Viktor Orbán’s system is already   in ruins

In the last few weeks several analyses have appeared predicting a change of government, perhaps even before 2018 when under normal circumstances the next regularly scheduled national election would be held. A year ago most commentators foresaw a very long period dominated by Viktor Orbán, who is after all only 51 years old. They pointed out the weakness of the opposition and the practically impenetrable edifice the regime managed to create. But things seem to be changing. There is a strong feeling among certain political observers that the Orbán government’s current problems can no longer be remedied by ad hoc measures aimed at turning public sentiment back toward Fidesz and its regime. Something fundamental went wrong. Observers suggest that there may be a direct connection between the Simicska-Orbán falling-out and signs of the impending collapse of the regime.

The most interesting analysis of the current political situation comes from Attila Ágh, a professor of political science, who is certain that “the fall of Orbán is nearing.” His approaching political demise would explain “the hasty and self-damaging decisions by his associates and advisers in which it is not difficult to discern the hysterical signs of an aging dictator’s last days.” A transition phase has begun. The question is how long this period will last. “What will happen before Orbán fails not only in people’s souls but also in politics?”

The Simicska-Orbán system

According to Ágh, the “Orbán regime already collapsed on April 7, 2014, a day after the victory achieved by the complicated system of subtle fraud, and since then we have been seeing only the regime’s last agony.” On that day Viktor Orbán and Lajos Simicska ended their quarter-century cooperation, which was the most important pillar of the whole Orbán system. Ágh is convinced that “the system was built by Simicska, in which the authoritarian world of the economy, the media, and politics fit snugly, with engineering precision.” Orbán, by throwing the engineer overboard, “smashed the system that had worked relatively well during the four years of the second Orbán government.” According to this interpretation, with which I sympathize, without Simicska the system cannot be maintained.

A much young Viktor Orbán and Lajos Simicska on their only picture together

A much younger Viktor Orbán and Lajos Simicska on their only picture together

Many political observers write off Simicska’s quarrel with Orbán as simple greed. According to this scenario, Orbán no longer wanted to cut Simicska into his business deals. Simicska was not going to get a piece of the action in building Paks II’s two new nuclear reactors and he was sore. I have never shared this view. I am convinced that Lajos Simicska’s anti-Russian sentiments are genuine. But Ágh takes another speculative step. He argues that Simicska “did not want to follow Orbán in further building the still half-finished dictatorship. Not only the billions of Közgép fell out with Orbán; the two men parted ways somewhere at the dividing line between managed democracy and hard-core autocracy.” Admittedly, a brave claim, but one that I don’t think is far-fetched.

In the rest of his article Ágh outlines possible ways the Orbán regime’s agony might end. He finds a palace revolution against “the dear leader” unlikely. Insiders are “timid and helpless” since they are no longer accustomed to independent thinking and action. The outcome that Ágh considers most likely is an implosion, “chaos as a result of an internecine war of the Fidesz overlords,” which may last for a long time because in an autocracy there is no real “second man.”

All in all, in Ágh’s opinion, Viktor Orbán “is writing his own obituary day after day.” The opposition should help him “shorten his sufferings” because this is best not only for the country but also for the prime minister. In this way “future historians can compile a shorter list of his sins in the chronicles of the twenty-first century.”

Oh, yes, talking about history. Another commentator, Péter Techet, also mulled over Orbán’s place in history books. He has been in power long enough that scholars will spend considerable time debating his historical role. Techet thinks that only four Hungarian politicians of the last century have been recognized outside of the country as important political figures: Miklós Horthy, Ferenc Szálasi, Mátyás Rákosi, and János Kádár. Although he doesn’t want to compare Orbán to either Szálasi or Rákosi, he asks: “What can Orbán be proud of? Nothing.” And then one by one Techet describes Viktor Orbán’s political failures.

Promises, promises

Although in the last few months the Fidesz leadership has been desperately trying “to buy” the love of wayward voters, my feeling is that the references to gigantic road construction projects, billions for every city in the next couple of years are empty rhetoric. I have the distinct impression that the country’s coffers are not exactly bulging. I wouldn’t be at all surprised, after reading about an interview with László L. Simon, the undersecretary in the prime minister’s office in charge of cultural matters, if the ambitious plan to create a “museum quarter” in Városliget, one of the few green spaces on the Pest side of the capital, is shelved. Apparently, Viktor Orbán doesn’t like the buildings world-famous architects designed. My hunch is that this is just an excuse to postpone or scrap the project.

The European Union may finally be playing hardball with Hungary. The fact that, from day one, the European Commission refused to give any money for the M4 highway project, considering it unnecessary, might portend closer scrutiny of Hungarian proposals. Just today Orbán promised 50 billion forints to the city of Eger, including a four-lane highway. He also told the people of Sümeg that there will be enough money to complete the reconstruction of the Sümeg Castle. None of these projects can materialize without major financial help from the European Union. And if, for one reason or other, the money flow from Brussels stops or slows considerably, Viktor Orbán’s efforts to regain the trust of Hungarian voters will most likely be in vain.

Leaving the sinking ship?

