Hungarian President János Áder returned from Berlin where he presumably got an earful. Both Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle gave their opinions about the Hungarian government’s policies in general and the latest outrage in Budapest: the castration of the constitutional court and the destruction of the most basic principle of constitutional rule, the separation of powers.
While in Berlin Áder told reporters that he tried to enlighten the German politicians about the true nature of the amended constitution and assure them that their criticism was unfounded. Their criticism is based on their lack of knowledge of the details, he claimed. At home demonstrators and public figures tried to convince the president that he should refuse to sign the bill. But some legal scholars argued that Áder, as a result of the amendments, has no choice but to sign the document. Others, including László Sólyom, former head of the Hungarian constitutional court, argued that he does have the power to deny his signature. After all, as long as his signature is not on the bill, the old constitution is still in force and that constitution didn’t take his prerogative away. Áder decided to opt for the first interpretation. He announced that he has no choice but to sign.
Áder made the announcement on MTV, Hungary’s public television station. While a day before he was convinced that all was well with the amended constitution, in “his speech to the nation” he didn’t stress this point. Instead, he told his audience that he had studied the amendments carefully, listened to experts, read all the letters he received. But “a responsible thinking citizen cannot urge anyone to disregard the letter of the law. This is especially true in the case of the president because if he were to step onto the path of unconstitutionality there would be only one consequence. Something none of us wants. Chaos. Anarchy. Illegality.” And then he quoted the words in the newly amended constitution that he hadn’t yet signed: “The President of the Republic shall sign the Fundamental Law or the amendment thereof sent to him within five days of receipt and shall order its publication in the Official Gazette.” So, he claimed that he has no choice but to sign, adding that this is his duty regardless of whether he personally likes the amendments or not.
Representatives of the new university student movement, HaHa, pointed out that he could have resigned. But no, Áder belongs to the inner sanctum of Fidesz. He has served Viktor Orbán well for years. He wavered only once, after the second lost election in 2006, when he apparently joined the ranks of those who thought that it might not be a bad idea if Viktor Orbán retired.
Tamás Deutsch, his old friend, was elated with his decision to sign. On Twitter Deutsch wrote: “You also know Jánó that THIS is what we once dreamed of.” Does it mean that these guys have been planning to destroy Hungarian democracy for the last twenty-four years? Let’s hope not.
While Áder was returning to Budapest, Orbán was getting ready to travel to Brussels to take part in one of the periodic summits of the European Council. The European Council is supposed to define “the general political directions and priorities” of the Union. It is the EU’s strategic and crisis solving body, acting as the collective presidency of the EU.
Given “the unparalleled uproar” in Brussels and other capitals over Viktor Orbán’s defiance of the European Union, the interest in the Hungarian prime minister was more intense than usual. Normally he doesn’t talk to reporters before these meetings, but this time the Hungarians organized an “international press conference.” Orbán managed to avoid answering questions by insisting that he didn’t want to hear opinions; he demanded ” facts.” Since foreign reporters are not experts in the minutiae of the Hungarian constitution, the “dialogue” became rather strange. He kept repeating: “I beg you, only the facts!” because so far he hasn’t been presented with any proof that what Hungary is doing is unconstitutional.
All in all, he was very cocky and sure of himself. Luke Baker, Reuters’ reporter in Brussels, tweeted: “Hungary’s Orban smiling like a Cheshire cat as he comes into press conference with international media to defend constitutional changes.” I’d wager to say that Baker had the original Cheshire Cat in mind, not the jolly fellow that appeared in Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. The original cat as depicted by John Tenniel, the illustrator of the 1866 publication of Lewis Carroll’s book, is a much more sinister character.
Orbán might get off his high horse soon because there are new developments afoot. One is that, according to “reliable information,” the “Hungarian question” will be on the table at the summit. Second, the German parliament (Bundestag) spent more than an hour today on the amendments to the Hungarian constitution. The initiative came from the social democrats, but all parties joined the socialists in demanding strong action on the part of Germany and Angela Merkel. At the same time Viviane Reding, European commissioner of justice, fundamental rights, and citizenship, warned Hungary of severe consequences as a result of Budapest’s latest moves. Reding talked about the possibility of invoking Article 7 of the Lisbon Treaty and added that Hungary’s subsidies might be cut. “The Constitution is not a toy that can be changed every six months.” (The students said exactly the same thing.)
