The Bajnai cabinet?

For days I have pretty well refused to read articles about the possible composition of the new cabinet because it would have been a waste of time. As opposed to previous administrations not one name had leaked out. That is very unusual in Hungary where, it seems, nobody can keep a secret. Or they don’t want to. I don’t know how it’s possible that now everybody involved is quiet. They come out of Gordon Bajnai’s office, smile and say “there was no mention of personnel questions.” The reporters must be very frustrated, but something must be said about these negotiations. So, as usual, they spin tales. Is it true, as Népszabadság claims to know, that János Veres may take a job abroad because he has good relations with Joaquín Almunia, a member of the European Commission responsible for Economic and Monetary Affairs? And what role will Péter Kiss play? The same paper alleges that he will not be super-duper deputy to the prime minister. It is also difficult to know whether he will remain the minister in charge of the prime minister’s office. Apparently Péter Kiss has an uncanny ability as a moderator especially when it comes to negotiations between employers and employees. The paper seems to know that Kiss was offered the job of minister in charge of social welfare and labor relations but he declined that offer. Then according to the rumor mill János Veres would have liked the post of minister responsible for the economy and development but apparently SZDSZ vetoed that idea.

There is one new name that seems to be for real: Péter Oszkó, Chairman and Office Managing Partner of Deloitte of Hungary. One can find more about the employees of the firm in Hungary here: http://www.deloitte.com/dtt/leadership/0,1045,sid%253D86834,00.html We know that Oszkó will be the new minister of finance. Oszkó is a tax lawyer who has had a distinguished career and a few years ago was named “Young Businessman of the Year.” I think, by the way, that János Veres was a very good minister of finance and Hungary should be grateful to him. After all, it was under his watchful eye that the Hungarian deficit was reduced from about 10% to under 3% in less than three years. I personally always liked him but it turns out that his style didn’t appeal to everyone. Some of my friends thought he was haughty. What I appreciated in him was his detailed knowledge of his subject and his sticking to the facts. He always corrected the rather sloppy statements of the reporters most of whom, let’s face it, know next to nothing about finance or the economy.

 

Oszkó had a serious role to play in the Reform Alliance and therefore recently one could see and hear him often. One thing is sure: he doesn’t smile too often. This official picture of him on the Deloitte web site is an exception. The other sure name is Viktor Szigetvári (born in 1978) who will be Bajnai’s chief-of-staff. He graduated from the famous Jesuit High School in Budapest (usually fodder for Fidesz and not MSZP). After finishing his studies at ELTE (philosophy and political science; his M.A. thesis’s title was “Tony Blair and the New Labour Party”) he immediately started working for MSZP assisting Ferenc Baja in the 2002 campaign. Soon enough he worked with Ferenc Gyurcsány and also became an advisor to Péter Medgyessy. When Gyurcsány was named minister in charge of children, youth and sports, Szigetvári followed him, heading the ministry’s secretariat. Eventually he was in charge of MSZP’s 2006 campaign. So one can tell from this short biography that Szigetvári is a young political wizard. His picture will be somewhere on this page if all goes well.

We also know that Dávid Daróczi, one of the government spokesmen who is of Roma origin, decided to step down. As he said, he took the job for as long as Gyurcsány remained the prime minister and therefore he intends to leave government service and will continue his career in the private sector. I’m sorry to see him go. I was very surprised to hear that his colleague Bernadett Budai is staying. I consider her very, very good but I thought that she would also have to leave because the new government needs a new “face.”

Perhaps because most people on the internet think that Bernadett Budai is the prettiest government spokesman in the whole world, she remains. Let me add that she is also smart. She is also young like Szigetvári. Just turned thirty a few days ago.  Between 1999 and 2004 she received her M.A. in political science at ELTE and a year later began her studies toward her Ph.D. at Corvinus University at Budapest. She speaks English and German.

So a very young crew is beginning to be gathered here. Instead of the older generation whose members came mostly from KISZ leaders of the 1980s today’s pols were just born about that time. A few old party hands will have to be included, but it will be very difficult for Fidesz to slap its favorite “communist” label on this government.

Otherwise the final list of ministers will be released on Tuesday. Easter Monday is an official holiday in Hungary.

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6 comments

  1. Viktor Szigetvári needs to get that strange growth on his face seen to.
    Other than that I’d like to congratulate you on your blog, I’ve been reading it since Late 2007/Early 2008. I was on holiday in Budapest Summer 2007 and accidentally blundered straight into the middle of the Hungarian Guard rally. Your blog seems to be the only way of getting regular updates on Hungarian politics in English.
    With regards to this post in particular, it will be interesting to watch the what happens with Hungarian and Eastern European politics over the next five years or so as the generation who were born very late in the communist period come to prominence.

  2. What’s to account for the weak-titled master’s thesis for Szigetvári? Is that a Hungarian phenomenon? Many a bachelor political science degree theses at college for political science were appropriately entitled to (hopefully) give new perspective and demonstrate an articulated vocabulary for the audience of professors of political science, or at the very least a point of view.

  3. Eben: “Viktor Szigetvári needs to get that strange growth on his face seen to.”
    Do you mean the arrow? That must be my fault. I’ll try to fix it tomorrow morning. Otherwise, I’m so glad that you find the blog useful.

  4. Vladimir: “What’s to account for the weak-titled master’s thesis for Szigetvári?”
    Don’t ask me. Hungarian higher education is a mystery to me but what I read about it it’s pretty awful. Just read in Népszabadság that in a certain college 25% of the student are kicked out after the first year because in two semester they didn’t manage to complete the necessary number of courses. Never mind, half a year later they are back because there is no need for new entrance exam. That’s a joke. The whole thing is a joke, I fear. Perhaps one day I will devote a blog to the subject. After all I spent quite a few years counting credits.

  5. “He always corrected the rather sloppy statements of the reporters most of whom, let’s face it, know next to nothing about finance or the economy.”
    You mean Jani “Tricks By The Hundreds” Veres?
    The same guy who for months before the 2006 elections swore time and time and time again that the budget deficit was not going to exceed the government’s target of 4.7% of GDP?
    And then managed to bring it back down below 10% only after some cutbacks in the last quarter of the year?
    Gimme a break!
    As for him correcting the “rather sloppy” reporters, it’s easy to tell others they’re wrong when you’re the one manipulating the numbers.
    And then for it to turn out that the reporters weren’t so wrong after all…
    And let’s not forget that Veres is the guy who said that the finance ministry didn’t try to calculate before the elections how large the real 2006 deficit was going to be because then the figures would have been leaked to the media _ and the Socialists’ campaign would have suffered a tremendous blow.
    So don’t go telling me about how Veres is such a great finance minister. For the Socialist Party, sure. But for Hungary?
    Don’t think so.
    As for Daróczi and Budai, the nicest thing which can be said about them is that they were loyal to Gyurcsány until the very end.
    Whether that was good for the country, it’s another matter.
    It would be interesting to see whether either of them turns around and does a Scott McClellan and writes a tell-all book about the Fleto government.
    The stories they could tell…

  6. StuckInTheMiddle: If you know of any finance minister, anywhere, who chooses an election campaign period to publicise his belief that the deficit is gonna get worse if the governing party gets re-elected, then please let us know. That would raise an amused eyebrow, at the very least.
    “So don’t go telling me about how Veres is such a great finance minister. For the Socialist Party, sure. But for Hungary?”
    Veres has brought the deficit to a reasonably low, reasonably stable level, in part by introducing measures that are highly unpopular. This is good for Hungary and bad for the Socialist party. Sound economics is indifferent to party politics.

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