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