Viktor Orbán faces angry callers

Yesterday Viktor Orbán spent hours answering questions on the telephone and the Internet from readers of Blikk, a popular tabloid with the largest readership in the country. The readers of Blikk are not exactly intellectuals, so one cannot argue that these comments come from a small group of high-brow liberals.

Before I give a sampling of the kinds of questions Orbán received I will tell you something about Orbán’s Internet skills. A few years back I devoted a whole article to the topic. Orbán not only is not computer savvy, but he has purposely avoided learning about the basics of this by now indispensable tool. It’s true that sometime before the elections his staff decided to put him on Facebook. Here and there they sat him down in front of a computer, but one suspected that this man couldn’t write an e-mail if his life depended on it.

That’s why I was so surprised when on the video Blikk published today I saw someone touch typing with great speed and skill. Oh, my! I must have been wrong. He is a keyboard wizard. It turns out that he was dictating his answers while a typist was banging out his answers on the keyboard. Now that is more realistic.

Without further preliminaries here are a few comments and responses.

* * *

SZK: Mr. Prime Minister. How is it possible that everyone is escaping or would like to escape from Hungary? I’m twenty years old and for some time my greatest desire has been to get out of this impossible country. Money shouldn’t be taken away from us (yes, I’m working 8-9 hours a day) but perhaps one should clean up your ranks. I’m sure that the economic indicators would look like a great deal better. You will not be able to explain to me what on earth is going on in this country. We are just sinking and sinking farther and farther. By now I’m ashamed of being a Hungarian.

VO: The situation of the country is very sad, but he is working to make it better and he is hoping that SZK will notice the difference.

Melinda Oltyan: My husband has been looking for a job in the last three months. Nothing. Where are all those vast numbers of jobs you were talking about? We are very disappointed in you, unfortunately.

VO: They are working very hard to defend existing jobs and create new ones. There are 43,000 more jobs today than a year ago, but it will take years before everybody will have a job.

Laura13: Doesn’t it hurt Fidesz to be associated with people like Tamás Deutsch who uses four-letter words on Twitter?

VO: We are all adults and we are responsible only for ourselves. Tamás by now is a big boy.

Hajnal: Tell me, Mr. Prime Minister! What will happen to an unemployed person who because of his age no longer can find work? I would learn new skills but adult education is not free. The reason we have no children is because we cannot afford it.

VO: We will start new programs that will combine work and the acquisition of new skills. I hope you will also have the opportunity to join one of these programs.

Barbara: Tell me, Mr. Prime Minister, do you know what kind of monthly pay we have to live on? 70-80,000 Ft. !!! Could you live on that little money??? When do you put it on the agenda to provide us with a decent living? Not alms!!!

VO: He is trying to do three things: (1) to freeze utility rates, (2) to raise the minimum wage, and (3) to create new jobs. Once they have enough jobs the wages will be higher.

Tasunko: Mr. Orbán! Doesn’t it bother you that you have been in power for a year and a half by now and you haven’t done one sensible thing during this time? That is what is meant by “we are ready to govern”? Even a moth could govern the country better.

VO: It would be dangerous to trust a moth with governing the country. Please think it over. [And he added his name to the message, which he didn’t do with the others.]

Fecó: Until now you have further enriched the rich with the flat tax. Even now you want to give them a break because the poor people will not be able to pay their loans back in one lump sum. The poor became poorer and will be so in the future. What is your goal? That the poor will work for a pittance for the rich people?

VO: He doesn’t like class warfare which wants to turn people against people. Hungarian people are not enemies of each other. He thinks in terms of national unity. We will have to build a country together in which those who work will prosper. That’s why proportionate taxation [a Fidesz euphemism for the flat tax] is fair.

John Doe: Don’t you think that you should give your Őszöd speech?

VO: Only warmed up stuffed cabbage is good. Moreover, there is no demand for it.

Ildikó: Unfortunately you answered topics that you found to your liking but soon you will have to account to the Hungarian people who voted for you.

