There is no obstacle, it would seem, to a politician suddenly deciding to support what just a while before he passionately opposed. The daily Magyar Nemzet has found such an instance with the Nomentana affair.
It would look odd if a defendent in court suddenly started to attack the police for allowing the streets to be so dangerous. Yet this is what Fidesz is doing when they demand the extension of the planned route of the fourth metro line. The leader of the party in Budapest said: "The fourth metro should be built from Rákospalota to the Budaörs flower market, because extending it would ease transport for several hundred thousand citizens in the agglomeration and beyond." This is true. But this sense of urgency is strange coming from the party that, on coming to power in 1998, put the plan for a fourth metro on ice for an entire cycle.
Knowing our amnesia-inclined voters, it might work. The US has slightly more democratic experience, but even there George Wallace, the segregationist, racist governor of Alabama was able to become a champion of black emancipation, getting himself re-elected with their votes. We should add that Wallace first distanced himself from his past, and only changed course much later.
But here, there is no difficulty in conducting such a sharp turn. The tactic works. Magyar Nemzet threw up a smokescreen with the Nomentana affair. We might think this simple political suicide, because on hearing the words "front company" most of us immediately think of Kaya Ibrahim and Csaba Schlecht. We might expect people to say that politicians who have their own dirty dealings with front companies have no moral right to criticise their rivals. But we know this is not true. Such morality is just dysfunctional in politics. Especially if Fidesz is right in this case.
The Nomentana affair is potentially explosive. Because they are targeting the coalition that four years ago came to power on the back of public disgust at front companies linked to politicians and used for tax evasion, companies that were registered under the names of homeless or simply fictional people. Gyurcsány should give an account of the phantoms of his past before the public and Parliament in the interests of justice. If he does not, then his defeat would be deserved, and his victory a scandal.