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Why do some east European leaders court bad publicity? - The Economist

Hungary's Fidesz-led government is only one among many examples in Europe of governments that receive controversial feedback on their policies, says the Economist. Yet they seem to have domestic backing and support. 'Why?' asks the article

The Economist published an article titled 'Why do some east European leaders court bad publicity?', in which it uses Hungary as an example to understand why some of the leaders portray negative images despite the need to attract investors and favors from richer countries through good publicity.

A prime example is Hungary, says the Economist, where Viktor Orbán’s government has attracted a blaze of outside criticism since it took office in May 2010.

The latest row concerns possible legal action against three former prime ministers from the opposition Socialists for mismanaging the public finances. The spectacle of former prime ministers in the dock would play well to loyalists of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party but would do little for the country’s already-tarnished international image.

The Economist is not singling out Mr Orbán’s government. It gives Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili, as another example, as well as the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, and Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski and his late twin brother Lech.

Snooty outsiders, both commentators and policymakers, tend to lump all this together, the article goes. They see Mr Orbán as merely the latest example in a long line of erratic eastern politicians prone to mystifying and ungrateful bouts of troublemaking. That analysis goes down badly in the region, not least because it seems so selective. Where, ask Mr Orbán’s supporters, were outsiders when Hungary was run by sleazy and rapacious ex-communists? The leftists bequeathed a bankrupt and ungovernable country, they say—meaning that their own remedies must be robust.

The awkward squad tends to despise conventional diplomacy and public relations, and is therefore bad at them. Mr Orbán’s people in particular think that their enemies at home have a hotline to foreign news desks, think-tanks and chancelleries, says the Economist.

Politicians in the region also point out that they were elected to make changes, not friends. Hungarian voters strongly back Mr Orbán’s brusque approach.  Sneers about domestic politics hurting Hungary’s presidency of the European Union in the first half of 2011 proved largely groundless. Rows are not the end of the world; after the sound and fury, they can bring concessions, not isolation. That is because, although some easterners may be irritating, noisy and unfashionable, in modern Europe they are indispensable, concludes the article.