One hears more and more, especially from MSZP politicians, that Viktor Orbán, who now occupies the paramount position in his party and in the country, is systematically trying to discredit anybody who might be his possible successor. I must say that I am a bit skeptical about this assumption. Those who put forth this theory usually mention the names of János Lázár, the leader of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation, and Antal Rogán, mayor of Budapest's V. district. According to this scenario, Orbán entrusted such odious tasks to these two men that they could no longer be moderate alternatives in case Orbán has to resign for one reason or another. Lázár was responsible for submitting the bill that restricted the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court and Rogán had the misfortune of agreeing to be responsible for the ill-fated media law.
Ildikó Lendvai (MSZP) to my great surprise called Lázár a brilliant politician. Lendvai knows Lázár better than I do, but I must admit that instead of brilliance I see only mean-spiritedness. As for Rogán, when his party was in opposition he seemed like a moderate man. However, I was struck by the change that came over him as soon as his party won the elections. He became a ferocious partisan.
Why all this preoccupation with Orbán's possible successor? Because a lot of people hope that Orbán's hard-line policies will fail either this year or the next and it would be wonderful to have a more moderate man who could take over his post. What they have in mind as a model is the fate of the Kaczynski brothers. They pursued such antidemocratic, autocratic policies and their style was so unacceptable within the European Union that, although they were elected by a large majority, in two years they lost an early election. But, say the pundits of this theory, there was a moderate Donald Tusk in Poland, someone who is nowhere to be found in Hungary.
Perhaps the most acceptable alternative to Viktor Orbán would be Tibor Navracsics, currently deputy prime minister in charge of administration and justice. A fancy title, but Navracsics has practically disappeared from sight. It is widely held that Navracsics has fallen out of favor with Orbán. Moreover, according to rumor Navracsics and Lázár are not the best of friends either. Admittedly, it is hard to be terribly enthusiastic about Navracsics whose speeches in parliament during his tenure as the leader of the Fidesz caucus were disgusting and base. Just about as bad as those of Lázár now. And Navracsics might be out of favor and might not be a friend of Lázár, but judging from the few speeches he made in the House he hasn't changed a bit. He might, however, be more acceptable in Brussels.
But Navracsics is definitely out of favor. Apparently Orbán nowadays talks to him only rarely. Instead he calls his undersecretary, András Levente Gál, apparently the grey eminence of the administration. He has unique powers. He is in charge of filling every more important position in the government; naturally political trustworthiness is his guiding principle. Public servants claim that it is mostly because of Gál that there is fear in the ministries.
Anyway, a few days ago it came to light that Navracsics passed on some important work worth millions to companies that employ some of his relatives. The suspicion is that the leak came from people in or around Fidesz. So now Navracsics is accused of corruption as well. I wonder how long he will be staying in his job.
I read somewhere that there is within the Fidesz political family an incredible lack of confidence toward each other. This is somewhat confirmed by what I heard directly from a fairly high-level civil servant, according to whom "Fidesz politicians hate each other just as much as, if not more than, they hate the socialists." The serious rivalry between György Matolcsy and Tamás Fellegi is obvious to anyone who follows the news. Foreigners who have to deal with Hungarian economic matters are completely baffled. They don't know who is in charge of this or that field. One month Orbán takes jobs away from Matolcsy and a month later he turns them over to Fellegi. In brief, chaos.
More and more people think that there will be certain changes in the Orbán government soon. The date that is being mentioned is July, after the end of the EU rotating presidency. The most unpopular minister in the cabinet is György Matolcsy. Investors and Brussels would be very happy to see him go, but since Orbán built his whole rather peculiar economic policy on Matolcsy's pipe dreams it would be hard for Orbán to let him go without a loss of face. It is likely that Miklós Réthelyi, a pleasant but ineffectual academic type, will be replaced by someone more dynamic. Within his ministry of national resources there are serious problems with Rózsa Hoffman who is in charge of education and whose ideas are so old-fashioned that they simply cannot be implemented in the twenty-first century in a country belonging to the European Union. It looks very much that her proposed bill will have to be rewritten or that the Fidesz delegation will vote it down. After all, Hoffman's proposal reflects the extreme Catholic mentality of the Christian Democratic Party to which she belongs.
As for János Martonyi. I know from a reliable source that he is so fed up with the difficulties that are put in his way by Orbán and his nationalistic populist comrades that he would like to quit right now, though most likely he will wait until the EU presidency comes to an end. According to rumors his successor will not be Zsolt Németh, who once again is playing second fiddle to Martonyi in the ministry, but Enikő Győri, undersecretary in charge of European affairs. She is apparently very close to Orbán, and that is the most important consideration when it comes to cabinet members.
In any case, some observers are almost certain that the 4-6% economic growth which is the underpinning of Matolcsy's plans is unrealistic and that without such growth the whole economic program put forth by the Orbán government will collapse. That would mean that a really serious austerity program would have to be introduced in 2012, which would be suicidal two years before the elections. Thus, some Fidesz politicians think in terms of early elections in 2012. They are certain that Fidesz could easily win such an election and thus the party and Orbán would have two additional years to realize their plans.
Maybe, but in politics anything can happen practically overnight. We will see what happens when the January and February opinion polls come out. We must wait for the European Commission's decision on the Hungarian media law. And most of all, we must keep a watchful eye on the fragmented opposition. Fidesz can be defeated only by a broad coalition of democratic forces. And such a united force is nowhere to be found at the moment.