The fate of Pál Schmitt, president of Hungary

The fate of the plagiarizing president of Hungary is still in limbo. If we are generous and assume a certain level of rationality among the Fidesz leadership, odds would favor his early departure. With such a package he couldn’t possibly fulfill his duties as president. Moreover, even without this case of blatant plagiarism Schmitt turned out to be the butt of jokes and a target of scorn. An embarrassment to Fidesz and especially to Viktor Orbán who insisted on his appointment.

Rumor has it that Fidesz’s top leadership was not at all thrilled with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s choice, but Orbán persisted despite László Kövér’s serious reservations. What Kövér’s objections were we don’t know, but I suspect he knew of Schmitt’s very limited intellectual abilities and was also worried about the possibility of political skeletons falling out of Schmitt’s rather large closet. After all, he held high political positions in the Kádár regime. In addition, there was a good possibility that he, as an Olympic champion and later as a high official of a hotel frequented by foreigners, might have been an informer. Given Kövér’s worries and Schmitt’s very poor performance, one would think that this plagiarism case might actually be a handy excuse for Fidesz and the government to get rid of Schmitt.

Of course, in Fidesz the final word on anything, big or small, is always uttered by Viktor Orbán. We don’t know how many times Viktor Orbán forced his will on the top leadership and made a decision entirely on his own. Perhaps even against the advice of the party top brass. My guess is that it happened often enough. Given the general state of the economy there might have been several decisions forced on the leadership by Viktor Orbán that were questionable and in fact will have to be reversed. That doesn’t do much for the image and standing of the leader.

And now here is another case where the party chief wasn’t infallible. Schmitt, just as Kövér predicted, has been an embarrassment. The word this morning was that Viktor Orbán simply refuses to think about the Schmitt case. According to HVG he said nothing about this matter either at meetings of the Fidesz board or to the Fidesz members of parliament. In fact, prior to the marathon caucus meeting in Eger, the Fidesz communication office made it clear that the Schmitt case would not be discussed. I guess it is too painful for Orbán to get up in front of the party leadership or the very large parliamentary delegation and admit that he made an awful mistake. Yes, Schmitt signs everything put in front of him, but in the eyes of the world he is not only a dolt but also a cheat.

Fidesz while in opposition was a very tight-mouthed party. Nothing ever leaked out. Lately, however, journalists can gather fairly reliable information from important party leaders even when Orbán specifically tells them not to talk about something. This is how word of the alleged putsch hit the news stands last week.

This morning HVG reported that many Fidesz members of parliament, especially those coming from outside of Budapest, actually believe Schmitt and don’t think that the committee set up by Semmelweis University will find him guilty of plagiarism. Moreover, the decision is Orbán’s. As one high-level Fidesz politician said, “it all depends on how Viktor reacts.” All in all, the impression HVG got was that Fidesz will sweep the whole thing under the rug.

However, by the afternoon Népszava received conflicting information from obviously different Fidesz politicians. According to them Viktor Orbán spoke openly of his decision to let Pál Schmitt go. Apparently, the top leadership is in fact discussing Schmitt’s possible successor. The most likely candidate, according to Népszava, is János Martonyi, the current foreign minister.

Schmitt, lemondok

I resign, I don’t resign, I resign, they make me resign

If the information about János Martonyi is correct, Viktor Orbán might be making another mistake by removing Martonyi from the post of foreign minister. I will never understand it, but the western world seems to believe János Martonyi’s soothing words. They consider him a “real diplomat” and a man who is committed to a transatlantic foreign policy. He does not make rash remarks about “eastern winds” and always emphasizes that Hungary’s future lies with Europe. On the other hand, especially recently, he has steadfastly defended Viktor Orbán and Hungary against the “unfair” attacks while loudly proclaiming Hungary’s commitment to democracy. He was also the one who ordered Hungarian ambassadors to write letters to newspapers and stand up for the honor of their country.

Still and all, it is possible that Martonyi’s obviously different approach to foreign policy from his own bothers Orbán and that he might feel more comfortable with, for example, Undersecretary Zsolt Németh, his friend from student days.

HVG‘s article was accompanied by a picture that I find telling. It indicates to me that Népszava might be right: Schmitt’s days are numbered.

 

Pál Schmitt and Viktor Orbán this morning in the parliament (Photo: Gergely Túri)

Normally on such occasions everybody nearby looks on adoringly at Viktor Orbán and the person with whom he is shaking hands. Zsolt Semjén, deputy prime minister, especially beams on such occasions. Now he is resolutely looking at the floor. Mihály Varga (left) is amiably chatting with Zoltán Pokorni while Antal Rogán looks at them instead of either Orbán or Schmitt. And what is most important, Viktor Orbán is not smiling.

