Verbal encounter on Facebook about the national debt

Viktor Orbán declared war on the national debt and it seems that Ferenc Gyurcsány declared war on Viktor Orbán. Orbán has been on Facebook for almost a year, and I was surprised that Gyurcsány didn't show up on Facebook, which is becoming a national pastime in Hungary.

It looks as if Gyurcsány has thrown himself into politics again. Today it will be decided whether MSZP's leadership is ready to accept his Democratic Coalition platform (with over 4,000 members including non-party members) and thus accept the challenge of reforming MSZP. According to all accounts there will be no question about the embrace although I have no idea what the party will do with the anti-Gyurcsány forces headed by László Puch and Tibor Szanyi.

In any case, once Gyurcsány makes up his mind about something he tackles the task head on with incredible energy. Once he discovered that Viktor Orbán had "declared war on the sovereign debt" on Facebook he decided to write a letter to him on the same subject, also on Facebook.

The tone of the letter is ironic and scathing. Gyurcsány gathers that Orbán would like to understand why the national debt has grown in the last ten years and also wants to know who is responsible for that growth. He would like to help Orbán. "If you answer the questions below, I promise you that you will get closer to the truth. Within a few minutes an entirely new world will open before your eyes. Believe me!"

Here is a rough translation of the text.

(1) Is it true that your government raised the salaries of government employees by 70%?

(2) Is it true that you initiated a subsidy program for the purchase of apartments and houses that cost the budget more than 300 billion forints a year?

(3) Is it true that money spent by your government on infrastructure was not calculated into the budget in order to hide the real deficit?

(4) Did you ever figure out that the Orbán government during 2001 and 2002 left behind a deficit of about 450 billion forints which in eight years would have amounted to a deficit of 12% if your successors hadn't trimmed the budget?

(5) Did Fidesz vote for the thirteenth-month pension for pensioners which cost 300 billion forints every year?

(6) Did Fidesz support the government's proposal in 2005 to introduce built-in guarantees that would have made the growth of sovereign debt impossible once and for all?

(7) Did Fidesz support the 50% raise in state employees' salaries?

(8) Did Fidesz object to giving an extra month of child support?

(9) Did Fidesz raise its voice against the largest and thus the most expensive road construction in the history of Hungary?

(10) Did Fidesz vote against the tax reduction program in 2006?

(11) Did Fidesz support the steps taken between 2006 and 2010 aimed at reducing the deficit and putting an end to the growth of the national debt?

(12) Were you the ones who initiated a referendum that deprived the state of a sizable income and at the same time put an end to reforms designed to create public and individual responsibility?

(13) Did you personally raise your voice against those Fidesz politicians who with their stupid statements weakened the forint and thus increased the sovereign debt?

(14) Did the new government use the past nine months for bettering the national economy or, following the worst traditions of the country, try to figure out how you could possibly further increase the national debt?

But no need to continue. However, to assist your understanding of the issue I summarize here what has happened since 2001.

(1) You, Mr. Prime Minister, in 2001 and 2002 decided to irresponsibly spend an extra 450 billion forints.

(2) Péter Medgyessy's "one hundred day program" created a deficit of 850 billion forints.

(3) My own decrease in the value added tax in 2006 cost the budget an additional 200 billion forints. 

(4) Your own tax cuts this year cost us another 600 billion forints every year.

If I recall properly, then you and your party enthusiasically supported all these expenses or, even worse, some of them were actually initiated by you.

When we tried to correct our own stupidities your reactions were the following:

(1) When Péter Medgyessy suggested cutting expenses at the end of 2003 and 2004 you cried "the death of the nation" (nemzethalál).

(2) I was radically decreasing the deficit from 2006 on, and by 2008 we reached 3.8%. During the fall of 2008 I proposed further legislation in order to cut the deficit further. You and your party rejected all my steps.

(3) Gordon Bajnai from the spring of 2009 on announced further reductions to handle the crisis. You and your colleagues didn't support the prime minister in his endeavors.

Mr. Prime Minister,

You are an irresponsible and cowardly man. Always at the forefront of spending or lending your support to spending but never daring to assist or initiate unpopular cuts in expenses. But now you're in trouble. You know that there is no way of avoiding some hard decisions. You don't have the courage to look the situation squarely in the face and admit that you have made wrong decisions…. 

Since you rejected the reform package of Lajos Bokros in 1995 you have been behaving in a most primitive and most irresponsible way. You promise all sorts of things to the people, you inflame their passions and desires, but shirk from real governing. In my opinion there is the need for self-examination. I suggest that as a first step go into the bathroom next to the study of the prime minister; there is a nice mirror there and please look into it. Then think! Finally judge! But not just others, yourself as well. That could be the most promising day of Hungarian democracy, the beginning of the closing of the last twenty years. Not with revolution. … With sobriety.