VO: Dear Ildikó, this is how it is in our profession. One must accept responsibility for his words as well as his deeds. But believe me this also has its beauty.

* * *

There were a couple of less antagonistic questions but not too many. In his place I wouldn’t have smiled so broadly:

Orbán is answering questions

And I don’t think that he was too happy with these questions. He stuck the word “tisztelettel,” “respectfully” at the end of most answers. Rather jarring and artificial. At least twice he was very angry. First when “tasunko” claimed that a moth could govern better than he’s doing and the second time when “John Doe” inquired whether it wouldn’t be appropriate for Orbán to give a speech in which he tells the people about his lies, which would be his Őszöd speech. Another caller yelled at him for minutes. He couldn’t even answer him. That conversation wasn’t transcribed, but it can be heard on a video created by Blikk. See http://www.pixter.hu/video?id=30074

These questions were addressed to him before György Matolcsy’s announcement about the new austerity measures. Can you imagine what people would have said if these interviews had taken place a few hours later? Orbán, I think, knows that his honeymoon is definitely over, and he is trying his best to soften the blow by appealing to national sentiments and the need for unity. He is promising a bright future and is asking for patience. But since he promised too much–the sun will shine differently the day after the elections–I think this plea comes too late. And nationalism can wear thin if no rise in living standards accompanies it. But he has not much more to offer. Thus he sent a message to the Hungarian people on Facebook:

http://hu-hu.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150311565624836&oid=298090296092&comments

The political scientist Gábor Török, who is getting increasingly critical of the performance of the Orbán government, reminded us that after the announcement of Gyurcsány’s austerity program in the summer of 2006 and after his speech at Őszöd became public 25% of the population still supported the government. Today this number is 30% and Orbán has less time to the next elections than Gyurcsány had in the fall of 2006.

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Member

He’s damn right in one thing: the leftover stuffed cabbage is better.
Hajra Magyarorszag!

Paul
Guest

Enjoyable stuff. But we all know he isn’t going to lose the next election.
By 2014 he will have rigged the election laws so that it will be more difficult for the opposition to put up candidates and win seats and he will have drastically reduced the number of MPs. And by that time the opposition still won’t have got its act together. People losing faith with Fidesz will not drift back to MSzP, they will give OV another go, despite their reservations, vote Jobbik, or (increasingly) just opt out altogether.
And by 2018, elections will be about as valid a democratic exercise as they are in Putin’s Russia.
He’s smiling broadly because he knows he’s won, and there’s bugger all ‘we’ can do about it.

Kirsten
Guest

I like the questions, for me this is sufficient to have an opinion on “subserviency” (genetical or otherwise). If that is too cryptical: I don’t believe in it. If that is in any way representative, it is a missing sober analysis and an alternative that is the greatest problem, not OV and Fidesz with their 30 % support. Even with a changed election law as they envisaged, they can lose big – if alternative programmes and candidates (not MSzP) were available.
The answers are a bit shallow (nearly not worth the effort) and what I did not understand is why does OV speak about “him”? From the meaning it appears he just speaks of himself?

John T
Guest

A lot of these answers are bizarre.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kirsten: “I like the questions, for me this is sufficient to have an opinion on “subserviency” (genetical or otherwise). If that is too cryptical: I don’t believe in it.”
You should take a look at the comments to the Facebook video. Incredible! Keep in mind that Orbán’s Facebook page is normally visited by “friends” of the government. They call him everything under the sun. Here is one in the original: “Szégyen ez az egész. Ehhez nem kell közgazdásznak lenni, de talán még érettségi sem kell amit Ön és Tása. (Matolcsy művész úr) művelnek.” Here the commenter calls him and Matolcsy incompetent bunglers. But there are others who call Orbán and Fidesz “rotten liars and no goods.” Others tell him to disappear from public life.
László Lengyel, the economist, wrote an opinion piece in today’s Népszabadság the title of which is “Orbán Viktor lova megdöglött.” Exact translation is difficult because in Hungarian there are two words for “to die.” One for human beings and the other for animals. Lengyel who is talking about Orbán’s horse uses the latter verb (megdögölni) which has a much stronger, perhaps even coarser, meaning than the simple (meghalni).