The current parliament passed a cardinal law concerning the legal status and the remuneration of the President of the Republic. According to this new law Schmitt could resign immediately and would still receive his full salary, an appropriate house, car, driver, and administrative staff. This is a new provision that looks to be almost tailor made for Pál Schmitt. He would have these perks for life. But only if he resigns. If he is removed from office he will get nothing.

30 comments

  1. Turns one stomach, really.
    Kover was against Schmitt because, as a former member of the interior ministry, he knew that Schmitt had ‘women issues’ that were
    not defensible. Never mind: Orban selected him anyway. Does this guy have some ‘magic powers’, or is it only that he turns on and off
    a limitless supply of cash (euros not forints)? I’ve never seen so many grown men sit up and await (tails wagging) for approval. Even
    Martonyi, the only member with any respect and one who should know better; grovels for Orban’s favour. WHAT GIVES?
    This is more than charisma….

  2. “Normally on such occasions everybody nearby looks on adoringly at Viktor Orbán and the person with whom he is shaking hands. Zsolt Semjén, deputy prime minister, especially beams on such occasions. Now he is resolutely looking at the floor. Mihály Varga (left) is amiably chatting with Zoltán Pokorni while Antal Rogán looks at them instead of either Orbán or Schmitt. And what is most important, Viktor Orbán is not smiling.”
    Sad commentary, it sounds like those Kremlinologists who tried to guess the Soviet leadership’s internal issues based on who was standing where during the November 7 parade. And here we are, twenty years afther the regime change in Hungarey, almost nothing changed…

  3. The same logic applies here as with guessing the Orban resignation. Does it help or hurt in 2014? Schmitt now is like the retarded kid in the family. They keep him for the family allowance – no reason to commit him if he stops wetting the bed. We just don’t talk about him with the neighbors. Bumping him would be a defeat for Orban. Doesn’t look good with the voters. He stays. On planet Hungary anything goes without consequences and if he stays nobody will care. As for Schmitt resigning. I was watching them – Lord and Lady Douchebag (*) – when they visited the SAIS in Washington DC. No way these peacocks will give up the Sandor palace voluntarily until they get kicked out.
    (*) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K_b3oPslctA

  4. Is it not a sign of premeditated malfeasance that Orban had
    changed the law regarding Presidential pensions shortening
    the period to two years for full rights?

  5. I wonder if the new Presidential “payment” also applies if you commit a crime? I mean obtaining a degree with plagiarized stuff is not a criminal offense, but obtaining a job under false pretenses, and receiving money for a degree that one does not have is fraud. Also claiming that you have a certain degree is fraud too. Schmitt does not have a Ph.D. He never took the “bridging” requirements. He only has a pretend Dr.Univ. (that hopefully will be revoked shortly). So, if he is a criminal, can he still receive all the bells and whistles? Maybe in Orban’s Hungary he can.

  6. I have, for the past couple of years, wondered why Mr Pál Schmitt was made President. His only qualifications on the world stage to be President was his Olympian past. This is not normally a qualification for a person who often has to walk a ‘political tightrope’ between those to whom he is beholden and the legality of what is proposed.
    What sort of dark dark secret does Mr Schmitt know about the Viktator? We know that the Viktator has a pathological hatred of those who thwart or fail him. We know this because the Viktator blames the common people for failing to re-elect him at the end of his first government. He has said so publically. He is now teaching them (the common people) a lesson.
    Whatever the secret is the Viktator is beginning to jump through hoops to pay Schmitty off and keep him quiet.

  7. @Odin’t Lost Eye,
    In Hungary, thinking along conspiratorial lines is more often right than wrong. But I have a simpler explanation: the Viktator is out to punish the country regardless of what he says. The reason for that is anyone’s guess…

  8. Riviera1 You wrote ** “: the Viktator is out to punish the country regardless of what he says. The reason for that is anyone’s guess” **.
    No he actually told the world why. After his defeat at the polls at the end of his first Government he publically blamed the Hungarian voters for his defeat. He is a vindictive person… Enough said!!
    Very Off topic. Professor I have noticed of late that Typepad seems to be having problems posting more than 20 to 30 posts on a topic. It tells the poster that the submission has been posted, but it has not been. Have you had a new ‘release’ (or more likely an ‘escape’) of software recently?

