Late 2019 was when the talented, intelligent mayor of Budapest was replaced by a man who, though tall and with an impressive BMI, shines with all the glitter of a dirty puddle.
Gergely ‘Geri’ Karácsony is the political equivalent of Bambi. And that’s if we’re being generous. As a politician Karácsony is so hopelessly out of his depth that it’s often embarrassing to watch. The original Bambi’s appeal lay in his ability (as a result of how he was portrayed and animated) to gain the sympathy of those watching him. As an idea for an animated cartoon it works, and works well. As a concept for the base of a political career, however, logic dictates that there’s not much mileage to be extracted from such a one-dimensional idea.
Sadly, a combination of crass stupidity and a knee-jerk reaction to anything associated with the repeatedly maligned Hungarian government and all things connected thereto meant that in late 2019, the man who had reversed Budapest’s fortunes, the man who had unravelled the ball of shit left by the liberal Gábor Demszky, was replaced with someone the sight of whom elicited a sympathetic simultaneous sigh and an ‘ah’ from a large number of women in Budapest. This man, eerily reminiscent of Bambi, was someone a certain percentage of Budapest’s female society felt the overwhelming need to cuddle and protect from the ills of the cruel world in which he has been set adrift, wholly unprepared. This is the main reason why he was elected. People felt sorry for the poor bugger. Of course, the association between a conservative national government and the conservative mayor of the capital was always something to be hissed at by the smug liberals of the city. Their eyes were politically blindfolded to the improvements in the city. They chose not to see the differences an honest mayor could bring to the city – the architecture that could be restored and the improvements that could be reached – if the mayor and his office saw themselves as custodians, rather than rulers of the capital.
Sadly, and inevitably, the liberal Leftwaffe, foaming at the mouth as is their wont, wound up the residents of Budapest about that which they regard as beyond the pale: friendly relations between a government which sets out its stall in terms of the nation, and the leader of the capital city. The liberals of Budapest, traditionally always more reluctant to regard the idea of nation favourably, voted to defeat Tarlós as a message to the national government, once again revealing a certain perverse lack of understanding of the connections between national and local government. The opposition parties, pygmies on the political scene banded together and suppressed their egos long enough to push Karácsony to the front. And the people of Budapest voted. Certain segments of Budapest voted for Karácsony out of sympathy – the Bambi vote, other segments voted in order to stick two fingers up to the idea of nation that they find so outdated. Tarlós was replaced with a cartoon.
That energy drink-fuelled brainstorming session led to a highly illogical poster campaign in the city. At a time when the metropolitan local government was complaining bitterly about the lack of funds they were receiving from central government (the opposition-led local governments refused to recognise or show any solidarity regarding the coronavirus pandemic), they nevertheless embarked on a costly city-wide poster campaign. An expensive poster campaign to draw attention to the lack of funds? Logically a non-starter, but a fair reflection of the way that political blindfolds can eclipse basic intelligent thought processes. The white-hot, diamond-tip of the campaign was the rhetorical question form of
‘Who wouldn’t want...?’
And so on and so forth.
Under the typically melodramatic title of ‘Protect Budapest’, the citizens of the capital awoke to find that the perennial complaints of ‘fund-withdrawal’ continually bleated by the metropolitan municipality, and instantly echoed by opposition-led local governments, had been supplemented by a costly, wide-ranging campaign. This truly was paradoxical, but we’ve come to expect this from the opposition. Rather than tighten their belts like the rest of us, the opposition-led local governments were outraged at this attempt by central government to slow down, if not derail the gravy train that they had boarded. Whilst businesses were going to the wall at different speeds, the local councils were offended at not being able to spread largesse, at the taxpayers’ expense, amongst their chums.
Who wouldn’t want?
Well, let’s step back and take a look from a sounder foundation. Let’s just think of a few recent elements of the Hungarian government’s financial support system. CSOK, the Hungarian government’s family home-creation scheme. HUF 600,000 for families with one child. HUF 2,600,000 (plus HUF 10,000,000 state-subsidised loan for home purchase) in the case of families with 2 children. HUF 10,000,000 (plus HUF 15,000,000 state-subsidised loan for home purchase) in the case of families with 3 or more children. Who wouldn’t want that to continue?
What about the fact that all women who have four or more children are exempted from personal income tax? Who wouldn’t want that to continue?
What about the fact that women can retire after 40 years in employment? Who wouldn’t want that to continue?
The government, in the middle of a global pandemic with all that that implies economically, still managed to reduce the VAT on newly built homes from 27% to 5%. Who wouldn’t want that to continue?
And what about the reintroduction of the 13th monthly pension which had to be scrapped due to the state of near-bankruptcy which followed the last socialist/liberal government’s policy of corruption and incompetence. Who wouldn’t that to continue?
And what about the plans to abolish personal income tax for the under-25s from next year? Honestly, who wouldn’t want that to go ahead?!
What about the financial support that the government has given to restaurateurs and bar owners? What about the credit repayment moratorium? Is the opposition unaware of the existence of these programmes? That would be less than credible.
The point is that the opposition, with their long-practised, knee-jerk reaction could never bring themselves to praise the government even in the most begrudging manner.
No government can ever please everyone. But to deliberately ignore the leaps and bounds which have been made in terms of Hungary’s finances and the finances of Hungarian families is nothing other than a cynical, delusionary tactic. The leaders of the opposition take full advantage of the beneficial economic schemes that the present Hungarian government is able to offer Hungarians as a result of budgetary discipline. These are the same opposition politicians who spit in the face of budgetary discipline whenever they are allowed near the cash drawer. Cynicism is king as far as the opposition are concerned. They shriek aloud at the suggestion that they, too, should show solidarity with the people, and spend millions – which could be put to far better use – to attack a government determined to maintain financial discipline and not deny that which would benefit the nation, all the while under assault by an unprecedented pandemic.
Say what you will about the essential attractive nature of Bambi, but don’t forget that if the people decide to put the opposition into power, then financial discipline will be forgotten, and we will return to the heady days of socialist/liberal rule. That, unfortunately, means a return to the bank of never-never land, with galactic-sized loans to be paid back by the present youngest generation’s grandchildren. That, sadly, is the Hungarian Leftwaffe’s way. We’ve seen it before, and if given half a chance, we’ll be subject to it again.
If the opposition get in, Hungary loses. The only hope can be that enough of the voters realise that the subsidised loans and housing benefits, the tax breaks and everything else that they have become so very used to will, if the opposition succeed in their political ambitions, turn to dust.