Prime Minister dr. Viktor Orbán

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Among my thoughts on politicians I would have had to write about Viktor Orbán as the prime minister of Hungary. Still I had waited long while I was thinking how I could at least partly separate my feelings about him from my general malaise. It probably cannot be done, so for this reason I had decided to stay at the subjective approach.

I met Viktor Orbán and many of his (yet then) friends first in 1988-89. We talked in person very little, I rather sympathized with that circle of youth (István Stumpf, Gábor Fodor, Klára Ungár, László Kövér etc.) to whose company he belonged too. I got in connection with the youth of FIDESZ first when we were organizing the National Council of Hungarian Youth Organizations (MISZOT) replacing KISZ, then in connection with the Századvég newspaper and school of politics, and finally we met in the 1990 Parliament. I was elected to MP from the district of my residence independently of parties as a well-known economist and businessman, but supported by the MDF. In this way I was doing my work on side of the government, while the FIDESZ – with Viktor Orbán – was doing its on side of the opposition. The work between the government and the opposition was not going in a friendly tone even then. Perhaps due to my specific – a bit independent – position I could often talk to the MPs of the opposition even in mutual sympathy. I have pleasant memories of that summer when the youth of the FIDESZ getting together on their favorite resting place, the stairs of the main entrance of the Parliament, invited me to their circles from time to time and raised the idea of my honorary status in the FIDESZ what I received with thanks.

The judgement of the taxi-blockade in the October of 1990 meant the first „mote” in our relationship. I am convinced that the MDF-government was responsible for the development and later the aggravation of the taxi-blockade. I have never identified myself with the blockade itself but it was not the participants who the responsibility rested upon, while seeking for solution was definitely apolitical duty. This way I unavoidably came into antagonism with the government in spite of my status on the side of the government. On the other hand I would have obtained assistance from the opposition upon the logic of politics. But the parties of the opposition, including the SZDSZ and the FIDESZ, found neither their position nor their part in this conflict. While the government was plainly accusing them of responsibility fort this social protest (which had really passed the limits of legality), actually they had nothing to do with either the unleashing of the protest or the calming down of it. Mainly the FIDESZ got into defensive position and instead of politically demonstrating the awkward responsibility of the government they denied the people of the protest to prove they were not responsible for the protest. The reaction of these young people inexperienced in politics was calamitous and showed the lack of preparedness. But even then they were unwilling to change the viewpoint they stated first.

But that time and later also the disagreement meant only difference of opinions to me and it surely had no effect on my judgement of certain politicians of the FIDESZ. However, walking and talking in the lobby of the Parliament I had to notice that our relationship got wounded on the side of the FIDESZ. The next mote was the debate about the budget at the end of the year, where the professional background determining the opinion of the FIDESZ was given by some FIDESZ-politicians who were working in the financial research institute that time, so their way of thinking was equal to backing the opinion of the Ministry of Finance up by research work. This is how it could happen that „unusually” in case of a party of the opposition the FIDESZ declared they would not support any proposal for an amendment which would make the proposal of the government lose balance, while of course they would not vote for the budget itself. This way my critical remarks (besides the proposers of the government) created a conflict between the FIDESZ and me again. But the debate about word fair meant the real break. Among the parties in the Parliament it was the FIDESZ which had pledged itself against the word fair most. The origin of this opinion was again the Pénzügykutató Rt. functioning as the research institute of the Ministry of Finance. As one of the leading orators of the FIDESZ Viktor Orbán introduced his resolution. The jurist politician’s lack of economical preparedness could not be hidden by his (even that time) laudable oratorical talent in this case. It was visible that he was preparing for this speech very hard and he had been sorely tried by the „outcome” of the duel of words between him and me in the Parliament. Following this I had to feel that the former friendship had definitely turned into hostile. This thing was hurting my feeling all time long because what this situation meant to me was the loss of the human and political sympathy of a sympathetic young group. Perhaps Gábor Fodor was the only one who took the stand for the positive human and political relationship.

The next time I could experience that the FIDESZ and Viktor Orbán did not „forget” was when I was preparing for the 1994 elections. Before the elections an alliance, the so-called Liberal Coalition, would have liked to offer a third elective possibility beyond the alternative of the MSZP opposed to the coalition-circles of the MDF obviously getting more and more unpopular. The idea of joining this organization to introduce our possible conceptions of coalition from the political supply had been brought up also in the case of the Köztársaság Party which was led by me and was being organized and getting stronger that time. The new grouping clung to the liberal name and it prevented the joining because it could have induced the Köztársaság Party (which considered ideology as a matter of everybody’s privacy) to explain itself among the members and sympathizers. Finally the Köztársaság Party did not have to decide about it because they let us know in an informal way that Viktor Orbán and the FIDESZ would be members of the alliance only if the Köztársaság Party led by János Palotás did not participate in it. It was a pretty clear allusion of what kind of attitude Viktor Orbán had to the judgement of me.