Orbán may appear to be unruffled, but all observers agree that the situation is serious. There are signs of impatience and annoyance in Brussels at Orbán’s provocations and games with the European Union. This time he might have gone too far.
Orbán doesn’t understand all that. He only found the constitution to be a wonderfully comfortable vehicle to secure his power and counter any opposition from whomever.
The EU can do a lot. But as long as the EVP, the organisation of all European conservative parties in the European Parliament, blocks all EU moves to sanction Hungary, nothing will happen.
And who is the EVP? It is Merkel who brought us a weak Barroso, an incomprehensible Oettinger and other weak personnel decisions.
And cunctatrix Merkel also made the banking crisis much more expensive than it should have been. Why? She wanted to shore up domestic support for local “Länder” elections in Germany, just for short-term, parochial, non-European goals. She lost them all. I dearly hope she loses the next federal election as well.
Yes, Eva: the Cheshire cat GRINS, and won’t stop even when he has every reason to do so.
He did at least fade away though…
Orbán has gotten 100% support from his base re the amendments. Not a single word of criticism from Fidesz members, I think he even exceeded his own expectations.
If he ordered to round up opposition politicians and put them in concentration camps, his supporters would happily assist, there is literally nothing the Fidesz politicians would not do for him.
Which Western politician has a similar support?
The question is rather why Orbán should not be cock sure?
To repeat or paraphrase him: give me facts. When did he ever suffer any repercussions?
It was mentioned already, but I repeat it, Orbán, like every dictator, only understands and responds to raw and unequivocal power (like the one Putin uses: I turn of the tap and that’s that), exactly the kind of power Europeans hate to use.
Definitely not to the legalistic, procedure-driven, uber-sophisticated and euro-modern kind of power. He would win that and he knows it.
“The Constitution is not a toy that can be changed every six months.”
Just how many times have the United States Constitution been amended? 27? 30? Let’s just say more than 4 times.
The ignorance of the Fidesz Troopers, again. Why, oh why Hungarians always feel the need to compare themselves not to those that they think are superior to them but to those who they feel inferior? Not that the USA is inferior to Hungary, but if these Troopers feel so horrified by it, then why take it as an example?
By the way, what you are talking about is not amendments, but ratifications.
Miklos, let me enlighten you with the USA. THe USA Constitution was written in 1787! (Do the math… 226 years ago.) THere was no USA Constitution prior. It was ratified eighteen times.
226:18=12.5. Also, do not be lazy, read those amendments. THey are for the rights of all, not for bettering a few. BIG difference!
Well, no protests today. It’s a real blizzard outside. Heaviest snowfall of the year.
Waiting and hoping for the EU to step in and protect Hungary and Hungarians is futile. They don’t have power or the inclination or guts to stand up and rectify the situation. Change when it comes has to come from inside the country. An economic collapse and a resulting societal collapse will be the only thing that facilitates change, and that is still sometime away.
I just read that the some members of the European parliament are calling for the suspension of Hungary’s rights as an EU member. Problem is, even if that happened, Orban would turn that to his advantage at home, claiming how foreign bodies who had been harmed by his wonderful policy of freeing the Hungarians from the slavery of foreign multi nationals were behind this. And sadly a lot of Hungarians would believe him.
I don’t see how this is relevant to what’s going on in Hungary today. One cannot get a constitutional amendment in the US without a serious amount of debate and input from *all* parties and stake holders. It legitimizes the process. These cardinal laws lack legitimacy because they are the dictates of a single group within the society. It lacks legitimacy because they over-reach in what a constitution is suppose to do. It lacks legitimacy because there was no mandate from the electorate to carry out these broad sweeping changes to the fundamental structure that governs how the country works. It is anti-democratic in that is centralizes important controls over society in the hands of a few. It is anti-democratic in that it weakens or removes all checks on what this single body can do. So just simply saying the US has been amended more than 4 times is a very weak attempt to whitewash what is really happening.
