It was HVG that came out with the bombshell this morning. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán spent a good portion of his fairly lengthy speech addressed to members of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation on the thwarted coup attempt directed against him. According to him this alleged coup attempt had three prongs: the members of the Hungarian national security apparatus, a CNN-led international media campaign, and Hungarian and foreign diplomats. He was pleased to announce that the attempt had failed and they “managed to put down the putsch.”
Sounds ridiculous? Yes. Journalists of opposition papers immediately made fun of him and his story. Népszabadság‘s article began with a quotation from the famous film The Witness: “What’s that? They don’t even want to kill Comrade Bástya?” Some people are already voicing their belief that this startling announcement is good merely to divert attention away from the burning problems of the country and perhaps to fire up the enthusiasm of the true believers. Otherwise it is a hoax.
A week ago I wrote an article in Népszabadság in which I mentioned that at Fidesz demonstrations there were no foreign-language posters until the “Peace Walk” on January 21 when the organizers carried a huge English-language sign: “We will not be a colony.” However, it seems that Fidesz sympathizers have discovered the benefits of using English. A group of them was waiting for Orbán’s arrival in Eger where the meeting of the Fidesz caucus was held.
Defending the leader and the country
Viktor Orbán expanded on the theme of the attempted coup although he neglected to share any details about the alleged role of the national security forces. One would think that this would be the most dangerous part of any such scheme. Especially in comparison to the CNN threat!
But what did CNN do that was so objectionable? According to Orbán, the television network purposely exaggerated dissatisfaction within the Fidesz parliamentary faction against his person and his policies. He brought up the example of the appointment of Tünde Handó, wife of József Szájer, to the key post of chief of the National Judicial Office responsible for all judicial appointments. At that time four members of the Fidesz-KDNP parliamentary caucuses didn’t vote for the appointment. Apparently this event was cited as evidence of a weakening of Orbán’s power within his own party.
In addition to the media former Hungarian diplomats with international connections were scheming against him and urging some mysterious outside forces to remove him from his post. Foreign diplomats, according to Orbán, were also guilty.
Gábor Borókai, editor-in-chief of Heti Válasz, in the February 6 issue briefly explains the attempt to remove Viktor Orbán. In a rather convoluted sentence Borókai claims that the attempted coup was initiated by the global intellectual community with the active participation of those Hungarian intellectuals who are at home in this global world. It was averted by Viktor Orbán’s fantastic performance in Strasbourg with the help of the thousands demonstrating in Budapest a few days earlier.
Although I have no connection to CNN or former Hungarian or current foreign diplomats, I have sensed for some time that there are certain people “out there” who wouldn’t mind at all if Viktor Orbán retired from politics. Thus I began a “folder” in my data base entitled “Viktor Orbán–possible replacement.” The first entry was an article in Népszava (December 15), “Many talk about secret negotiations in Fidesz.” The next day János Lázár staunchly defended the prime minister and claimed that Attila Mesterházy should consult a doctor because the MSZP chairman must be mad suggesting that perhaps Orbán should depart. A few days later Ildikó Csuhaj, the well informed journalist of Népszabadság, reported that “Viktor Orbán is not in a panic.” Moreover, he reiterated his resolve not to move an inch. What he started he will finish. On December 20 the same Ildikó Csuhaj reported that according to reliable sources “Union officials indicated to Mihály Varga that they see in him Hungary’s next prime minister.” She put a question mark at the end of the sentence, but that is an old trick of Hungarian journalism to avoid being sued for spreading false information.
At the beginning of January Mesterházy announced that “no one thinks that Orbán will stay as prime minister for long.” He suggested that the year 2012 might be of crucial importance and that by the end of the year it will be clear whether they can get rid of Viktor Orbán and his government in 2014.
Well, that was about a month ago and today Viktor Orbán seems to be in a stronger position. No one is calling for his resignation and his performance in Strasbourg was reassuring. The forint has strengthened and his position is not so precarious as I assume he believed it was in mid-December or even in mid-January. He managed “purely through communication” to avert the “coup.”
However, I doubt that this happy state of affairs will persist because soon enough it will become obvious that, in spite of all the promises in Strasbourg, Orbán has no intention of making the kind of turnabout that is demanded of him by the European Commission. Sometime next week the Hungarian answers to EU objections to the new Hungarian laws will arrive in Brussels. Most likely the Commission will not be satisfied with the answers, the forint will fall, and the IMF will delay serious negotiations. And Orbán’s position will be less secure than it seems today.
Viktor Orbán both in his speech two days ago and even more clearly in his talk to the caucus this morning made it absolutely clear that he is continuing with his original plans for the “renewal” of Hungary. Most of the work has been done. Now they just have to reap the benefits of the autocratic regime which is already in place.
János Lázár, head of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation, was sent to Berlin to mend fences with the Germans who are, after all, Hungary’s most important trading partners. Apparently he made a very good impression. The German politicians and businessmen in the audience gained the impression that Hungarian policy will undergo a radical change. There will be a “consolidation.” They liked what they heard. And yes, they added, they wouldn’t mind seeing Lázár as the next prime minister of Hungary. Presumably not after a coup.