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Prime Minister on the dikes

June 12th, 2013

A left wing commentator accuses PM Orbán of using the flood to present himself as Hungary’s saviour, while his right-wing colleague deplores what he describes as another outpouring of hatred by the left wing, at home and abroad.

Sándor Révész a leading commentator at Népszabadság characterizes Orbán’s leadership of the flood defence effort, which has been heavily covered in all media, as sheer propaganda. In modern “mass democracies”, he argues, leaders are expected to show up along river banks in times of floods, but the prime minister should basically follow the events from his office, mobilizing resources, overseeing the emergency plan and coordinating efforts. ‘Parading along the dams’ does not help the rescue effort, and takes up valuable time from the people involved in bolstering the dikes, he claims. What is more: the image Orbán tries to project is that of a leader who single-handedly saves the country by issuing orders directly from the site, a strategy that reminds the author of a Bolshevik leadership-cult. He characterizes the Prime Minister with three Latin words: “omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent”, and ends his column paraphrasing a Latin proverb: “omnia vincit amor” (love conquers all). The people, he writes, conquer all.

István Stefka, editor-in-chief of the pro-government Magyar Hírlap claims “professional hate-mongers” who “have been hurting the image of Hungary for three years by spreading false information abroad,” now attack Viktor Orbán for “leading the effort to contain the flood,” by enlisting “foreign supporters such as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”. Stefka claims critics “do not care about people threatened by the flood”, citing a Socialist MP’s statement in parliament that Orbán’s media-documented presence in endangered areas actually hinders the fight against the rising water. Stefka thinks the coordinated effort to control the flood proves all detractors wrong: there is a consensus and a joint effort underway. Orbán – concludes – “has shown extraordinary leadership and political talent by leading the fight in an area that is not his main field of expertise”.

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