The first day of the Hungarian Parliament’s marathon session

However tempting it is to continue with my story of 1956, I have to return to the present for the time being. Parliament is in session and for eight days in a row the MPs will work furiously on all sorts of badly constructed new laws which slightly more than half of adult Hungarians reject. Normally, parliament is in session two days a week. The only exception to this custom was between 1998 and 2002 when the Orbán government decided that, although the Constitution specified weekly sessions, "weekly" could be interpreted to mean every three weeks. That illegal action gave the opposition less opportunity to voice its concerns. And at the time Viktor Orbán's party didn't even have a two-thirds majority.

There are two topics I would like to cover today. The first disappointing day in parliament for Ferenc Gyurcsány's new caucus and Viktor Orbán's speech before the House.

I don't think that the members of the new party that will be called Demokratikus Koalíció (Democratic Coalition) were terribly surprised when they found out that they were unable to sit together as a parliamentary caucus. Over the weekend both Ferenc Gyurcsány, who is the chairman of the new party, and Csaba Molnár, who was designated as the leader of the DK caucus, expressed their opinion that the members of the new political formation will not have to stay six months in quarantine as independents. They called attention to the precedent of a similar split when fifteen members of MDF left the party as a distinct group and formed a new party called Hungarian Democratic People's Party (MDP). This new party was allowed to form a caucus immediately.

Csaba Molnár wrote to László Kövér, the speaker of the house, but he is abroad and will not return from South America until Sunday. One of the several deputy speakers couldn't make a decision in his absence. When the members of DK arrived in parliament they were identified as MSZP members. Therefore they walked out. I have the feeling that the establishment of a separate DK caucus will not be such an easy affair as Csaba Molnár at least pretends to think.

As for Viktor Orbán's speech, he had to make it sound fairly dramatic. After all, he was in Brussels on Saturday to attend the summit dealing with the Greek crisis and in his absence the Fidesz mass rally, designed to minimize the impact of an anti-government demonstration, was scrapped. The demonstration, by the way, turned out to be impressive. According to people who attended, there were at least 100,000 people who filled all 700 meters of a four-lane street from the Elizabeth Bridge to the Astoria Hotel. It almost seems that the leading Fidesz politicians purposely left the country, or at least the capital, for the national holiday. Zsolt Semjén, one of the deputy prime ministers, went as far as Australia while the other, Tibor Navracsics, spoke in front of an audience in Balatonberény (population 1200). Csaba Hende, minister of defense, attended a Liszt concert in Paris. László Kövér visited several South American countries to celebrate with Hungarians living there. Very suspicious.

Orbán naturally wants to make sure that the Hungarian people believe that all the economic trouble Hungary is experiencing is due solely to the crisis in the European Union. According to Orbán "something is very wrong" with the whole concept. It was established at a time of plenty and now that the economic situation is bad "it simply can't function." He came up with a creative explanation for the weak Hungarian forint. It is due to the weakness of the euro! (Well, it is of course weak against the euro, and the Swiss franc and the euro are now trading pretty well in sync.) Hungary's "dependence on the Eurozone today," he continued, "is a disadvantage." In order to avoid the fate of Greece Hungary must reduce the country's sovereign debt, but this is not enough by itself. The Hungarian government must "save Hungarian families from collapsing under the weight of their indebtedness in foreign currencies." 

Viktor Orbán is certain (and here leading economists concur) that there will be no rapid economic growth in the European Union. Therefore, "Hungary must follow its own path. … Hungarians must use their own common sense, must insist on their own answers, must come up with new recipes." One mustn't be afraid of new solutions, and one shouldn't worry about what people, "especially the ones who made the Union insolvent," think.

Orbán further showed his ignorance of basic economic principles when he announced that in order to create one million new jobs "one must raise the minimum wage." This would be too funny if it weren't so sad that the prime minister comes up with such nonsense.

The eurozone is a crisis region from which Hungary must "push off." Naturally, he didn't even try to explain what this could possibly mean. If it indicates some kind of economic independence from the West it is an almost impossible proposition. Hungary's greatest export market is the European Union.

The proper answer to all that nonsensical talk came from László Kovács, former foreign minister, chairman of MSZP, and European tax commissioner. According to Kovács, in a time of economic stagnation the answer lies "not in less but in more European Union," meaning deeper and more effective integration. Kovács suggested that instead of "pushing off" Hungary should join the "Europe plus" countries which would open the door to greater foreign investment in the Hungarian economy.

I'm certain that Kovács's words fell on deaf ears not just because Orbán is a Hungarian nationalist who is mighty annoyed that the European Union is putting all sorts of obstacles in his way but because the Hungarian extreme right's position is outright antagonism toward the European Union. Gábor Vona of Jobbik, for example, claimed that Hungary lost money in the last seven years of being a member of the Union. Of course, this is utter nonsense, but I'm sure that most right wingers in Hungary are convinced that the best thing for Hungary would be to pack up and leave. And we know that Orbán doesn't want to alienate the extreme right. Of course, he knows that what Vona says is idiotic (at least I hope he does), but at the same time he will not stop verbally abusing the European Union, especially at home. As if people living abroad didn't know every word he utters even without knowing a word of Hungarian. The world has become very, very small, only Orbán doesn't want to notice the fact. Or, perhaps he does recognize it but doesn't care that by now no one believes a word he utters.

