György Matolcsy, a headache for Viktor Orbán

In the last few weeks György Matolcsy, chairman of Hungary’s central bank, appeared before parliament twice, and his performances there have been the butt of jokes.

The Hungarian National Bank is supposed to be an independent entity in the sense that its chairman cannot be instructed either by the government or by parliament as far as its monetary policy is concerned. Parliament can, however, exercise a supervisory function over the bank’s activities. Given the recent scandals surrounding the Hungarian National Bank, Matolcsy was required to answer questions from the floor.

On both May 17 and June 13 Matolcsy was asked about the details of the bank’s foundations and the billions these foundations either lent or gave away to Matolcsy’s friends and family members. On both occasions, MSZP’s Gergely Bárándy posed the questions, questions that Matolcsy either couldn’t answer or refused to answer. He simply brushed them aside and repeated three times: “Sham! Sham! Sham!” He declared that anyone who attacks him and the National Bank is doing great harm to the Hungarian currency. In return, Bárándy called him a liar. A few days later the Hungarian National Bank’s press department announced that Chairman Matolcsy is suing Bárándy for slander.

György Matolcsy at his appearance in the parliament on May 17 / MTI / Photo: Tibor Illyés

György Matolcsy at his appearance in parliament on May 17 / MTI / Photo: Tibor Illyés

This first performance was followed by a second, when again the opposition pressed Matolcsy regarding the money that was passed to the small bank of Tamás Szemerey, who happens to be Matolcsy’s first cousin. MSZP members of parliament also wanted to know what Szemerey’s wife was doing on the board of one the central bank’s foundations.

Matolcsy’s answer was curious to say the least. He has many cousins who have not received any money from the Hungarian National Bank. For example, László Trócsányi, the current minister of justice, is also a cousin through the Darányi and Héjjas families. Moreover, Márton Kasnyik, a journalist at 444.hu who is very critical of him, is also a cousin. Trócsányi, “although he greatly admires the bank chairman,” rushed to correct the record. He is in no way related to Matolcsy, he said, although Matolcsy had earlier claimed that the information about the family ties came from Trócsányi himself. As for Kasnyik, Matolcsy’s claim is far-fetched. Their last common ancestor lived sometime in the eighteenth century.

Bárándy didn’t stop at family ties. He also asked the bank chairman about numerology. He wanted to know whether it is true that Matolcsy has something against the number 8, and whether it is true that he banished the offending number both inside and outside of the bank. No more Room 8 inside. And the official address of the bank was changed from Szabadság tér 8-9 to Szabadság tér 9. Also, Bárándy wanted to know whether it is true that only people who were born on August 20, 1984 can work in the secretariat of the bank. Matolcsy’s reaction was one of great indignation. But instead of denying the rumors, he simply insisted that his antagonists are concocting conspiracy theories against him.

It was at this point that people began to question the mental competence of the bank chairman, including Gergely Bárándy himself who expressed his doubts about Matolcsy’s mental state on ATV’s Egyenes beszéd (Straight Talk).

Before I return to Matolcsy’s more serious problems, let me insert a bit of family history here. The Matolcsy genealogy was thoroughly researched by a relative, and the almost 100-page family tree is quite impressive. Students of history know the Matolcsy name mainly because of Mátyás Matolcsy (1905-1953), apparently a brilliant economist who ended up as a far-right politician in the 1930s and 1940s. He became a member of the Arrow Cross party and in 1946 received a ten-year jail sentence. He died in jail. Mátyás is only a distant relative of György.

It is a mystery why Matolcsy felt compelled to bring up the Darányi and Héjjas families. Kálmán Darányi, prime minister of Hungary between 1936 and 1938, is associated with the radical right in Hungarian politics, especially during the second half of his premiership when he appointed Germanophile politicians to his cabinet and had a hand in the preparation of the First Anti-Jewish Law. As for the Héjjas family, Iván Héjjas is synonymous with the White Terror. While Pál Prónay was in charge of the summary executions in Transdanubia, Héjjas was at the helm in the territories between the Danube and the Tisza rivers. Search me why a sane man would brag about such a lineage in connection with an alleged relative who turned out not to be a relative at all.

