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WikiLeaks scandal touches Hungarian PM

September 9th, 2011

A debate has erupted in the Hungarian media after it was revealed that PM Viktor Orbán told American diplomats in 2006 (while in opposition) that his campaign promises should be “ignored”. The right wing press believes that the case has been  blown out of all proportion by the left wing media, in order to divert public attention from an alleged corruption and misuse of office case involving the former Socialist PM Ferenc Gyurcsány.

In an editorial in Magyar Hírlap, Gyula T. Máté believes that by “screaming ‘stop-thief’,” at Orbán, the left wing media want to distract public attention from Gyurcsány’s case.

On Tuesday, a Parliamentary committee proposed lifting the immunity of the former Prime Minister in connection with his alleged involvement in a controversial casino project near Sukoró in central Hungary. )

The pro-government daily stresses that Ferenc Gyurcsány’s infamous speech in Őszöd in 2006 (in which the then PM told Socialist deputies, behind closed doors, that he and his party had lied ‘morning, afternoon and evening’ to win the elections) cannot be compared to Orbán’s words from the same period, as cited by WikiLeaks.  (The American ambassador reported Orbán as saying “You should ignore what I am saying in order to get elected.”)

“There is a world of difference between saying ‘I will not be able to keep my election promises’ and confessing, as Prime Minister, ‘I’m sorry, I f…d up the country’,” – writes the right wing commentator.

Gyula T. Máté believes the Socialists are well aware that Orbán made no Őszöd speech, but “while people are trying to digest this story, they will not concentrate on what is happening to Gyurcsány, the hero of the left.”

The left wing daily Népszava follows a very different approach. In his commentary,  Jenő Veress claims that Orbán tricked his voters to get elected, yet instead of apologising, he shows “no signs of shame, not the slightest reddening of the cheeks” (in telling a press conference that he still believes he should be judged according to his deeds, rather than his words). Veress also suggests that in fact, there are no deeds to speak of (effective crisis management, that is) on the part of the government or Orbán himself.

In his editorial in Népszabadság, Róbert Friss contends that American diplomats drew impartial portraits of Hungarian politicians. And in Friss’s view, Orbán’s deeds are in any case even worse than his words: “If they were actually only to concentrate on his actions in office, the consequences might be gloomy indeed.”

The leaked diplomatic papers also contain embarrassing details about politicians on the left. Examples include remarks by the former Liberal (SZDSZ) Party chairman and former Minister of Economy János Kóka to the US ambassador, in which he says he was asked by PM Gyurcsány to stop cutting back motorway building tariffs (motorway building companies were thought to be among the main sources of illegal party financing).