How to rebuild democracy in Hungary? According to some, not by compromise with Fidesz

As I mentioned yesterday, there were two topics suggested by readers and I agreed that they were interesting and definitely worth spending time on. After tackling two surveys on Hungarian societal attitudes we can now turn to the question of “What will happen, what should happen after Orbán?” posed by Zsófia Mihancsik, whose writings have appeared more than once on this blogHer latest contribution is  a series of questions she thinks the democratic opposition should discuss even before the election campaign. At the moment the various opposition parties and groupings agree on one thing:  Orbán’s regime must be removed. However, some very important decisions must be made and agreed upon. It is for this reason that she as editor-in-chief of Galamus initiated a series of articles that might assist those whose job it will be to work out a common platform necessary for setting up a successful and lasting coalition.

The first question is: “Do we have to reach a compromise with Fidesz after the party’s loss of the 2014 elections?” In practical terms that means that the democrats must forget about all “the political and moral crimes that had been committed by Fidesz  in opposition and in power.” One can make a case for such compromise by pointing out that, after all, the voters of Fidesz represent a certain portion of the electorate.

If the decision is to seek a compromise, one must determine whether this compromise should be with the party itself, with its voters, or both. Moreover, how much should the democratic forces be willing to pay for such a compromise? And one ought to ponder whether such a compromise would actually achieve the desired result of political and social tranquility.

But if it becomes obvious that no compromise is possible either with Fidesz or its voters, then how should the new political leadership handle the coming conflicts? Can they in a democratic regime ignore a party that received the votes of many and is represented in parliament?

What should they do with “the products of Fidesz’s rule–the new constitution and all those new laws?”  These laws were enacted in order to build a centralized, state-dominated regime serving only the needs of an autocracy. Would it be enough to whittle away at them or, like Orbán, should they start everything anew and develop an entirely new regime? “In other words, can one build democracy on a set of laws that were designed to build autocracy?”

What should be done with party cadres who masquerade as experts? Should they be replaced? And there is the question of those who were appointed for nine or eleven years. What should be done with those people who, thanks to Fidesz, received land or tobacconist shops? What about the nationalized schools? Does one have to face the fact that these mostly illegal changes cannot be undone and that one must live with them? And if yes, what are the consequences?

More or less these were the questions that Mihancsik posed in her article.

The first answer to some of these questions came from Ferenc Krémer. You may recall that he was one of the early victims of the Orbán regime when he lost his job as professor of sociology at the Police Academy. He was far too liberal for that place. I will summarize the article in greater detail, but his message is crystal clear: there is no way of making a compromise on any level because one cannot build  democracy on undemocratic foundations.

Building blocks - flickr

Building blocks – flickr

Can one build democracy by undemocratic means or does one need consensus? Krémer’s answer is that neither road will necessarily achieve the desired end. After all, the 1989-90 regime change was based on consensus and yet it didn’t produce a lasting democratic regime. At that time consensus was easier to reach because all segments of Hungarian society desired the the same thing, the establishment of a democratic regime. But today the situation is different because, although “all democratic opposition forces assume that there is need in this country for democracy, the fact is that almost as large a segment of society gladly settle for a dictatorship.” Thus the reintroduction of democracy in Hungary at the moment, unlike almost fifteen years ago, does not have a solid societal foundation.

If the preconditions of a general desire for democratic change are missing, can one substitute for them concessions to those whose ideal is not exactly democracy? In Krémer’s opinion one can’t. In the past, no concessions to a Viktor Orbán-led Fidesz ever followed by any tangible result of cooperation. Moreover, the election will be decided by the now still undecided voters. In Krémer’s opinion “it is a grave political mistake to consider the undecided voters as disillusioned Fidesz followers and to talk to them as if they had anything to do with what happened in the Fidesz era. … It is very probable that one cannot offer anything to the Orbán voters that would change their minds and therefore one shouldn’t even experiment with such an approach because it only confuses the anti-Orbán voters.”