Turning back to the pressure being brought to bear on Matolcsy. After two years of wrangling in court, the Hungarian National Bank was ordered to release a study Századvég did for the bank for the modest sum of 1.8 billion forints. It turned out that the study the bank received had nothing whatsoever to do with the topic Századvég was supposed to analyze. It was, it seems, just another instance of money being laundered through Századvég with the assistance, in this case, of the National Bank.

Yesterday Matolcsy received a letter from Mario Draghi, chairman of the European Central Bank, who explained again that “Article 123 TFEU prohibits the ECB and national central banks from purchasing public debt instruments directly on the primary market.” In brief, the Hungarian central bank cannot invest in government bonds even if they are purchased on the primary market by its foundations.

And one final note. There are people of some importance in the Fidesz ranks who have reservations about Matolcsy’s activities. One is Gergely Gulyás, one of Orbán’s deputies, who is usually an eloquent defender of everything the Orbán government does. So when he says that “there have been some questionable financial decisions by the foundations,” it must mean that not all the Fidesz bigwigs support Matolcsy, that they are worried about the troubles his activities have brought to the party. Further proof that Gulyás must have reservations about the increasingly shady affairs of the government and other Fidesz-controlled institutions like the prosecutor’s office or the National Bank is that in a recent interview he admitted that several times he had toyed with the idea of leaving politics altogether. Indeed, this articulate, smart, always impeccably dressed “young gentleman,” coming from the upper middle class of the Buda bourgeoisie (budai úri fiú), simply doesn’t fit in with the likes of the brutish Szilárd Németh, his fellow deputy chairman of Fidesz. He comes across as someone who, in a different setting, would be a traditional conservative, and a conservative could never feel entirely at home in Fidesz.

June 16, 2016
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Guest

London Calling!

“A few days later the Hungarian National Bank’s press department announced that Chairman Matolcsy is suing Bárándy for slander.”

In the English Parliament no one can be prosecuted foranything they say under ‘Parliamentary Priviledge’ – thought to be the origin of “come outside and say that!” issued as a threat.

It’s needed to ensure anyone appearing can speak the truth without fear of prosecution.

So much of ‘The Mother of all Parliaments’ has been copied – that it is a surprise that M8tolcsy issued this threat – unless he spoke outside Imre Steindl’s impressive pile (influenced by the Mother of all Parliaments!).

(Near the Lancid Hid – designed and built by the British – with Hungarian workers!)

This so-called parliamentary debate is a farce 99% of the time – but by ‘requesting’ Mad M8tolcsy to appear then he is on record as being ‘accountable’ to parliament with the official record (Hansard – is the timeless English mechanism – does Hungary have the same?) recording the proceedings.

A valuable document for future possible prosecutions when the Orban government individually try to distance themselves from Mad M8tolcsy’s excesses.

PALIKA
Guest

Calling someone a liar is unhelpful in a civilised discussion. In the UK (as opposed to your English) Parliament it is regarded as “unparliamentary” and the Speaker will sanction any user of the term. The ability to use that, or for that matter similar abusive terms does not serve the interests of freedom, quite the contrary.
Thank you Eva for this piece. It does however demonstrate that contrary to the propaganda Parliament in Hungary can and on this occasion did perform a useful constitutional function.

webber
Guest
PALIKA
Guest

Webber. You can call him whatever you like. The use of abusive expressions qualify the user not the subject. Abuse soon turns to intimidation and restricts the freedom of speech and deprives the debate of any useful value.

Guest

Yes webber if a ‘liar’ is who you are dealing with then letting them know is not abusive at all. Sometimes the truth hurts.

Jonathan Aitkin famously made the sword of truth speech:

“If it falls to me to start a fight to cut out the cancer of bent and twisted journalism in our country with the simple sword of truth and the trusty shield of British fair play, so be it. I am ready for the fight. The fight against falsehood and those who peddle it.”

See how eloquently the British can lie?

M8tolscy’s “Sham sham sham” must have some sort of ‘liar’ connotation?

Hardly eloquent!

But my Hungarian let’s me down here.

Do you think he will apply for witness protection too?

Guest

Oops!

Guest

Don’t you just love that picture Eva used?

The Hungarian press can self-censor all they like – and MTI can censor, edit and ‘persuade’ but the Hungarian press can’t yet ‘edit’ facial expressions yet!

