The perfect prime minister, according to Viktor Orbán

It’s almost impossible to keep up with all the news that one encounters daily in the Hungarian media. In the past, I tried a couple of times to cover two items in a single post, but I always ran out of time and/or space.

At present there are several exciting topics. The most important event, today’s EU summit on the refugee crisis, hasn’t ended yet, so I will have to postpone writing about it. Another intriguing piece of domestic news is Lajos Simicska’s masterful acquisition of TV2 (if it stands up in court), which Andy Vajna, one of Orbán’s favorite American-Hungarian oligarchs, was supposed to purchase. Vajna’s ownership of Hungary’s second most watched commercial television station would have meant further domination of the media by the Orbán government and Fidesz. But more about that in the coming days.

So, let’s go back to March 2015 when the Hungarian prime minister paid a visit to his old college dormitory where Fidesz was born in 1988. Yesterday I summarized and commented on Viktor Orbán’s attitude toward women and their place in politics. On Monday, October 12, 444.hu, an internet site specializing in investigative journalism, released a second article on this unofficial chat of the prime minister with the current students of the dormitory. Orbán covered a wide range of topics, often as responses to questions coming from the audience.

Discussion of a possible successor to Victor Orbán was prompted by a student who wanted to know whether the prime minister sees his possible successor among the present Fidesz leaders. The answer he received didn’t actually address the question. After all, it would have been enough to say something banal like: “There are many talented young politicians in Fidesz and surely when the time comes there will be several who would make an excellent prime minister.” Instead, Orbán claimed that he is actively looking for a successor, revealing a highly undemocratic attitude toward politics. Prime ministers are not designated by their predecessors. As one sharp-tongued blogger said, the only thing Orbán can decide is who can inherit his house in Felcsút.

That he would be actively looking for a young, talented politician who could continue his work as party chairman and prime minister is a laugh because Viktor Orbán has no intention of retiring any time soon. As he modestly announced, he still has “one or two good years left,” which should be interpreted as ten or twenty. Among world leaders, Orbán at the age of 52 is considered young. And Orbán himself ought to know that if he disappeared from politics it would mean the end of Fidesz. Without Orbán there is no Fidesz, just as with the downfall of Silvio Berlusconi his creation, Forza Italia, also disappeared.

Otherwise, he described in some detail the requisite characteristics of the perfect prime minister.

(1) Politics is a continual battle where one must be able to take the punches and hit back twice as hard. “If I stand with a large sword in my hand in the middle of a field and three men attack me, I can’t moralize or argue but must just kill all three of them. No nonsense (nincsen mese).”

(2) He must be brave. The reason for this required trait is worth analyzing. “Our big problem is that we are only as big as we are and all around us there are much bigger countries. Our natural resources after Trianon ended up outside the borders. There are twice as many Romanians as Hungarians. The Slavic people, if they unite against us, are even more numerous. If those under the crescent begin to move northward there is trouble. There is trouble if the Germans move. It is also a problem if the Russians get across the Carpathian Mountains.” An incredible worldview in 2015. Clearly, Orbán hasn’t moved from the thinking of Hungarian politicians of the interwar era when this was a fairly accurate description of the situation in Central Europe. But in 2015 when Hungary and her neighbors are members of the European Union?

(3) A good prime minister must have natural smarts. Schooling doesn’t hurt, but obviously for Orbán that is not important. What, on the other hand, is important is that he should be foxy (dörzsölt). It is also important that he can play the card game called “ulti” or “ultimó,” which seems to be a true Hungaricum. Anyone who’s interested in the game can learn about it here. It sounds pretty complicated to me. Matolcsy claims that bridge is even better for sharpening one’s mind, but bridge, which is by now an international game of decidedly foreign origin, wouldn’t be Orbán’s choice. A short time ago Orbán lost 50,000 forints (€160) to Csaba Hende, then still minister of defense. My own image of “ulti” comes from nineteenth-century novels that depicted Hungarian politicians playing the game in smoke-filled rooms.

The trickster

The trickster

(4) One doesn’t need deep knowledge of specific subjects because the prime minister can rely on “the valuable knowledge of the ministers and the top civil servants.” One can rightfully ask: And what happens when the foxy prime minister with smarts appoints ministers and high government officials who are dolts and who have no knowledge of the fields they are responsible for? Because, unfortunately, with very few exceptions, this is the situation now. Appointments depend on loyalty, not on ability.

