The Ignoble Struggle

Prime Minister Orbán speaks to National Bank of Hungary Governor György Matolcsy after arriving to the 2013 Civil Picnic in Kötcse.

Prime Minister Orbán (left) chats with National Bank of Hungary Governor György Matolcsy after arriving to the 2013 Civil Picnic in Kötcse.

Speaking on September 15 at the annual Civil Picnic in Kötcse (central Hungary), Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced: “Let there be no doubt in anybody’s mind that 2014 will be the year of the utility-fee struggle” (source in Hungarian).

Not a struggle to curb racism and integrate Gypsies into mainstream society, not a struggle to heal the wounds of 20th-century Hungarian history and strengthen dialogue between people on opposing sides of the political divide, not a struggle to improve the education or health system, not a struggle to reduce air pollution or clean rivers.

But a struggle to preserve the FideszChristian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP)-legislated 20-percent cuts on fees for electricity, natural gas and district heating and 10-percent cuts on fees for water, sewage disposal and garbage collection against the alleged attempts of “major energy-service providers and the political forces that stand behind them” to overturn these measures.

National Assembly elections will be held in the spring of 2014.

The Orbán government plans to make these utility-fee cuts and populist calls to defend them the cornerstone of its reelection campaign.

This is not leadership. It is pandering to the mean and petty instincts of the electorate.

And it’s going to work over the short-term.

But over the longer-term, such appeals to the lowest common denominator are going to stir passions and raise expectations among the populace that will consume the Fidesz-KDNP government itself.

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