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PM Orbán’s ’State of the Nation’ address

March 2nd, 2015

Discussing the Prime Minister’s annual speech to his followers, commentators wonder if his exhortation to work and fight harder will be sufficient to reinvigorate the increasingly sluggish Fidesz electorate, which, despite the defeat of a pro-government candidate in last week’s by-election, is still incomparably stronger than its competitors.

In its weekend front page editorial, Népszabadság believes that the “ugliest blow” to the Prime Minister came from a friendly political analyst, Gábor G. Fodor who described the key slogan “Civic Hungary” which helped Orbán win the elections in 1998 as a simple marketing product. He had to spend “half an hour petting with the civic public” to repair that damage, Népszabadság writes, but it suggests that the past five year’s “monotonous march towards eastern autocracies and state monopolist capitalism” will weigh more than his words. The left-wing daily quotes Mr Orbán as saying that “individual interest can never prevail over the service of the nation,” and describes this as “the Prime Minister’s funniest sentence”, during which the cameras showed “casino mogul Andy Vajna’s blowsy face”. Népszabadság thinks the speech was fairly tedious, but its closing words – “Good morning Hungarians” were unexpectedly sincere.

In Népszava, György Sebes thinks that the new slogan, “good morning Hungarians” is proof that the Veszprém by-election defeat was a hard blow to the Prime Minister, and that he blew the horn of alarm with some sarcasm in his voice. In other terms, he continues, “he is after all not completely out of touch with reality.” Otherwise Sebes finds the Prime Minister’s diagnosis utterly groundless. He doesn’t believe for instance that Hungary will soon become the front-runner of central Europe again as a result of its new foreign policy and governance built on a Christian Democratic basis, as Mr Orbán claimed. In his reaction to the Veszprém by-election debacle, the Prime Minister called upon his followers to intensify “the struggle”. Sebes contends that he finds life and governance unimaginable without struggle.

On Mandiner, Bence Pintér says the Prime Minister’s diagnosis of Hungary’s successes in the economy and in demographic trends may be contested, but admits that converting debts denominated in foreign currencies was a timely manoeuvre by the government. He interprets the Prime Minister’s sentence about the service of the nation taking priority over individual interests as a hint at the Simicska-affair, which caused widespread unease in the Fidesz camp. Pintér disagrees with the Prime Minister’s answer to the loss of the Veszprém seat, namely that the party and its followers should struggle more vigorously and against no one other than the Socialists. He remarks that the Socialists are utterly unpopular, while the number two party is the radical right-wing Jobbik, whose name was not even mentioned by the Prime Minister. True, the new target group designated by him, namely “hard-working people” are an important segment of the Jobbik constituency. Anyway, Pintér suggests, using the Socialists as a scarecrow will not be sufficient to mobilise a substantial portion of Fidesz’s electorate. There may bemore people around who want peace than those ready to struggle, Mandiner’s analyst suggests.

On Cink, Albert Gazda, on the other hand, doesn’t find the Prime Minister’s approach ineffective. He understands that intellectuals don’t find it convincing, but they were not his target group. Mr Orbán only spoke to his own constituency and his speech was meant to invigorate his people. This is why he indicated who the enemies were and told them that they should endeavour to “win hard-working people” over in order to reverse unfavourable popularity trends. Intellectuals might remark that the new slogan has been copied from Great Britain’s Tories, but that is an argument that will never reach the “target group.” Gazda is convinced that Fidesz will face the next by-election at Tapolca “in a very different mood”.

In Magyar Nemzet, Csaba Lukács quotes the introductory speech by Zoltán Balogh, the Minister of Human Resources who condemned the idea that ‘Civic Hungary’was just a marketing trick. He said they wanted to live in a country where truth is stronger than lies; honesty is more rewarding than connivance and the victors are those who believe in the power of love, honesty and solidarity rather than the representatives of arrogance. Lukács asks how many within and around the government ostensibly neglect the Christian-Civic values of service and humbleness. He admits that Hungary is following the right path as shown by the Prime Minister’s data on the economy and on demographic trends. He also welcomes the Prime Minister’s opinion that “we should tell each other plainly if there is something we really don’t like”, and concludes by warning that the slogan ‘good morning Hungary’ will not be sufficient for the government “to win back public trust apparently evaporating as a result of human weaknesses.”

In Magyar Hírlap, Zsolt Bayer also believes that people have been exhausted by the struggles of the past years and want quiet and improving living standards. But peace will not come, because the adversaries of the government are irreconcilable. Nevertheless, he believes the government should wage its struggle by making fewer mistakes than over the past few months, when it has been “hyperactive.” In Veszprém, many pro-government voters abstained from the election, because “they wanted to signal something”. The message was perhaps that “things are not moving in what they think is the right direction.” While waging a struggle imposed by its adversaries, the government must keep that in mind, Bayer warns.




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