  9. Odin’s Lost Eye:
    I am doubtful that Schmitt has anything on Orban, but more than certain that Orban has enough on Schmitt to keep him compliant. One tried and tested strategy for authoritarian leaders is to hold all potential rivals and threats to the execution of ones power in check both by building them up to positions well beyond their talents and qualifications (a pro-active Peter Principle, if you will) and through the careful collection of skeletons in closets.

  10. Ron: “HVG is really on Schmitt Pal’s case. They went to Parliament and asked various Fidesz/KNDP members what should happen if it turns out that Schmitt Pal plagiarize.”
    They know that he plagiarized and they also know that he should resign but they are afraid to say so because they don’t know yet how the Big Chief will decide. The only person in the whole bunch with some guts is Pokorni.
    By the way, how the fellow accompanying Schmitt grabbed onto the HVG reporter’s arm was also interesting.

  11. The Committee set up by the Dean of Semmelweis University will make a decision about the merits of Schmitt’s doctorate by the end of March. I would assume that Orbán will wait for that academic approval or disapproval. The whole affair is rather sad for the country.

  12. Odin, I will write to Typepad. I know I should change provider but by now Spectrum is so well known and we have so many visitors daily that changing address would be very inconvenient for many.

  13. Very off topic … Actually the problem may not be due to Typepad which seemed in the past to be quite robust ,but to the Operating System which Typepad is running under.
    In the past sometimes a new version or upgrade in the O.S. can play havoc with existing ‘User’ Systems. This can be caused by changes ‘Return Codes’ communicating between the Operating System and the ‘User Systems’. All too often the O.S. writers forget the needs of being downward compatible and remembering the needs of ‘legacy’ (older) systems.
    Sometimes the System Programmers can be at fault when ‘up-grading’ the O.S. They forget to change things or just accept the latest ‘default values’ which are wrong for the needs of their ‘User Systems’.
    Apologies to all

  14. Typepad: Sometimes one overlooks the tiny double arrow indicating that there is another page… Happened to me.

  15. London Calling!
    “(a pro-active Peter Principle, if you will)  “ No! GW – I don’t think so!
    I am surprised that any Hungarian should be surprised that Pal Schmitt has been placed in such a position.
    In communist Hungary I was told that you only had to be a good party comrade to be given a sinecure – in a position that you knew nothing about?
    So the humble Dike Keeper would be given the job of administering the Swimming Pool?
    If Pal Schmitt kept his loyalty account in credit – then he stays!
    O/T (1) Yes I had trouble several times posting my erudition on Typepad – so had to give up. Same problem – it says posted but doesn’t appear (and not even on a new page with a tiny arrow!)
    O/T (2) I was in Gyor last week – in extreme cold – you know how to deal with it but not an Englishman! – And was trying to progress the application for an address card. Why do you need one? Why are the Immigration staff in Gyor so rude? A terrible unsuccessful experience believe me!
    Regards
    CharlieH

  16. “Why are the Immigration staff in Gyor so rude?”
    Charlie, I can assure you it’s not just in Gyor, and it’s not just immigration staff!
    On the positive side the attitude of public ‘servants’, bank tellers, shop staff, etc has improved a lot since the change of regime, but it’s still all too common to encounter this sort of attitude.
    I could fill a book with stories on this theme – like our local Gas office who continued to charge us for next door’s gas consumption (several times ours) despite many visits, letters, writing our name and address in BIG letters on the meter, etc. Their attitude all along was that we were causing THEM problems!
    But my favourite for rudeness is the woman behind the bus pass issuing window in Debrecen bus station. She takes the gold for sheer aggressive and unnecessary rudeness and unhelpfulness at the best of times, but once, when my wife and I paused in mid-transaction to decides whether to choose a weekly or monthly pass, she just closed the window and went to lunch!

  17. Odin’s and others – re posts not appearing.
    This has happened to me several times – the post appears to accepted, but when you go back later, it’s not there. No error message, nothing, it just disappears.
    The last time this happened I sent the post in question to TypePad support, asking why it hadn’t been accepted (I’d tried to post it in various forms 5 or 6 times!). Their answer was that it had been rejected as spam – although they didn’t explain what in it was triggering their spam detector.
    There was nothing in the post that should have alarmed anyone, even dodgy TypePad software, it was just a run-of-mill comment on the Malév situation.
    So, I suspect this is what’s happening with all these other disappearing posts. The only way round this is to hit ‘refresh’ after each post to check that it’s actually there (copy the post first, of course).
    And maybe if we all complain to TypePad support each time this happens they MIGHT even do something about it!
    Éva – I understand your reluctance to move, but a quick Google will instantly find your new site, so no one will be lost for long.

