Fidesz and the Hungarian Guard (Magyar Gárda)

We outsiders can only guess what’s going on behind closed doors at the party headquarters of  Fidesz. Commentators often remark that Fidesz is a monolithic party where nothing can be uttered or done without the express desire or instruction of the chief, Viktor Orbán. One thing is sure, it is easier to see the different groupings within MSZP or even within  SZDSZ than in Fidesz. First of all, MSZP makes no secret of the fact that it is a political gathering of people with different ideas about the role of the socialist party in Hungarian society. The party itself has lower-level groupings, called “platforms.” The names of these platforms don’t always tell the whole story, but the most vocal members of each of these platforms make quite clear where they stand. There is certainly a left wing, who follow the lead of Katalin Szili, the speaker of the House. Szili, parliamentary member from the city of Pécs (my birthplace, by the way) is an interesting case study. She is an ardent Catholic and not entirely free of nationalistic enthusiasm. For example, she admitted that, against the wishes of her own party, she voted for dual citizenship at the 2004 referendum. And, most importantly, she is dead set against the “liberal tendencies” of Ferenc Gyurcsány. Gyurcsány, who occasionally says more than he should, spoke quite openly about their rocky relationship with József Debreczeni, who included the passages in his book about the Hungarian prime minister (Az új miniszterelnök/The new prime minister, 2006). There is even a small far-left group made up of mostly Marxist university professors. Then there is the social democratic/liberal wing headed by Gyurcsány himself.

The Fidesz is an entirely different party. Only rarely did it happen in the past that leading members of the party spoke in different voices. The unison is often deafening. Hungarians who are not too keen on  Fidesz call it “the parrot commando.” Indeed, if a certain adjective is decided on centrally, then every Fidesz politician in the media will include this adjective in every second sentence. If not in every sentence. An outsider can practically never detect any hint of disagreement within the party. At least that was the situation until now. Lately there are signs of cracks in the seemingly solid wall. Did this happen because of the Magyar Gárda? Or perhaps there were hairline cracks already earlier except we didn’t notice them?

Here and there a prominent Fidesz politician said something in the past that didn’t quite fit into the “official” party line. Commentators immediately jumped on it: “You see, there is an internal opposition to Orbán.” However, a few days later the same Fidesz politician changed his line: he was fully supporting Viktor Orbán. Indeed, this springFidesz had its congress and Orbán was reelected head of the party with an overwhelming majority. Out of the more than 1,000 votes there were only a handful who didn’t vote for him. Most likely, delegates realized that Orbán is the glue that holds the party together. If there is no Orbán, there is no Fidesz.

This time, I see more serious cracks in the united front. Indeed, there are signs of an internal party struggle. My impression is that within Fidesz the operative strategy, the definitive attitude toward the establishment of the Magyar Gárda, and more generally toward the extreme right, is still not quite decided. One of the vice-chairmen, Mihály Varga, former minister of finance, known to be a moderate within the party, announced, as I noted in my posting yesterday, that Gyurcsány himself was responsible for the establishment of the Hungarian Guard. As I mentioned, that was not a particularly sophisticated response, and it seems that some other Fidesz politicians found it inadequate. First, János Lázár, member of parliament and mayor of Hódmezővásárhely, not exactly known for his moderate political views, made a statement in which he considered a party militia unacceptable. Today, Zoltán Pokorni, a Fidesz vice president, although he didn’t condemn the guard outright, considered it a “gift to Gyurcsány” and something that is very bad for  Fidesz and bad for the country. Mind you, Pokorni added that MSZP itself is behind the establishment of the Magyar Gárda: it is a provocation by means of which the socialists want to discredit his party. A somewhat bizarre idea, I must say. Today, the head of the Fidelitas (the youth organization of Fidesz), Dániel Loppert, made a statement in which he called the guard dangerous, reminiscent of the dark times of Hungarian history. He and his organization want nothing to do with the guard, he added. This is especially interesting since this was the same young man who a few years ago yelled “traitor!” to Prime Minister Medgyessy. However, the official homepage of Fidesz mentions only Mihály Varga’s comments and not a word appears about either Pokorny’s or Loppert’s remarks, which may mean that no final decision has yet been reached concerning strategy.

These Fidesz comments haven’t moved Ildikó Lendvai, a close ally of Gyurcsány and two-term leader of MSZP parliamentary caucus (“frakció” in Hungarian). She was interviewed today by Olga Kálmán, a reporter at the ATV television station. According to her, it is not enough to say that this or that Fidesz politician distances himself from the guard. What the party as a whole should say is: “We have absolutely nothing to do with the Jobbik, the party that is behind this guard.” But Orbán, for one reason or other, simply hates to make such a statement. Why? Is the extreme right’s vote that important to Fidesz, or has Orbán himself moved so far to the right that he is actually sympathetic to the Jobbik? We should find out sooner or later.

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One comment

  1. I am forwarding your blog address to several friends in the foreign journalist community. This is something nobody has elucidated so well in many years. Thanks. How has this web site managed to be so invisible so ong? I discovered it by searching “Magyar garda +blog” on google. Great discovery!

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