Below you will find the full text of Attila Mesterházy’s speech given on March 9 before an audience of 10,000. Even critics admitted that MSZP, perhaps for the first time, gave a very professional performance. They added that the new American advisers may have taught a thing or two to the socialists.
The question is whether the program Mesterházy outlined here will have a positive impact on MSZP’s chances at overtaking Fidesz’s numbers in the public opinion polls. According to the latest poll both Fidesz and MSZP gained voters as the number of undecided voters shrank in the last month. However, Fidesz regained about half a million of its voters, most likely because of the 10% decrease in the price of natural gas. Although the effect of this move on Hungarian pocketbooks will be negligible and will be offset with the increase in other utility prices, Hungarians are duly impressed with such empty gestures.
I wasn’t the one who translated Mesterházy’s speech, a task that would have been herculean. Tomorrow I will tackle Ferenc Gyurcsány’s speech, but because of time constraints I will translate only the most important passages.
I welcome all comments and evaluations. I’m sure that MSZP politicians will also be interested in your opinions.
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
It feels great to be here! It is wonderful to be here among you, and to experience the energy that your presence radiates. I am very thankful for my friends, my allies, my supporters for being here offering their support to us. Thank you!
My children saw me getting prepared for this event, not knowing what father was up to. I told them that we were going to evaluate the year, and also speak about what would happen in 2013. They also evaluated the year, they told me, and showed me a drawing. The drawing was made by my daughter and my son. It says 2013 – the year of MSZP. It shows the Hungarian flag, a carnation and a dedication: GO FOR IT FATHER! I thank them a lot. I thank my family, as politicians have very few opportunities to publicly express their gratitude to the family, their spouses and parents for their ongoing support of our daily work, often even non-stop for 24 hours. Now I wish to thank my wife and my parents their enduring support and patience.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I was told that inviting Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta to our event is quite risky. I was advised to rethink it, or even to cancel his invitation, because his presence may distract attention. Because Fidesz would detract attention in the right wing media, spinning the interpretation of our event, and divert the focus of it which is to evaluate the state of our country, and to tell you what will happen in the coming months.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I assured the skeptic that it was no coincidence that we have announced a new left-wing national policy. The essence of this new left-wing national policy was also emphasized by Victor Ponta in his speech here. In the core of this new left-wing national policy there is an increased attention in the symbolic and the rational space alike vis-à-vis ethnic Hungarians beyond our borders. We must be more attentive and helpful so that they indeed prosper in their homeland.
I believe in it. I believe in it, and I am convinced that we are right, and good neighborly relations are part of this new national policy. We are attentive and responsive to the interests of the minorities. As a Hungarian politician, I am aware of the responsibilityI have for ethnic Hungarians, and I know that Victor Ponta is responsible for Romanians living all over the world.
This is not nationalism. This is true and brave patriotism. There is a great difference between nationalism and patriotism. While a nationalist despises neighboring peoples, a true patriot takes pride in his nation, homeland, but also respects the peoples of neighboring countries.
All of us in this hall, and many more all over this country are good patriots. So, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very grateful to Victor and Sergei Stanishev who have joined us today offering their support. Their presence means that the Socialist Party has a strong alliance with the Carpathian Basin, and also with Europe. For us patriotism is a call that we stand for also in Europe. We stand for it in Europe, as Hungary throughout her history has always been part of Europe. No freedom fight against Europe shall be waged, but we shall seek to cooperate in alliance in order to effectively represent our national interests!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Indeed, we have gathered here today to evaluate the state of our country, and to speak about our vision for Hungary after 2014. 2012 was indeed the year of take-off for the prime minister: a complete take-off reality. Because what he said in his speech was in fact a description of a country other than Hungary. It was not the description of Hungary. He is either detached from reality or over-protected by the anti-terrorist squad, preventing him from any opportunity to meet flesh and blood people.
We, however, have toured the country extensively, not only in the past three months, but in the past three years as well, and have experienced a totally different world out there. I believe many of you agree with me in this. I have travelled this country and collected a few examples, a few human examples that touched me in the past two- three months. These examples are very revealing of the many injustices in today’s Hungary; for many people in Hungary life is hopeless. That is why many of our fellow citizens try their luck elsewhere.
