Last night’s scandalous interview with three opposition personalities on ATV’s “Szabad szemmel” deserves a post even if it was only three days ago that I wrote an article entitled “Hungarian disunity a barrier to a political solution.”
In that piece I wrote that I consider Gordon Bajnai’s appearance at the demonstration organized by Péter Juhász of Milla, a Facebook group that has already staged quite a few well attended demonstrations against “the regime,” ill advised. I have serious reservations about Juhász and Milla.
First of all, we don’t know who makes up Milla. We see only one man, Péter Juhász, who seems to be the spokesman; the people behind him remain in the shadows. After Milla became a registered “association” a couple of days ago and Juhász was asked about the group’s membership, he talked vaguely about “the many people who work on the organization of Milla’s demonstration.”
Another problem is that we don’t know where Milla stands. When Péter Juhász is asked about his political views he often contradicts himself. He is consistent in only 0ne respect: he seems to be the enemy of politicians and parties. In his eyes all politicians are crooks, none of them works for “the homeland” or for “the people,” everything they do is done for political reasons. So, by definition, all politicians are guilty of corruption and self-serving behavior. When people point out to him that after all he is a politician too, he admits to that sin, but I’m sure he thinks he is the exception to the rule.
In the last few weeks Juhász got a lot of media attention, mostly because he hinted that some surprising event will take place at the demonstration he is organizing. As it turned out it was Gordon Bajnai’s participation in the event. As we find out more and more about the man, what surfaces is not very attractive. In fact, there is something to what Ferenc Gyurcsány said about him: he might be more of a hindrance to the cooperation so necessary in opposition circles than a promoter of it. Last night’s debate pretty well proved Gyurcsány right.
In order to explain some of the contentious issues I have to go back to the end of September when six researchers attached to the Eötvös Károly Intézet (EKINT), a legal think tank, published an eight-point survey of the damage that has been inflicted on Hungarian democracy in the last two and a half years. They also offered some suggestions about how to remedy it. I wrote about this briefly at the beginning of October, promising to return to the document. I still haven’t managed to fulfill that promise, but let me cite here the second of their eight-point agenda that they urge be implemented once the Orbán government is gone for good. The issue is the political appointees who were named in an unconstitutional manner to formerly independent institutions which thus ceased to be independent of government control. So, says the study of EKINT, the independence of these institutions must be restored and “the political appointees must depart from independent institutions.”
László Majtényi, former ombudsman and the head of EKINT, sent this document to all parties and civic groups he deemed democratic, including Milla. In return, Majtényi received an answer signed by Péter Juhász although the letter is written in the first person plural : “we, the organizers of the Facebook group of One Million for Hungarian Press Freedom (Milla).” Juhász’s first question concerned the nature of democracy. He wanted to know to which parties Majtényi and his colleagues had sent the document because “the past activities of the politicians of MSZP and the current leaders of DK call into doubt their democratic commitments.” To support his claim he mentions ” the numerous infractions of the law, mass and routine arrests, restrictions of the freedom of assembly.” As if Juhász were reading from the script of Krisztina Morvai, Zoltán Balog, and Viktor Orbán.
Juhász’s second question concerned EKINT’s contention that political appointees cannot stay in their posts after the restoration of true Hungarian democracy. In his opinion these people were appointed legally and in a democratic country these political appointees cannot be removed. Zsófia Mihancsik very rightly pointed out in an article entitled “Milla-baj” (Million problems) that “on these grounds we could question the legitimacy of the 1989 regime change because it built the legal foundations of democracy contrary to the laws of the socialist system.” In brief, Juhász doesn’t want to realize that democratic institutions have been compromised and hence the legitimacy of their personnel is questionable.
I don’t know whether Tamás Bauer, formerly SZDSZ MP and now one of the deputy chairmen of DK, wrote his article that appeared in today’s Népszabadság before or after the television debate, but I assume before. His criticism is similar to that of Mihancsik or for that matter my own. Milla in the last two years wanted to keep its distance from parties, and that strategy worked. Milla managed to call great crowds to the streets. Initially their slogan was “I don’t like the regime,” but this year they devised a new one, “Let’s end the past.” That implies a negation of the past twenty-two years, democracy and all. This slogan echoes the opinions of Jobbik and LMP. Bauer also calls attention to Juhász’s claim that MSZP and DK, currently parliamentary parties, are not democratic parties. Equating the Orbán regime with the governments of Antall, Horn, Medgyessy, Gyurcsány, and Bajnai, he argues, is unfair. These governments obeyed the decisions of the constitutional court; they didn’t try to silence the media of the opposition parties; and they by and large acted like politicians in a democratic country. The Third Republic was founded on the principles of a multi-party democracy. But Milla’s Péter Juhász questions these accomplishments. Juhász’s stigmatization of all parties only increases Hungarians’ suspicion of parties and politicians. That is not the solution. In fact, Juhász of Milla is doing a disservice to Hungarian democracy. So, says Bauer, that’s why he won’t attend Milla’s demonstration.
And then came the shouting match on ATV last night. Here I came to the conclusion that Juhász is also unfit to be a politician because of his personality. He completely lost his cool. But even before he got to this point he made some remarks that were unacceptable, at least to me. He twice said that “there is no use replacing the Orbán government if the same situation returns that caused the two-thirds majority.” He accusingly turned to Tibor Szanyi (MSZP) and Ágnes Vadai (DK), pointing his finger at them and accusing them of being responsible for the victory of Viktor Orbán. As we know, the reason for the landslide victory of Fidesz is a much more complex issue than Juhász tried to portray it here. The economic crisis, austerity programs, the irresponsible behavior of the opposition, unrealistic promises, and one could continue.
His opponents were extraordinarily patient. Ágnes Vadai was especially conciliatory, most likely because her colleagues told her not to lose her temper and to show that DK is ready to cooperate with all who are against the present government. So she kept repeating: “But there is still more that binds us than separates us.”
When it came to the cause of the present financial woes of the country Juhász, following the Fidesz lead, pointed to 2002–that is, after Fidesz lost the elections. But we know that deficit spending started with the first Orbán government in 2000 in anticipation of the elections. Of course, Péter Medgyessy added to the troubles with his salary increases, but in 2006 the second Gyurcsány government reduced the deficit considerably. Then, alas, came the world financial crisis. Nothing is as simple as Péter Juhász, the novice politician, thinks. Fooling the people continues. Not only by parties and bona fide politicians but also by quasi-politicians like Péter Juhász.