Political accord at home and Russian-Hungarian understanding abroad

How wrong journalists can be when they start second guessing the details of delicate negotiations that politicians managed to keep under wraps. Commentators were certain that the most important difficulty facing the negotiators was the person of Ferenc Gyurcsány. The stories revolved around him: will he or won’t he be on the list? And if yes, in which position? There were stories about the negotiators wanting to “hide” him in the number six slot because in this case his name would not appear on the official list the voters see. I must say that I decided early in the game that I would pay not attention to all the chatter. I was certain that the necessity for immediate action had such force that the negotiations would not be sidetracked by such petty squabbles.

This media concentration on the person on Ferenc Gyurcsány was most likely encouraged by Fidesz, whose politicians immediately announced that his presence on the ticket will boost their own chances of winning the election. I didn’t expect them to say anything else, but it is telling that Századvég, Fidesz’s favorite political think tank, released this morning, only a few hours before the joint press conference of the chief negotiators, their latest poll according to which 72% of the voters wouldn’t vote for a common list because of the presence of Ferenc Gyurcsány. The timing of the release of this rather dubious poll suggests what the real feelings are in Fidesz circles about the new agreement. It doesn’t matter what Antal Rogán, Lajos Kósa, or Gabriella Selmeczi says about the fantastic advantage this new formation offers to Fidesz and the Orbán government, the fact is that it is not a welcome piece of news for the right.

The desired common ticket and a single candidate for the post of prime minister has been achieved. Attila Mesterházy (MSZP) will head the ticket, followed by Gordon Bajnai (Együtt-2014), Ferenc Gyurcsány (DK), Gábor Fodor (Magyar Liberális Part/MLP), and Tímea Szabó (PM). As for the individual candidates, each district will have only one common candidate. MSZP will field candidates in 71 districts, Együtt-2014 in 22, DK in 13. One of DK’s candidates will be Gábor Kuncze, former chairman of SZDSZ. Gábor Fodor’s liberal party received 3 positions on the common list.

Attila Mesterházy, Gordon Bajnai, Ferenc Gyurcsány, and Gábor Fodor / www.parameter.sk

Attila Mesterházy, Gordon Bajnai, Ferenc Gyurcsány, and Gábor Fodor www.parameter.sk

All in all, I think the present setup is the best one could have achieved under the circumstances. The cooperation among the parties and their leaders seems to be close, and they are trying to reassure their voters that there will be no dissension and rivalry because they want to win. I was surprised to hear Gyurcsány profusely praise Attila Mesterházy’s skills as a politician; according to him, it was Mesterházy who was largely responsible for the success of the negotiations. He also indicated that he will follow the lead of Mesterházy. I”m less certain about full cooperation from the PM politicians, who still don’t seem to be entirely reconciled to the idea of sitting in the same boat with Gyurcsány, whom they consider to be the embodiment of all that was wrong with Hungary prior to 2010.

The other important event of the day was the signing of a bilateral agreement between Vladimir Putin and Viktor Orbán that put an end to speculation about the future enlargement of the Paks nuclear power plant. We don’t know too much about the details, but we do know that it will be the biggest investment Hungary has ever made. It will cost at least 10 billion euros; usually by the time these power plants actually get built the cost overruns are enormous. The work will begin soon on two new reactors, the first of which will be able to produce energy by 2023. Russia will provide the money necessary to build the reactors, apparently at a relatively low interest rate, to be paid back over the next thirty years. According to Fidesz sources, the interest rate is “way below 5%.” Fidesz sources also claim that the arrangement has the blessing of the European Union, which apparently allowed Hungary to chose Rosatom, a Russian state company, without a competitive bid. In any case, this Paks job will be the first for Rosatom in an EU country. I have the feeling that we will hear more about this particular aspect of the deal.

Viktor Orbán and Vladimir Putin apparently get along very well, about which I’m not surprised. Politicians, if circumstances dictate, can forget quickly, and therefore I assume that Putin no longer remembers (or cares) what Viktor Orbán had to say about him and his country in the past. Perhaps one day I will collect a few choice adjectives that will show that Viktor Orbán is capable of a complete turnaround and can say something and its exact opposite with the same conviction.