Ferenc Gyurcsány, February 25, 2011, Kötcse

 

 

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Jo Peattie
Guest

Sainthood must surely follow. I am all for opposing the present regime but please take off your rose tinted spectacles Eva!
Unfortunately I subscribe to the view that whatever side a politician is from by his or her very nature the truth is an alien concept, obscured by spin, misconception and half truths. Please tell me I am wrong.

An
Guest

@Jo Peattie: Gyurcsany is actually right in what he is pointing out. It’s not him who is not willing to take his share of the blame.

Jo Peattie
Guest

Surely the only way a new MSZP could rise from the ashes would be if the previous incumbents- whatever the rights or wrongs- stepped back and retired. To stay will just give the present lot a stick to beat them with. Or is there nobody else….

GW
Guest

Jo Peattie,
Why don’t you respond to the actual points in the article?

Paul
Guest

Jo – there are many polititians who are in it for the ‘right’ reason, certainly in the UK, and. I would hope, in Hungary too.
This all too popular cynical slandering of all politians because a few have been found wanting is a dangerous road to go down. If our democracies are to mean anything, at some point we have to start to reestablish our faith in the process and the people.
In his on way, this is what GF is trying to do.
After all, why else would he still be there? He doesn’t need the money and he certainly doesn’t need the hassle. And I don’t think the answer is a OV type thirst for power.

Member

I do like Paul’s question, about why Gyurcsany is still there? I am not being sarcastic here, I would really would like to know the answer. Again as Paul says, he does not need the money , and he does not seem that he has the ego that requires the limelight, so what drives him? Does anyone read any interview with him lately that would answer that question?

Jano
Guest

“And I don’t think the answer is a OV type thirst for power.”
Well, I think the complete opposite.
About the article, he’s more or less right about Orbán but that doesn’t make him better and his responsibility and charlatanism any smaller. Of course he’s so realizing about his own mistakes, now that he has nothing to loose. I just refuse to believe that a man with his intellect had no idea what was happening or what stupidity were they doing before and during the Pannon Puma campaing (If he really didn’t know as e.g. Eva claims, and he was really fooled by his partymates then I hereby announce him to be the most incompetent and foolish prime minister Hungary ever had the misfortune to have). Also this correcting the stupidity didn’t come from him, but from Almunia when he told Fletó, that the Pannon Puma is over, so you won the election no more excuses. So this sorry is nice but far too late (and not really credible for me).

Kirsten
Guest

I think that politicians typically have some “thirst for power”, without power you cannot change anything. Why should Ferenc Gyurcsany be different? But it is a bit problematic that the “thirst for power” of politicians is automatically thought of as detrimental to the society or the citizens. Transparency, a functioning legal system and control through the media should limit the actions of politicians; an expectation that politicians should be angels or that their main interest has to be to relieve the citizens of their own responsibilities in the political process appears to be apolitical thinking. In my view Ferenc Gyurcsany did not try to qualify for sainthood but to base the discussion on some checkable facts (otherwise it will go on with accusations of general “fraud”, “lies”, “mismanagement” etc.). There should be more people contributing to a more “factual” debate, Ferenc Gyurcsany perhaps would not attract that much attention then.

kis fiu
Guest

This whole discussion about Gyurcsanyi would be moot if there were term limits for prime ministers. Actually, Orban wouldnt be such a menace either if he knew he had to retire (at least as prime minister) in say 4 years. As an American, I wonder why the parliamentary systems in Europe dont include this basic check on the power of the government? I think Kirsten is basically right. In many ways it is unreasonable to expect politicians on their own to curb their own power.

John T
Guest

“This all too popular cynical slandering of all politians because a few have been found wanting is a dangerous road to go down. If our democracies are to mean anything, at some point we have to start to reestablish our faith in the process and the people.”
Paul – I understand what you are saying, but the Hungarian political “elite” has been feeble since 1989. I therefore think that there needs to be a real effort to reconnect with the voters, bring transparency to the political (and public service) and actual show they are working for the WHOLE electorate, bot just narrow interests. And they need to ensure that Hungary has a much broader view of the outside world. So I think they need to demonstrate this commitment before the cynicism goes away.

John T
Guest

As I’ve made clear on this blog, I’ve never been a fan of Gyurcsány, but I do give him some credit for the way in which he is challenging the Government and that he is acknowleding his mistakes. As ex-pats have probably noticed, a Hungarian never makes mistakes :-).
I still don’t see him as someone to bring Hungarians together, which is what is desperately needed, with all the problems the country faces. But it may encourage a new group of sensible, forward thinking Hungarians to get involved in politics and build a real opposition.