I know they’ve used PhotoShop to remove whole people!

But Mad György M8tolcsy sure looks anxious!

webber
Guest
Palika. You are speaking a lot of nonsense again. You have, for the second time, shown a lack of knowledge of the extent of freedom of speech in the United States and the United Kingdom. Would you you say American and British democracies “don’t work”? I’d say they do, and have been working quite well for a couple of centuries now. The proof? In both countries, governments are regularly voted out of office. So, for your information, in the two oldest democracies in the world, the United States and the United Kingdom, one can call another person who lies a liar openly and in public, without fear. In the US you can call a Senator a liar on the floor of the Senate (as I’ve shown above). In the UK, you are correct, you may not use such language in Parliament, but outside Parliament an MP can even call the Prime Minister a liar, if that is what she sincerely believes about him – even an MP from the PM’s own party – and she can do that without fear of prosecution. For example: “Conservative MP Nadine Dorries: ‘Liar’ David Cameron must be replaced as Tory leader” What you apparently… Read more »
webber
Guest
Guest

“I agree with webber

PALIKA
Guest

I never said you could not call someone a liar. It should be avoided though. The House of Commons rules do not allow it.

Shouting abuse and threats at your opponents may give you a great feeling particularly if the shouter is emotionally and/or intellectually retarded or drunk.

Unfortunately we are witnessing today the likely consequence of a debate having been inflamed by the rhetoric employed by people who feel justified in saying anything they like because they strongly believe that they are right and/or because it is their patriotic duty to do so. The MP Mrs Cox is dead. At least today for today we have silence in the manic campaign in the UK about the EU that PM Cameron let lose on us. Unfortunately he forgot to think and acted because he thought it was the right thing to call a referendum. I am pretty sure Mrs Cox’s children and husband will not thank him.

Calling Cameron a liar is unhelpful especially as he is not. He is a very poor prime minister which is probably worse. However that suggestion is more difficult to articulate if the audience is the prejudiced or the ignorant.

webber
Guest

How did you feel about the widely-used term Bliar?
He was a liar. Weapons of mass destruction, and all that.

Joe Simon
Guest

Matolcsy is rightly scrutinized and attacked, as it should be in a democratic society. One can only wish that Alan Greenspan had been put through a similar rigorous questioning as Chairman of the Federal Reserve. After all, he single handedly undermined the US economy, causing a world financial crisis. “You could have, you should have, but you did not”, that was all he got from one single US Senator.
I am constantly amazed by the daily critical stand of the Hungarian press here regarding public issues. Compare this to the entertainment news as practised by CNN and others in the US.

Jean P.
Guest

How much money did Greenspan take from the till and give to his family and friends?

webber
Guest

Joe Simon, which critical Hungarian press are you referring to? Which do you like?

Observer
Guest

COME on Joe Troll,
How can u even compare the institutionalised, total corruption of the orban regime to any OECD country.

In fact Parliament did nothing in this case as well – the clownish / mental performance did not even touch on questions.

Observer
Guest

@charlie
“the Orban government individually try to distance themselves from Mad M8tolcsy’s excesses.”
Matolcsy, and the other crooks, ARE the orban regime, only he has a mental condition as well. Which, obviously doesn’t temper his bout of grand robbery.

I bet that Mad M will be placed in another couchy position a bit later.

Guest

Yes, you are right. I should have said “when they try to distance themselves from each other”.

Crooks to the last.

webber
Guest

An excellent book by an American Senator:
comment image
I think a Hungarian should write something similar about Fidesz people.

Member

What is this “Mad Matolcsy” sloganeering? Are we imitating Trump’s “Lying Hilary” antics? I loathe Matolcsy and Orban and their shameful depredations as much as the rest of you but copping memes from Trump is a sign of losing the battle. Ditto for the oft aired sentiment that the democratic opposition should “get smart,” like Fidik. The idea is to bring your enemy to justice, not to emulate him.

Guest

I’ve been using this long before I tuned into ‘Trump’

Guest

My realisation that he is mad stems from the CNN interview with ‘Richard’ – where he was widely ridiculed as a mad ‘fairy’.

