A recording of Ferenc Gyurcsany's speech to the Socialist parliamentary group was leaked yesterday, and this was more or less the tone of his speech. He admitted what that part of the public that can think already knew. He admitted that both sides in this year's parliamentary campaign had told outright lies to further their short-term political goals. The prime minister and his coalition knew that it would be impossible to implement the promised tax cuts, petrol price freeze and pension hike. Orban was just as aware that it would be impossible to cut social security contributions while introducing a 14th monthly pension. Indeed, they knew that money would be lacking not just for future payments but for payments at their current level as well.
So Fidesz's role was hardly glorious, but the fact remains that the government in power always bears the largest responsibility. "My god, we won!" That was said by the MDF MP Kata Beke in 1990, after a one-party dictatorship of 40 years had collapsed. But is seems to apply to Gyurcsany's speech as well.
I'm afraid, prime minister, you can't get away with this so easily.
It's true that the budget was hardly in the most optimal state in 2002. But it was under Medgyessy that everything ran out of control, and it was that government that introduced the largest ever pay and pension increases without making sure that they had budgetary and economic cover for doing this.
People are angry because the government did not stick to its electoral promises. There's no reason for hypocrisy: we got into this position because Gyurcsany's predecessor took seriously the fantasy figures he had dreamt up for political reasons. Things would be far less serious if money spent on improving welfare had been counterbalanced with reform. If he had cut public sector employment, if he had linked benefit payments with need, if he had made social security at least partly self-financing, if he had restructured hugely expensive state railway, if he had reformed a corrupt health service, if he had taken a axe to the post-Kadarist illusion of a free lunch.
But Medgyessy did nothing apart from distribute largess, and Gyurcsany - for want of money - did not even do that. Warnings from the EU, credit downgrades, admonishments from economics experts all fell on deaf ears. And then came this speech. It would seem that our prime minister still does not realise what effect this private admission has had on the public mood. Millions of people are translating the prime minister's speech into the language of their everyday lives. They are saying: :If you just pretend to govern, tell the truth and take responsibility, then we'll just pretend to pay taxes, obey the law and behave as honourable citizens."
The coalition could have told the truth as soon as it took the tarnished tiller of government from Medgyessy. It could have introduced spending cuts - or at least asked for the authority to do so in the campaign. It's true that they would almost certainly have lost the election. And then what? Orban, having got into government, would have had no choice but to introduce the Bokros Package of the Right. Gyurcsany could have enjoyed the sight of his rival squirming from the opposition benches. He could have pointed out how they promised milk and honey and still had to follow Gyurcsany's prescriptions. He could have crowed, but much more convincingly.
"Look, I told you there was no other choice. Whatever Viktor promises, he can't do anything else." Having left Orban to do the dirty work, he could have staged a triumphant return in 2010.
We know that this could never have happened. If a party has a choice between lying and winning or telling the truth and losing with the hope of gaining moral capital with which to win the next election - then it'll always choose the former option. We already knew about the laws of the political jungle. Pinocchio's nose will grow sooner or later, however he tries to hide it. You pay a price for both deception and honour. It's up to us to choose which pays of best.
Laszlo Tamas Papp