Editorial: On keeping friends close and...


Events in recent weeks have made it sometimes difficult to get a clear picture of how relations currently stand within the government’s oligarchical camp, but one thing is crystal clear: There is certainly plenty of action.

What was earlier dismissed as a bluff became reality, when Croatian authorities actually went ahead and issued an international arrest warrant for MOL boss Zsolt Hernádi. Currently, the chief executive of the company – ranked as the top revenue-maker in the Budapest Business Journal’s latest Book of Lists – has his picture on display on the Interpol website and could be detained anytime he leaves the country.

The government went out of its way to weigh in on the matter, took surprisingly strong diplomatic measures against Croatia and even urged MOL to accept losing the value inherent in its Croatian subsidiary INA and just sell it.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was more than happy to appear together with Hernádi in public after repeatedly dismissing the Croatian bid as a mere domestic political issue, and insisted his government will defend MOL as well as its chief executive.

The government’s willingness to take on open conflict at a state level was all the more interesting seeing the traditionally good relations between the two countries. In fact, Hungary, already then under Orbán’s government, was one of the most vocal advocates of admitting Croatia to the European Union.

In contrast OTP Bank chief executive Sándor Csányi is not only not getting any protection, he’s actually on the receiving end of flak from government party members for his role as head of MLSz, the national football federation.

After taking legal action for being called a loan shark by state secretary János Lázár, tensions between Fidesz and Csányi eased. Now, after clueless performances from the national team that led to a 3-0 loss in Bucharest and an 8-1 beatdown in Amsterdam in World Cup qualifying matches, even Fidesz members are calling for Csányi’s head, along with anyone else who works with him.

Csányi lashed back at his critics in style, but that didn’t mean he could provide an answer – or even an acceptable excuse – for the deplorable sports results, even though he was appointed to the MLSz post with the specific assignment of finally giving local fans something to feel happy about by finally getting the team to qualify for a major tournament after decades of watching from the sidelines.

Orbán said he too was shocked by the crushing results; however, as Csányi told reporters, the prime minister made no indication that he wanted changes in the federation and that their personal relations are balanced.

The oligarchical landscape is clearly in motion, with Hernádi, who had seemingly good but mostly neutral relations with the right wing, becoming a national treasure, while Csányi, who is known to be a personal friend of Orbán, now apparently fair game for Fidesz. It will be interesting to see what unfolds next.

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