As expected, a number of reactions to László Sólyom’s speech at Aszófő on Sunday appeared in the Hungarian media, though not as many as I would have thought. Magyar Nemzet and Magyar Hírlap did not think it important enough even to mention it. There is nothing surprising about this. These two papers never publish anything that is critical of the present government. MTI didn’t bother to send a reporter to Aszófő, although I can’t quite imagine that the politically savvy Gábor Török didn’t notify the state-run press agency of the coming event. Thus MTI only belatedly published a short report based on a summary of the speech by Origo, an Internet paper.
On the other hand, a reporter for Népszabadság was on the spot and fell in love with Sólyom’s phrase that the present Hungarian government’s “style is the regime itself.” Yesterday, I expressed my rather strong opinion on how unfortunate and wrong this description of Orbán’s government is. On the other hand, Ákos Tóth, the reporter present in Aszófő, obviously loved the speech as is clear from an editorial he wrote in today’s Népszabadság, “Sólyom’s time has arrived.”
In Tóth’s opinion it is remarkable that Sólyom has raised his voice against the Orbán government when “he is closer to Fidesz and closer to the ideas of that side and yet, as he himself was the counterbalance to the government of Ferenc Gyurcsány, now he can be the counterbalance to that of Viktor Orbán.” It only shows how little Tóth understands the essence of the Orbán regime and how he misjudges the political weight of László Sólyom under the present circumstances.
The other analysis that appeared on Galamus is that of Mátyás Eörsi, former MP and at one point the leader of the SZDSZ parliamentary caucus. Eörsi is currently a member of Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Demokratikus Koalíció.
Eörsi’s criticism concentrates on aspects of the speech I didn’t pay much attention to. The most important of these is László Sólyom’s mistaken notion that the passivity of the electorate is due to the total disillusionment with governing parties past and present. As Eörsi points out, if that were the case, the supporters of LMP, a brand new party that had no part in past political sins, would have multiplied as disillusionment set in. But that is not the case. So, Sólyom’s analysis of the passivity of present voters is most likely wrong.
Eörsi’s other criticism is also valid. To quote him: “The assessment that the parties on this side are suspect for one reason while those on the other side are not to be trusted for another might bring applause from the audience” but “Sólyom’s anti-party speech may unwittingly contribute to the current anti-party mood of the country.”
The so-called “political scientists” also put in their two cents’ worth. One of them, Attila Tibor Nagy, praised Sólyom for taking the middle ground: “One could notice that he significantly distanced himself from the current government parties, more specifically from the constitutional practices of the current government, but he also distanced himself from the opposition that lost its credibility.” Not exactly the most perceptive interpretation of the speech.
Another analyst, Zoltán Vasali, thought that Viktor Orbán and his friends can’t possibly ignore Sólyom’s warnings. (Want to bet?) Vasali also said something that took my breath away. “The former president with his speech legitimized all criticisms of the Orbán government so far uttered.” I’m so glad that Sólyom’s speech had such a liberating effect on the opposition. Now they can freely criticize and be confident that their criticism is valid. After all, Sólyom shares their opinions. What a relief!
Among the comments to yesterday’s post some of the readers of Hungarian Spectrum called attention to László Sólyom’s disastrous presidency. Here I would like to bring up only what Sólyom could have seen but neglected to do during 2007. Why did I pick that particular year? Because Sándor Révész just happened to discuss the events of 2007. Révész for the last few years has had a fascinating series in Népszabadság entitled “A múlt köde” (The fog of the past) in which he discusses events that we may be apt to forget.
One example of what Sólyom should have noticed: 2007 was the year that the Hungarian Guard was recognized as a “cultural association.” The government parties denounced it while Fidesz’s reaction was that “anyone has the right to form an association … It is the duty of the government to enforce the laws governing these associations. … The formation of the Hungarian Guard is very good for Ferenc Gyurcsány who can wage a hysterical and alarming campaign … instead of busying himself with the really serious problems of the country.” László Surján (KDNP) called the Hungarian Guard completely harmless while Zoltán Pokorni (Fidesz) suspected MSZP-SZDSZ provocation. According to András Bencsik (Fidesz), one of the people behind the Guard and also one of the organizers of the Peace Walk, “everybody knows that the Hungarian Guard is not an extremist formation. It doesn’t threaten anyone, [instead] it wants to defend. It doesn’t want to take away but wants to add. … The Hungarian Guard wants what every decent person ever since Lakitelek has wanted.” It was in Lakitelek that the future supporters of MDF got together in 1987.
Considering that as early as 2007 Fidesz was already supportive of the Hungarian far right, László Sólyom should have noticed that something was amiss around Viktor Orbán. Why did László Sólyom feel compelled to be “a counterbalance”–to use Ákos Tóth’s phrase–to Ferenc Gyurcsány’s government and to stand by an opposition party that already in 2007 supported the extreme right? Or stand by a party whose leader conducted his political activities outside of parliament and actually broke the law for his own political purposes? If Sólyom was incapable of realizing on his own what was going on in Hungary between 2006 and 2010, then at least he should have read József Debreczeni’s articles and books. Debreczeni quoted extensively from the speeches of the former and future prime minister of Hungary which clearly delineated his future course of action. The behavior of Viktor Orbán and his friends was devastating for the country and one had to be blind not to see it. Obviously Sólyom was one of the blind.