Gergely Szakács, a stringer for Reuters in Budapest, described the mood of Hungarians who apparently “reacted with dismay … to a policy U-turn which set the country on course for another International Monetary Fund programme, with Prime Minister Viktor Orban the main target of their disenchantment.”
One has the sneaking suspicion that the journalist working for Reuters talked only to Fidesz supporters because only those could hope after the elections last year that “we will really see some drastic changes.” And now they are disappointed.
For those who have never been under the spell of Viktor Orbán this latest turnabout is not at all surprising in light of the deteriorating market conditions, the state of the Hungarian forint, and the ever growing sovereign debt. In the last couple of days some of the government bond offerings had to be scrapped and Hungary’s financial situation kept looking worse and worse. Moreover, the skeptics never believed that the “unorthodox economic policies” would be successful and therefore they figured that it was just a question of time before the “war of economic independence” must come to an end.
The ordinary Fidesz voter who, like the overwhelming majority of Hungarians, knows very little about international finance, is disappointed. He believed the government propaganda about the great strides the government was making toward economic recovery and now it turns out that all that talk was just talk. And he remembers Ferenc Gyurcsány who admitted that politicians in the past had promised pie in the sky instead of telling the truth. Then came his arch-rival, Viktor Orbán, the current prime minister, who first claimed that he had never lied in his life and naturally, unlike Gyurcsány, he will never lie to the Hungarian people. And now here it is: “He said this would not happen and then it did happen…. This is just more of the same…. We should not even be surprised that the prime minister says one thing and something else happens in the end.”
So says the man on the street, but what do right-wing publicists say in the slavishly pro-government papers? Let me summarize a couple of opinion pieces.
The first one, “After the war of independence,” was written by Tamás Nánási in Magyar Nemzet. Nánási was obviously deeply shaken by the news that the Hungarian government is returning to negotiate some kind of a deal with the International Monetary Fund. “Let’s not try to embellish what has happened. Negotiating again with the IMF equals surrender.” For those who believed in the success of “the war of independence” this turn of events is “painful.”
So, let’s see what kind of reasons Nánási could find to explain Viktor Orbán’s failure. As far as the weakening of the forint goes, his explanation is the simple-minded charge of “speculation” against the Hungarian currency. He seems to detect “a co-ordinated effort to force Hungary into this situation.” According to him the Hungarian economy is in great shape but “on the basis of unfounded rumors” a “financial hysteria” developed. He blames journalists working for The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg for spreading these rumors. And then, of course, there are the rating agencies and the speculators. According to him, there was a concentrated effort to make sure that the war of independence would fail.
He and his friends were hoping for some at least verbal assistance from Brussels but it didn’t come. It seems that the Union is only concerned with the problems within the eurozone. That Hungary is “in the crossfire of a speculative attack” doesn’t matter to them. Hungary tried to be an A student, but when “it was in trouble Brussels forgot about it.”
After all, Brussels doesn’t like “the mention of our independence.” In fact, the Union is pleased that Hungary decided to turn to the IMF. And here is Hungary which will be lucky if it manages to receive “a loan that doesn’t mean that the IMF can interfere with the country’s governing.” But, Nánási adds, “we shouldn’t have any illusions. After all, the bayonets are behind our backs.” Hungarian government bonds might soon be downgraded to junk if Hungary doesn’t play ball.
Nánási finished his article with something he borrowed from László Bogár, a far-right professor of economics. The IMF reminds him of a hefty guy who appeared at a doorstep of a pub and offered protection against thugs. The owner of the pub turned the offer down because he thought that he could defend his pub by himself. But then one day someone set the pub on fire and the owner found that after all protection was necessary.
The other right-wing publicist who wrote an opinion piece in Magyar Hírlap, a paper farther to the right than Magyar Nemzet, was Gergely Huth. The title also refers to Orbán’s forced surrender. Huth’s language is more radical. The article begins: “This is disgusting and stomach turning.” It is disgusting because it became clear that “the so-called free market is nothing else but pillage by the favored.” The heartless West watched without a blink of an eye the sullying of a small country’s sovereignty. Hungary in the last few months was indeed at war. It fought, somewhat similarly to the Poles against the invading German armies in 1939, without the slightest chance of success. But then at least one knew who the enemy was.
Hungary was run over because the Hungarian government defied the financially powerful. Those within these financial circles are “a repulsive bunch and cold-blooded louts for whom ancient philosophy, Christianity, humanism don’t exist.” These people are “parasites who with their millions manipulate the whole world…. In this war Viktor Orbán and his government stood on the side of the angels.” This war was worth it even if perhaps from the point of view of the Hungarian citizens it was costly.
Viktor Orbán, like David against Goliath, fought against these faceless financial circles. If there is a second wave in the financial crisis that sweeps over Europe, Hungarians can say: “We at least tried.”
The Hungarian government tried to stop “the colonization of our pockets.” If the Hungarians can’t stop this onslaught of financiers “we, the citizens of the western world, will be slaves together with our great democracy and our rule of the law.” Hungarians “tried, failed, capitulated.” But it often happens that “failed wars of independence end up in landfills that bury powerful empires. We will see.”