Left-wing dailies accuse Mr Orbán of lying about the harsh conditions the IMF has allegedly set to start negotiations about a standby credit line for Hungary. Pro-government dailies, on the other hand, defend the Prime Minister’s resolve not to give in to IMF dictates and to prepare an alternative proposal.
On Thursday, August 6th Magyar Nemzet, the main pro-government daily published a list with a number of severe austerity measures allegedly required by the IMF before credit line talks can start later this autumn. Viktor Orbán told a meeting of Fidesz MPs that the list was basically authentic and said in a video message on his Facebook page that under those conditions there could be no credit line agreement at all. Instead, the government would submit an alternative proposal to the negotiating partners. The conditions he refused to accept included lowering of pensions and child benefits, raising the personal income tax, introducing a real estate tax, raising the retirement age, rolling back bureaucracy and „giving money to the banks”. On Friday, the Népszabadság front page headline insisted that there are no such IMF demands. On the same morning, Mr Orbán told Hungarian (Public) Radio that the demands were formulated in a letter sent by the staff of the European Commission to the economy and finance ministers (ECOFIN) of the Union.
Friday’s newspapers still assumed that Mr Orbán was talking about an IMF document, and in its front page editorial, Népszabadság likens the Prime Minister to an embezzler. The paper describes Mr Orbán’s appearance on his Facebook video as „that of a conman with a tormented expression on his face”. The authors openly accuse the Prime Minister of lying, since they assert „not a half of (what he said) is true”. Népszabadság also describes government propaganda as an attempt to „sell their low grade political detergent”.
Népszava’s editorial calls Orbán’s announcement „a lie to cover up lies”. Editor-in-chief Péter Németh says Orbán’s „bluff” serves simply to shift the agenda away from the Azeri scandal and demonize the IMF. „Are we really so stupid”, he asks, recalling former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány’s ominous “we have been lying” speech in 2006, „that we only take to the streets if Gyurcsány’s speech is televised?” It might be wishful thinking, he concludes, but „as the government stumbles on, heaping lies upon lies, the time will come when Orbán falls flat on his face”.
In his Magyar Nemzet editorial, Tamás Nánási argues that if the measures published by his newspaper are indeed the demands of IMF then no agreement is possible, and not simply because Orbán Viktor promised so in his Facebook message, but because introducing such austerity measures would be tantamount to certain electoral defeat in 2014. Orbán „will not play the part of Bajnai’s puppet-government”, he says, recalling that when Hungary had to introduce severe expenditure cuts in 2009 under an IMF loan agreement, Mr Gyurcsány was followed as prime minister by his former Minister of the Economy, Gordon Bajnai, who ran the country at the head of “a government of experts” until the elections in 2010. Perhaps the government has found the solution to the problems, he muses, and Mr Orbán’s speech in parliament scheduled for Monday will reveal the details.
In Magyar Hírlap, Zsolt Bayer believes “the scenario is clear” – after an IMF agreement, MSZP representatives will loudly condemn the government for letting pensioners down. It is highly probable, Bayer says, that no IMF agreement will be concluded under such conditions as it would „question the very existence of the government and the governing parties”. The Hungarian right, he claims, is there to prevent „this” going on, while the left is there to make sure it does. In the final analysis, he adds, all this boils down to the doom of a West “that only cares for the present”, for “in the future there will be no place for such lists, or the IMF”, Bayer concludes.