I met an elderly lady in Pécs who had worked for 42 years as a nurse. She is one of those pensioners who live in poverty. She said to me: “Mr. President, typically by the second half of the month I have to make a choice whether to eat, pay my utilities or buy the medicines I take”.
It is a totally unjust world, a totally unjust Hungary where a pensioner is constantly challenged to make ends meet! It is a totally unjust world, a totally unjust Hungary where a pensioner is worried that he would leave behind only debts that would be a burden on the family upon leaving the mortal coils. She continued: “Attila, I have a deep trust in you, but I want change”. I told her that we also want change, that we want her to have a peaceful and relaxed old age.
Then in Miskolc I met a lady who is a single mother. She was a factory worker at an assembly line for over 20 years. When the factory was closed, she was sent off to a public work program. She told me: “can I send a message to Fidesz through you – as they said to me that it is possible to live on 47 thousand Forints– that they should live on 47 thousand Forints”. It is totally unjust, Ladies and Gentlemen, that this lady raising her child alone makes 47 thousand Forints a month, while some politicians of Fidesz make 47 thousand Forints a day! She also told me that she wanted change, and that she would proactively facilitate it.
May I mention another example from Szolnok, where I met a couple, both of them employed in the civil service? They have to children, and they both have a job. Each of them expressed their concern about the future. They are middle class people, but are increasingly concerned about the repayment of their foreign currency loan, and their ability to pay tuition fee for their children’s education. They are concerned, and they fear the race to the bottom. They are concerned about their ability to climb back to the middle class. They asked me: “Attila, is it fair that we both work decently for 10-12 hours a day and are unable to decently look after our family’s needs?” They also told me that they, too, wanted change.
Then I met a teacher in Debrecen who told me: “Mr. President, can you image that I go to my classes with stomach cramps? I am afraid that as the result of this overwhelming reorganization of the school system by Rózsa Hoffmann I may lose my job. I will be unable to feed my family, and to continue the profession I love – teaching the young generation.” He also told me he wanted change.
Then I met young people. They have decided to follow in the footsteps of our 500,000 fellow Hungarians who left the country. They fear the tuition fee prevents from finishing a Hungarian university. Plus their choice of majors has become restricted. Even if they finish university, earn a degree and have a profession it is uncertain whether they will find a job. They told me they would return if things change.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Then I met a few business owners in Szekszárd and Székesfehérvár. They also complained, saying: “Mr. President, we feel cheated!” There is no lending activity, they have no access to credits, there is no market, and they have no access to EU funds, either. Many companies have gone bankrupt, employees were dismissed, and as homeowners, the business owners are threatened with foreclosure for not being able to repay their mortgage dues. They claim they were promised otherwise and they, too, want change.
All of these examples show how people perceive Orbán’s success story. How they perceive the Hungarian “fairy tale”, as often referred to by both Minister Matolcsy and Prime Minister Orbán. The truth is that Hungary today is in a more miserable and unjust state than any time before in the past 20-22 years, with a deteriorating public security. And Ladies and Gentlemen, we must honestly name those responsible for it, those whose fault it is.
Well, Fidesz does not hesitate to hold the opposition responsible for all the ills, or the European Union, or even the world at large. But alas, they have been in power for three years, with a two-third supermajority! For three years! Onto whom do they want to still shift responsibility? They cannot shift responsibility! For all of these injustices and miseries Viktor Orbán is responsible! Viktor Orbán is at fault, and the bad governance of Fidesz.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our country does not perform poorly; it is the Fidesz government that performs poorly. They perform worse compared even to their pledges. What did they promise you? My buddies talking before me have taken stock of the undertakings that Fidesz made to the people: one million new jobs, improved public safety in two weeks, growing consumption, 7 percent economic growth, salary increase to the teachers and health workers … none of which materialized. What happened to these promises? Why did performance fall short of these promises?! Well, Ladies and Gentlemen, they lied to you, not in the morning, not at noon and in the evening, but nonstop!