In addition, one can trust only “decent Hungarian men who don’t philosophize about such things as whether there is such a thing as “Hungarian,” or “nation,” or “fatherland.” The whole thing is a waste of time. The important thing is that “we are here, we speak Hungarian, and we have to carry on.”

As for when his retirement will come, I wouldn’t keep my fingers crossed that it will be in the near future: “When I feel that I cannot come out with anything new, when I cannot correct my own mistakes, then perhaps I will have to retire.” But for the time being “I see enormous opportunities and these may last for years. That’s what I reassure myself with.”

As an example of the foxiness necessary for a prime minister, Orbán related the story of the sudden and unexpected announcement in November 2011 by György Matolcsy, who was then minister of the economy, that Hungary will, after all, turn to the International Monetary Fund for an emergency loan. To refresh your memory I suggest that you read some of the posts I wrote on the subject during November 2011 and after. The one from November 18, a day after the announcement, is perhaps the most detailed.

Eventually, we all suspected that the Orbán government never wanted to negotiate a loan. It was a hoax from day one in order to quiet the market and ease the financial pressure on Hungary. Now we can learn the story from the horse’s mouth.

In Orbán’s version, the Hungarian government was close to default. The financial world had closed ranks against the country, and these financial players received assistance from the European Union. The price of a credit default swap (CDS) was “perhaps over 700, now it is 150.” The forint was falling, and the Austrian banks created a panic against the Hungarian banks. Because of these pressures, it could easily have happened that Hungary wouldn’t have been able to meet its debt obligations. According to Orbán, “we were not far.” They had only 5-6 hours. Clearly an exaggeration.

So, the foxy guys Matolcsy and Orbán held a quick conference and came up with a ruse. “We announced that, given the financial situation, we are turning to the IMF for assistance. At that point the pressure eased, and when the boot was no longer on my neck, we didn’t agree on a loan…. We announced that we were thinking of a loan called a Flexible Credit Line, which Poland got. They said ‘well, you can’t get that.’ And I said ‘I’m so sorry.’And they accepted the original budget figures, including the extra levies on banks.”

Surely, Viktor Orbán is very proud of himself. He managed to fool everybody. Well, yes, there have been other countries, most notably Turkey which used the same trick when it was in similar trouble in 2009. But too many tricks can destroy a politician’s credibility. And this particular case was not a unique occurrence in Orbán’s dealings with the outside world. I still vividly remember when through some indiscretion the world learned of Orbán’s delight that every time the Venice Commission demanded changes in the new constitution, the government managed to smuggle in other provisions, even more objectionable than the original ones.

The European Commission’s patience hasn’t run out yet, although there were several instances when we were sure that “this is the last straw.” I wonder when Orbán’s luck will run out.

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Member

Lilliputin und Sein Kämpfchen
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german1971
Guest

INCREDIBLE lack of credibility.

Long list of Hungarian prime ministers of the last 100 years have not gained any credibility.

Zero positive sampling?

Probably, Gyurcsany was the only hopeful case.

Member

Turul Triumphalism

@german1971: “INCREDIBLE lack of credibility. Long list of Hungarian prime ministers of the last 100 years have not gained any credibility. Zero positive sampling?”

In other words, the whole world is Hunophobic… (This is the kind of constructive self -criticism that keeps “Hungary Performing Better”…)

“Probably, Gyurcsany was the only hopeful case.”

Or the most mercilessly maligned one, for venturing a bit of genuine self-criticism…

An unbroken 100-year record of picking winners and doing the rght thing. The power of pannonian positive thinking…
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spectator
Guest

At the same time one can’t ignore the fact that how positively Orbán government relates to ‘alternative’ sexuality!

Look at the mage above, and the partial figure of archangel Gabriel – supposed to represent Hungary, no less, – and you’ll see an androgynous character softly offering a ball to the bird of prey.

Quite some “Guardian Angel”, considering that Orbán must have approved it, while vehemently “defending the borders of Christian Europe” – and acting as a rabid dog during the process…

Member

François-Marie Arouet, on the Viktor of the Carpathian Basement: “Si Orbán n’existait pas, il faudrait l’inventer.”
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tappanch
Guest

The lies of the Fidesz government about the immediate giving away 8% of the agricultural land to friends and family.

