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The PM’s new rhetoric

June 8th, 2015
Conservatives welcome a promise by the Prime Minister to adopt a new, more conciliatory attitude, while left-wing observers call it a sham.

Analysing the Prime Minister’s assessment of his five years in government (see BudaPost, June 1) in his weekly Heti Válasz editorial, Gábor Borókai says Hungary is witnessing “a regime change in rhetoric”, meaning that Mr Orbán is finally heeding the voice of his moderate supporters. By listing his new guiding principles, namely “attentiveness, trust, the European family” and the like, Borókai believes the Prime Minister has followed the line moderates have been advising throughout the past year. Either he has yielded to their pressure, or he was won over by Fidesz’s falling poll results, the commentator suggests. He does not claim to know which is correct, but is convinced that words must now be turned into policies. What he deems indispensable is that the country’s leaders should tolerate criticism and refrain from propaganda, except in electoral campaigns. He admits that the Prime Minister has been successful in rescuing the country from financial crisis during his first four years in government, but believes that the last 12 months should now be put aside, and eyes should turn towards the future – in the new spirit outlined by Mr Orbán. “Only, this time in deeds, too”.

In 168 óra, Tamás Mészáros dismisses the idea that the Prime Minister’s “new attractive words” be interpreted at face value as signs of moderation and reconciliation. If Mr Orbán had really changed his mind and was indeed intent on proving his “attentiveness”, he should have announced the removal of a series of “unintelligent and harmful” laws and regulations. including the “restoration of the independence” of public institutions and services and the “implementation of European constitutional norms.” He concludes that the novelties so readily hailed by conservatives were just hollow rhetorical devices, aimed at making it easier for his supporters to forget about ”the vileness of his governance”. In his final remark, Mészáros hopes that the “accumulated dirt of the past five years cannot be laundered from social memory.”

In Népszava, former Socialist Party Chairperson Ildikó Lendvai reads the Prime Minister’s speech as harbinger of an era that will be characterised by alternating exercises of power politics and conciliatory gestures. She believes Mr Orbán wants to convey the image of an attentive leader, but feels regularly compelled to act as a hardliner. She thinks the reason is that he has the radical Jobbik party on his heels. The far right party has recently been playing a more moderate tune, and threatens to bite into the core Fidesz constituency, Lendvai believes. It is against this background that she thinks Mr Orbán has to  sound both moderate and radical at the same time. She explains the Prime Minister’s new rhetoric as an attempt to show to vacillating voters that he can deliver everything they might expect from Jobbik, but in a more civilised and sophisticated fashion.

On Mos Maiorum, Rudols Rezsőházy, a professor emeritus of the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium thinks the current period requires moderation, rather than radicalism. Weighty national leaders are often compared to either Lajos Kossuth, the leading figure of Hungary’s revolt against Austrian rule in 1848-49 or Ferenc Deák, the architect of the 1867 compromise with Austria, he remarks. Mr Orbán’s character is more similar to Kossuth’s, he continues and admits that the past 25 years required such a character in demolishing the structures of the previous communist régime. However, Hungary is now facing a new challenge, to create a welfare society, which requires character traits more reminiscent of Ferenc Deák, he argues. Mr Orbán is now entering an age when people can easily shed their youthful radicalism and adopt more conciliatory attitudes. He suggests that such a change is also necessary in Hungary’s foreign policy, where new balances should be found between representing the national interest and European solidarity. By announcing a new policy centred around “attentiveness rather than power”, Rezsőházy concludes, the Prime Minister has promised “more Deák and less Kossuth”. Moderates, he says, are duty-bound to keep him to his word.