They perform worse not only in comparison to their own undertakings. No. They perform worse in comparison to the eight years preceding their rise to power. This has become obvious for anybody, and unless none so blind as those that cannot see can experience it daily. I am not saying that everything was perfect in those eight years. I also made seriously critical observations about it earlier. But I do claim that each of the three Socialist governments during the eight-year period performed far-better than the current government.
Because, Ladies and Gentlemen, during those eight years existential security was much greater in Hungary. May I remind you of a few specific examples, as it was so long ago that we tend to forget what had happened during those eight years in Hungary? What progress did Hungary achieve in those eight years?
The average wage was doubled – today the average wage decreases. The amount of family allowance was doubled– today there is not a penny increase to it. In those eight years income discrepancy between the richest and the poorest citizens was reduced by ten percent– today, it is not getting smaller, but it is significantly rising. In the past three years…
Not to mention the fact that pensioners got back the 19,000 Forints that Fidesz had previously taken away from them. The Socialist government re-launched the pension adjustment program that Fidesz had previously stopped, among their first measures when the first Orbán government took power.
But it was also the Socialist government that reduced VAT on food products– whereas this government merely keeps talking about it. And let’s not forget that the Socialist government raised the salary of public servants by 50 percent– whereas this government merely keeps talking about it.
The previous governments took all these measures because they had the foresight. They anticipated that migration is going to happen, that people, professionals and workers will leave the country in the hope for a better livelihood. These were the reasons for making these decisions back then, to protect our country from such occurrences. Legal certainty and the rule of law were internalized in the political culture during those eight years. Nobody wanted to eliminate the system of checks and balances. There was no reason to fear any political act or actor. Then expertise was valued–today only loyalty counts. Then Hungary was acclaimed internationally– today we feel ashamed when we put our feet out of the country. In those years there was social dialogue–today there is practically zero real reconciliation of interests.
In those eight years–to give more examples–we were more ahead in the areas of development and investments. We used EU funds at a quicker pace, we built roads, hospitals, schools, bridges, highways; there were investments. When Viktor Orbán inaugurates a new facility, his only role in it is the cutting of the ribbon. These investments, whether it is a Mercedes, Audi or Open facility, to mention the auto industry, were successfully concluded by the preceding Socialist governments.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
These examples show that the three Socialist governments performed so much better than the current government. If I may add, not only the Socialist governments performed better, but even the first Orbán government, not to mention the government of Gyula Horn.
So, my friends, in possession of the facts, we may conclude that during those eight years that Fidesz is now so eager to traduce, Socialist performed much better than Viktor Orbán.
Fidesz made good on one of its campaign slogans, though, which said: we live worse than four years ago. This undertaking by Viktor Orbán, this campaign slogan did materialize. We live worse, but not than four years ago, also worse than eight years ago, or twelve years ago, or sixteen and twenty years ago. Viktor Orbán is aware of it. Do you know why? Because for next year he did not promise prosperity. In his state of the country address, in case you missed it, Viktor Orbán promised prosperity for 2033! The Maradona of Felcsút believes that only they are entitled to prosperity, the Hungarian people can wait.
Take it into consideration, that our parents have been told the same upon the regime change, our grandparents after the end of World War II, assuring them that in twenty years things will get better. We can’t help the feeling that Hungary is always twenty years apart from prosperity.
Ladies and Gentlemen, nobody is looking to live better in twenty years! People want to live better today, tomorrow, and in the next forty years. This is a legitimate demand. We, responsible politicians have to say how all this is feasible. How much time it takes, what the time table should be, and at what the costs are. We must talk about it very honestly.
It is not possible and it is ill advised to promise that after 2014 prosperity will suddenly knock on our doors. That we only need to change government to welcome abundance. This would be a false promise, a lie. This country, the decent people of Hungary, was too often fooled in the past 20 years by false campaign pledges. Therefore we, Socialists, must refrain from committing such mistakes. We must honestly point out that what they are doing is very wrong, but we must not make any false promise about Canaan approaching.
It is a legitimate expectation that we will live better from year to year. There are certain fields where change doesn’t require twenty years, where we can proceed very
quickly. It is of utmost importance that these pledges are realistic and feasible. I am going to tell you how. As this is also our job today, not only the evaluation.