The democratic opposition first and foremost must decide whether Orbán’s regime is a democracy or not because “autocracy will remain with us as long as its institutions and its culture exist and function.” If the answer is that, yes, it is a democracy, then both the institutions and the people populating them can remain in place. In this case, in Krémer’s opinion, there will not be democracy in Hungary even after the fall of the Orbán regime.

Krémer then outlines a series of possible compromises that could be offered to Fidesz. What Fidesz institutions should be left intact? The Media Council?  The current system of public works? The “orbanization” of state lands? The national tobacconist shops? The nationalized and centralized school system? The militarized police? The Anti-Terrorist Center (TEK)? Forcing experts into retirement? Which ones?

What about some of the newly enacted laws? “Vote for which one you would like.”  The new labor law? The Basic Law, especially with its fourth amendment? The law dealing with the police? The law that dispensed with local autonomy? The law on churches that discriminates against some religious communities? Or what about the law in the making that would sanction school segregation?

What can they offer to the “servants of dictators”? Should they follow the policy of Imre Kerényi and György Fekete, commissars of national culture, or the views of the historians of MTA who decided that no György Lukács or Vladimir Mayakovsky can have streets named after them? Should one say that there is agreement regarding Fidesz’s concept of family or that one can believe in God in only three ways? “Yes, we could say it but then we wouldn’t be who we are.”

In brief, Krémer is unequivocably against any compromise. Naturally one could argue with his views, but his reasoning, in my opinion, is sound.

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36 comments

  1. The Fidesz election commission would prevent any referendum to convene a Constitutional Assembly.

    Orban did not leave any loophole for a legal way to replace him. Either there is a revolution or a long Orban regime that will freeze Hungary into a third world country, poor and suffocating.

  2. We have to look for the Hungarian dissidents in the shape of the Andrei Sakharov.
    Andrei Sakharov – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrei_Sakharov‎
    It may happen only in the next 1000 years.
    Who will be the first Western leader to support those persons?

  3. tappanch :
    The Fidesz election commission would prevent any referendum to convene a Constitutional Assembly.
    Orban did not leave any loophole for a legal way to replace him. Either there is a revolution or a long Orban regime that will freeze Hungary into a third world country, poor and suffocating.

    Spot on. I’ve been saying this for so long that I’ve run out of steam. We are fiddling while ‘Rome’ burns.

  4. If it were not 2 o’clock in the morning here, I would like to add a more extensive comment. However, for now I have only one suggestion.
    Considering the fact that the Fidesz is completely ill-suited and unprepared for compromise at the moment, and was always so, I would set a condition for the compromise. If the fidesz is proving its readiness to compromise by withdrawing their long-term appointees from their positions, thus opening up the way for new democratically chosen candidates to replace them then that would be the sign of good fate. Also, it would be the indication of their readiness to compromise. I have grave doubts that they would show any willingness for compromise, but such gestures couldn’t be ignored.
    Nonetheless, this is more like a pipe-dream than anything else. Fidesz is not the compromising kind. And if they were, I still would oppose it. I shall come back at a better time to explain myself.

  5. I happen to think that it is much too early to waste any thoughts on what might happen after Orbán’s demise, as long as their is no visible opposition and not a glimmer of hope for them of winning ANY election for the foreseeable future.

    I side with tappanch, but not at all happily: “Orban did not leave any loophole for a legal way to replace him. Either there is a revolution or a long Orban regime that will freeze Hungary into a third world country, poor and suffocating.”

    It’s so sad.