  18. I guess Orban is beginning to realise the downside associated with surrounding oneself with incompetence in order to ensure no one with a brain is in position to challenge your authority.
    You government eventually begins to appear, er….. incompetent.

  19. I just poked about on the typepad developers site. Without getting into too many technical details but it looks as though typepad is implemented in PHP which would abstract it away from the OS.
    I’ve noticed a problem with the captcha but the other big possibility is that you’ve triggered a spam filter. Once you’ve hit the honeypot it’s very likely it’s going to stick. If you google you can find the developers mail list and I bet they will answer your question.
    On the subject of Malev. I flew into BUD on Saturday evening. Took a snap of the memorial that the staff created. Flight attendant scarfs were tied to the fence at the south end of Terminal 2A with funeral candles in the snow on the ground. Sad sight indeed. But the big news on M1 last night (following a report @ realdeal.hu) was an attempt to shift blame of Malev’s downfall to Oszkó who now happens to be an exec with Wizz Air. I don’t know who’s at fault but gee, excuse the guy for getting a good job after helping to screw up the country.
    More seriously, it seems to me that there are a combination of problems including EU structures that disadvantage small airlines (small business in general) in small countries such as Malev trying to operate in Hungary. They just can’t achieve the economies of scale that Lufthansa can and they have to cover a number of not so profitable routes and not being able to pick up traffic from other European centers for long haul flights results in other carriers scooping up passengers that Malev just simply couldn’t capture. That and completive pricing. For example, when ever I booked a flight into Paris I often found that it was cheaper to book via Air France even when flying on the same aircraft in the same class of fare that you’d be on if you had purchased the ticket from Malev.
    But I don’t think this was the only problem. I’m not sure what Malev paid for using BUD airport but every other airline I know has complained about the incredibly high fees.
    Pre-2001 Delta was looking for an airport in Europe that they could use as a hub. One of the criteria which BUD easily met was capacity to expand. The only other real contender was CDG (Paris). CDG has many other problems such as reliability (many unions of which anyone could be on strike at any time). Thus Delta was trying to avoid using CDG and they found BUD to be more reliable. Why is Delta not here? BUD completely priced themselves out of the running.
    Just about that time, KLM was flying into BUD, dropping off the passengers, dead-heading to Vienna to service the aircraft and then returning to pick up passengers to return to Amsterdam. I can’t imagine what the difference in servicing fees would need to be to want to dead-heading a commuter sized aircraft to and from Vienna. Judging by Ryan Air’s comments, the pricing strategy hasn’t changed. So one has to wonder how much Malev was paying in airport fees and how much of that factors into the down fall.
    Final point, the conflict of interest with Russian “partners” that prevented Malev from placing themselves into bankruptcy protection. This was desperately needed a while back and my guess is, some how the Russians prevented it from happening so they wouldn’t have to eat the unpaid bills for fuel. One has to ask the question, if Malev would have been allowed to restructure debt as the analysts suggested was desperately needed as few years ago, would they still be flying today. My guess is the answer would be yes.
    PS, TypePad has a very annoying session timeout problem. I’m wondering why a blog is issuing sessions.

  20. @I love Hungary: “I don’t know who’s at fault but gee, excuse the guy for getting a good job after helping to screw up the country.”
    This remark is totally unfair. Fidesz is trying to portray all socialist governments as the same, as being responsible for screwing up the country. Convenient black and white thinking. There were three socialist governments in 2002-2010. The last one, that came in to office in 2009 and was led by Bajnai (and in which Oszko was the minister of finance), did an outstanding job of bringing back the country from the brink of financial collapse. Was it the previous socialist governments’ fault that the country got to the brink of collapse? Largely yes (+a world wide financial collapse in 2008 + an opposition who was obstructing any kind of government initiation that could have served the country).
    But to lump Bajnai and Oszko in with the socialists governments before is just plain unfair.
    “Bajnai, who was not a member of the Socialist party, made it clear from the outset that he intended to head a largely technocratic government and, alongside his appointee as finance minister, Peter Oszko, put the country’s near-crippled finances in order under a programme agreed with the IMF and EU as part of a 20 billion euro bailout following the October 2008 economic crisis.
    Bajnai was praised by international economists and investors for cutting several large spending items and restoring a sufficiency of confidence for government debt financing to return to the market in place of the IMF.”
    http://www.politics.hu/20110325/former-pm-bajnai-sets-up-thinktank/

