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Excesses of desire

July 1st, 2011

Hungarians love to hate mendacious political elites, and blame them for the difficulties the country has to face. But the source of all our problems runs deeper, says Gábor Bruck, former adviser and PR-director of the liberal Free Democrats (SZDSZ). Lack of sincerity is in the DNA of the Hungarian public, he suggests.

“Something is wrong with this country. We have a cultural deficit we cannot get rid of,” says Bruck in an interview in the left-leaning Magyar Narancs weekly. He believes Hungarians elect politicians who are not sincere because they are not sincere themselves. “We have insisted for decades that health care is free – then we pay 20,000 forint bribes to doctors in order to get to the top of waiting lists.”

Bruck acknowledges that he does not understand why people prefer not to face reality, but tries to find an explanation in history. “Hungary has been led by authoritarian rulers for centuries.” The general atmosphere favours unscrupulous politicians who have no qualms about making highly unrealistic promises. “Politics cannot be significantly better than the country itself”, he supposes.

It is not at all surprising that in such an environment only authoritarian and demagogic politicians can be successful. Bruck also remarks that since 1989 the key for electoral victory has not been a clear political vision, but the presence of an authoritarian leader.

The question arises, of course, whether he knew all this when he was campaign chief for  the Free Democrats. He admits that he was no better than today’s campaign managers, and does not deny having often lied:  “An excessive will to win lies behind manipulation and demagoguery. It is difficult to get rid of that.”

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