  6. It seems to be a mood point to talk about democracy in Hungary. The majority of the people don’t want it, and/or don’t understand it, they certainly don’t want to live their lives according to strict democratic rules. The Hungarian society is mired in corruption, racism, anti-semitism and they don’t care, that their politicians are criminals, they accept it, as if that is natural. The Government and politicians in Hungary are the product of the Hungarian culture, life style, they lack the proper moral values and they only have discipline to cover and keep the secrecy about each other’s crimes.
    In order to establish democracy, first the people, most of the citizens would have to change drastically and develop strong morals and discipline, demand it from their politicians, severely punish anyone who “lies, cheats, steals”. If anyone is critical about their politicians and the Government, the people just shrug and they say, “all politicians lie, cheat and steal” they are resigned to this behavior and accept it from their politicians.
    Changing a culture, moral values, behaviors cannot be accomplished in a few years, even if the majority of the people would want to change, it take generations.
    However, I believe, most Hungarians don’t want to change, because it is a difficult job and they would also have to face reality and accept responsibility for their deed in the past. They would have to accept the fact, that Trianon is well into the past, cannot be changed and they have to stop lying about their history an live up to the truth. The Hungarian society escapes from the present and afraid to look into the future, they falsify the past, grossly exaggerating their meager accomplishments and deny their often willing and enthusiastic participation to carry out the Holocaust, and in1944 even more efficiently then the Germans.
    Until the majority of the people changes their moral values and their distorted views and become honest, they stop being racist and anti-semitic, the criminals will rule them as they doing it now. The minority, the intellectuals, the people, who are now oppressed by the fascist Government, those people should be their examples, otherwise the fascists will prevail.
    The entire Government, all of the Fidesz/KDNP/Jobbik party members and their core supporters are criminals, and/or accessories to crime, or abettors to heinous crimes and hey should be punished severely, without mercy, or Hungary will become a pariah nation in Europe, if it isn one by now.
    Every nation has the Government which it deserves and which represent the society’s core values. Hungary has a Mafia Government, a criminal for prime minister, who trades axe murderers, liars and cheats, who forge their dissertations for doctoral title, representatives who vote on hundreds of severe human rights violations and legalize their own crimes. Hungary is ruled by the criminal trash and the majority supports them and imitate them wherever and whenever they can. There is no way, that even the shadow of democracy could be restored as long as a single Fidesz/KDNP/Jobbik party member and their supporters are walking free and the rest of their politicians are also severely investigated and punished for their past crimes.

  7. Gyor Calling!

    Only if Hungary is either expelled from the EU (or decides to leave) or severe sanctions are imposed will there be any hope of the slightest chink of an opportunity to negotiate anything.

    Once that position is clarified – and let’s hope it is soon and significant – then Hungarians can consider their political future.

    I think under this climate the gloves will be off and it will be futile to use the ‘political infrastructure’ as it exists.

    A bit like asking a stranger for directions and being told “well if I was you, I wouldn’t start from here.”

    So debating what to keep and what not – is almost academic.

    You wouldn’t start from there.

    It must all go.

    Every last brick of this corrupt nasty edifice.

    Regards

    Charlie

  8. Compromise? Is this a joke?
    They’re a bunch of crooks complicit in the de-construction of parliamentary democracy and the rule of law in Hungary. On what basis could one ‘compromise’ knowing what they have wrought? None.

    IMPEACHMENT.
    If such a possibility existed in Hungarian law…from Orban down, followed by Kover, Pinter, Matolcsy and the whole crass lot of them, especially that smart-ass constitutional ‘expert’ Gergely.
    “Abuse of office” might be a good start, followed by the willful destruction of the rule of law and the various criminal proceedings in appropriation of contracts etc. There is a great deal of material on which this government could be called to account in a court of law…perhaps in a European court of law were there such a thing for leaders in abuse of their power, and the destruction of their country’s democratic heritage, be it ever of so short a duration.

    OK, EU….time to act.

  9. I don’t understand why a future government would need to ‘compromise’ with an opposition party. If by that it is meant should the next government devote itself to undoing everything that the previous government did, the answer has to be no. That would be an enormous waste of time. As far as some of the other comments here about Hungarians being basically criminal, racisist, and anti-semetic – i’m affraid I just can’t agree with that.

  10. Paul :

    tappanch :
    The Fidesz election commission would prevent any referendum to convene a Constitutional Assembly.
    Orban did not leave any loophole for a legal way to replace him. Either there is a revolution or a long Orban regime that will freeze Hungary into a third world country, poor and suffocating.

