Friday, September 24, 2004

A full circle

That is how the BBC correspondent reports recent developments in Hungary. Specifically, he describes wryly that the two rivals Viktor Orbán and the new Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsány are once again squaring up to each other. And when did they have their last struggle? Well, now, this is a very interesting tale and indicative of developments in the new member states.

Ference Gyurcsány was, in the late eighties, the leader of the Communist Youth Movement (KISZ – Kommunista Ifjusági Szövetség, since you ask). At the time this was the only student organization allowed in the relatively free but not that free Hungary. Of course, the old system was dying and another nail in the coffin was driven in by the creation of the Young Democrats’ Association (FIDESZ – Fiatal Demokráták Szövetsége, since you ask).

Viktor Orbán was the young lawyer who created the new organization and has since led it to political success and temporary failure. In fact, FIDESZ, the conservative party of Hungarian politics, remains popular with youngsters, not least because it appeals to the ever-present Hungarian romantic idealism.

The new Prime Minister, much preferred, incidentally by the eurocrats, as he is, supposedly, on the left, sees himself as much more pragmatic. No longer a communist (and, indeed, was he ever?) he is now a millionaire and a powerful politician in the Socialist Party. Until now, he preferred to act behind the scenes, rising to the exalted position of Sports Minister in Péter Medgyessy’s ill-fated government. Now, he has come out of the shadows.

Pragmatic or otherwise, he would be unwise to write off his old rival. The support of the Socialist Party is aging and the Hungarians have a tendency for electing a different party with each election.

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