Fidesz prepares the battleground, July 22-September 17, 2006
József Debreczeni has no direct evidence that would prove that Viktor Orbán knew about the existence of the speech Ferenc Gyurcsány delivered in Balatonőszöd, but he makes a fairly good case that he did.
His argument relies on the relatively calm popular reception of the new government’s program, including the austerity measures. Naturally, there was disappointment because the population was expecting further improvements in their lives, but when right-wing organizations held a series of demonstrations in late June hardly anyone showed up, as even Magyar Nemzet had to admit. Gyurcsány’s personal popularity fell, but Orbán didn’t gain substantial support between March and October 2006.
Debreczeni also counters the claim that Gyurcsány didn’t tell the truth after the election. In an interview with Népszabadság (June 29, 2006) he explained the reason for “not unfolding all the details of the truth.” Because, he said, “politically that was a rational move because it created the chance of a real change…. But what it is true and proper in politics is not entirely true and acceptable by the measures of everyday ethics.” Here, of course, he was thinking of Max Weber’s famous dictum. Although there was talk about Gyurcsány not revealing the real state of the economy, Viktor Orbán didn’t begin a campaign against the alleged lying prime minister.
It was on July 22 in Tusnádfürdő, Romania, where Fidesz bigwigs gather yearly for political speeches and rock concerts, that Fidesz issued a proclamation called “Good Morning, Hungary!” It was signed by an odd assortment of office holders within Fidesz. In addition to Viktor Orbán the signatories were Kinga Gál, a member of the European Parliament; Zsolt Németh, today undersecretary of foreign affairs; Mihály Varga, who doesn’t belong to the party’s inner circle; Tibor Navracsics, who was a later addition to Fidesz; György Schöpflin, a member of the European Parliament and a real outsider; József Szájer, a member of the European Parliament and not active in domestic politics; and András Gyürk, a member of the European Parliament. Debreczeni thinks that signatures were hastily collected on the spot from Fidesz dignitaries who happened to be in Tusnádfürdő on the day part of the text reached Orbán.
In the Proclamation the word “lie” (hazugság) appeared eleven times, eight in combination with “political” as in “political lie.” So, three months after the election Viktor Orbán called out his troops to defend democracy from the dictatorship that rested on lies. He asked his supporters to sign the Proclamation and gather on Heroes’ Square on September 23.
Apparently, the plan was that those parts of the speech Fidesz already knew about in July would be broadcast at this mass meeting. Meanwhile Viktor Orbán began laying the foundation for a spectacular unveiling of the lies of the prime minister. He wrote a long article, published in three parts in Magyar Nemzet between July 29 and August 2006, entitled “Watershed” (Vízválasztó). In it he compared the Gyurcsány government to the dictatorship of the Kádár regime that was founded on lies. Today, he claimed, the problem of the country is not in the economic but in the political sphere. “The real problem is the lies of the government, its conscious distortion of the truth.” He predicted that by the time winter arrives it will not be the right and the left arguing with each other; an embittered and exasperated country will be facing an illegitimate government.” What did Orbán have in mind?
One of Debreczeni’s sources, an unknown blogger, noticed a telling item in the August 11 Magyar Nemzet. In an article about the chances of the opposition succeeding against the government, Zoltán Kiszelly, a political scientist of decidedly right-wing leanings, was asked to comment. Kiszelly declared that the population is fully aware that lying in politics is an everyday affair, so “the accusation of lying by itself does not carry enough weight.” The article had an illustration of a tape recorder. The blogger surmised that even if Kiszelly didn’t know about the tape, someone at Magyar Nemzet did.
A lot of people call attention to a highly unusual visit of Viktor Orbán to a Ferencváros (Fradi) game. Orbán is not a Fradi fan. Moreover, Fradi had just been demoted from NB I to NB II and was playing against Jászapáti of all places. The Fradi Fan Club, however, was an easily lit fuse. They were known for their brawls and their anti-Semitism. At games against MTK they would chant about “the trains that are speeding toward Auschwitz.” Magyar Nemzet, in the wake of Orbán’s attendance at the Fradi game, gave the club a voice. The editors published an opinion piece by the vice-president of the Fradi Fan Club: “Ferencváros: Symbol of the Country.” Fans of this symbol of the country were active in the siege of the public television station on September 18, 2006, along with other football hooligans.
Beginning on September 4 the media reported demonstrations anywhere Gyurcsány appeared. Usually the same faces showed up and chanted the same slogans. It was clear that these noisy demonstrations were organized by Fidesz. By September 14 Orbán was calling on Fidesz activists to redouble their efforts in gathering more and more signatures to the proclamation “Good Morning, Hungary!” because it is “time to set out against the government.” On the same day Orbán gave an interview to Reuters in which he talked about the right to resist. “In Hungarian, ‘rebellion’ is a very strong word, so I would rather not use it, but the people have the right to resist and I think that resistance is an acceptable form of democratic politics.” It was at this time that Gyurcsány wrote in his blog that Orbán “is playing with fire.”
Magyar Nemzet came out with an issue on September 16 that dealt almost exclusively with the theme of lying. “Demonstrations against the government!” “The wave of demonstrations will culminate this weekend.” “The prime minister is a maniac,” a quote from László Kövér. “One hundred days, one hundred lies.” It was reported that Imre Kerényi, who today is an active participant of the Orbán government’s Kulturkampf, was organizing a “walking demonstration.” On the op-ed page there was an article with the title “From lie to dictatorship!” Finally, a full-page ad for “Good Morning, Hungary!”
If the tape was in the hands of Fidesz politicians earlier–which, of course, they deny–then the riots of September-October must be re-evaluated. In this case they were not spontaneous reactions of the indignant population; the riots were organized.
The unnamed blogger and Debreczeni agree that by calling the government illegitimate and announcing the right to resistance Viktor Orbán exceeded the limits of legitimate democratic political action. Moreover, according to the Constitution of the time (2.§/3/), “No activity of any person can be directed toward the forcible acquisition of power.” Debreczeni claims that although Orbán didn’t explicitly call for force, he did cross the Rubicon by calling the government illegitimate and those who attacked it legitimate.