I built my talk on three pillars, which correspond to our political program. The first pillar is strong democracy, the second pillar responsible economic policy, and the third pillar is fair social policy.
Fair social policy is all too important, because as the examples have shown, people do not feel secure. Predictability is lacking. Hungarian people desire to have security and predictability in their lives. That they can make plans for their future and their families’ future.
Please allow me to go into more details on these issues. Ladies and Gentlemen,
A strong democracy certainly requires five conditions.
The first one: a strong rule of law. A strong rule of law that is to be based on a new consensual constitution. A new constitution which will state that our country’s name shall be the Republic of Hungary! A strong rule of law requires an independent judiciary. A judiciary where judges are not pestered by all kinds of statutory amendment, where the prosecutors don’t get political orders from Viktor Orbán and the current power. Law and order requires a democratic order. In which people live in peaceful coexistence. In which any majority and minority can live together, and should any of them–either the majority or a minority– violate the rules, then the violator will be prosecuted. Such will serve the interest of democratic order in Hungary.
The second condition of a strong democracy, in addition to a strong rule of law: a strong civil society. We promise, and we will make good on our promise, to restart dialogue in Hungary with NGO-s and they will again feel the strength and power to have their say in public policy and government policy. And they will be involved in the appropriation of funds required for their operation. Because today they are excluded from these processes, and only the pets of the current power receive public funds to aggressively protest against us, or anyone else in disagreement with them, in the disguise of a Peace March. This will not be tolerated.
Strong press and media: the Hungarian Socialist Party undertakes to create a new media legislation that will regulate the media in accordance with European standards. We will restore the public service nature of the state media, and we will end the situation in which the government tries to silence opposition media through the withdrawal of financial resources. This will not be tolerated, either.
The fourth condition is strong local governments: We will restore the power and responsibility of local governments to decide on local matters. This makes local governments strong, and this makes democracy work in Hungary.
The fifth, equally important condition: a strong right to self-determination. That politics shall not interfere with the privacy of the families! The sanctity of private life shall be respected! Everybody shall have the right to decide on the type of family he wants to live in, in peace, without hatred. And politics shall refrain from interfering into the religious beliefs of any family. What you believe in, or whether or not you are a believer! And yes, it shall be also the decision of the family whether they enroll their children to a faith based school or a state school. This choice must be left with the families. But politics shall have no place in such issues as people’s thinking and opinion. Politics shall not decide what art is in Hungary and what valuable culture is. This is not the turf of politics!
So a strong democracy is composed of the following elements: a strong law and order, strong civil society, strong media, strong right to self-determination and strong local governments!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we have already said, we need responsible economic policy. As we have quoted earlier, Matolcsy, the magician could not deliver it. I would not call him an economist, rather a charlatan. I am sure that he would have been sentenced for bungling under previous legislation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The economy is in deep trouble. Please understand, it will take at least two years to put economy in order! To put economy back on track we need to do the following: one, we have to initiate growth, and two, we need to create new jobs.
In order that we achieve these targets, first, as agreed by everyone, we must restore confidence. If there is confidence, there will be investments. If there are investments, there will be new jobs. If there are jobs, there will be fair wages. If there are fair wages, we can pay the costs of living, and many other things that are important for Hungarian families. Therefore, restoration of confidence is an elemental requirement.
In order to restore confidence, there are at least three important dos. One: on behalf of the state, clear regulations, transparent conditions and predictable political actions. Today, none of them exit. Second, required for the restoration of trust, to be taken on behalf of the market actors: Yes, we on the Left, Socialists we expect higher responsibility from the market actors. We say we want a new equilibrium among the state, the market actors and the consumers. For this end, the Hungarian Socialist Party will strengthen consumer protection, will also strengthen the regulatory role of the state, and will strengthen the power of the state in enforcing the regulations! These will elevate the level of responsibility in the Hungarian economy.
And one other aspect, required for the restoration of confidence that we must sincerely address. It is combating corruption. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Hungarian Socialist Party will put an end to the practices and power of the oligarchs of Fidesz. Under all circumstances we will eliminate corruption. We will put an end to the Simicska-Nyerges practices of shoveling home the monies of Hungarian taxpayers!
