Editorial: An Unlikely Rise, and a Competent Performer


Photo by Gajus / Shutterstock.com

Famously, we don’t “do” politics. Or, to be more nuanced, we don’t cover day-to-day politics. But business does not, cannot exist in a vacuum, cut off from the world around it. Though, I dare say, there have been a fair few businessmen and women down the years who wished it could do precisely that. Politics impacts business, and it is for that very reason that so many companies (but most especially the largest multinationals) have someone with a title that is a variation on the theme of director of corporate and government affairs.

Therefore, this issue of the Budapest Business Journal features reports on two politicians, one of whom certainly does have an impact on the business world and one who aspires to. Actually, he almost certainly aspires to higher things, but as a byproduct of those dreams, he could have a very direct influence on the corporate sphere.

We will take the latter first. Our story on page five reflects on the remarkable ascent of Péter Márki-Zay, a disaffected Fidesz supporter who has never been a member of parliament and has no official political party behind him (though he did found the Everybody’s Hungary Movement). From those unlikely beginnings, and based in large part on his record from his day job as the independent Mayor of Hódmezővásárhely, he finds himself the winner of the primaries to determine the joint candidate for prime minister of the six opposition parties.

He will now find himself going head to head with Viktor Orbán, a man who hasn’t really had to do much to win three consecutive terms with landslide majorities, such has been the state of the opposition parties, but who is arguably the most formidable campaigner in modern Hungarian politics, and who holds his party in an iron grip.

Could Márki-Zay, backed by a rainbow coalition of parties that runs the spectrum from left to right and touches most bases in between, defeat Orbán? On paper, you would have to say it seems unlikely. But then it looked equally unlikely when he ran to be the mayor of Vásárhely, as it is known to us locals (I was married there), which was always assumed to be a Fidesz stronghold.

In the interests of balance, you will find the other politician I wanted to mention on page seven. Mihály Varga, the long-serving Minister of Finance, made his annual visit to the American Chamber of Commerce in Hungary and laid out his vision of the economic future.

One of the most impressive things about Varga is that he knows his audience. Fidesz politicians have a reputation for sticking very rigidly to whatever the party message of the moment is; such is the discipline of the organization. But this wasn’t just a question of hitting the correct sound bites. Of course, he was upbeat about the economy, but he also acknowledged four “dark clouds” on the horizon that might prove a threat and spent some time examining each.

He had a tight schedule and had planned to leave “in the British way” as he put it (apparently a reference to slipping out of the room without saying goodbye; don’t ask me what is British about that), but found he had time, after all, to take a couple of questions from the floor (if not the assembled journalists). Whether you like a politician’s character or policies or not is beside the point. A competent person behaving in a thoughtful manner should not be the cue for a huge celebration, but it is reassuring when you come across it.

Robin Marshall


This editorial was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of October 22, 2021.

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