Yesterday I indicated that I would like to say a few more words about this latest fiasco in the two-year-old witch hunt against political adversaries of the current government. According to the latest count Gyula Budai “investigated” and reported to the authorities 1,320 “crimes.” Out of this enormous number of cases so far forty were deemed good enough to pursue, and as far as I know none of these has come to verdict. Some of the cases that were announced with great fanfare had to be dropped for the same reason as Ferenc Gyurcsány’s: no evidence of wrongdoing.
The most shameful case was the concocted charge against liberal philosophers whose names were dragged around in the mud, creating a worldwide protest in the academic community. For weeks right-wing papers couldn’t talk about anything else but the shameless academics who stole half a billion forints from the Hungarian state. Interestingly enough, when the investigation was halted the prosecutors neglected to announce the fact, even to the accused. And naturally, the same right-wing papers that spoke most loudly against the philosophers failed to report the end of the story.
Ferenc Gyurcsány’s case was incomparably more important and delicate than that of the philosophers. After all, he was prime minister of Hungary for five years. During this whole ordeal there was a lot of talk about the fate of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko who only last year was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment for “abuse of power while in office.” Her crime was signing a gas contract with Russia which in the eyes of her accusers was disadvantageous to Ukraine. Examining Gyula Budai’s cases, one finds that the Hungarian “investigator” uses the same tactics the Ukrainians did against Tymoshenko. For example, the five people in the King’s City case are also charged with selling state property below the assessed value. I know that Hungarian government officials hate comparisons to Ukraine, but the similarities are too striking to ignore.
The fact that such a politically important case had to be scrapped couldn’t have been a happy event for Péter Polt, the supreme prosecutor,* who most likely received strong encouragement from Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to get Gyurcsány at all cost. According to well informed sources, the Központi Nyomozó Főügyészség (Central Investigative Chief Prosecutor’s Office) found the case so weak that it already suggested dropping the case against Gyurcsány sometime early spring. However, Polt was adamant. Bringing charges against Gyurcsány was of paramount importance, it seems. And now, after many delays, the announcement had to be made that all these efforts were in vain. No wonder that the reporters asked the chief prosecutor, Imre Keresztes, whether this admission of failure wasn’t embarrassing to the prosecution.
The announcement couldn’t have been welcomed by András Schiffer either, who has the dubious distinction of being the man who went to the prosecutors to denounce Ferenc Gyurcsány. The reporters also approached him, wanting to know his reaction to the announcement. If Schiffer had simply said that he doesn’t want to comment on judicial matters and that on the basis of media reports the charges against Gyurcsány were only partly based on his complaint, it would have been fine. But Schiffer went further. He complained that two years after the change of government the public still has little knowledge of the “chaotic affairs” of the earlier administration. The promised “bringing to account” is no more than legerdemain on the part of Fidesz, whose politicians “rattle the handcuffs over the heads of the socialists at intervals” but do no more.
Well, Schiffer and the politicians of Jobbik see eye to eye on this matter. Gábor Staudt, a Jobbik member of parliament who is in change of legal matters within the party, announced that he and his party received the news with great dismay. The decision to drop the case will have serious negative consequences for Fidesz, whose voters will now see clearly that they can trust only Jobbik as the party that takes penalizing the socialists for their wrongdoings seriously. Specifically, Staudt announced that “bringing Gyurcsány to justice will be our task.” Perhaps András Schiffer, who considers the last twenty years of Hungarian history a total waste that must be completely abandoned, will work together with Jobbik to achieve this desirable goal. In this case, Schiffer can be assured that the socialist/liberal politicians will be sent to jail or even may even hang–after all, Jobbik advocates reintroducing the death penalty–regardless of what they did or did not do.
And finally, Gyurcsány’s own reaction. Two hours after the official announcement that further investigation of his case had been halted, he responded on Facebook. He began: “Polt should resign and afterward apologize. He falsely accused me of a serious crime that he himself didn’t believe. He is unfit for the job and a dishonest man. He is a despicable man…. [But] Polt became scared because he knew that every day of a possible trial would be sheer hell for him. Because I would have been his accuser. Him and his ‘keeper,’ Viktor Orbán and his regime…. But there is someone else here, András Schiffer, who in 2009 as a leader of a small party without parliamentary representation denounced me for a brief period of celebrity. A man who parades in the role of the defender of constitutionality while making false accusations. Miserable man. Shouldn’t you say something, András? Or would you rather pat Gaudi-Nagy** on the back a little longer? Are you compensating? Why and for whose sake?”
Gyurcsány is obviously full of determination, but whether he can repair the damage inflicted on him by Viktor Orbán and his “assistants,” whose job it was to “amortize” him, as Zsolt Semjén admitted sometime after the elections, is hard t0 predict. Eight years of character assassination will be difficult to obliterate, especially as long as there are András Schiffers in the so-called democratic camp who don’t realize that by attacking Gyurcsány they are playing into the hands of Orbán. Can Gyurcsány be a successful accuser of the current regime? Can he have a leading role? At the moment there are few people who would bet any money on his ever achieving the kind of fame he had between 2004 and 2006. But in politics one never knows. People’s memory is short. A politician can rise or fall overnight. Time will tell.
*I rarely use the proper Hungarian title of “supreme prosecutor” when I talk about Péter Polt because it sounds odd in English. It is a Soviet import from the 1950s, but I guess all those chief prosecutors under him don’t want to be demoted to ordinary prosecutors.
**Tamás Gaudi-Nagy is a Jobbik MP and a lawyer who defends many of the dubious characters of the extreme right. He and Schiffer could be seen at times in very friendly conversations.