Q & A, or rather lies and truth

http://www.168ora.hu/itthon/mit-mond-kormany-es-mi-igazsag-139810.html

Guest

You know from the piece I just think the Hungarian PM is looking eagerly for the ‘good fight’. Marry that to rallying ’round the flag and I would suggest that going forward the nation should disabuse themselves of the notion that Hungary looks at the world as a ‘Pax Hungaria’ environment. Instead look for more tension in Hungary’s travel through the 21st. It looks to be a very bumpy ride.

petofi
Guest

Bumpy is as bumpy does.
Hungarians are the tip-top of human creation…and they must at all times fight the envious ‘others’ who want to deny their ‘greatness’.

Schmuckhood to the power of 10.

Of course, the ideal creation that the basement boys have discovered is that these simpletons who believe such nonsense are firmly tied up in a bag they can’t escape from. This is the genius of Orban–or the basement boys, who have found the perfect instrument in the Orbanus Fluvius Maximus.

If Hungary was a soap opera for extra-terrestials, our program would top the charts.

spectator
Guest

“If Hungary was a soap opera for extra-terrestials, our program would top the charts.”

And would most probably guarantee that they’ll leave the Earth to the earthlings…

Tyrker
Guest

Afghan asylum seeker shot dead by Bulgarian border guards – Juncker & Tusk “express support” for country:

http://www.bta.bg/en/c/DF/id/1187423

Robi
Guest

Orban is not lucky. He has no opponents, or rather his opponents are all, without exception weak, full of inhibitions and doubts, and disorganized/divided. Though in a way that’s luck too.

There was an interesting article in the Guardian recently about how Corbyn won the Labour leadership. What was really interesting though was that many of his potential opponents (senior Labour party members) simply were afraid about being candidates and of the media attention, the lack of privacy the candidacy would cause. They suddenly realized in middle age that if you want to be a leader, the media will write about your family and that was not acceptable.

(Compare that to Orban or Deutsch or Rogán who couldn’t care less about the media or privacy).

Plus — reminding me of the MSZPniks who went on their annual vacations, when else, during the 2014 municipal elections — many senior Labour politicians simply went on their annual holidays during the party elections, they just didn’t care, vacation was more important.

Against people like these, an Orban or a Putin will always win.

petofi
Guest

Hungarian politics is about stealing from the ‘bunko’ citizenry.
Fidesz does it best; heartlessly; efficiently….so, according to standard practice in Hungarian politics, the opposition–or atleast the leading ones–just wait for their fat envelopes. Much fatter than in the time of Gyurcsany even if they were in power! (That, folks, is the significance of Oszod.)

So let’s be clear about one thing: Hungarian politics is purely about who can skim the most, and the fastest.

That’ll be the fine fellow from Felcsut–

bimbi
Guest

Dear Robi,

That is quite a list of your wishful thinking and invention!
It is clear that you have not a single piece of data to back up your irrelevant contentions regarding the views of Labour party politicians

“potential opponents (senior Labour party members) simply were afraid about being candidates…”

Sure they all called Robi up said, “Robi we is scared” and then:

“…many senior Labour politicians simply went on their annual holidays…” – called you up about that as well Robi?

Please don’t waste our time with nonsense like this – oh yes, and why not address the matter under discussion next time?

Webber
Guest

Robi
When you are writing in English to people from Western countries please be a little more careful.
Don’t vomit back Fidesz idiocies about the left always losing everywhere and Orban being a model for Western politicians.
That story is solely for consumption by Hungarians living in Hungary – preferably for those who don’t speak foreign languages.
Everyone else will think you have gone insane if you tell it to them. The left is doing quite well in all major Western countries. Except for neo-fascists in the West (who never win elections there), Orban is considered embarrassing and disgusting by people on the right if they even know who he is. Most of them don’t know, and couldn’t care less.
Hungary is not a model for a single major power – and the little peanut, much as some of us love her, never will be (compare Hungary’s GDP with, say, California’s).

