (read: stealing) public money. The party consists exclusively of old communists (greedy for power) and young careerists (greedy for money). Their party is a structure built entirely on communication to hide their pursuits. But to Hungary’s luck, communication isn’t everything and people eventually able to see behind the curtains more and more.

Joe Simon
Guest

Somehow I cannot doubt Orbán’s committment to democracy. No one has ever articulated better the legacy of 1956 than he did at the funeral of Nagy Imre. That was a historic speech from a young man who had no personal memory of the revolution. And let us not forget that many people in Hungary even now question the very idea of designating October 23 a national holiday. He has repeated again and again that there will be no ‘proletárdiktatúra’ in Hungary. At the same time he has consistently and convincingly distanced himself from the Jobbik and the Magyar Gárda. He wants a strong government to achieve his goals. Let us hope he will not overreach himself, it would indeed be a sad end to the democratic experiment in Hungary.

Öcsi
Guest

Thank you, Kevin, for confirming my worst fears. You do know, do you not, that ‘national socialist’ is the same thing as Nazi?
Nothing good will come of it.
You say that “Fidesz is culturally right-wing, patriotic and respecting traditional values…”
What on earth is “culturally right-wing?”
And what do you mean by “respecting traditional values?”
Does that mean Jews, Roma, gays and “others” are not part of the Hungarian fabric? If that’s the case, how are you and your Fidesz different from the Taliban?

Öcsi
Guest

Joe Simon wrote: “He has repeated again and again that there will be no ‘proletárdiktatúra’ in Hungary.”
You can count on that, Joe. The dictatorship will be a much smaller group and it probably won’t include you. But you will do as you’re told, eh? Good boy.