In order to initiate growth, create new jobs, we need something else on top of restoring confidence. Small and medium-size companies, large companies, multinational companies will be able to restart or expand production if three additional conditions are met: if there is lending. Two, availability of new markets, whether foreign market, export market or domestic market. And third, very important, the accessibility of EU funds. The creation of new markets requires some assistance to competitiveness. With respect to EU funds, the goal is that such monies shall be used in a more targeted and transparent manner. This means that we will involve NGO-s, advocacy groups and the trade unions in the allocation of resources. This will make the system transparent, not to mention that the use of these funds will have to be accelerated, because the current government proceeds like a snail.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
For us, Socialists, responsible economic policy is not an end but a means. Responsible economic policy is a means for an improving living standard for the people of Hungary. To assure sustainable development in Hungary– responsible economic policy is the tool.
As Hungary is full of injustices and many people feel desperate, we must put in place fair social policy to replace the perverted social policy of Fidesz. Only the Hungarian Socialist Party stands for fair social policy in Hungary today! In this area we have four priorities.
In our vision when a child is born, there shall be nothing to limit him in making his dreams come true, it shall depend on his talent and diligence only. That every child shall have equal opportunities, irrespective of the social or financial condition of the family.
First, we want every child to be able to take part in education, to achieve his dreams. Second, we want that everybody shall be able to work and have a safe livelihood. And, God forbid, should he fall ill, he should be able to avail himself to good medical care. When he grows old, he should have a peaceful and calm old age. This is the sum of the fair social policy of the Socialist Party.
Therefore we want equal opportunities in education! Our educational policy will be based on quality, opportunities and performance.
The government of the Socialist Party will start a nursery and kindergarten construction program. We will raise compulsory school age to 18 from 16. Every child will have the opportunity to learn at least one foreign language so that the world can open up before them. We will adjust the salaries of the teachers. We will restore autonomy of the universities and academic freedom.
We want an employment policy that assures that there is at least one bread earner in every family. If there are jobs, there are fair wages, and a lot of social problems are cured. We are going to draft a new labor code, not alone, of course, but together with the trade unions. This new labor code will guarantee more protection to the workers, employees. Trade unions will get back their entitlements, including the right to strike. We will restore social dialogue and interest reconciliation in Hungary. We will stop the decrease of minimal wage. We will double the term of the job search allowance, from three months to six months. We will raise the hours of public work, and will provide public workers with sensible and valuable work assignments. We will strengthen vocational training. And we see a role for the state in creating new jobs, additionally to the public work program. In our view the state shall be involved in creating new jobs where the market is not able to. Yes, the state has a duty in this respect!
And now the health care system! In our vision even the rich will choose the national health care system because it is so good, so efficient and so high quality. And we are aware that medical expenditures will never be less. These costs will never be less, and we must not aim to reduce such allocations, either–in sharp contrast to the current practices of Fidesz. The average age is increasing, the society is ageing. However, medical industry is an innovative one, and the new medications, techniques and instruments are increasingly costly. Politicians must recognize that health care will demand increasingly more money. So that you can get the appropriate care, the care you deserve.
Within the health care sector we have three priority areas. One, pediatric care; two prevention and care of cardio-vascular disorders; and three, prevention and care of cancer and tumoral diseases. These are the areas where the most intensive developments will have to be implemented.
Additionally, we must strengthen primary health care. We must develop hospitals and out-patient clinics. We must adjust the wage of health workers. In some shape or form we will have to consolidate the state and debts of the hospitals. Socialists are committed to all of these for after 2014.
And last, but not least: the situation of the elderly. I am often appalled when I hear the politicians of Fidesz talking about the elderly. How they despise a generation whose members rebuilt this country with their own hands for us after World War II. This generation is to be respected, and they shall not be deprived of their rights. They deserve respect, appreciation and security. It is the moral obligation of the Left to act accordingly. Therefore, the Socialist Party again guarantees, as it had done before, to constantly increase pensions. We will re-regulate the disability pension system and the early retirement system–taking three aspects into consideration: sustainability of the system, fairness of the system, and that the interests of different trades shall be addressed in the new regulation. We will re-launch the pension adjustment program.