Robi
Guest
Webber, sorry to say, but you are seriously mistaken. I think you are even deluding yourself if you think that the left is doing well anywhere just because it’s in power in some European countries. Hollande as a leftist success? Renzi as a leftist? In what sense? The German left doesn’t look to me as though it was thriving, to say the least. In the UK it’s definitely in crisis and half of the party simply hates the “leftist” Corbin (ie. now it is obvious that the Blarites were really conservatives all along). Blair is now widely considered to have been a conservative in disguise. In Spain, Rajoy may continue despite the restrictions and so on. First, I only mentioned what I read in a long Guardian article, don’t shoot the messenger. Secondly, the Left is in serious ideological rout all over in Europe. They may have been successful in pushing through some socially liberal issues like gay marriage, but they hollowed out ideologically. They fully subscribed to the liberal-conservative paradigm. As you can see from the example of Labour (the Blarite factions), the left all over Europe moved to the right in the last 50 years, the left essentially… Read more »
Webber
Guest

I would say you are more than a little delusional if you think the left is going to “fail” more than the right in elections outside Hungary.

Sure, the left loses sometimes. So what? Sometimes it wins (Greece). So what?

Whoever is in power will be in trouble sooner or later. That is democracy. Those in power eventually lose.

Trying to extrapolate some collapse of the left from Hungary’s politics… Hello, this is earth speaking – Hungary, can you hear us?

You are not delusional, you are completely insane if you believe Orban is thought of as a role model by ANY serious politician in Europe not on the extreme right (and they don’t count as serious in my book).

Guest

The funny side of this:
Some Hungarian right wingers even consider Mrs Merkel a “leftist” – well she is in a coalition with the Social Democrats.
And it’s surely true that all parties are having difficulties positioning themselves – on things like gay marriage, abortions e g.
Are you already “left” if you are for it/accept it?
And the Green agenda?

Totally OT (or not?):

In Cologne today someone with a knife attacked Mrs Reker, candidate for tomorrow’s election of a new mayor.
She is supported by: The CDU, the Liberals (FDP) and the Greens …
Would that be possible in Hungary?

Robi
Guest
We are talking about different things apparently. Nowhere did I say that Orban is a role model. Where did you even get that from? Although I think he is secretly envied in a way in the west (his complete control over his domain and ability to survive for long given his corruption, boorishness etc.), more importantly many of the things he says are popular not only in Hungary but also in the west. What I said was – based on a recent western example, that is the Labour Party – that the left is weak ideologically and also its representatives seem to have lost their mojo, the mainstream left is full of people who have no ambitions, vision, devotion to ‘the cause’, who are lazy, who just don’t really care. They are seen as soft in an era when toughness is valued. Just because the pendulum swings back from time to time doesn’t mean that the left is strong (just to add, in Poland, Croatia or Romania the right is about to win too). A mainstream people’s party of any denomination should be stronger and in a better shape than just hoping for the ‘inevitable’ swing back. I would suggest… Read more »
Webber
Guest

Paradoxically, since the 2008 crisis, I think the left has just begun to find itself again. Talking about economic inequality now is not seen as boring. It was considered stupid or nutty before. Populist things such as the occupy movement are aided by critique of certain aspects of capitalism coming from respectable economists now. Before 2008, nobody would have noticed Piketty’s work. Now he is the rage. I don’t think the neo-leftist movements are a flash in the pan. I think they have hit on something that the mainstream right can’t deal with.

So, I wouldn’t write of the left any more.

That said, the right still has certain strong points as well.

Sorry for misunderstanding your position on Hungary.

Webber
Guest

P.S. I never believe newspapers’ predictions so far ahead of an election. They (incl. Guardian) predicted the current govt. of Greece would fall, sooner rather than later. They were wrong on that point, as on so many others (not that I’m a great fan of that govt. – don’t get me wrong).

Guest

Re: ‘Against people like these, an Orban or a Putin will always win’

Perhaps. But I’d say the history of political life shows that even the big dogs are always protecting their position and turf. Ironically the most powerful are the most fearful.

Vic and Vlad always sleep with one eye open. Now if the opposition against Fidesz could disturb their already ragged sleep well things can change.

Penne
Guest

Yes I do feel that an opposition could defeat Orban – but not this “existing leftist opposition”, it is fundamentally incapable of dong anything consequential.

Putin however is impossible to defeat, he is just a symbol of the military-siloviki state. I think Russia has become a bit like Pakistan. It’s not really a state so much as a military-intelligence network with nukes which also happens to own a territory.

Guest

Is this a typical Hungarian trait? All you right wingers (?) showing the same conviction:

The left is impotent …
Orbán is invincible …
A kind of mantra?

Spectator
Guest

You may even consider my variation of the title:

“THE PERFECT CRIME MINISTER” – of Hungary, of course…

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