Guest

Megdöglik has a German translation:
Verrecken or abkratzen which means dying in a horrible way …
I have a German-Hungarian “Dictionary of slang” which contains most of these words – also especially those concerning sexual activities.
It is called “Wörterbuch der ungarischen Umgangssprache”, written by Thomas C. Dahn, ISBN 3-87548-167-4, partially financed by the German “VG Wort” (which collects money for authors)
Back to the Hungarian reality:
Does Orbán really think the Áfa hike to 27 % will endear him to the people ?
He seems more and more to be a reverse Robin Hood: Take from the poor and give to the rich …

Member

Hungary does need austerity measures. That is a no brainer. Gyurcsany did attempt to bring on changes and those changes most often were voted off by the Fidesz gang, as well as Orban used the suggested list of changes against the MSZP. WHen Fidesz got on power Orban for months denied that any austerity measure is necessary. Here we are a year and a half later with austerity programs that only hits those who are at the bottom of the class system.
About all his riot against the bank system: I still believe that only the very rich or those who have almost noting left on the term of their mortgage will and could benefit from the repayment. At the same time there will be a huge price for this partizanship Orban cooed up with his unqualified friends. Lending money to Hungary will become a huge risk. Borrowing costs to even purchase a refrigerator will skyrocket or disappear. For small companies to borrow money will be almost impossible. For Hungary to borrow money will be impossible. SO, who will pay for this on the long run? All Hungarians, but the upper middle class and higher.

Guest

@Some1:
The future has already arrived …
Re “Borrowing costs to even purchase a refrigerator will skyrocket …”
Tesco and others in Hungary now have 35 to 45 % THM ie effective interest rate (including all costs) – and they “proudly” advertise it …

chayenne
Guest
The sad thing is: all this doesn’t matter a thing. As Orbán has so eloquently put it himself: pay attention only to what I’m doing and not to what I’m saying. That’s the crux of the matter. while people are frozen in shock or mulling over Orban and Co.’s words, lamenting how their life is going down the drain, OV does whatever he wants and that’s that. Kirsten is right. There’s no opposition, no alternative. Here is what I’d do if I was MSZP or LMP or whatever: I’d turn my back on the government, would only oppose them in parliament for propriety’s sake and in the meanwhile I would set up a secret committee which would work out a new program on the sly. I’d work on it day and night for the next two years and when the time comes I’d present it as The Alternative. There are a lot of people out there who have very good ideas about what should be done, all those people, like Róna Péter, for example, should be brought in, all those people who have been shunned and ignored by the government. Who says they cant get up to anything unless the… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest

Chayenne: “I’d turn my back on the government, would only oppose them in parliament for propriety’s sake and in the meanwhile I would set up a secret committee which would work out a new program on the sly. I’d work on it day and night for the next two years and when the time comes I’d present it as The Alternative.”
Exactly. That is what should be done.

pusztaranger
Guest

“I’d turn my back on the government,”
What do you think about the Tétényi Eva-One million for democracy-alliance? “As an alternative to the political parties, Esztergom mayor Tétényi proposes a civil initiative neutral in terms of party politics (pártsemleges) and based on expertise(szakmai alapon)” — sorry, in English I couldn’t do better than that.
http://www.168ora.hu/itthon/tetenyi-eva-egymillioan-a-sajtoszabadsagert-civil-osszefogas-varosligeti-sorsator-82547.html
I’m quite ambivalent at this point.

