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Mixed reactions to Orbán’s ‘state of the nation’ address

February 9th, 2012

While left wing commentators see the PM’s speech as an act of political PR and miss a sense of dynamism in his words, their right wing counterparts view the PM’s address on Tuesday as an expression of optimism. Bloggers agree that this was Viktor Orbán’s most pragmatic speech in years.

In his state of the nation speech, PM Viktor Orbán declared that the government has reached a milestone, that Hungary now stands on new foundations, and he called the changes his government has carried out irreversible. Mr Orbán defended the controversial measures of the past 18 months, including crisis taxes and the repayment scheme for foreign-exchange mortgage-holders. He admitted that these were not “the most elegant steps of his life,” but said they were of the utmost importance to keep the country afloat. He said Hungary must maintain a flat personal income tax, in order to protect the middle classes. And he described his own position towards the outside world as a sober, centrist one, in contrast to the ‘subservient’ approach of the left-wing opposition, as well as to the ‘unrealistic demands’ put forward by the extreme right wing.

In Népszabadság, Ákos Tóth misses any real power or novelty in the speech, and describes the set-up, the guests, and the smiles as all too familiar and boring. The left-wing daily remarks that President Pál Schmitt (accused of plagiarism – see BudaPost, January 16th/)missed the event.

In another left wing daily, Népszava, János Dési compares Viktor Orbán to former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and to his Hungarian counterpart, János Kádár – who both appeared very pleased with their policies, and kept lying till the very last moment. For the past few years, the PM’s “so called ‘state of the nation’ speech has been nothing more than political PR delivered to enthusiastic followers,” – writes the columnist, and reiterates the concluding sentence of his regular commentaries: „Orbán must go”.

In Magyar Nemzet, Zsuzsanna Körmendy firmly disagrees, calls the speech ‘optimistic’ and quotes Viktor Orbán who pointed out that last year alone, the prime ministers of 13 EU member states had to resign. “Viktor Orbán has never been good at giving pessimistic speeches,” – notes the pro-government commentator. In a passing reference to the criticism to which Hungary is subject, the columnist says “our world is colder and number than it should be,” and concludes that “the country stands by its Prime Minister.”

In Magyar Hírlap, Ferenc Sinkovics believes that this was not a speech of regret and subservience, but a clear statement that Hungary is following her own course. The columnist praises the speech for its accent on traditional values, such as the prestige of work, family and fidelity.

In Index.hu, László Szily describes Viktor Orbán’s attitude as firm but not aggressive, serious but not sullen, sometimes funny but not fooling around. In terms of substance, however, the columnist contends that the PM spoke as if the past 18 months had never happened.

In the blogosphere, moderate conservative blogger, Véleményvezér believes that this was one of the best speeches by the PM in years. He finds Viktor Orbán’s speech pragmatic, unusually self-critical and providing a clear description of his strategy when explaining to the middle classes that without old age pensioners, it is impossible to win elections. Véleményvezér does not however buy the Prime Minister’s description of the past eighteen months as a consistent series of measures that have improved the country’s financial standing.

In Mandiner, Gellért Rajcsányi finds that Viktor Orbán was short and to the point when he summarized the main pillars of his policy. “His most loyal supporters as well as his fiercest enemies have to admit that the hardships of the past few months have not taken their toll on Mr Orbán,”  writes the moderate right wing blogger, and concludes that one can safely say that Viktor Orbán will keep his seat as Hungary’s Prime Minister.