This program is the Program for Development and Freedom which will make the life of many people more fair and secure, and politics more predictable for all of us. That people shall be able to live as they wish! Because Hungarian people have so much more potentials than what this government delivered and gave them.
We want to bring this program to success. This is what we work for day by day. There is one little thing required to implement our program, just one little thing: we must win the elections.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have come a long way! Two years ago, as I was standing in front of you I
promised that we would again make the Hungarian Socialist Party a determining factor of Hungarian politics. In two years with your help, we made it! Thank you for your help and support.
As we speak, the Socialist Party is the strongest, best organized and best prepared opposition party in Hungary. We can be proud of it! And those who two years ago mused about the end of the Socialist Party, wrote us off, today unequivocally say that there is no change, no change of government feasible without the Socialist Party! It was my undertaking, but we achieved it together!
The Socialist Party won the first half. Now comes the hard part. It is obvious that Fidesz by now had to realize that their strategy to ruin the Socialist Party, to wipe it off the Hungarian soil had failed. Now they are seeking new methods against us. Therefore now we have two very important tasks. One: to win over a majority of the Hungarian society in support of the program of the Hungarian Socialist Party, the Program for Development and Freedom. The other, equally important task is to transform the disillusionment and disappointment of the Hungarian people into political actions. To fill them with positive energy, to convince them that there is hope for change, and we have a chance to win! They must understand that they are the key to success. If they are fed up with Orbán, if they chant together with us “Orbán, get out”–is not enough! It is music to our ears, but is not enough! Instead, these disillusioned and disappointed people must come next year to the polling booths, and in the privacy of the polling booth, as it is a secret ballot, with no other person allowed to enter there, people should bring a most important decision. Whether they want to change their lives.
If yes, affix an X beside the name of the Socialist Party!
As we have seen, neither Fidesz, nor Viktor Orbán is shy about their methods. They will use every facility they have to stay in power. They will use and abuse different instruments, including the instrument of nationalism or that of communism. They use scapegoating and they use intimidation.
But three recent events in Hungary proved that Hungarian people are wise and are not afraid to act; in Dunaföldvár, Sopron and Szolnok. Not a single poll indicated that the Socialists would win! Not a single one! And eventually we won in Dunaföldvár, we won in Sopron and we won in Szolnok!
Ladies and Gentlemen!
We need your help, because Fidesz is shamelessly lying. They are lying 24 hours a day. And there is one media outlet that repeats these lies 24 hours a day, often forcing public service media to disseminate the same lies. Even if many people in the employ of the public service media may be reluctant to do so, they protect their job and livelihood, and are forced to join the chorus of hate. This media is a very strong instrument, so we have to find a new remedy against it! The remedy is available! It worked in Dunaföldvár, in Sopron and in Szolnok. The remedy is frank and fair speech! This remedy is personal discussions with the voters! It is the door-to- door campaign!
But we have another tool!
We, on the Left, democrats have to call attention to it and adhere to it. Fidesz will do everything to divide the democratic opposition. They will use every communications trick or lie. They will do whatever they can to divide the democratic opposition, and to hunt us down, one by one. This hunt has started. Therefore we must make a pledge, together, that the Socialist Party will not let it happen! We are not going to let the opposition divided! We are not going to let it happen that any democratic politician be hunt down by the prosecutors on the order of Fidesz, or in any other way! We will be there and back everyone who needs help and solidarity! With a strong party – and the Socialist Party will beat it off hard!
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As we have strengthened the Socialist Party, we will we strengthen the opposition–so that together we can make our country strong. This is my call. I work for it twenty four hours a day. But it is not only my call. It is the call of those who are here today with me. Now I ask the party presidency and the political leadership to join me in the ring. To show to you and the media: they have been with me in the past two years, in different roles, but working together. And with their continued help I will implement the program of change in the next year, the Program for Development and Freedom. We have made the first steps together leading to victory.
If you also help us, knocking on the doors, telling everybody what the Left wants, how it will improve the life of the people, then we will get the majority with which in 455 days we can defeat Fidesz, and replace the present government.