  21. An, of course Fidesz is trying to portray all socialist governments as being the same. That Oszko could have brought down Malev on his own or ruined the country on his own is a bit far fetched and for Fidesz to even suggest this… At any rate, if you’d have read any of my early postings you’d see that I’m not a fan of any of the political elite in Hungary. To be quite honest, I find the term “political elite” to be quite offensive and demeaning.
    One of the best politician I knew got into politics because those in power let developers build on a flood plain which caused her to need a boat to get to her house at least once a year. Prior to that she was not political and afterwards certainly not elite. She was, however, very effective and very responsive to her constituants. In fact, I know a number of “politically elite” that are not so elitist just seem to do just fine and can get things done. Unfortunately, none of these people are in Hungary. And that, my friend, is what this country desperately needs. I believe that this government needs to be taken over by the ordinary person on the street. People that will receive and listen to the views of ordinary citizens of this country. Receive advice from technocrats on how to best deal with legal technicalities. What is not needed is more people who tell reports that they are stupid or that they can’t possibly understand the technicalities of the situation or say and get away with other degrading, demeaning or down right insulting statements. These are the people that are creating “enemies of the state”. And most amazingly, they wonder why is this happening (again)?
    Most of the ordinary Hungarians that I know are not right or left, they are well educated and filled with ordinary common sense. They are not offensive telling people they are stupid. They are and always beens very hospitable and respectful. Yet this isn’t how they are represented by their “political elitist” leaders. So yeah, it is my not so humble opinion that ordinary Hungarians need to start representing themselves to each other and the world.. I’m waiting for a grass roots movement, one that’s saying, “we’ve had enough with you know it alls that stole our countries assets when the wall came down and then not having taken enough, went on to take even more” but I fear history and tradition won’t let them.
    As for the socialist being different than Fidesz. I don’t hear any of them saying.. (Fidesz included) hey where did the $19 million that BASF had set aside for “marketing the Gripen” go. That $19 million that resulted in the US dept. of commerce fining BASF $400,000,000. (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/europe/gripen-sales.htm)
    Maybe my opinion is a bit strong and maybe it’s not so fair to Mr. Bajnai or Mr. Oszko, but I’ve also seen a lot of stuff thats gone on for more than just 1 term. In this environment it’s hard to believe they got this far without being part of it.

  22. Living with it in Hungary:”More seriously, it seems to me that there are a combination of problems including EU structures that disadvantage small airlines (small business in general) in small countries such as Malev trying to operate in Hungary. They just can’t achieve the economies of scale that Lufthansa can and they have to cover a number of not so profitable routes and not being able to pick up traffic from other European centers for long haul flights results in other carriers scooping up passengers that Malev just simply couldn’t capture. ”
    I don’t understand why Malev HAD to cover not so profitable routes. They were a private company and they could do anything that was needed – and possible – to be also profitable. The alternative was to go out of business, which they did. It is not the first and not the last airline to do so, just remember PanAm, TWA, Eastern, Braniff, Swissair and others.

  23. @Living with it in Hungary: “In this environment it’s hard to believe they got this far without being part of it.”
    I think we should stop judging people by what they may have been part of … and judge them by what they actually did.
    Insinuations based on “they can’t be decent people/politicians because they were part of the last 8, or 20 years” are not leading anywhere… and also one of the favorite Fidesz techniques to discredit political opponents. (Yes, I know that was not your motivation when you brought this up)
    The Bajnai-Oszko government has a good record, and that needs to be acknowledged. That is all I am saying.
    I don’t have a high opinion of the Hungarian political elite, either, right or left… I think most of them are corrupt, self-serving, and a lot of them are incompetent.
    And yes, you are right, this won’t change until Hungarians get more politically active and “force” the elite to change. There are some signs of that happening (Milla, Szolidaritas, or the formation of new parties, LMP and recently 4K!) They are not reaching a critical mass, but still, it’s a start.
    Another thing that has to change, I think: Hungarians themselves should get less corrupt and more interested in the “common good” rather than in their own individual advancement. Corruption and and cronyism in politics unfortunately reflects the general moral state of the population… not just the moral state of the politicians.

  24. Let’s say that the MSzP/SzDSz government had boxed through an MSzP member as president and it turned that out his or her Doctor title had been awarded for a plagiarized thesis. Does anyone seriously doubt that Fidesz would have been screaming for a resignation? Of course not. It is a universal value not to tolerate plagiarism and it is a conservative value to not tolerate plagiarism, and every day that Schmitt remains in office is a betrayal of conservative values.

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