Sunday

4th Dec 2022

Orbán prepares to change Hungary's government system

Viktor Orbán, Hungary's newly elected prime minister, is preparing to overhaul the political system. The composition of his cabinet - the second smallest in the EU – reflects the appetite for change: more power to the prime minister to take strategic decisions, less need for him to get involved in the messy business of daily politics.

According to Mr Orbán, his new team will be fast, effective and conservative. "Prime ministering with some presidential flavour", is how the Hungarian media describe the new ideas of governing.

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  • The new Hungarian government is preparing an administrative shake-up (Photo: European Commission)

The new man at the helm also stresses he wants to keep in touch with the nation while at the same time remaining aloof from the daily political grind, thereby taking a position similar to that of the US president – an advocate of the people rather than merely the leader of the cabinet. The so-called "national consultation" - a communication tool used by his centre-right Fidesz party in the election campaign back in 2006 to monitor citizens' opinion – is set for a revival.

The upgraded position of a "first vice Prime Minister" – to be assumed by Tibor Navracsics – is the most telling feature of the new governmental structures. Mr Navracsics will be responsible for coordinating the work of the eight new ministers, aiming to shape the government into a slimmer and more effective body.

With the new two-tier system, Fidesz will deliver on its promise to significantly cut the number of ministries - currently there are 15 of them. In the EU, only the Maltese cabinet will be smaller.

Out of the ten members of the new cabinet, four held ministerial positions in the previous Fidesz-government, while two others were state secretaries. According to the Hungarian political thinker Janos Kis, the members of the new government are less notorious for nationalist rhetoric than their predecessors in the first Orbán government 1998-2002.

The most urgent task awaits Sándor Pintér, former interior minister and police chief, who will return to his ministerial seat. Mr Orbán expects Mr Pintér immediately to do something to improve his own reputation, tarnished because of alleged ties to organised crime.

A significant change is expected in economic governance, as György Matolcsy, the designated economic "super minister", will be responsible for a wide-ranging portfolio. He will command a position his predecessors could only dream of: in charge of industrial, employment, transportation and budget policies.

The future farm minister Sándor Fazekas, mayor of the city of Karcag and without any government experience at the national level, will apparently not have to deliver significant reforms. He will be kept busy managing relations between farmers and the authorities.

The newly formed ministry for "national human resources", covering health care, education, youth, sport and social affairs, will be lead by Miklós Réthelyi, a professor of anatomy. His core mission will be similar to that of colleagues throughout the EU - coping with scarce financial means for the health sector.

The last in the string of newcomers is Tamás Fellegi who will be responsible for the newly invented "Ministry for the promotion of economic development". According to Mr Orbán, the main reason behind establishing the ministry, in charge of state-owned companies, is "to prove that the state can be a good owner, if it fights properly against oligarchs".

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