Kirsten
Guest

@John T: “the Hungarian political “elite” has been feeble since 1989.”
I am sorry for being repetitive but I think (at least a part of) the electorate has to bear its share of responsibility in that. I read here on the blog of expectations of a benevolent and caring state and politicians (allegedly as in the Kadar years), the prevalence of political theories such as “all politicians are crooks”, an inclination to believe accusations of “lies” and “mismanagement” instead in the ruling of courts, and the idea that a 2/3 majority in parliament implies that the whole nation should now fully embrace the ideas of the “majority” in order not to be considered “hostile to the nation”. For me it is lacking political thinking (which Ferenc Gyurcsany for instance is not lacking at all).

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kirsten: “For me it is lacking political thinking (which Ferenc Gyurcsany for instance is not lacking at all).”
Anyone who can handle Hungarian there is an excellent article by Vera Lánczos on Gyurcsány’s speech in Galamus. It is the lead today.

John T
Guest

Kirstin – I don’t disagree with what you’ve said. As the saying goes – people get the politicans they deserve. What it really needs is for the society to have the mindset that corruption, lies and mismanagement has to be tackled, not just in Parliament, but in the whole country and this has to be linked to good governance and good laws, ensuring that there are sound penalties in place for transgressors, which are applied through the judical process and consistently.

Member

kis fiu: “if there were term limits for prime ministers.” I do not think this will be embedded in the new constitution…..
TI know that many people had great hopes for Gyurcsany, and I was one of them. For me it was not about the party, it was about him. He is very charismatic, extremely smart, blessed with political skills that Orban lacks, like how to talk to other politicians from other countries without loosing face. I was utterly disappointed. He was not strong enough to drive through what the country needed, and that includes standing firm and taking actions against the ultra right. I think what Hungary needs is a firm president who would lead them. Someone mentioned before that he also lacked the support and criticism of the intellectuals. It is true. All the criticism came from the foaming mouths of the Jobbik and the Fidesz, and that was not constructive criticism. Unfortunately Orban does not take any criticism lightly, and he fires back, even at his friends. I cannot see Gyurcsany doing that to be honest, but as Jano said it is too little, too late.

John T
Guest

Someone – Of course, one man or woman cannot drive through change alone, particularly in the poisonous political atmosphere that exists. There is need for a talented team. Everyone praises Thatcher for her strength, but she needed key allies, particularly Keith Joseph, who was here ideological “backbone”. She wouldn’t have lasted as long as she did without her key allies.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

John T: “Of course, one man or woman cannot drive through change alone, particularly in the poisonous political atmosphere that exists.”
He had too many enemies within his own party and I don’t wish for anyone an opposition as the Fidesz was in those days. I think one reason the socialists didn’t try to be “strong” because they were afraid that the accusation of their reintroducing “dictatorship” frightened them to death. As you can see Orbán doesn’t have to worry about this.

John T
Guest

Eva – not sure I agree with you.For one thing, though some of their policies were foolish bordering on stupid, they didn’t push forward any anti-democratic measues. And had they used the mandate given to them properly, they could have agreed in Parliament to always put any controversial proposals to a referendum anyway, so the people could decide.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

John T: “they [the socialists] didn’t push forward any anti-democratic measures.”
No, no, I didn’t mean that, but they were always accused of being undemocratic. Look what is going on at the moment with the police brutality story. The police by the end didn’t dare to do anything.

Odin's lost eye
Guest
Gyurcsany is a young man when he became Prime Minister he had had little experience of office so he had not learned the idea of ‘Collective Responsibility’ and how to pick his ministerial colleagues. Of course he and his colleagues made mistakes every cabinet does. I think at that time he had or started to develop some sort of political philosophy which he is now beginning to develop. He may well emerge from his time in the wilderness and his persecution by ‘His Mightiness’ a far stronger, more able and well rounded character. He could well become another Déak. His postings on Facebook are really there as a caution to those poisonous toadies in OV’s clique. They are also there as a clear message to the rest of Europe and The European Commission reminding them the underlying facts. This is being done in preparation for the ‘Show Trial’ which is yet to come. Like John T I dislike Socialism and but that said I would probably support Gyurcsany. (as an aside I dislike Tony Benn’s politics but I would give him my vote as a man). If he can find support of willing and able folk he will be the… Read more »
Member

John T: “There is need for a talented team.” That exactly is, this is what I meant by “he also lacked the support and criticism of the intellectuals”, and Eva is right by pointing out that even the support of his own party members were missing. In any case the outcome was not what I was hoping for. Maybe what he lacks is the capability to surround himself with the right people, but that is still a shortcoming. THere are many mediocre movie directors out there, who do not have a clue, but they know one thing really well, how to pick all the best people for the job, the cinematographer, the designer, props, lighting and grip, and what you see at the end is a seamless flick. The team tells the director what can and cannot be done, but still they support his vision.