The Trolls seem to get ever more stupid …
Now for somethoing totally OT:
Even the German media mention the horrible weather we’ve had in Hungary yesterday and today: http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/ungarn-wintereinbruch-sorgt-fuer-verkehrschaos-a-889022.html
Our neighbour was lucky yesterday evening to get home from work at all with his car – took him more than 90 minutes for 10 km!
Hundreds or thousands even were trapped in their cars on the M1 and M7.
Now if I were a believer I might think this is god’s wrath ? No festivities at all today – maybe Orbán knew about this in advance ?
If he ordered to round up opposition politicians and put them in concentration camps, his supporters would happily assist, there is literally nothing the Fidesz politicians would not do for him.
Problem is not so much unquestioning nature of his own sheep but the fact that the vast majority of the rest of the population would shrug their shoulders and get on with Baratok Kozt if he were to declare a dictatorship today- that’s the fact, unpalatable although it may be to readers on here and the very small amount of liberals left in the country.
Orban spits at the EU because he (along with Ponta in Romania) knows its complete and utter uselessness when faced by someone who couldn’t give a toss about democratic norms- they threaten to remove his voting rights, big deal. If they cut tomorrow the complete funding going to the regime he might stand back or more likely his pet racist Bayer would bring another 400,000 fascists and mentally deranged on the streets and the EU cowards would then very quickly wave the white flag.
He is at this point in time at the very height of powers with apparent control even over the weather and there are only two ways he may be stopped, neither of which are completely beyond the bounds of possibility.
Firstly, the financial situation implodes dramatically; secondly the dictator himself implodes with a mental breakdown.
Problem with the first scenario is the untold suffering it would bring (and again here is an important difference between Fidesz and the rest of us with even a shred of common decency- Fidesz would exploit the hunger, poverty, racial conflict etc to their own narrow bigotted ends whereas civic society would try to solve it).
Problem with the second scenario would be actually being able to tell when Orban has mentally cracked up… quite possible that he already has?
@ wolfi. “Now if I were a believer I might think this is god’s wrath ? No festivities at all today – maybe Orbán knew about this in advance ?”
Strangely, my girlfriend with whom I just skyped from sunny Ticino, said exactly the same! 🙂
There seem to be more police than usual on the streets today. There was one small anti-government protest, marching down the street around Deak Ter. About 30 students, demanding (amongst other things) free beer!. Followed by no less than six police cars and vans. Intimidating?
This is truly insane: the President claims to be bound to sign the amendment by an article of the amendment which he hasn’t signed yet? My head hurts. I feel like Alice.
I’m getting a bad feeling from everything I read in the news about this. Because Orbán – and the Fideszistas on the Guardian comments section here in the UK – are continually getting away with this line of argument:
“Who is able to present even one single point of evidence… that what we are doing is against democracy?”
(this from the BBC website’s coverage, here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21792644).
How are they managing to frame the debate so that this challenge goes unanswered? Surely the burden of proof should be on the other side? What happens when anyone asks Orbán: e.g.
1. Why it’s necessary to remove the Court’s veto power over constitutional changes?
2. Why it’s necessary to make judges retire earlier?
3. Why restricting political campaigning to state media should be enforced through the constitution, rather than ordinary legislation?
4. Why the measure forcing students to work in Hungary should, again, be enforced constitutionally, rather than ordinary legislation?
But in writing this I’m reaching the answer to my own question. Because I’m starting from the premise that what Orbán is doing with the constitution is extraordinary. I’m assuming that everyone agrees on that. And so I’m looking for the extraordinary justification that this demands: Tell us please, why these measures are so important that they justify mucking around with the constitution?
But Orbán’s tactic is not to even pick up this gauntlet. What he’s doing is “just business as usual; nothing to see here; move along”. Casting critics as fusspots (and he can also throw the spices “foreign”/”liberal”/”don’t understand Hungary and its incommensurable subtleties” into the pot of fuss) making a big deal about nothing.