In the November of 1994 started the state administration to put their undeserved pressure on me, acting illegally even in public. A politician has to prepare himself for situations like this. But according to the unwritten rules of politics the greater political risk is offset by the fact that the infringement of a politician’s lawful rights is also a greater risk for the state administration because while the MPs on side of the government are protected by their own colleagues, the molestation of a public figure not belonging to the government is always followed by the protest and control of the opposition. Well, the risk of publicity had „found” me and the state administration had got under way. What had not occured was the remarks and protest of the parties of the opposition against the evident violations of law which had been legally proved since then. I had to experience that the official violation of law did not offend against the presumed self-interest of the opposition led by Viktor Orbán and this way it would have been against their interest if they had raised their voice against it.

Sometime in 1997 I was talking to Gábor Princz, the president of Postabank. The matter was friendship when I told him that it often worried me when two of my „friends” turned roughly on each other in the exacerbated public life, then they both expected me to declare which of them I would remain loyal to. I have never yielded to the pressure to choose like this. This way I usually succeeded to keep both relationships but I even „lost” both of them a few times. It was true in the sphere of banks too, where I had friendly relationships with the first men of many banks as the leader of VOSZ, while more of them were waging a hard fight with each other as bankers. My friendship with Gábor Princz was generally known too and a few of his rivals held it as a grievance. Most of them had finally acknowledged and also accepted it but there was also a banker who plainly „blackmailed” me that if I did not break off relations with the president of Postabank then he and his bank would break with me and the VOSZ. This latter had happened. Thereupon told me Gábor Princz that it was always easy neither for him. After many years of our friendship he made friends with Viktor Orbán too, because he considered him a determined and ambitious young person and in contradiction to many others he was ready to support his goals with pleasure. He also had to handle the fact in this friendly relationship that Viktor Orbán’s opinion of me was not the same as his judgement. I assured him that I felt no antipathy to this friendship of him. I also used to like Viktor Orbán and perhaps I would still like him now but it was hard to do feeling that the other felt definite antipathy to me. At the time of this talk of us in Szentendre Gábor Princz talked about Viktor Orbán, their meetings and discussions definitely fairly. Nowadays this talk often occurs to me when the ex-„friend” leaves the – undeserved – calumny of this banker declared „public enemy” (what is basically false in my opinion) unanswered. At least I can see as much of a strong character in him (which is still very little to me) as he has not participated in the atmosphere of „all bad things are caused by Postabank” with his own voice yet.

Following the 1998 elections I was not embittered by the FIDESZ winning the elections to my great surprise. Although in my opinion the professional and political preparedness and the background of the MSZP much surpassed the abilities of the winning party, I was sure that being disenchanted of its comfortable self-conceit and the petty-minded internal plays served the MSZP right. As for my opinion of a businessman I am definitely optimistic of that belief of me that a more disadvantageous starting ability can be made up by wish of proof and success-oriented impulse effectively. But it is important that the aim shall be success-oriented and not power-oriented!

But during the one and a half years of governing till now Viktor Orbán and the team charged by only him could not succeed in finding the positive success-orientation. He has not succeeded in perceiving the dividing line between the positive message of creativity, chance to create offered by the chance of ruling and wielding power that cuts both ways. But I also admit that what many people prognosticated, the state non-functioning because of the lack of preparedness of the government, had not realized. Viktor Orbán has taken many steps and made many statements which are considered mistakes even in politics (the shadowing case, the statement about nuclear weapons, actions in connection with the bank of issue, problems with the exact time, many political replacements and nominations, doubts in connection with the economic past, the calumny of László Juszt, etc.) but until now he had never got into such a remarkable situation which could have raised the issue of the inaptitude of the prime minister.

I think the readers have noticed that most of my thoughts relate to Viktor Orbán only indirectly, over the behavior of the FIDESZ as a political party. I have almost never worked with Viktor Orbán directly, we did not really have a mutual company. But Viktor Orbán’s figure has always determined the image of the FIDESZ. Because of this my terms with this party have been formed equally to that of its current president. I believe that the obstinate striving after the appearance of being infallible, the aggressive style of wielding power might could be favorable to them in getting hold of the political power but the inability to change style may cause (and I think it will) the „downfall” of both the FIDESZ and Viktor Orbán, which would mean the loss of political power of capability to govern involving the post of prime minister in this case.

János Palotás

08.12.1999.