Kirsten
Guest
I would also be very much interested in the opinion of Hungarians on that. As someone who in 1989 as a youth participated in a newly founded organisation, for me any opportunity to make own experiences in how such movements work makes sense. So if it is able to attract new people who will get acquainted with the practical difficulties in organising majorities and compromises and shaping own opinions on what it means to balance several opinions, it is more than welcome. If your uneasiness stems from the “apolitical nature” of this movement, I fully understand this, but it could still help unify people in the opposition to the current Fidesz-MSzP misfortune. There is no apolitical politics, so to be of use, it will be necessary to accept that differences in approaches, objectives and opinions exist and that there is nearly never only one “true”, “correct” or “scientifically proven” answer. But this will be accepted on the way if respect for the other members and their opinions will be as a rule preserved. If “apolitical” only means that you wish to escape “politics” understood as invectives and an uncooperative and merciless battle and energy is instead devoted to the subject… Read more »
Jano
Guest

Eva: “Orbán Viktor lova megdöglött.” This is also a reference to a famous Orbán quote (you surely remember the Dakota proverb).

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Jano: ‘Eva: “Orbán Viktor lova megdöglött.” This is also a reference to a famous Orbán quote (you surely remember the Dakota proverb).”
Sure, maybe I thought have mentioned it why the title.

Member
Kirsten: This movement is not “apolitical”. They are heavily criticizing the government. They want to be an “alternative to parties”. I’m not quiet sure what this means. Very likely they are referring to the lack of the party hierarchy in their organization. A hierarchy of incompetent zealots executing orders from above. The other thing is the fight between parties. When their opinion is only determined by pure hatred (Fidesz vs MSzP). Either way this is the “we can be different” type buzzword the LMP tried. Anyway whatever sticker they are trying to put on themselves their role should be education and mobilization of the people. Some sort of democracy boot camp that prepares “Joe De Plumber” for the elections if you will. I’m just crossing my fingers that their leaders are willing to accept this role. I mean they don’t have the ambition to get into the parliament and have the real thing: POWER – that is the chance to try out my genius ideas, no matter who agrees with it. There’s nothing wrong with parties. I mean with the organization. When they become a bunch of “contra-selected” puppets, like the FIDESZ – that’s a problem. I have to disagree… Read more »
GW
Guest

Do we have any idea how large the audience was for this Q&A? If it reaches a critical mass, this could well be OV’s “the emperor has no clothes moment.” He certainly has no viable policies.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

As far as I know he spent more than two hours with the callers. But there are by now new ones on Facebook. I think that we are witnessing the forming of a real watershed in the political climate. But we will see next month when the new polls come out.

Paul
Guest

He has total power – he can, and does, legally change anything he doesn’t like.
There is no viable opposition, and will not be by 2014.
He will win the next election.
Anyone who thinks this isn’t going to happen is clutching at some pretty desperate straws.
This man is motivated by one thing – power. It doesn’t matter what happens to the ecconomy or the country, he will do anything he has to do to hold onto the power he has worked so hard to gain.
Hungarians need to get organised and mobilised NOW, but they won’t fully appreciate the need or urgency until after 2014, by which time it will be far too late.

Paul
Guest

Fidesz/OV popularity:
Éva – you say government support has fallen to 30%, but a Nézőpont poll reported on politics.hu claims the government has 59 percent of support among “active voters with a strong party preference” – http://www.politics.hu/20110915/nezopont-poll-shows-hungarys-ruling-allies-would-keep-two-thirds-majority/
MSzP get 15% in the same poll, and Jobbik 18% – the first time I’ve seen Jobbik this significantly ahead of the official opposition.
Even ignoring the “active voters with a strong party preference” qualification, Fidesz still get 41% support across the whole sample (with Jobbik still, if only just, beating the Socialists – 10% to 9%. (LMP only get 3%, not enough even to get into parliament.)
Admittedly, this is from a press release supplied by MTI, and presumably reprinted without changes, but it is still odd that these figures differ so greatly from those you quote.

