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Duel between secretary of state János Lázár and OTP Bank CEO Sándor Csányi

August 16th, 2013

Left-wing commentators wonder if the verbal confrontation between the Fidesz strongman and the most influential Hungarian businessman implies a deepening rift between Orbán and his former ally.

János Lázár, the state secretary responsible for the Prime Minister’s Office, seen by most commentators as the up-and-coming Fidesz strongman, exchanged angry words in the media with Sándor Csányi, CEO of the largest Hungarian bank, OTP, and one of the richest businessmen in Hungary, with wide ranging agrarian interests. In the latest round of those exchanges, at a press conference covering the freeze on EU funds, Lázár called Csányi a “usurer” who “got fat on forex mortgage loans”. Csányi is a long-time ally of PM Viktor Orbán, but OTP has been hit hard by the special taxes imposed by the government on financial institutions. He announced he would sue Lázár for libel and damages. A day after the clash, however, Csányi – who also heads the Hungarian Football Association– was photographed sitting together with PM Orbán at a football match, exchanging friendly smiles.

Népszava’s editor-in-chief Péter Németh says it requires a lot of courage to call Csányi a usurer – adding in a tongue-in-cheek remark that either Lázár is “a loose cannon” or this move must have been endorsed by Viktor Orbán himself. Németh puts the clash down to the potential political gain in turning on Csányi whose OTP bears most of the forex mortgage loans which have proved such an intractable problem for the government.

Péter Uj in his regular sarcastic Népszabadság column, recapitulates the long fight between Lázár and Csányi since Lázár called Csányi’s OTP an “octopus” about a year ago, and describes the two men as loud-mouthed swaggerers engaged in an ever escalating series of fisticuffs – for the entertainment of the audience. He foresees more exchanges whenever an announcement is due concerning OTP’s business plans or Lázár takes the podium. (Earlier Uj described Lázár’s attack on Csányi as a signal that Fidesz-friendly oligarchs want to take over some of Csányi’s interests.See BudaPost, June 24.)

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