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Ron
Guest

What do I think? Is one blog and/or one story per day enough?
Today, I was scrolling http://www.politics.hu and its sisters’ pages.
Tarlos according to sources close to Orban is out. Apparently, he is not compromising enough. Well that is what we were saying for at least one year. http://www.politics.hu/20111024/orban-tarlos-tensions-said-to-lead-fidesz-to-drop-budapest-mayor-before-next-election/
http://realdeal.hu/20111024/fidesz-says-2012-budget-plans-could-change-in-next-weeks-to-reflect-european-trends/
So what is it? EU out or EU in? Or is he compromising?
http://realdeal.hu/20111024/governments-major-challenge-to-set-up-new-financing-system-for-smes-says-orban/ Especially the following blows my mind: “He insisted that foreign banks in Hungary had been withdrawing money from the country for a long time, while in the past year they had not been granting loans to small and medium-sized companies”. There are 32,000 loans taken out by SME and 80% is in trouble. So what incentive do the banks have to issue loans.

Paul
Guest

I’m waiting for him to start calling himself ‘Brother Leader’.

Member

So, we can sum up Orban not so surprising conclusion in Brussel as follows:
– The EU is responsible Hungary’s economical crises
– Hungary should not listen to the EU but do however pleases
– Without the EU and foreign loans Hungary would be the most economically balanced country by now
– In order to create more jobs in Hungary, the minimum wage must be raised
Orban and his busy buddies escaped Budapest on October 23, so they can come back with this non-sense from taxpayers money. All the travel, investigation, surveys, acting extras, foreign PR firms Fidesz spends his money on Fidesz spends the money on is just mind blowing.

Jano
Guest

It’s just a typo: MDP->MDNP
Maybe you’re subconscious really wanted to write about 56:)

Jano
Guest

I mean your of course…

Ron
Guest

Off topic: Found on Realdeal an introduction to 2012 tax bill by Gyorgy Matolcsy to Parliament.
http://realdeal.hu/20111025/economy-minister-criticizes-eu-tax-system-says-hungary-to-walk-its-own-way/
Is this guy for real?
Left 500 billion with families, which families? His own?
Want to increase number of turnover taxes. Typical of countries, which do not have their taxes under control, such as Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal.

Ron
Guest

About Hungary’s competitiveness:
http://realdeal.hu/20111025/hungary-near-bottom-of-eu-competitiveness-list/#commentbottom
So it seems not to be a tax issue, but a service mind issue.

Joseph Simon
Guest

That is exactly what Hungary needs now, a new party by Gyurcsány. He left is old party, like a spoiled child: add vissza a babaruhát, nem játszom veletek többé. That sums it up.
That is exactly what Hungary needs now, a new political party. Gyurcsány, like a spoiled child, left his old party. Add vissza a babaruhát, nem játszom veletek többé. That sums it up.

Member

@ Joseph Simon: Would you kindly comment on Orban’s performance? Your comments regarding Gyurcsany is exactly my thoughts about Orban. He wants out of the EU, as it does not fit his agenda, he turned to God as atheism did not serve his needs well, he wants to follow China’s lead because after all capitalism is not what he thought it would be, he wants a one party system because he did not like when he lost, he wants away with democracy because that threatens his personal cult. Any thoughts?

Wondercat
Guest

Johnny Boy and Joseph Simon are invaluable to this blog. They provide the stimuli that sharpen and focus discussion and argument.

Paul
Guest

And they give us a laugh, Wondercat – never underestimate the value of humour (whether intended or not!).
And now ‘Joseph’ has started posting in echo mode! Not just mad right-wing drivel, but the chance to see his editing process at work. Fascinating – especially as I can’t tell which is supposed to be the ‘better’ version!

Sackhoes Contributor
Guest

Gyurcsany’s continued presence on the political scene spells disaster for Hungary. He singlehandedly delivers large numbers of uncommitted voters to Fidesz and prevents the left from concentrating on effective opposition. If only he would have the decency of quietly fading away… instead we are going to be treated to his soap opera for the next 6 months, while Orban will continue to rule without opposition. A fine mess this is, Ollie 🙂

Kirsten
Guest
I liked this statement: “the best thing for Hungary would be to pack up and leave.” Very funny that it is the nationalists that now find out that after all Europe may not have been the best place to settle and Asia might be the more suitable choice. I doubt that there is much left of Asian heritage in Hungarian thinking, most of that should be European heritage, and so I am surprised about the role that independence of “Europe” now plays for a country that is geographically rather locked in Europe (while “Etelköz” has not yet been reclaimed). And I am afraid that China also does not adhere to the theory of “development through a return to self-sufficient farmers” anymore. The lesson to be learned for the countries that joined in 2004 and thought that from now on they need not contribute much, while they will be part of the “good ones” and receive money for development, is that there is a price to be paid for joining a club. A union of 27 countries, in particular if it wishes to preserve participation of all countries including the smaller ones, needs appropriate coordinating mechanisms and suitable treaties. Given the… Read more »
An
Guest

@Sackhoes Contributor: Sure, it is all Gyurcsany’s fault…. What an easy explanation for the opposition’s incompetence!
Actually, by establishing his own party, Gyurcsany gives a chance for MSzP to rid himself of his legacy… which could be a blessing for MSZP if they could use the opportunity. Of course the won’t be able to; they are way to committed to play by Orban’s book. Right now they think if populist slogens worked for Orban in opposition, they should work for MSZP too… they won’t. The left should find a credible leader with a credible program, either to lead MSZP, or any other opposition party (LMP or the new 4k! party).
And let Gyurcsany go his own way… he may stage a come-back (doubtful) or fade away. He is not the issue, the lack of leadership and program in the opposition parties are.

Member

I agree with An. If Gyurcsany can make it then be it. I think his departure provides an opportunity for the left to clarify its platform w/o the “Gyurcsany influence” that seemed to stand in their way. The split also presents an opportunity for any new program to come forward from some new direction. I think people are hungry for change, but they not sure what this change should be, so different options would clarify what they are willing to give up for what.

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