Kirsten
Guest

Mutt, secretly or not, you may now need only a few ideas to mobilise people but you will need true programmes to cut the losses from year 1 of Fidesz and their revolution (the new law spree). Starting with the budget and some relief for the many people who were extra burdened during the past year. This means some reshuffling of expenditure, where it would be good to have some idea which exactly (so that people will not be “disillusioned” immediately when it turns out that the campaigning was just hypnotisation). It should also include some “growth strategy”, at least with some likelihood of success in the medium-term. You must mobilise the more constructive tendencies in people (aka push back hate speeches of all stripes and define common interests). My impression was that this it what is missing, a shared idea where to go from here (which given my background can be a complete misunderstanding, so please overlook it if it is entirely wrong), and this has be to found out first. Otherwise it all ends again with a new landslide victory, europhoria and disillusionment.

Kirsten
Guest

exactly: europhoria :-), but I meant euphoria.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Paul, “Fidesz/OV popularity: Éva – you say government support has fallen to 30%, but a Nézőpont poll reported on politics.hu claims the government has 59 percent of support among “active voters with a strong party preference” –
You have to learn to treat Nezőpont’s results with the greatest skepticism. Or, even better, disregard them. They are a Fidesz-paid polling company that are way off every blessed month in comparison to all other polls.
Here is an example. On September 8 Ipsos reported 24% for Fidesz and 13% for MSZP in the voting-age population as a whole. So, actually lower than the 30% I quoted.
Nézőpont interestingly doesn’t mention Fidesz figures for the population as a whole while they do for MSZP (15%) and Jobbik (18%). Obviously, they don’t want to call attention to the relatively low numbers. They talk only about voters who would definitely vote for Fidesz if elections were held today. But even that figure is most likely wrong. Ipsos mentioned 50% for Fidesz and 27% for MSZP. But again one must keep in mind that almost 40% of the electorate is undecided or doesn’t want to answer. Thus these figures are meaningless.

Member

Eva: ” 40% of the electorate is undecided or doesn’t want to answer” I would be also skeptical about the people who said they would vote for Fidesz. Do not forget that Orban himself said that they are working on a database that would contain the political preferences of voters. I bet if my parents would get a call today, they would either hung up or they would say that they are undecided. I bet some people for good measure would say that they would vote for Fidesz.

Paul
Guest
Éva – Nézőpont does give a figure for Fidesz for the population as a whole – 41%. With Jobbik on 10%, MSzP 9% and LMP 3%. The figures you quote – MSzP 15% and Jobbik 18% (with Fidesz on 59%) are for their definition of “active voters with a strong party preference”. But, leaving that aside, from a UK perspective I find it puzzling that even a polling organisation known to be party funded can get away with such very different figures. We have several polls here that are paid for by newspapers with strong party affiliations, which are invariably different from the more ‘neutral’ ones, but only by 2 or 3% at the most. All creditability would be lost if they were as wildly out as you say Nézőpont’s are. A couple of points re the Ipsos figures you give: 50% for Fidesz and 27% for MSZP only leaves 23% for other parties. Assuming LMP get 5%, that leaves Jobbik on 18% – which gives a Jobbik v MSzP position very different from every other source I’m aware of. Also 50% for the ruling party after a year and a half in power in the midst of a world-wide… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Paul: “Éva – Nézőpont does give a figure for Fidesz for the population as a whole – 41%.”
Sorry, Paul, I looked at Origo’s summary. But even the 41% is way off. This is not the first time. Month after month Nézőpont comes up with unreal figures that are way off.

John T
Guest

Being angry at the end of a phoneline is probably as far as the “opposition” goes. Hungarians love to moan in little groups, but when it comes to taking some responsibility and organising a viable political alternative to the current political parties, very few people will step up to the plate and do the hard work.Certainly not enough to build up a creditable movement capable of organising and fighting an election.
Orban doesn’t need to rig the next election to win it – the lack of an alternative has already assured he’ll win. The only worry he has is Jobbik and I suspect he’ll manage to deal with them one way or another – no doubt there is dirty laundry that can be aired on the leading lights in Jobbik if need be.