Expect an off-the-record press briefing from Fidesz in the next few days claiming that the Two-Tailed Dog Party is financed by shadowy American/EU/international Jewish backers…
The West (Global North) is weak (unless its about oil, then they do drop a few bombs like in Iraq or in Libya). It’s full of people who always had it easy. They can’t fight because, they are not hungry. They are content. They are not passionate. They only care about having the newest iPad and be able to spend time on facebook and tumblr.
I think Orbán is just the kind of Global-South dictator of which we have seen many in the post-colonial world (he certainly sees himself that way with his ‘szabadságharc’, freedom fight).
These dictators had the power and nobody cared really. They think they have the right to nationalize and be agressive and centralise power, because their lives are much harder (well, not Orbán’s and those of his cronies, but those of the average joes) and the West can’t possible understand their world. (You can see that in the analyses of London financial analysts, who are unbelievly naive and clueless and are complete suckers for all the government lies.).
And the West kinda agrees and at the same time needs them for their own purposes (whether that is uranium for Areva or votes in the EU Parliament does not really matter, the bottom line is that the West can be bought – exactly like the MSZP politicians, always open to a a deal, even if somehow always Fidesz seems to win).
It’s clear to everyone, except for the liberals and the left.
What you have seen so far, well, Orbán’s is just getting warmed up.
Mark my words.
To be honest, the local met office has been forecasting this storm for quite some time. This time, however, they actually got it right. So mayber Orban did know! BTW, if you didn’t have to go anywhere, walking in the hills today in the snow was marvelous.
VIKTOR ORBAN’S FOOTBALL-HOOLIGAN MENTALITY MAY NOW PROVE HIS UNDOING
Viktor Orban vs. the World: Defending Hungary from Magyar-Haters and Traitors…
Sandor Pinter the minister of interior is very satisfied with the performance of the authorities during this blizzard.
Try to disagree and Miklos will compare the 2 feet of snow in Hungary to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005.
Ladies and Gents! And now Planet Hungary Circus presents a new horse attraction:
Mr Zsolt Semjen, one of Orban’s right hands (KDNP) parading in Szeklerland today.
They all want to look like this:
Now there is a caption bonanza on Facebook about the picture. Most people are wondering about the horselike creature that has it’s penis on his back.
I don’t think it was Viktor’s man at the BBC, “Fidesz Nick”, who would have chosen this photo, although the report itself is most definitely written in Thorpe’s style:
I’ve got to agree with most of your post but I will differ on the question of EU involvement and their powers. Most of us seem
to have forgotten a cold war reality–sphere of influence–which may still be at work. Shrewdly, the Felcsutian has already brought up the subject of closer collaboration with Russia…
Physical force is out of the question since the EU has no such animal.
My thinking is that the EU power brokers realize that they have to tread lightly not because they’re not involved but because they don’t want to give Orban a plausible reason to call in the Russians for the ‘defense of Hungarian liberty’. (Ironic, no?)
Another thing, the EU does not want to be finger-pointed at as being responsible for the economic implosion of Hungary. In other words, they have to stand by and watch the country self-destruct. Of course, this might take a while especially if foreign sources keep plying Hungary with cash. But it will happen.
The best that the EU can do presently is to marshall attention on Hungary and proceed, methodically, to present the punishments befitting a country that has deviated from the agreed principles that they had originally entered into. Sadly, aware Hungarians have to witness the painful death throes of the country’s economy.
In the meantime, the ‘bohoc’ (clown) can run around as he wishes, playing to the riotous cheers of his home fans. And so he does. The EU is casting a wary eye, but let’s not be fooled:
Orban calling foreign leaders ‘uncomprehending’ is not something that will be easily forgotten…
I just received an SMS text from the Interior Ministry, 26 hours after the start of blizzard, that they are on their way to rescue me from my car.
1. I do not own a car in Hungary.
2. I am staying indoors.
I am very happy that from now on, the police and other state “organs” will have a full database of mobile phones and their owners, this will facilitate eavesdropping and mapping the location of every resident of Hungary.
Freedom is slavery!