This was an important day indeed. The agreement among the parties will set the course of political events for the next three months or so. Whether they will be able to win over former Fidesz voters is of paramount importance for Hungarian democracy. Commentators are certain that if Fidesz stays in power for another four years the country’s democratic structure will be even more shaken than it is now and the damage will be incalculable. As for the Russian-Hungarian agreement, it may determine Hungary’s geopolitical position for some time to come. Unfortunately, the two events are interconnected. Will Hungary chose the European Union and democracy or will it increasingly resemble Putin’s Russia, which Viktor Orbán considers to be a strategic economic partner?

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Paul
Guest

I suspect that the inclusion (and effective rehabilitation) of Gy, is what Fidesz really fear. He is the only one on the left who really understands what Orbán is up to, and the only one who can get that across to the electorate.

True, no wavering Fidesz voter will vote ‘left’ now he is so prominently part of the team, but I think there will many thousands of don’t-knows/won’t-says out there who will be attracted to the left coalition now it is established and Gy is part of it.

I still fear that Fidesz are going to win hands down in April, but at least now I think there is a real choice for the voters and Orbán has at last the genuine opposition he feared (and didn’t expect).

But, that said it’s a long time before the election, and Fidesz will throw everything and more against the opposition to belittle and destabilise them. And they are far stronger and better organised even than they were 4 years ago – it’s going to be very nasty and very dirty.

anap
Guest
Now with a left united for the elections, there will be three parties in the Parliament. Fidesz, Jobbik and Left. LMP may or may not get in, probably not, but in any case it cannot have more representatives out of 200 than 3-4 (2%). Since the picture is clearer I think it will also get clear soon that the Left, despite all the poll figures, actually has a chance of winning the elections. It is still unlikely, but there is now a significant chance. That is because the right wing part of the electorate, which is significantly bigger than the left wing part, is divided between Fidesz and Jobbik. Although Jobbik gained a lot of traditionally Socialist voters, especially in hopeless, rural regions, Jobbik also gained a lot of formerly Fidesz voters, who would now like to protest, but would never vote for any party describing itself as leftist or liberal. These people anyway like Jobbik’s ideology, but previously did not consider Jobbik serious enough, now, like it or not, Jobbik is mainstream. For example: 39 (the left)-37 (Fidesz)-20 (Jobbik)-4% (others) combination for the party lists is not out of the question. Now the trick with the Left is that… Read more »
buddy
Guest

A few thoughts….

Why was Fodor’s party elevated above PM on the prime minister ticket? Not that it really matters much in a practical sense, but symbolically I suppose it must mean something…

Why is Tímea Szabó the PM candidate for Prime Minister and not Benedek Jávor? Could it have anything to do with her being a woman and representing diversity?

Is there anyone in Gábor Fodor’s party other than… Gábor Fodor?

petofi
Guest

“I assume that Putin no longer remembers (or cares) what Viktor Orbán had to say about him and his country.”

That’s one way to look at it. Another is this: he was instructed to say those things…

petofi
Guest

As for the united opposition, they ought not to sit on their laurels. There’s a lot to be done.
Why not get Anygan, Horvath, and those two past Fideszers who quit the party, to join?

And again, Bokros and Bekesi should be in the travelling team of the opposition, which should now be criss-crossing the country endlessly challenging Fidesz on every front:
political, economic, foreign policy etc…

They now must be relentless and passionate–every day, every week, every month…until the election.

Helene Bienvenu
Guest

Dear Eva, it seems there is a spelling mistake, it’s Rosatom not Rositom! http://www.rosatom.ru/en/ Best.

