More and more critics of the current Hungarian government claim that Viktor Orbán has completely lost his sense of reality. I don’t agree. No, in my opinion he is simply lying to the Hungarian people in the hope that perhaps the old political trick will work. The more you repeat certain slogans the more likely they will stick.
No, Orbán knows that he is in big trouble and that’s why he talks so much about “success,” “victory,” and the bright future that awaits Hungarians. One just has to wait a few more years and Hungary will be richer and happier than Denmark.
And I think that he does believe that his remedies will bring this earthly paradise to Hungary. One just has to wait a little longer and his and György Matolcsy’s “unorthodox” economic policies will produce tangible results. But in the meantime he and the Fidesz government must keep up the spirit of the population.
Orbán would be the happiest if Hungary were not part of the European Union because then there would be no one telling him what to do or not to do. However, he desperately needs the European subsidies without which Hungary by now would be bankrupt. So, he very reluctantly reduced the budget deficit to under 3%, but beyond that he doesn’t want to move an inch as he made it quite clear already on April 27 when in an interview he claimed that he had told José Manuel Barroso that ” we are not taking anything back, we are not suspending anything, we are not changing anything.”
Indeed. He was as good as his word. He refused to make the necessary changes in the bill on the central bank although he should have known that no IMF negotiations can begin without them. Although the European Commission was not satisfied with the media law, the law that parliament passed the other day didn’t address any of the objections of Brussels. So, even though the cohesion funds will be available to Hungary if next month Ecofin agrees with the recommendations of the European Commission, there is a long list of demands concerning other issues: education, taxation, public works, and monetary policy among others.
As I see it, Orbán is trying to show that Hungary is in compliance with EU rules while he is doing everything in his power to avoid compliance. This tight-rope act is a tricky business, and the jury is still out on whether Orbán can pull it off.
How well is Orbán performing? There are times when one must admire his cleverness at fooling others. There are other times, however, when one is amazed at his crudeness, his provincialism, and his lack of diplomacy. Today was one of those days.
It was two years ago that Fidesz-KDNP, led by Viktor Orbán, won the elections. To honor the half-way mark of their first term the government organized a conference which high government officials, businessmen, and foreign diplomats attended. About 300 in number. It was here that Orbán made a speech which will not be forgotten for a while in Brussels.
The speech covered a lot of ground, including laudatory words about his own performance and the economic policies of his administration. A lot of people would question his assertions, and I wonder how many people chuckled when they heard that Orbán and his team are actually a “humble” lot!
What I found much more interesting was Viktor Orbán’s preoccupation with the insecurity of his own position. He seems to be convinced that outside forces are trying to remove him from his post.
This is not the first time that he has alluded to that possibility. Last December he mentioned a conspiracy aimed at his removal that he managed to avert. Now he again returned to this theme, twice in two days.
Last night he gave an interview on MTV’s “Az Este,” an evening program that airs interviews with leading politicians. During this interview, without any prompting, Orbán began talking about his belief in democracy. He wasn’t talking about democracy in the usual sense of the word but rather about democracy as the opposition to the alleged undemocratic ways of the European Union. Specifically, he blamed the current Greek crisis on the decision of the European Union leaders to force a government change in Athens. He posited himself as the embodiment of democracy as opposed to the evil undemocratic forces of the European Union.
Today he continued along the same theme. He managed Hungary’s stabilization in such a way that he said “no” to “the European temptation that would have pushed us toward giving up our democratic ways.” What was this temptation? According to Orbán, the European Union encouraged the countries in economic trouble to get rid of their democratically elected leaders and to run their countries with technocrats. But the Hungarian people in their eternal wisdom “managed to throw together a two-thirds majority.”
No doubt, Orbán is preoccupied with his own survival. Whether his answer to this alleged threat is the best way of dealing with it, I doubt. In my opinion, it would be wiser to be more cooperative and then perhaps there would be less daydreaming in Brussels about the miraculous disappearance of the pesky Hungarian prime minister. However, Orbán didn’t follow that course. Just the opposite. If I understand him correctly, Orbán is planning a new confrontation with Brussels.
In his opinion Hungary must reject the European answers to the economic crisis because “the steps suggested by the bureaucrats of Brussels would be injurious to the country.” However, Hungary cannot outright say “no” to the European Union’s demands. Hungary must follow “a series of complicated tactical operations.” Hungary must present its rejection of the remedies of the European Union in such a way that ” it looks as we wanted to remain their friends.” For example, if the Union presented Hungary with seven demands, the Hungarian government would give the nod to two or three–issues that had already been adopted by the Hungarian government but Brussels didn’t notice yet–while the rest would be rejected. He added that this was a complicated game but obviously he is ready to play it.
I have no reason to doubt that this is exactly what the Hungarian prime minister is planning. It would fit well with his general political behavior, the center of which is intrigue. The only thing I don’t understand is why he is sharing his strategy with the European Union, whom he is planning to fool.