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Government’s annual balance tilting towards red

December 22nd, 2014

Commentators across the political spectrum agree that after three consecutive easy electoral victories this year, the government is now under unexpected pressure. In their last issues before the end of the year, the weeklies tend to believe that the governing forces owe their difficulties to their own mistakes, although foreign pressure is also being mentioned among the causes.

In his Heti Válasz editorial, Gábor Borókai believes that the government should consult experts and the public more often before taking controversial decisions. During the past four years it often took swift measures in order to avert a financial crisis and reshape a series of public institutions. Macroeconomic indicators have greatly improved as a result and the population expressed its approval by re-electing Fidesz with a two thirds majority in parliament, then giving it a sweeping lead in the elections for the European Parliament and the in local councils. Borókai doesn’t deny that further reforms may be necessary, but warns that under normal conditions the king of swift decision-making that can prove fruitful in emergency situations may easily backfire. He quotes Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who told journalists recently that “the logic of consultation” was crucial in politics. “Words and deeds have been ill-synchronised,” the pro-government pundit remarks. A series of hasty decisions did not express the ”logic of consultations” mentioned by the Prime Minister, including the failed Internet tax, the idea pf compulsory drop tests of politicians and journalists as well as motorway tolls extended to city beltways. The public, Borókai warns, feels worse and worse. Preparing for Christmas is a good opportunity to learn and pay attention to each other, Borókai concludes.


In Figyelő, editor Gábor Lambert believes the Fidesz government is making too many enemies. This is what makes its system more unstable than it used to be when macroeconomic indicators were in the negative, public debt was peaking, GDP was falling and employment was among the lowest in Europe. Now all these indicators have improved, and even pessimistic observers acknowledge that GDP growth next year will be over 2% after having exceeded the 3% level this year. One of the reasons however was a series of measures cutting the expenditures of households at the expense of multinational retail chains and public utility providers. The question is what those foreign investors will be doing in the future. In a hint at János Lázár, the Cabinet Minister in charge of the Prime Minister’s office, the author finds it unusual that a politician should concentrate an enormous amount of decision competences into his own hands. On the one hand he managed to increase the intensity of the EU payments for community subsidised programs, on the other hand he will become a government within the government with piles of files requiring decisions on his desk until one day they might crumble and then a new wave of reorganisation will become necessary. Lambert also believes that there should have been more consultation about the agreement with Russia on the extension of the Paks nuclear power station. All in all, while it was reorganising political institutions, the government was facing a discredited and unpopular opposition, while with its economic the scenario it is facing former comrades in arms, he remarks hinting at critics within Fidesz who criticise leading personalities for “showing off” with their wealth. In addition, foreign investors may also become diffident. Lambert also criticises the government for “gluing itself to the Merkel-Putin axis” as well as for what he calls its “catastrophic foreign policy rhetoric”. Lambert admits that as three consecutive elections have proved; there is no viable political alternative to the present government. However, in the second half of the 1980s there were many people who had a very similar outlook of the future, when they joined the Communist Party during its last years of reign.


In Magyar Narancs, Balázs Váradi thinks Hungary is isolating itself within the Western alliance which might prove fatal for the ruling party. He admits that NATO is not overly sensitive about democracy when it’s about staunch allies, like Greece used to be under the military dictatorship in the 60s and the 70s. But if Hungary will lead a spectacularly pro-Russian foreign policy, it may risk tough sanctions. Conflicts may emerge even within the European Union which would be catastrophic, since Hungary’s economy is one of the most open ones in Europe with Western democracies accounting for the overwhelming majority of exports and imports. All this doesn’t mean, he continues that the government will fall one of these days. NATO aircraft carriers will not pull up along the Danube, nor will the European Union suspended Hungary’s membership, nor will the chairman of the Christian Democratic party Zsolt Semjén be excommunicated by the Pope. But Hungary is no Moldavia and no Georgia and the Western democracies will slowly but steadily increase the pressure. However, the liberal analyst remarks, nobody will fight the battle “instead of us”. He also mentions that what comes after the present government may prove not to be any better.


In Demokrata, András Bencsik also believes that to the United States might destabilise the present government in Hungary. He even fears that “a bloody coup or at least disturbances with cars turned upside down, stones this thrown, shop windows broken and the like” could be organised “with the help of US secret services”. But he considers that an improbable scenario, for as he puts it “we are living in peace”. However, there is the lot of media fuss, he continues, around “a few unusually talented Fidesz people who have got rich”, because people tend to be envious as long as welfare is not pervasive. This is why the last month of the year “has suddenly turned sour and tainted with fear”. For this very reason, he reassures his readers, he and the other organisers of the pro-government peace marches of the past would marge again if necessary and “will defend Hungary again.”


In Magyar Hírlap, János Zila warns the government against taking the demonstrations of the past weeks to easily. It would be a mistake, the pro-government commentator believes, to expect the government to force shortly, but also to believe that nothing has happened. Amid the sudden decline of the government’s popularity in the polls, Fidesz is facing several challenges. One coming from abroad, mainly from the American Embassy and American politicians, which is important because they represent the Western world Hungarians longed for decades to belong to. Another important actor is RTL Klub television, which has turned sharply critical of the government since the introduction of the advertisement tax last summer. Finally there is mass of disparate groups of people who have organised anti-government demonstrations and who apart from criticising the government are also critical of the opposition. Fidesz is lucky not to have among its opponents an opposition party capable of integrating this discontent. The next elections will take place in 2018 and in the meantime the government side must do something in order to halt or at least slow down the decline in its approval rate. If it will manage to prevent negative patterns from “burning into the minds of the voters”, then it may still reconquer the support it has lost, Zila concludes.


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