It's easy enough to predict that Ferenc Gyurcsany announce serious spending cuts at Saturday's National Summit, citing the "crisis" as a reason, and it's just as predictable that the opposition will, citing that same crisis, dismiss all his proposals. Meanwhile, followers of both camps will attack each other, a couple of committees may be set up, and then everyone will go home. There will be no consensus.

© Stiller Ákos
On 14 September 2006, Gyurcsany refused to call a national roundtable when the opposition parties were calling for just this. This was five months after his election victory, but before the leaking of the Oszod speech. Gyurcsany argued: "The government has the mandate - it's just won. And now I should spread responsibility more thinly? It seems to me that it's time for a national roundtable when we've done everything that nobody wants to take direct responsibility for."

Well, the country hasn't taken those difficult steps yet, and and the government shied away from carrying out difficult reforms after the March referendum. But Gyurcsany now sees the question of responsibility differently - he's happy to share it out, especially since his minority government is hanging on to parliamentary support by just a hair's breadth.

The financial crisis was already buffeting the forint and the bond market when Gyurcsany announced his 12-point crisis-handling programme last Friday, which was full of spending cuts, and that was when he called for a national summit. The next day, he struck a softer tone at the Socialist Party's congress, as if he was planning for the big meeting. "We can't ask the other side to be flexible if we ourselves are not. I'm convinced that we have no hatred, contempt or antipathy for our rivals. This is not a fight between good and evil. I don't have personal issues with them - I have political issues." One of Gyurcsany's 12 points was a Fidesz proposal for the establishment of a Budgetary Council to oversee the budget. On Monday, Fidesz MPs remained at their seats to listen in parliament, even though Gyurcsany was speaking. What nobility!

Gyurcsany has invited 61 participants to Saturday's meeting, including the leaders of the parties and the European Parliament delegations, the current and former governors of the central bank, representatives of local authorities and scientific organisations - and each my bring one expert adviser. The meeting will take place in the main hall of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.

But any hopes vested in the two parties' cameraderie were soon dispelled. Socialist MPs on Monday rejected a vote on the Budgetary Council with the help of MDF MPs' votes. It emerged that the leaders of the opposition parties would attend the Saturday meeting, but only to make their own proposals. They want a public debate, they want to call for tax cuts, while the Socialists want to leave the tax laws untouched next year.

Ferenc Madl, the former president, won't turn up. Peter Paczolai, the president of the Constitutional Court, will not be there either. He welcomed the idea of the meeting, but wrote: "the Constitutional Court must be not an adviser but a judge of the legislators."

Laszlo Solyom, the president, also refused to attend. He justified this by saying: "It is impossible to know the nature of the crisis-management programme that is being prepared, and whether it is binding or not. The people who are attending this meeting have no mandate to reach a binding decision."

Nobody knows what will be on the agenda at the meeting. Do they want to sign a social contract? But between whom? About what? There is little chance, given the vicious conflicts between the parties, that the meeting will help us get out of the crisis.

János Pelle

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