A Christian Democrat on Orbán Viktor and his government
This morning I noticed an almost forgotten politician’s name on the op/ed page of Népszava. The article was written by György Giczy, who in the second half of the 1990s was the chairman of the Kereszténydemokrata Néppárt (Christian Democratic People’s Party) that today constitutes part of the right wing of Fidesz. The title of the piece is Hőbörgők” (Ranters). The gist of Giczy’s message is that without the free flow of ideas we will never come close to knowledge and will never approximate the right path to truth. Moreover, one of the cardinal rules of Roman law is that accusations uttered anonymously must be discarded.
Clearly, Giczy is talking about the very popular extreme right-wing Internet sites like kuruc.info, but he puts the blame for the spread of this kind of ranting to the ranters of the government itself. Those who express opinions on these sites only imitate the politicians who lead Hungary today. At the same time, these people who irresponsibly express their very often unfounded opinions deny others the right to freely express their own.
I haven’t seen Giczy’s name much lately and my memories of him from the 1990s are pretty much limited to the incredible chaos that accompanied the Christian Democratic People’s Party’s almost total disintegration during his chairmanship.
The Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) was established on October 13, 1944, two days before Horthy’s announcement of Hungary’s retreat from the German alliance and the Hungarian Nazi party’s accession to power. KDNP at the 1947 elections received 16.5% of the votes, which meant a rather large parliamentary caucus of 60 members. In 1949 the party ceased to exist along with all others except MDP (Magyar Dolgozók Pártja) that was forged from MKP (Magyar Kommunista Párt) and MSZDP (Magyar Szociáldemokrata Párt). Hungary’s one-party system came into being.
During 1989 the party was revived by mostly elderly KDNP politicians, some of whom came back to Hungary from abroad. Eventually the party’s representatives were able to take part in the so-called Round Table discussions that hammered out the outlines of Hungary’s Third Republic. Apparently, SZDSZ politicians were against allowing the Christian Democrats and the Smallholders, another leftover from bygone years, to participate because they felt that these parties’ message had no real resonance in an entirely new Hungarian reality. Christian Democratic politicians didn’t forget the attitude of people like Gábor Demszky, later mayor of Budapest, and Imre Mécs, SZDSZ member of parliament who had been condemned to death in 1956, who opposed their admittance the loudest. But, if we think about it, they were right. Today KDNP has no measurable support, and without their “association” with Fidesz they would be today where the Smallholders are. Gone with the wind!
But let’s get back to György Giczy, who spent eight years, between 1990 and 1998, in the Hungarian parliament. József Antall’s government was a coalition of three parties: MDF, the Smallholders, and the Christian Democrats. Although the party received only 6.46% of the votes, Antall needed every percentage point he could get in order to form a government. In 1994 KDNP didn’t do badly at all. It received more votes (7.03%) than in 1990, whereas its coalition partner MDF lost more than half of its support. It was during this period that Giczy became an important player in KDNP. In 1994 he became one of the deputy chairmen and in 1995 was elected chairman. By 1997, however, the party fell apart and the majority of the KDNP parliamentary delegation went over to Fidesz while a minority sat with the independents. Giczy was one of those who did not join Fidesz.
I’m not even going to try to unravel the complicated stages of KDNP’s collapse or Giczy’s role in it. At the time I wasn’t paying much attention to the Christian Democrats’ infighting because I was much more preoccupied with the efforts of the Horn government from 1995 on to salvage Hungary’s failing finances. By that time the Christian Democrats as a political force were converging on zero while Fidesz was gaining ground. So, it’s no wonder that KDNP’s very confusing internal squabbles left me cold. As the matter of fact, to this day I’m not quite sure where I should place Giczy on the Christian Democratic spectrum in those days. András Körösényi, a well respected right-of-center political scientist, in his book entitled Government and Politics in Hungary (1999) while discussing the situation after 1994 called the Giczy faction “‘radical” while those who ended up with Fidesz “moderates.” According to the author, the radical wing was looking to a “national-radical Smallholders (and the far-right MIÉP)” while moderates moved “more towards the center-right axis of Fidesz, MDP and MDNP.” MDNP was a party organized by the left wing of MDP.
Whatever the case was in 1995, by 2000 Giczy held a very different opinion of both MIÉP and Fidesz. As it is clear from a speech he gave in October 2000, Giczy had discovered something not too many realized then: the “Bolshevik character of the present coalition.” In order to defeat Viktor Orbán’s party, Giczy offered his party’s cooperation with Fidesz’s opponents, including the Hungarian Socialist Party. In June 2001 Giczy resigned as party chief of KDNP and left politics altogether. However, he continued his work as a journalist. Originally he wrote articles in Catholic publications (Új Ember, Vigília, Teológia). Giczy, who has a Ph.D. in theology, also wrote about theological issues, especially on the theological dialogue between Jews and Christians.
But where can one read Giczy’s writing nowadays? Certainly not in Catholic publications. Since 2002 he has been a regular contributor to Hetek (Weeks), a weekly of Hit Gyülekezete (Faith Church), a liberal fundamentalist church that owns the ATV television station. In his very first article for Hetek he severely criticized Fidesz for “calling itself Christian and national while it is doing damage to both Christianity and the nation by expropriating the right to represent them.” In December 2010 Giczy in an opinion piece in Népszava worried about the possibility of the present government legally introducing a dictatorship, a “dictatorship of the majority” for whom “the constitution is only an obstacle to overcome.”
Here is a rare specimen. A Christian Democrat who raises his voice against Viktor Orbán’s steady march away from democracy and toward something we don’t yet know what to call.