First I would like to call attention to a video available on YouTube. Klára Ungár (formerly SZDSZ) organized a conversation with Ágnes Heller. The reason for my mentioning this is because Kata was inquiring whether Heller was ever critical of the socialist governments and my answer was that I remember that in fact she was. On this video Heller repeats some of her objections, among them her conviction that Ferenc Gyurcsány should have resigned after the Balatonőszöd speech became public. The video has five parts. The last two segments are devoted to questions and answers. I found it interesting. Here is the link to the video: http://www.youtube.com/tiprodaide
I mentioned earlier that I began a database of political events almost a year ago and one of my topics was "political retribution." That category turned out to be far too wide and therefore lately I made several subcategories by type of case. Yesterday I had to add a new one: "Political retribution–Sovereign debt."
It has become clear to everybody who is following events in Hungary that the present government is bent on sending politicians active in the last eight years to jail. They began with a subcommittee on the events of September and October 2006 which was supposed to prove that Ferenc Gyurcsány, the prime minister at the time, intervened with the work of the police for political reasons. That attempt failed. At the same time Gyula Budai, the chief inquisitor, was sent to look into the case of a land swap between an Israeli-Hungarian businessman and the Hungarian state. Again, they wanted to prove that in this case not only Gyurcsány but also his successor Gordon Bajnai and Bajnai's minister of finance Péter Oszkó were guilty of fraud. But from the Orbán government's point of view this case is not going well. Therefore they came out with a new scheme.
Yesterday it was announced that a press conference would be held this morning dealing with this topic: "an investigation of the greatest political sin will begin." Naturally, an unusually large number of journalists gathered to hear Péter Szijjártó, who didn't disappoint them. He announced that a parliamentary subcommittee has been formed under the aegis of the finance committee that is supposed to investigate "whether private interests played any role in making the country debt ridden." Szijjártó emphasized that this time he was speaking not in the name of Viktor Orbán but as the vice-chairman of the parliamentary committee on state audit (számvevőszéki bizottság). Surely, Orbán doesn't want to look like the initiator of a new witch hunt against his predecessor and greatest political foe. Because there is no question that the creation of a subcommittee on indebtedness in the last eight years–which Szijjártó generously labelled as eight years of the Gyurcsány era although Gyurcsány was prime minister for only five years out of the eight–aims at finding Gyurcsány criminally liable for the country's indebtedness.
Interestingly enough Péter Medgyessy's name wasn't mentioned although he was really the chief culprit in this indebtedness story when in 2002 and 2003 he raised the salaries of state employees (including those of teachers and doctors) by fifty percent, a move that could be financed only by borrowing. Perhaps in view of Medgyessy's unseemly attacks on his successor his sins have been forgiven by Orbán. However, Ferenc Gyurcsány, János Veres, his minister of finance, and Tibor Draskovics, who served both Medgyessy and for a while Gyurcsány as minister of finance, were mentioned by name.
The chairman of the subcommittee will be József Dancsó, a member of of parliament since 1998, but until now unknown to me. And who will be the vice-chairman? Surprise! Péter Szijjártó himself. And since Szijjártó is Orbán's alter ego it is as if Orbán himself sat on the committee. Szijjártó announced that if the subcommittee finds that any of the socialist politicians were guilty of fraud in connection with the country's indebtedness they will have to face criminal charges. If the current laws don't allow this, they will consider a change in the laws. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
From MSZP it was Ildikó Lendvai who answered Péter Szijjártó. Yes, the socialist governments are mostly responsible for the large national debt, but the borrowed money was spent on social services and infrastructure, especially superhighways. However, she added that the indebtedness of the country kept growing in the last nine months mostly because of the weakening of the Hungarian currency caused by irresponsible utterances of government officials and by the dubious economic policies of the Matolcsy-Orbán team. In any case, Lendvai said that she could write the script of the future proceedings of the subcommittee although the Fidesz politicians know very well where the borrowed money went.
One more piece of news from today that says a lot about the personality of Hungary's prime minister. Viktor Orbán loves changing offices. During his first term he got it into his head that he would use a room that was originally created to be the prime minister's office at the turn of the twentieth century. Millions and millions were spent on total reconstruction and furnishings. Of course, what was once a fine office is no longer functional in the twenty-first century. Among other things, it was so small that only four people could fit in at any one time.
Medgyessy immediately moved out of Orbán's reconstructed office and as far as I know all his successors were quite satisfied with the room he picked. Not so Orbán. He decided that he needed a bigger office and he picked one all right, the Nándorfehérvári Terem, a huge conference room that is 180m² or 1937 ft². Just to give you an idea of the size of the room, the American president's Oval Office is only 75m² or 816 ft²! I have a vague recollection that this room was often used for state dinners. Szijjártó refused to reveal how much it cost to make this conference room suitable to serve as the office of the prime minister.