Dark Thoughts about the Future
Reading Gideon Rachman’s article in the today’s FT on Hungary, I started to think dark thoughts about the future.
Hungary is in a much worse state than the UK, of that there is no doubt. But the parallel of a centre-left government brought low by an economic crisis can’t be entirely dismissed.
Some ‘highlights’ (my emphasis):
Nobody thinks the markets would tolerate huge fiscal deficits, so instead the government is cutting spending and raising taxes. State pensions were sliced by about 8 per cent last week. Sales tax has just been increased. And this is just the start of an austerity drive.
The political backlash is already beginning. Jobbik, a far-right party that plays on anti-gypsy sentiment, is likely to win a seat in the European parliament in elections next month. It has also formed a paramilitary wing, the Hungarian Guard, whose uniforms bear the insignia of pre-war Hungarian fascist parties – and which has staged marches in Budapest and has a presence in many small towns. Far-right arguments about crime and “welfare-scrounging” by the gypsy minority – who form between 5 and 10 per cent of the Hungarian population – are gaining ground. One mainstream politician worries that: “You now hear anti-gypsy sentiment at every level of society.” There has been a spate of unsolved killings of gypsies, which has been widely blamed on rightwing vigilantes.
With the Socialists discredited by the economic crisis and Mr Gyurcsány damaged by his trouble with the truth, the centre-right Fidesz party is almost certain to win.
Victor Orban, the Fidesz leader, is scrupulously vague about his economic programme. But party officials fear they may end up presiding over a downward economic spiral, as a contracting economy shrinks government revenues, creating further pressure for cuts.