Andy -- Whats left to say?
Guest
My interpretation on the following: : Sorry to see Bokros not part of the United Front (the 5). Methinks Bokros fell by the wayside due to the everpresent Hungarian penchant for ‘kiszorítás’ (exclusionary game) toward those with more talent and know-how than themselves — the current gang of 5 — … ‘Bye Lajikám’,,, (my dear Lajos) see you in a more ideal world…. Or in the Kocsma (pub) down the street… Cute gal Szabó Timea got in just as a figure head – or Female Representative Body… – 🙂 for her evident ‘charms’… Perhaps its not such a tough choice as to who would bring more votes to the UF: Timi or Laji… Methinks they forgot to bring back the Hungarian Cicciolina from Italian Parliament to really get the male vote from the Corner Pubs… Methinks she might have been willing… More whoaring around: Orban could be indebting the country by getting in over his head on the huge debts he will accumulate over 30+ years of the potentially balooning costs of the new Russian-built Nucear energy Station built from Russian loaned funds. How on earth is he really planning to pay back the 8 billion Euros cost multiplied by… Read more »
Blueschild
Guest
Funny thing: nobody seems to care how much uranium fuel will cost 10-40-70 years from now. Of course we do not know that and there is no way to predict it. However, uranium is like certain other raw materials a finite resource. It is absolutely probable that the price of it will increase significantly over time because there will be less and less available and it will be more and more difficult to turn the still available ore into metal and then to enrich it, which is itself an enormously energy intensive resource. That is why correctly said a nuclear power station does not directly (emphasis on directly) emits carbon dioxide. If one calculates the construction phase (10 years), the mining, enrichment of the fuel and other side issues (such as construction of depositories, although it seems the Russians will take back the rod purchased from them under this agreement, but most importantly the power station building itself will remain radioactive so the dismantling/maintenance of it and its parts through the centuries will cost fortunes) then the actual savings in carbon dioxide are very low, if they exist at all. Anyway, It is one thing to have a power station… Read more »
petofi
Guest

Just a small cautionary tale (though, with the signing of Paks II, caution is no more):

The Bolshoi theatre in Moscow was put under refurbishment in 2003 A grand place. Evidently it needed a lot of work because it was budgeted at 700 million dollars. Well, lo and behold, five
years later, the budget had surpassed 7 BILLION dollars…and the project was not yet
finished. (The Russians know a good thing when they got one.)

So forget this 2/3 times over-run. Minimally, the over-run will be at least 10 x the originally
budgeted amount. So, sixty-years? It may take 200 years to pay it off…

gdfxx
Guest

Blueschild :
Funny thing: nobody seems to care how much uranium fuel will cost 10-40-70 years from now. Of course we do not know that and there is no way to predict it.
However, uranium is like certain other raw materials a finite resource. It is absolutely probable that the price of it will increase significantly over time because there will be less and less available and it will be more and more difficult to turn the still available ore into metal and then to enrich it, which is itself an enormously energy intensive resource.

Yes, the uranium quantities are limited. According to this article: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-long-will-global-uranium-deposits-last the supply would last for about 200 years.

end end end o
Guest

Agnes Heller is right.
All decent politicians must march under a united roof.
This bad dream, glorious Fidesz rule must end.
It was one of the worst chapters in Hungarian history.
Favors, rewriting legal concepts, ruining freedom of the media, must end.

jarek
Guest

Putin asks Deripaska to give his pen back.This is classic Putin, it is real, quite funny.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VjrlTMvirVo

Also, note the Sochi winter games: it cost so far an insane 51 billion USD according to Business Week. It is also at least 10 times more than even the highest estimate based on historical data.

The only theoretic limit for Paks II is that if it would cost really too much (couple of times the ‘normal price’) no more new business Rosatom will get, though the Russians can always blame Hungarians for the overrun. The French also blamed the Finnish for bad quality, and imagine the quality Hungarian construction companies can provide.

So I guess eventually Paks II will be one of the world’s most expensive such project. It is a classic political game for Putin and his advisors. They know how to exert control and influence but Orban thinks he can be outsmart the Russians and take advantage of the ‘fantastic Russian offer’. Yeah, right.