I just can’t wait to hear from Fidesz and especially from Bayer about how the Jews and and the foreigners sent the blizzard to Jungary on order to stop all the wonderful national Fidesz organized celebrations for the day. Bayer will ask if the timing from the storm is a coincidence, he will not think so. It’s all the EU, the USA, the Jews, and the Pope’s fault .
We should not look down on #5 and other members of the inner circle of Fidesz.
When they write or say something stupid, they do it on purpose, targeting a segment of the population.
They are crazy, but they are not stupid.
My wife was at the hairdresser (or cosmetician, one of the two) last summer when there was a 40C heatwave in Budapest. And she overheard someone saying that the heatwave was organised by the Jews to try and destroy Hungary, but luckily, they were failing.
So, not as unlikely as you might think.
@ tappanch: I was not kidding. Thanks for Bowen to support. At any case, so called ” cloud seeding” is a real job, most notably used at the Moskow Olympics in 1980. I believe they also usid it Beijing.
“This isn’t a blizzard. This is an unorthodox spring.”
– Facebook comment
I think it’s more like the EU can’t politically start these procedures to suspend the votes or decrease the subsidies unless they know it for absolutely certain that they (the EU) will prevail.
Otherwise you (1) make it public that your only weapon is actually useless (so you don’t have the slightest deterrent any more against anybody) and (2) make Orbán even stronger by giving him a chance to appear triumphant in a fight.
Given the convoluted legal process (which is itself the symbol of the EU, they can’t seem to have a clear power anywhere, always the procedures, upon procedures) and Orbán’s ability to divide the member state (e.g. there could be any number of bargains until the procedure runs it course where his votes will be needed) the EU can’t know for certain that it will prevail against Orbán. So they rather won’t start (I think).
[Until the FED and ECB continues to print money and they literally have to (the FED actually purchased 50% of investment grade bonds in 2012) there will be some money left for the Congo, Pakistan or Hungary. Interest payments don’t matter, they will be paid in the future and politics is a game of survival of one problem at a time (they will think about it then, they solved everything else, haven’t they?). All this means is that the world will continue to finance Hungary endlessly. And there seems to be a new era: the FED and ECB literally have to provide liquidity endlessly as even the news that they would deacrease involvment would crash the economy (until a bubble is created and a new krach comes, that is).]
The thing with Russians (Putin) is that they are smart and they know exactly that Orbán can’t be trusted on the long-term. He’s friendly now, but could change his mind if necessary.
My wife got the same message from the Ministry (and she doesn’t drive/own a car either …) – I think they just asked the providers to send it to every mobile phone, nothing sinister there.
So, how many mobile phones in Hungary? Rough guess, about 5 million – so the Interior Ministry is coming to rescue 5 million people from their cars?
Seems insane, even in Orbánisztán.
“What you have seen so far, well, Orbán’s is just getting warmed up.
Mark my words.”
I fear you are right. There’s no reason for him to stop, after all, he’s proved he can do whatever he likes and get away with it, so he might as well go the whole hog.
Paul: Certainly not all 5 millions are trapped in their cars… I think we’d be pretty upset if the government knew exactly which phones to send the text to…
On ATV tonight they were saying that the mess about the response to the bad weather was due to Orban not being in the country. He wasn’t there to take decision to send out the snow ploughs. Such is the concentration of power around this nutter and fear of taking a decision by his “court”.
I certainly don’t want to appear an emergency response expert but my $0.02 is this. They were staring at the approaching blizzard like deer at the headlights. There was no preparation. My undoubtedly annoying conclusion (again) is the problem with the dreaded “M” word (munka). Doing their job – aka. work.
Typical Hungarian story. There are so many posts on Facebook about the heroism of the everyday people. And indeed, it’s true – many provided food, shelter and help. We are the best. Except the country is drowning in 2 feet of snow. I can’t help to see the parallel with so many things in the Hungarian history.
One funny bit. Austria sent over lots of emergency personnel and snow plowing equipment to help out Hungary. On the day of commemoration of the revolt against the Austrian rule. Habsburgs out – Habsburgs in. History definitely repeats itself. Sort of.
