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Analyst: Orbán could act more strategic with cabinet restructuring

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The Hungarian government’s planned restructuring of creating two separate cabinets might leave room for Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to concentrate more on strategic issues, while the “functioning and logic of the system might stay intact”, Bulcsú Hunyadi, analyst of Political Capital, told the Budapest Business Journal today.

“Due to the restructuring, PM Orbán might take a step back from the daily operation of the government and focus on strategic issues instead”, the analyst said, while he noted that the restructuring might “not affect the functioning and logic of the system, the only thing the alteration affects is the operation of the government”.

Hungary’s Cabinet Chief János Lázár yesterday announced that the Hungarian government is considering to set up two cabinets: one responsible for strategic issues and the other for the economy. Lázár said the changes are needed to make the work of the government more effective and efficient.

According to Hunyadi, the reason behind the restructuring might probably be that the prime minister is “concerned with the performance of the government and might be missing clear policy lines and measures”. The analyst sees that while the Hungarian government “concentrates all its efforts to keep the topic of migration on the top of the public agenda, public discontent might increase if other policy areas will be neglected (e.g., education, health care) and the opposition succeeds in focusing on the topic of corruption”.

Hunyadi said this is reflected in the explanation Lázár gave for the restructuring. “According to Lázár the main aim of the restructuring is to provide more time for preparing decisions, improve the government’s effectiveness and the quality of governing. According to him, in PM Orbán’s view cabinet meetings have become fragmented when issues were discussed in-depth, which require more time but not the presence of all government members (e.g., reform of the education system)”, Hunyadi said.

As not many details have been published about the restructuring yet it is not entirely clear how the two cabinets will operate, also it is not clear whether PM Orbán will attend all of the meetings. However, “the importance of the ministry structure might decrease since it will be topics, and not ministries, that are going to be integrated into the cabinets. What topics will be included in which cabinet might be decided at the government meeting on July 20”, the analyst noted.

The Hungarian press after the cabinet chief’s announcement reported that the ministers heading the cabinets could be Lázár for the strategic one and National Economy Minister Mihaly Varga for the cabinet concentrating on economy.

“Varga’s role in economic governance might gain significance, as he is going to chair the economic cabinet, according to Heti Válasz,” Hunyadi noted, adding that this might decrease the influence of National Bank of Hungary Governor György Matolcsy. “Varga, who is in charge of the economic stimulus package, aimed at bolstering economic growth, may have a larger input on economic governance in the future. That might decrease the informal influence of Matolcsy”, Hunyadi said.

The analyst insists that the restructuring might not weaken the position of Lázár, in fact it might be strengthened, as he could be involved in both of the cabinets. “Lázár’s position has not been weakened, as he will be involved in both of the cabinets. Plus, according to Heti Válasz, he is going to chair the strategic cabinet, but, his influence on day-to-day issues might decrease”, the analyst added.

Hunyadi believes the planned restructuring shows well how Orbán likes to handles his subordinates. The “restructuring is again showing how Orbán likes to have his men compete with each other. He moves them around in positions and grants and takes away competences to and from them to establish a relationship with his subordinates based on their dependence on him and to prevent them from creating an overly stable situation for themselves,” Hunyadi added.

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