Andy -- Wait and See...
Guest

In return for the Russian Nuclear Station Project I’d wager Orban’s only firm requirements center around the bakshish amounts and payment due dates for the Russian payments into secret Swiss or other Offshore accounts….

Also Ive just been hearing about our government takin 20% off heating costs – paid for by the Hungarian treasury and nothing about advantageous deals being obtained for long-term Russian gasoline and gas prices charged to Hungary.

Even Ukraine got super deals from Russia…

We just got CREDIT repayment DELAYS…

And by then we just might be insolvent with the Russians takin away our country from us… Thanks to ORBAN…

Dont believe me?
Just wait and see…

petofi
Guest

Orban is Putin’s man–

Andy -- The Barracks again.
Guest

Wait and see… at this rate we goin to be the Russia’s westernmost bridge to the West… And we gonna give up our association with the EU with China taking over our markets too. Even Korea’s gonna use us as its nuclear weapons Western European Nuclear Depot…

UN Atomic Agency, Vienna, finally gonna have direct binocular vision capability onto the enemy stockpiles next to Neusiedler See… Duna’s gonna have nuclear contamination south of Hungary… Hungary gonna have last minute exodus to the West in 2016…

Red Cross waiting in trucks to pick up the latest crop of Eastern European Refugees. Seem familiar. Du Déja-Vu?

Andy -- ARISE
Guest

Orban will be the first turn-coat to give a major contract (Hungary’s largest ever) to the former foe the ex-Soviet Union and at the same time become the enemy of the West… once again, since 1989.

So this time Hungarian freedom lasted exactly 25 short years…. Another episode in the long list of Hungary’s losing streak !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

’56-ers. Time to have your voice heard again !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ARISE

petofi
Guest

Ham-strung Hungarians.
Do you know that rodeo event where the cowboy rides along the steer, lassoes it, jumps off the horse and ties three of its legs? Well, that’s the state of the Hungarian psyche presently.

Leg 1: Impoverishment and humiliation leading to empowerment by directing the above to jews.
Leg 2: The country is ‘under attack’ and Hungarians must act together against the jewish run banks, and the jewish controlled EU which seeks to enslave Hungary.
Leg 3: The above receives the full-thoated support of the Christian churches, giving the blessings of piety to the whole endeavor.

How do you get out of this?

Ask those Pavlovian specialists in the KGB…

Mikulas
Guest
gdfxx: in energy resource problems the issue is not how long the reserves (however estimated, there are tons of various metrics) theoretically last at, say, current consumption rates. You will understand that oil will last forever, it is impossible that we run out of oil. The reason is that at one point it will take more energy to actually obtain the oil (from under the Arctic or some similar extreme location) than the energy contained in a unit of oil. At that point (actually even before) we will just not extract it, regardless of the price, as it would be a waste of energy (although perhaps for other uses, such as pharmaceuticals, for which the energy content is irrelevant we will still extract it very expensively). Thus it is not the price as such which is important but the energy return on energy invested. Now, the issue with uranium is similar. At one point, even if technically feasible, it will not be worth to mine it/refine it because the energy to be invested in the extraction/refinery process will be so much that it will take a significant portion of the energy content of the uranium. (Given that enriched uranium has… Read more »
Ron
Guest

Up to now agreed with Paul, and Fidesz is going to win hands down in April.

However, this Paks plan and the fact that in 2008 Fidesz in the person of Illes Zoltan were death against such a plan. I wonder what changed in that period (besides money).

If the opposition use this plan against Fidesz effectively they may have a chance. Remember Tsernobil. Basically, the atom energy technic did not change since that period significantly.

LoviLovi
Guest

As to the financing costs: there is no agreement on that point (and this may be true for other conditions as well, we just can’t rely on Fidesz’ own admissions, I am afraid).