In his article Attila Ágh wrote about “rats leaving the sinking ship” as one of the possible scenarios in the final stages of the Orbán government’s agony. Is it possible that the CEO of the company in charge of the Paks II project is one of the first of these “rats”? It was in 2012 that Sándor Nagy was appointed to head the company that handled the Hungarian side of the project. But today, late in the afternoon, 444.hu reported that Nagy had left Hungary and since April 7 has been working in the London office of WANO (World Association of Nuclear Operators). His disappearance was sudden and unexplained. People familiar with the company and with Sándor Nagy’s role in it are baffled. Will we ever find out the reason? Unlikely. Unless one day we learn that the whole project has been abandoned.

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petofi
Guest

I think the most hopeful sign I’ve seen in 5 years is the departure of Sandor Nagy. Surely that must mean that the Paks project is in deep trouble…

TeamBritanniaHu
Guest

I’d like to have been David Blunkett in this picture!

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

Satirical videosequence about Hungarian public TV transmitting English News

Klaus
Guest

Dear Karl,

thank you for this skit. Made me laugh out loud because a hungarian friend of mine is now living in Kansas.

Guest

You made me curious – yes it is really funny and telling!

PS:
Menus in Hungarian restaurants are often similarly funny – when they can’t afford a professional translation …

Webber
Guest
Several projects have been or are about to be abandoned – most recently, as Eva pointed out, the Museum Quarter, and the M4 highway. Worse, regular government funding for hospitals and universities has been “frozen” (bank accounts have been frozen – zárolás) with no explanation, other than that the funds will soon become available again, and not a single forint will be missing from them. Austerity measures were introduced across the board after the local elections last year, with no explanation whatsoever, indeed with a denial that this was austerity (recall: before those elections both the Min. of Finance and Orbán said austerity was an opposition pipe dream) I can think of no explanation for the above other than that something is seriously wrong with the Hungarian government’s account of the state of the budget and economy. If things are as good as the government claims, why have they frozen funding and stopped projects? Unfortunately, there is no way for the EU to check the figures. Providing figures is the responsibility of each sovereign member state, which is supposed to have independent accounting procedures. So, the EU has to go on what the Hungarian central statistical office provides, and unfortunately… Read more »
karfiol
Guest
Let’s make one thing clear: The Museum project is absolutely on and it is connected with the Castle District project which is absolutely on too. The two are related since the the museums in the castle building need to go to make room for Orban’s offices. These are construction projects and will never be abandoned. Poor leftists hoped wishfully that the projects will be abandoned, that there will be “no money” for them. In a budget of over 14,000bn forints there will always be money for projects that are dear to the heart of Orban and costing only HUF 100bn per year. Guess what: Orban wants to leave a mark on the fabric of the city and will finish both projects. Essentially the leftists will not have any cultural buildings to their name: MÜPA, National Theatre, the new museums, the new national library, a new House of Hungarian Music etc. will be all planned and constructed by fideszniks. Orban wants to defeat the urbanite leftists and liberals on their own home territory. He builds just like he did the German war memorial or the Turul statute in district XII or the black edge on the House of Terror and the… Read more »
Webber
Guest

Apparently you haven’t read the interview with Simon L. Laszlo in this week’s Magyar Narancs. Judging from what he said, the Museum project is most definitely off, and much of the Castle reconstruction has been put on hold until 2020.

spectator
Guest

Yeah, dear!
He managed to leave his distasteful trail as a snail, whit its slimy residue left all over the place…

If you ever have seen a true “kitsch”, the Nazi memorial have it all, right in league with the National Teater’s syrupy building.

You se, one thing is to build something to remember, quite another to build something to remember as a frightening example of the extremely bad taste what ruling today.

Basically I’m not that surprised. A few years ago I’ve seen a picture of Orbán’s heirloom in Felcsút: it had stone (?) lions on the gateposts of a chainlink fence…
And he is to decide – with the valuable help of the similarly suitable Imre Kerényi.

Before you will respond, please, take a moment and familiarise yourself with this project too:

http://index.hu/kultur/2015/04/09/nem_adjak_a_nevuket_a_tervezok_a_borzalmas_samandobhoz/

Thank you!

Guest

Here too I see parallels with Hitler’s megalomania – the buildings he let Speer construct were also horrible!
Stalin was a similar crazy builder – in Germany we used to call it Zuckerbäcker-Architektur …

Webber
Guest

Another of the Great O’s heirlooms, the National Theater down by the Danube, has plastic “marble” statues, pillars, and cladding on the inside. If you ever visit, just knock on one of the pillars inside the building and see (or rather, hear and feel) for yourself.

spectator
Guest

It’s about sums it: looks like stone from the outside and hollow inside – Orbanism, in short.

Medium
Guest

Orban has been cooking his books, the data can’t be trusted.

The Central Bank is den of thieves it is a centre to blow money (to purchase unnecessary assets at inflate prices from ‘csókosok’, ie. from cronies) and making money disappear at nationalized/recently purchased banks. It also published separate contradictory sets of data, nobody has any clue which is real (probably both the government and the CB cook the data).

