Hungary politics

Will he, won’t he… get it?

That was the question on Magyar political analysts’ lips on Monday – he being Viktor Orban, Hungary’s go-go, rapid-fire prime minister, “it” being the two-thirds parliamentary vote he most definitely covets for a “super-majority” again during his second term in office.

He’s on the brink – it depends on a few thousand votes cast outside the country or in other districts. But regardless of this, the one time anti-communist student firebrand is sure to be at the helm in Budapest for four more years, and still with a commanding parliamentary majority. Continue reading »

Has the Great Magyar Rate-Cutting Cycle come to an end? To many, it looks that way, following the central bank’s decision on Tuesday to snip just 10 basis points off the base rate, to leave it at 2.6 per cent a year.

And even this trim, the smallest made so far in a 20 month long trimming spree, is possibly more symbolic, an effort to keep up the momentum in front of elections, scheduled on April 6, just 12 days hence. Continue reading »

By Ferenc Gyurcsány, former prime minister of Hungary

There is a Hungarian folk tale about a fair, where a trader fools a man into buying a blind horse. The new owner mounts his steed, only for it to gallop straight into a wall. The horse trader stretches wide his arms and explains that the horse isn’t blind, but brave.

Faithful followers of Viktor Orbán, the Hungarian prime minister, similarly apologise on behalf of their leader when confronted with government policies that have led to multitudes of conflicts – conflicts which typically baffle outsiders. Continue reading »

Viktor Orban, Hungary’s populist prime minister, has promised a continuation of the policies enacted in the past four years if his Fidesz party wins the country’s general elections, set for April 6.

Orban – who is well ahead in opinion polls against a left-liberal coalition cobbled together at the eleventh hour – told the Hungarian chamber of commerce on Wednesday “we’ll [just] continue,” before spelling out a 10 point economic programme that includes pledges to increase the proportion of domestically held government debt, accelerate industrialisation, boost Hungarian ownership in the banking and agricultural sectors and further decrease energy costs to support Hungarian competitiveness. Continue reading »

By Tamás Pesuth, Head of Economic Research, Nézőpont Institute

“Hungary is a small country, but it looms larger on investors’ screens.” So the Financial Times wrote at the beginning of February this year, while calling the governor of the National Bank of Hungary (MNB) “a maverick.”

As György Matolcsy marked his first year in office today, a more rounded appraisal of his work is required. The FT article looked mainly at the forint exchange rate and the low base rate in reaching its “maverick” judgement. Continue reading »

By Kim Lane Scheppele of Princeton University

Hungary was once the precocious child of post-communist transition, garnering praise for its political and legal institutions. But ever since the Fidesz government of prime minister Viktor Orban came to power in 2010 with a two-thirds parliamentary majority, Hungary has been on a legislative rampage, unsettling the legal order and causing “regulatory uncertainty” through “abundant and unstable new regulation,” as the OECD delicately put it. Continue reading »

By Attila Mesterhazy of the Hungarian Socialist Party

At the WEF in Davos, the renowned economist Kenneth Rogoff had encouraging words for Europe’s leaders: he argued that high levels of education, strong innovative capabilities and the rule of law provide the old continent with a solid, long-term basis for development.

In Hungary, unfortunately, it is these very values and traditions which Prime Minister Viktor Orban has most undermined in his disastrous rule of the past three and a half years. Continue reading »

Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, along with his Fidesz government, have been remarkably busy this week. They have been talking up a €10bn loan agreement with Russia, signed on Tuesday, to finance two new nuclear reactors, scheduled for completion as early as 2023.

Hungary is about to seal “the best deal for the past 40 years,” with nuclear power the cheapest option for the country, Janos Lazar, Orban’s right hand man in charge of the prime minister’s office told the media on Thursday. Continue reading »

If Hungarian bankers – already facing another year of heavy losses – thought things could not get worse, they just have.

Only days after Karl Sevelda, chief executive of Raiffeisen Bank International, more than hinted he was prepared to withdraw from some central European countries, including Hungary, due to the unfavorable business climate, the competition office in Budapest on Wednesday announced fines on 11 commercial banks totaling Ft 9.5bn (€32m). Continue reading »

By Gordon Bajnai, former prime minister of Hungary

In a recent radio interview Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, made a surprising confession. While speculating about the nature of the Hungarian electorate, he stated: “Hope is more important to Hungarian voters than fact.”

As he runs for re-election soon, is this his moment of truth? Is the one-time liberal, anti-communist dissident admitting that he is hoping that voters will decide based on hopes, rather than facts? Because the facts – most especially the economic facts – of the past three and a half years are not on Orban’s side. Continue reading »

It’s official! Viktor Orban, the nominally “centre-right” prime minister of Hungary and former anti-communist student dissident, wants to nationalise the energy utilities that were privatised by the “communists” in the mid-1990s.

Orban, or members of his circle have long implied it, but as the prime minister made it clear in his regular interview on state radio on Friday morning. Continue reading »

Wishes come true

Has campaigning already begun for Hungary’s elections in April next year?

News on Monday that the government is to repay in advance the remaining €2.2bn it owes to the IMF from its 2008 loan looks suspiciously like a political rather than an economical move. Continue reading »

By Enikő Győri of the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

As a minister of state responsible for European affairs it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to read articles about Hungary without thinking of possible conspiracies aimed against my country, or suspecting the authors and the foreign politicians they quote of complete ignorance.

This is not because I am too sensitive to criticism but because of the gross distortions which I see in so many critical statements about Hungary. Continue reading »

It started off a possible good idea – at least to those who think a state monopoly is a good idea. The government of Viktor Orban, the new-idea-a-minute Hungarian prime minister, decided around Christmas that tobacco products would be sold only in government-franchised shops. Talk was of “helping create Magyar family businesses” while at the same time restricting the outlets for tobacco products, and thereby making it harder for Hungarian youth to catch the habit. Continue reading »

That'll cost you

Despite the Hungarian government trumpeting a turnaround in the economy of late and low budget deficit figures of the past two years, Mihaly Varga, the new pragmatic finance minister, seems to believe discretion is the better part of valour: with tax revenues looking somewhat anaemic this year, he announced a mini-package of tax increases on Monday to keep the deficit on track. Continue reading »