Anything told yesterday about “way below 5%” interest rate was a lie. There is no agreement at all yet. And the Russians are not stupid, they invest just like anybody else does, nobody has money to burn. Only an idiot can think that the Russian will be ‘generous’ and enter into a ‘one of a kind’ project to help Hungary without obtaining their expected return. Hungary will have to pay and it will.

http://index.hu/gazdasag/energia/2014/01/15/paks_varga/

LoviLovi
Guest
Ron, why oh why would the opposition fight? They will benefit too. Finally, these last fours years were pretty dry. They say Orban will be a bit more generous and the Russians will also be more generous. Surely, Fidesz will benefit the most, but the Left will get crumbles and that will be enough for them. They are actually thankful or Orban. Jobbik supports the projects very much. There is no other opposition. The Russians are good diplomats and the Hungarian Left is the last person to get into any kind of conflicts with any of our foreign friends. They just hate conflicts, which is quite a strange political approach, but by know you know them.The opposition will be taken care of (they have been already). So don’t wait for the opposition. I think they are very happy for this project, politically Fidesz will be blamed, if at all, but – they think – MSZP will also benefit (aka free riding). MSZP is cheap, it can always be bought on the cheap for any issue. They just do not how to protest and are a sucker for any good-sounding, but lame argument (jobs, GDP growth, know-how acquisition, cheap energy and… Read more »
LwiiH
Guest
Paul : I suspect that the inclusion (and effective rehabilitation) of Gy, is what Fidesz really fear. He is the only one on the left who really understands what Orbán is up to, and the only one who can get that across to the electorate. True, no wavering Fidesz voter will vote ‘left’ now he is so prominently part of the team, but I think there will many thousands of don’t-knows/won’t-says out there who will be attracted to the left coalition now it is established and Gy is part of it. I still fear that Fidesz are going to win hands down in April, but at least now I think there is a real choice for the voters and Orbán has at last the genuine opposition he feared (and didn’t expect). But, that said it’s a long time before the election, and Fidesz will throw everything and more against the opposition to belittle and destabilise them. And they are far stronger and better organised even than they were 4 years ago – it’s going to be very nasty and very dirty. Gy. is done. What Fidesz really fears is a united opposition that no longer fragments the vote. Having all… Read more »
Marcel Dé (@MarcelD10)
Guest

@LoviLovi: I agree, there is no opposition – as a matter of fact the project began in 2008 under the previous majority.

Belarus signed a similar deal two years ago. Of course, it is tempting to write “Orbán follows in the steps of Lukashenko” but I’m afraid there’s a bigger picture. For years now Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Rep. and Hungary have expressed their desire for new reactors – and Russia is eager and ideally positionned to provide them (except in Poland): they master these countries’ former nuclear technology, they clearly want to become a major player in the European electricity market, and they’re hassle-free at home (which is not the case of the French and the Germans for instance).

Hungary is first in the EU, but might not be alone long as Atomstroyexport could win the Czech tender at the end of this year (unless it is again postponed).

Ronkitt
Guest

The Czech also push for the Russians, sure, but they are smarter businessmen in general. We are notoriously bad businesspeople.

Guest

Look at the picture. Bajnai looks approachable and sympathetic because he does not wear a necktie. The other three could learn something useful about dress as signal.

Ron
Guest

Report of the Russian Foreign Ministry “On the situation with human rights in the European Union” in 2012 and 2013. There is a word document in English (from page 35). It is just a summary, but a good one.

Official website:
http://www.mid.ru/bdomp/ns-dgpch.nsf/03c344d01162d351442579510044415b/44257b100055de8444257c60004a6491!OpenDocument

Tuomas
Guest

@Jean P
Here in Finland Rosatom got a deal to build a new nuclear power plant. The deal includes 40%+ ownership. The Finnish company couldn’t afford building the plant by themselves, so Russians to the rescue! Expect more of this to happen in Europe.

tappanch
Guest

New poll by Ipsos, taken between January 6 and 13.

Fidesz 28%
Jobbik 6%
LMP 2%
Democratic opposition 22%

no answer 42%

http://hvg.hu/itthon/20140115_Ipsos_utolerte_a_DK_az_EgyuttPMet_tovab

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