“one of Marx’s most quoted statements, that history repeats itself, “the first as tragedy, then as farce”, referring respectively to Napoleon I and to his nephew Louis Napoleon (Napoleon III)”
A question for you: there’s an American running an investment firm that has bought over 10 billion dollars worth of Hungarian paper. Any idea
who’s backing him?
To me the start of the speech was already revealing. He started with the first half of an often-quoted sentence from Bibó (emblematic political theoretician and the1956 minister who really stayed on his post till the last minute): To be democrat, means.. (the original continuation is: not to be afraid). He continued: to adhere to the letter of the law in any case. Not the spirit, the letter. The rest was not any better.
Do you mean Templeton? They are just a very experienced traditional investment fund in the emerging markets and one of the biggest in the world (without checking I think they part of Fidelity). They go for higher interest rates and they bet that Hungary will – contrary to all the fears – repay its debt. They have decades of experience in emerging markets and I guess they trust their gut instinct that Orbán or wheoever will repay the debt plus Hungary is in the EU so a kind of bailout is not excluded.
Once they reached xBn, they now have a stake in rescuing and further financing Hungary (like China re the US, too much is invested in USD). No big conspiracy here. They just running after their money. They are happy to throw a couple of billions to save their 10.
Coming from a country where 1mm of snow is enough to paralyse the road and railway systems, I’ve always been impressed by how Hungary copes with snow. So I was puzzled by the way this snow caused so many problems, especially as we all knew it was coming.
My first experience of really heavy snow was about 10 years ago, when it snowed for the whole day and night the day before we were due to fly back to the UK. I had cleared about 20cm of snow off the drive the day before, but when we woke up, all my hard work had vanished. In fact the snow was so deep it was virtually impossible to walk in it, especially carrying suitcases.
We had to walk in the tracks made by cars, just to get as far as the bus stop. I couldn’t see how the bus could run in these conditions, but everyone seemed confident that all would be normal – and indeed the bus was so punctual that we nearly missed it! The train from Debrecen to Budapest was also on time, and only delayed for about 10 minutes because of some frozen points. And the Metro and busses in Bp all seemed to be running as normal, so we got to the airport in plenty of time.
But then we came unstuck – our flight was delayed because Heathrow was closed because of snow. Having seen how knee-high snow didn’t affect Hungarian transport, I was quite worried by this news – imagining arctic conditions in London. But, when we finally got there, the airport looked like someone has just spilt a little talcum powder over it!
A few years ago there was a freak storm on august 20 (just after the fireworks). At that time Fidesz were screaming that MSZP was to blame for it. Now there is “some” snow and it seems that Hungary is totally unprepared for this. Although there is a rumor that VO forget to give his blessing for clean up I hear no screaming now.
@ Ron. Wasn’t it before the fireworks which were then cancelled?
No, I was there! The fireworks were taking place, and then out of the blue a huge storm came, blowing rain and fireworks into people’s faces. Several boats (with parties on board) were turned over on the Danube. There was a general stampede of thousands of people running away from the fireworks. Some children were killed (there’s a monument to them on the Buda side, near the Chain Bridge).
The thing was, that the storm was predicted, but the fireworks still went ahead.
@ Bowen. I stand corrected, and I am sorry for what happened. Here – in the Ticino (Southern Switzerland) – fireworks have been called off for lesser reasons.
In Rome, I have enjoyed fireworks at Sylvester which happened actually too close to the public watching it (Giannicolo). The same goes for the fireworks in San Gimignano (every 13 years, I think, for Santa Fina). But wonderful to watch and feel the spirit!
Re the snow:
From what I’ve seen here the problem must have been the storm that built mountains of snow – even if on average there were only 20 to 30 cm the snow accumulated up to a meter high …
And some people just drove their cars into it! There were some pictures of it on tv.
So then of course all traffic came to a stop and rescue and snow plows had no chance to reach the mountains of snow and clean them up.
We’ve also had small mountains of snow in the garden forming a kind of line parallel to our “long house” – some bizarre formations also produced by the really heavy winds.
And now for the good news:
The sun is shining and it’ll be a lovely weekend!
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