I know that the hot topics at the moment are, on the one hand, the far right's plans for one of the Budapest theaters and, on the other, the government's counter-demonstration designed to make the opposition's gathering impossible on October 23. Most likely I will return to these topics, but there are a couple of pieces of news that didn't receive as much attention as either the fate of Új Színház or the Fidesz demonstration at the Astoria Hotel. However, I find them of great importance as far as the Orbán government's future is concerned.
I see interesting developments on both the right and the left. Let me start with the right. Yesterday I was amazed to see an MTI report on a speech given by Péter Ákos Bod, formerly minister in charge of industry in the Antall government, later governor of the Hungarian Central Bank, currently professor of economics. The speech was delivered at a conference organized by the British, Swiss, French, Italian, and German chambers of commerce.
Bod, as is clear from the positions he occupied, is a man whose political views are close to Fidesz. In fact, in 2006 Viktor Orbán, after seeing that the performance of his party after the first round of elections didn't promise electoral victory, came up with a madcap idea. Perhaps realizing that he himself might turn some people away from voting for Fidesz, he put forth the name of Péter Ákos Bod as prime minister. Bod foolishly accepted the offer. This move helped neither Fidesz nor Viktor Orbán's standing within the party. Keep in mind that according to the U.S. cables sent from Budapest to Washington, one Fidesz leader after another told the American ambassador that Viktor Orbán's political future was in question after the second lost elections.
Bod, by the way, is so low-keyed that it is outright painful. Moreover, one can never pin him down. However, it seems that even Bod considers the Orbán government's economic policies so outrageous that he felt that his old tactic of saying nothing shouldn't be maintained. I was astonished to see that Bod in effect demanded Matolcsy's resignation. Well, he didn't utter Matolcsy's name, but whom else could Bod have had in mind when he said that "the policy that aimed at economic growth has failed and therefore I assume that there will be personal consequences of this failure. I think that the government structure also must be altered and that is usually accompanied by personnel changes." I assume that when Bod talks about structural changes he is thinking of the lack of a ministry of finance.
From the rest of his talk it is clear that he finds almost all of the economic and financial decisions of the last year and a half wrong, or as he put it, "these decisions are very questionable." Therefore the year 2012 must be a year of "corrections." Among the wrong decisions he mentioned were the crisis levies, the bank levies, the nationalization of private pension funds, the moratorium on evictions, the flat tax, and paying off forex mortgages at a fixed lower rate. In brief, practically everything the Orbán government has done until now.
But Péter Ákos Bod is not alone among conservatives who are raising their voices. There is an association of mostly conservative professors called "Nemzeti Kör" (National Circle). In Népszabadság several members of this association stated their criticism of the economic policies of the government, including the flat tax that they find "contrary to conservative thinking and to the messages of the papal encyclicals." In brief, the conservative and mostly religious academics complained about favoring the rich at the expense of the poor. In fact, the well-to-do segment of society should assume a larger share of the burden.
In addition, the good professors also felt it necessary to express their concern over the obvious neglect by the Orbán government of the educational and cultural needs of Hungarian society. They very rightly pointed out that in the long run the success of a society largely depends on "people's educational attainment." And unfortunately this is not a priority of Viktor Orbán and the men in his government who keep emphasizing physical labor as the answer to Hungary's economic ills. They are planning to reduce the number of college graduates and lower the age at which youngsters can leave school.
So there are signs of dissatisfaction among the followers of Fidesz outside the government and the party, but I assume that there must be similar voices inside the charmed circle as well.
On the other side of the spectrum there are signs that members of the opposition "are carefully sizing up each other," as a headline in Origo reported. Moreover, there is the first indication that LMP and MSZP may cooperate in order to try to win against the common enemy, Fidesz. The scene is the II district where bi-elections must be held since István Balsai's parliamentary seat became vacant once he was named to the Constitutional Court. Fidesz put up Zsolt Láng as the party's candidate for the seat. Láng is also the mayor of the district. Running against him are Katalin Lévai, an independent who is supported by civic organizations and MSZP; Gergő Karácsony, already an LMP parliamentary member; and Zoltán Bodor, a Jobbik district council member.
Both Karácsony and Lévai declared yesterday that they are willing to withdraw after the first round in favor of the other in order to defeat the Fidesz candidate. Who withdraws will depend on which one has more votes. Of course, it is very possible that the Fidesz candidate will win anyway because the district's voters are inclined to vote right. However, it is significant, I think, that the LMP and MSZP-supported candidates have agreed to cooperate in order to defeat Fidesz. That is a first.
At the same time there is the Solidarity Movement that was just launched by trade union leaders, the civil organizations organized on Facebook, and foundations established by people like Gordon Bajnai and Lajos Bokros. And of course, there are the parties LMP, MSZP, Gyurcsány's Demokratikus Koalíció, and the Magyar Demokrata Charta of Tamás Bauer, József Debreczeni, Iván Vitányi and László Márton. Perhaps one day all these forces will get together in a common cause because it is becoming evident that only a unified opposition has a chance against Viktor Orbán's Fidesz.