But — and this is the most important issue – foreign investors awash in money from the QE in Europe, the US and Japan buy any any all Hungarian government bonds offered. ű

It’s been an open secret that Hungarian numbers don’t add up, that Orban and his people like Matolcsy lie all the time that they are totally untrustworthy but investors still want to pretend that all is fine (hey, Hungary is an EU member state after all) as they have so much money to invest. This will continue as long as the ECB keeps printing money.

Webber
Guest

That worked for a time for Greece, too. We can see the results now.

petofi
Guest

There seems, constantly, to be so many Trolls on this blog that one must be careful not to squish them underfoot…

Guest

???
I haven’t seen any trolls lately …

Guest

Re what karfiol wrote on Orbán’s building crazyness:
Am I the only one who is reminded of the Nazis’ “Größenwahn” (megalomania) in building?

Guest

Re: the ‘transition’

In ancient days one commentator namely the historian Tacitus aptly applied his intellect to ruminate on the experience of how a state wields power to the result that its actions poses crises for a society. Thus his observation:

‘Crime, once exposed, has no refuge but in audacity’.

A point to ponder for Magyar society. The transition period can be tense. And there is another lesson by the man who saw what corrupted power did to his beloved Rome:

‘Those in supreme power always suspect and hate their next heir’.

I’d think who follow Orban , who is now on a rickety table, must not only be ‘doctors’ but be great psychologists too. Hungary has been hurt grievously and needs to heal.

spectator
Guest

Yeah, and magicians crossed with the garbage man too!
Cleaning out the mountains of rubbish introduced under the Obán era, while maintaining economy and the proper existence of millions who’s been trampled underfoot – tremendous task, with utterly small chance of success.

“It’s a low and dirty job, but hell, someone must’ do it..!”
In short, – if I may rely on the owner of the T-shirt – it’s a job for a sucker.
But still, it has to be done, and done properly.

It will start with one step – should have been Tata – and following through from there on.

Oh well, it was the wrong T-shirt..!

KatKat
Guest

Orban’s (though always through reliable fronts) shopping spree to purchase construction companies continues (ie. to be able to keep the construction deals which used to go to Simicska ‘in-house”).

First it was Market Zrt., then Magyar Épitő zrt. and now ZÁÉV (plus two other lesser known companies).

Like it was said the modus operandi is very simple. Orban’s fronts approach the owners and tell them that he/she (ie, the front) wants to buy the company. However, the front will not pay in cash or in any other asset but will arrange that another (less important) company of the seller (which usually owns several smaller and bigger corporations, special purpose vehicles as is the practice in the construction business) will receive an EU-subsidized project so that the sellers are able to compensate themselves from the proceeds of that EU-projects.

I could be wrong but here I suspect Istvan Garancsi again (as he set up an asset management company with others recently so that’s in line with the article), one of Orban’s reliable shadowy fronts.

http://index.hu/gazdasag/2015/04/10/tulajdonost_cserel_az_egyik_legnagyobb_epitoipari_ceg/

Webber
Guest

And, if the owner doesn’t want to sell, the tax authorities (NAV) appear. And if they don’t find any irregularities, well they visit again next week, and the week after that, and the week after that, and the week after that, etc.
Sooner or later, one way or another, the owner will want to sell the company.

But
Guest

Sure, but companies by now have learned this so NAV is really unnecessary any more. You just don’t say no.

petofi
Guest

I believe it to be in infinitely bad taste to use the poetry of a jew, who had been so wretchedly treated, and finally murdered, by his own people; to glorify the ‘homeland’. His wife, Fanni, who had refused to speak Hungarian for many post-war years of her life, would never have countenanced the use of his poetry for such a purpose.

(The ‘jew’ in the Hungarian disappears when the great nation can brag by the use of some part of his achievement.)

HAJRA MAGYAROK!!!

spectator
Guest

Honestly, I like much more Dame Judi Drench performance – she honest and free of the mannerism what Latinovits possessed.

Otherwise Radnóti is one of the few Hungarian poets who worth to bound to – wherever you are.

Paul
Guest

OT – but a least not as much as usual:

This is our old friend Thorpe’s take on the ‘new’ Jobbik and that lovely young chap Mr Vona…

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-32248965

Kirsten
Guest

I believe it has not yet been impossible for Hungarian administrations to count what is on the books, so why should they not know the correct numbers. It has been more difficult to accept such numbers as constraining facts. But even with that, why should the country end in Greek troubles, so far the forint is still with us. The alternative of some higher inflation and further forint depreciation is more likely, with incomes falling further. That is what Orban promised after all (we need to go back to a subsistence economy). That waking up from the Orban experience will not be exactly cheerful has unfortunately been clear already for some time.

googly
Guest

Greece’s situation was unique, in that it could not (and still cannot, for at least a while longer) devalue its currency in order to fix its debt and growth problems. Hungary can, and has – look at the exchange rates when Fidesz took office, and how they differ from today’s rates. This is part of the reason why Orbán said he would not join the euro any time soon, even though Hungary is obligated by treaty to join as soon as fiscally possible.

Now that Matolcsy is head of the MNB, Fidesz can always just weaken the forint if they want to attract investment. I’m so happy that my investments are almost all in dollars, and have been since Fidesz took over.

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