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Orbán and Bajnai – two cases of political leadership

August 19th, 2013

A centrist commentator notes that PM Orbán is surprisingly unaware of how awful the lavish support his government has provided to Felcsút – his hometown – looks to most citizens, while a left-wing analyst says Bajnai’s problem is his lack of political awareness.

Popular political analyst Gábor Török describes PM Orbán in his monthly column for Heti Válasz as the most astute political communicator in recent Hungarian history. Whatever one’s opinion of him is, he says, it is obvious that one source of the Prime Minister’s influence and popularity is the ease with which he delivers his “political tales” to less sophisticated audiences. It is therefore all the more peculiar, Török suggests, that the Prime Minister fails to read the message that the development of Felcsút sends to voters. A block away from the family home of the PM a new football stadium is being built for the local team, for which he himself and later his son used to play, with twice as many seats as the whole population of the village. On top of it all, the Felcsút Football Academy is lavishly supported by companies from tax rebates – far in excess of any other junior football clubs. These elements are parts of a story that even the less educated understand – a story that will be easy for the opposition to turn into a political symbol, he concludes. (Four months ago he predicted that Fidesz could easily pay a high price for the tobacco-shop scandal, but party preferences have remained practically unchanged since then. See BudaPost, May 4.)

In the print version of Magyar Narancs, Balázs Böcskei takes issue with those liberal authors who accused Gordon Bajnai, leader of Together-2014 of abandoning liberal principles and capitalism. The critics – former Free Democrats – cannot see, he argues, that the political reality is “a Hungary of workfare and unemployment” where the lofty principles of free market liberalism are hard to grasp and even harder to like. The Socialists have proved unable to increase their constituency (from 11 to 15 per cent of the total electorate) and are mostly concerned with keeping Bajnai at bay, so the leader of Together-2014 has no choice but to reach out to disappointed voters on the left. What Gordon Bajnai lacks, Böcskei argues, is not principles but a political sense and presence. The Free Democrat version of capitalism has no political support in Hungary, says Böcskei, and the little it has can go to those Socialists who have allied themselves with a liberal splinter group of former Free Democrats, following the tradition of former Socialist-Free Democrat coalitions. Bajnai’s alliance with a new type of left – a green and anti-globalist splinter group of the LMP – is an advantage, not a liability, he argues.

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