NB – I have not represented him as a troll though………

Guest

And nor am I a sickeningly state-the-bleedin’- obvious Pious Palinka!

PALIKA
Guest

If it is so obvious follow the advice.

Guest

Re: ‘The idea is to bring your enemy to justice, not to emulate him’

For sure. Yet there is so much grease on law-breakers that the resulting slime provides them a sort of protection from prosecution. And as to the latter that also is a question mark as to some of its personnel and how they interpret the role of their high and extremely responsible position. To say the least the country has alot of problems there. Where to start?

PALIKA
Guest
The Kadarist system was based on a set of threats and comprises. The boys in the Kremlin were kept at bay by the implicit threat of the repetition of 1956. The population was kept quiet by a number of measures. There was an implicit threat of Soviet intervention, even direct rule. On the plus side the population enjoyed relative freedom and good life. Travel to the West, freedom from persecution if you did not actively oppose. Wealth was small but there was a network of privileges. There were victims of course and beneficiaries probably in equal numbers and there were overlaps. This was dismantled in 1989. The new regime did not manage to regenerate this although the population would have welcomed it. Hence the popularity of Horn, Medgyessy and for a while Gyurcsany. This was followed by disenchantment and now OV’s Magic Circus. Will it bed down and improve under pressure from inside and from outside? What is the model that would command the support of the population? Who is going to deliver it? EU? It has no experience of direct rule. Even the UK population which is more politically mature is not immune to xenophobic hysteria taking over. Where… Read more »
Observer
Guest

Stevan,
I’ve heard this argument, but it’s beside the point – it’s not emulation but using tools that work, even if the dark side happen to use them too. U can’t fight, let alone win a dirty war in white gloves. The trick is to go clean after you’ve scrubed the dirt away (e.g. from L.C.Sula to the US in post WWII Japan)
A la guere comme a la guere.

webber
Guest

I agree with Observer on this. Moreover, Matolcsy is mad. Why not say it?

Guest

“In this age, the mere example of non-conformity, the mere refusal to bend the knee to custom, is itself a service. Precisely because the tyranny of opinion is such as to make eccentricity a reproach, it is desirable, in order to break through that tyranny, that people should be eccentric. Eccentricity has always abounded when and where strength of character has abounded; and the amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigor, and moral courage which it contained. That so few now dare to be eccentric, marks the chief danger of the time.”
― John Stuart Mill, On Liberty

Wonder if John would do a re-formulation if he ever considered the situation of ‘eccentricity’ in cahoots with tyranny. There’s plenty to mine on the Donau.

Guest

Fascinating how finance works in the country. A few years ago Viktor noted that the individual who would succeed the previous National Bank head would not be an ‘offshore knight’. An allusion to Simor and his shady financial dealings abroad. In hindsight it would look as if ‘Captain’ Orban didn’t need to sail the seven seas in the quest for gelt. He and Matolcsy can do it all right at home on the banks of the Donau. What is seen now in the country is finance done ‘inhouse’ and working with ‘house’ money. How long that can last is the question. I hope people are saving a little bit in their piggy banks.

Observer
Guest

Dictatorships usually work this way – the state purse is used as a private one. The state is “ours” after all, goes the logic; the dupes cheer and pay up.

Guest

That little bit in their piggy banks better not be forints ……

Guest

O/T

Russia’s anti-drug ban won’t be lifted!

Russia won’t be allowed to take part in the Rio Olympics!

Orban’s hero won’t be pleased – won’t be pleased at all!

We’ll have to see if Orban stirs it in the Olympics arena.

…..if Orban tries to get his fellow war-criminal off the hook?

Ha! Ha!.HAaaaaaaaa! HAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Oh! Sto…… HAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa stop pleeeeeeeees ….HAAaaaaaaaaàa ……
Haaaaaaaa. STOPPPP!!!!!……. Haaaaaaaaaaaàaaàaaa…….

i-dea
Guest

If not finance controllers, maybe, the doping detectives can fulfill our hope, and put the Russian tyrants into the dock.

webber
Guest

They’ll never go to trial. You can count on that. If they can get away with what they’ve done in E. Ukraine (and they can), then you can bet they won’t face charges on this. Sure, charges can be brought – but they won’t appear in court, and nobody is going to arrest them, anywhere.

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