Hungary: A Team Player 5632-hungary-a-team-playerHungary: A Team Player15 February 1999 Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban turned heads in December by saying he could imagine governing without the opposition, which had walked out of parliament over a constitutional amendment that would have allowed the movement of NATO troops on Hungarian soil. Some commentators said the dispute represented an all-time low in government-opposition relations, though Orban said sharp debates could not be avoided, as both sides learned their new roles after his Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Party won last year's parliamentary elections. The prime minister's strong language heightened criticism of his alleged domineering style. Below are excerpts from an Orban talk with Peter Feledy, deputy chairman of Hungarian Television (MTV), broadcast on 23 December.

MTV: Mr. Prime Minister, the number of Orban jokes has been on the rise recently. ... I will tell you one. ... Viktor Orban is walking with his children toward Orbanhegyi [Orban Hill] Street. One of your kids asks you: Dad, has this street been named after you? To which you say: No, Istenhegyi [God's Hill] Street is named after me.

Viktor Orban: That is a Hungarian joke. ... You probably also know the joke that I am standing in front of the mirror saying that my eye is my mother's eye, my nose is my dad's nose, and the chin [play on words, also meaning the state] is mine. This was created about [Charles] De Gaulle; it comes from France. I told you one that is not specifically Hungarian, because it is not the jokes that are really noteworthy but the fact that people are in the mood to tell jokes.

MTV: Many people accuse you of running a one-man government; they write that the government is Viktor Orban's personal government, really.

Orban: They are underestimating me (laughing). The running of a government is a very difficult task.

MTV: Even in our conversation ... you almost always use the phrases I decided in this way, I decided in that way. It is true that a final decision must, ultimately, be made by the prime minister--but still, this formulation is almost disturbing sometimes. That is to say, is it a real government in which collective wisdom is crowned by your decision?

Orban: This is not what usually happens. The word crowned is a bit strong; this is not what we are talking about. What we are talking about is that the entire country must be directed onto the proper path. In my view, there is no person in Hungary who can see clearly, as an expert would, all the financial affairs, foreign economic affairs, foreign relations, agricultural issues, water management systems--and I could go on. There is no such person--and if there is one I want to meet him. So, success is the government's success, and failure is the failure of the entire government. ...

Now, if a decision is made by other ministers or with the consensus of several ministers I usually say that we have decided, but when the prime minister has to decide after a disagreement I always say--by the way, precisely to avoid the continuation of the bad old habit of passing responsibility to somebody else--that I have decided on this issue. So, if it turns out to be a bad decision, then I myself have to be pilloried for it.

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Translation provided by BBC Monitoring.
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