Kirsten
Guest

@someone: “Maybe what he lacks is the capability to surround himself with the right people, but that is still a shortcoming.”
When I read these last posts, I wanted to write just that. In my impression also Gyurcsany’s analyses and speeches are to the point but it needs some team building and an ability to organise majorities. (But there could be tensions between the wish often read here to have a strong leader and a cooperating team of politicians.)

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

someone: “Maybe what he lacks is the capability to surround himself with the right people,”
I don’t know whether you read his speech or not but he pretty well admits that he trusted people he shouldn’t have.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

I have read the excellent comment of Vera Lánczos about Gyurcsány. He seems to be motivated by patriotism. Many Hungarians are in a depressive mood and he wants to show them, what can, what should be done.

GW
Guest
Kristen wrote: “But there could be tensions between the wish often read here to have a strong leader and a cooperating team of politicians.” Exactly. And in this case, like his predecessor, not having the backing within his own party was fatal to his administration. Karl Pfeifer wrote: “…Gyurcsány. He seems to be motivated by patriotism” I don’t think that this point can be emphasized enough. While his ego probably plays an important role and above and beyond whether his ideas are optimal for Hungary, his desire for his country to do better is clear and that is an honest and real form of patriotism. Unlike his opponents (both across the aisle and within his own party), he has had a career and a life outside of politics, he has no material need to be in politics, nor can Hungarian politics benefit him personally (indeed, at this point, there is a greater likelihood that politics, the the form of a vendetta, could do him more personal damage than good). The fact that his opponents (again, both within his party and across the aisle) continue to fail to recognize that someone can hold a judgment different from their own on matters… Read more »
Member

Eva: “I don’t know whether you read his speech or not but he pretty well admits that he trusted people he shouldn’t have.” Yes, I read it, and yes, he says that, but I am not sure if he referred to the capability or the loyalty of his people. Some people had the capability, but not loyalty and the other way around.

Member

Karl Pfeifer: “[Gyurcsany] seems to be motivated by patriotism.”
I thin that is an excellent observation. Beside the point that he didn’t do a good job, or if one agrees with him or not he is driven by patriotism.
GW: I disagree with you about “Orban, for example, is a patriot,”
I think Orban’s national identity is a pure nationalist/ populist.
I found a great description about patriotism versus nationalism.
“As a general concept, national identity has two different manifestations: patriotism and nationalism. The former connotes pride and love for a country and the latter refers to a chauvinistic arrogance and desire for dominance in international relations.”

John T
Guest
Odin – I don’t dislike socialism – Indeed I was a member of the British Labour Party for about 3 years in the early 90’s. Never actually voted for Labour under Blair though, as since I moved to Horsham, the choice has been either Lib Dem or Tory. Now, I have no choice :-). And Cameron is reminding my why I could never vote Tory, though I don’t mind Ken Clarke and the old “One Nation” Conservatives. But these days, both the left and right have some good ideas – just a shame they are normally tied in with something nasty. So at the moment, none of the UK parties are delivering what I and probably the majority of the electorate want, which is simple, common sense, centrist Government, free of radical ideology. This of course is what Hungary needs, to give the country a chance to heal and get back on its feet. But I don’t see it emerging any time soon. Someone – there seems to be a fixation in Hungary with getting the intellectuals on side. Why? Having some talented intellectuals onside is important, but not the key. What is more important is having very competent people… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest

@John T: Your sentences make it clear that you are English as “common sense” is understood as a specific approach to politics. I make an attempt at inter-cultural translation: for others “common sense” does not have any specific meaning. Just this week I read a comment in a Czech paper how meaningless sentences of Czech politicians are if they speak of solutions that appeal to common sense. It sounds reasonable and good but has no straightforward content. One still has to guess what a politician aiming at “common sense solutions” really intends to do (if anything at all, most likely he does not have any idea). I suspect in Hungary also “common sense” sounds good but is too vague for being understood as a political programme.

John T
Guest

Kirsten – Actually, I’m British and Hungarian :-). The whole point though is you make sure that you set out policies in detail up front before the election, saying exactly what you are going to do, why you are doing it (with evidence that can be validated) and what you intend to achieve. And you keep it simple as far as you can. The worst thing for people is to be confused by jargon or “doublespeak”.
Of course, being honest about policies can be a vote loser. But if it were me, I’d rather fight an honest campaign, talking about what is important, than to lie or spin my way through a campaign.

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