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.