    Spot on. I’ve been saying this for so long that I’ve run out of steam. We are fiddling while ‘Rome’ burns.

    As the reader who suggested this debate I am so glad that so far the consensus is against compromising. Am I right in thinking that in the US new administrations traditionally change a very large number of officials who are political appointees and that nobody thinks that undemocratic? In the UK it is slightly different, in that civil servants supposed to be neutral and non-political, so they can stay, although not everybody thinks that is a good idea.

    When reading Zsofia Mihancsik’s original article I sat quietly and considered the many reasons why an incoming left government and/or coalition would have a hell of a time undoing Orban’s changes. Problem no. 1 will be the lack of guts that the left leaders have so far displayed so often. Not all of them, true, but most of them. Then I thought, what if the new government called on the people who voted them in to visibly support them in undoing the harm? After all, I can imagine how fast they would lose support if they dilly dallied for ever, tinkering here, tinkering there, instead of boldly dismantling the Orban regime’s institutions and laws. So, currently, what I think is, that there is no room for compromise, dismantling EVERYTHING needs at least to be attempted, but I don’t believe that that would work without the visible, on the street support of the people. Now, I know that this country, and very often, the readership and commentators on this blog, display that awful Hungarian tendency of being down in the mouth, calling the Hungarian nation weak, negative, cowardly etc. I don’t believe that is true and feel that comments like that are more a reflection of their own psyche rather than the real state of affairs. Neither do I believe that given a clear lead to support a government that is trying to do what it promised in the elections campaign would not have a response. The vast majority of Hungarians, in my experience, are honest and decent people who can be shaken out of their moral torpor with ideas and honesty and a proper lead. Look at our history and see the heroes over the centuries! None left for the 21st century? I doubt it.

    So, I vote for a revolution, not that that gesture will bring it about. But neither will ‘kishituseg’ (I couldn’t suddenly think of the English equivalent). ‘Thinking small’, I think roughly describes it. Think big and you might be surprised what happens!

  11. Dan :
    I don’t understand why a future government would need to ‘compromise’ with an opposition party.

    It’s just this thinking that got the country into the mess that it’s now in.Facts are, OV was elected and facts are he had the power to take the country in the direction he did. If whom ever replaces him take the country in a new direction using the same tactics would that be any better? The big elephant in the room is the winner take all system followed by the winner take all attitudes.

    Politics is *always* about finding a compromise, about bringing groups together to find a common way no matter how distasteful these interactions may seem. If this can’t happen than the country will experience more of the same just from the other point of view. In addition, the flip flopping just kills people’s ability to plan for their future. This country, more than anything, more than revenge, needs stability and the path to stability will be found in compromise. If the “criminals” go free then I’d say as long as you can curb the behaviour that is the price that will have to be paid for stability

  12. I would have thought that it takes two to reach a compromise?

    Two world leaders give speeches in reaction to achieving a two thirds electoral majority in their national elections, one in 1994, the other in 2010. One of the following spent a quarter of a century imprisoned in extremely harsh conditions at the hands of his political foes, suffering under a regime that denied his people any kind of equality or suffrage.

    And one … didn’t.

    But which is the one YOU would/could cooperate with?

    “The calm and tolerant atmosphere that prevailed during the elections … sets the tone for the future. We might have our differences, but we are one people with a common destiny in our rich variety of culture, race and tradition. People have voted for the party of their choice and we respect that. This is democracy. I hold out a hand of friendship to the leaders of all parties and their members, and ask all of them to join us in working together to tackle the problems we face as a nation.”

    “We want to punish people who are responsible for setting people against each other and who caused great harm to the country.”

  13. A fairly long video of Viktor Orbán from 1989. It is about his enthusiasm about KISZ, his “uncultured” surroundings. His ambitions to become a law professor.

    It is a must for anyone who can handle Hungarian:

  14. Ivan :
    I would have thought that it takes two to reach a compromise?
    Two world leaders give speeches in reaction to achieving a two thirds electoral majority in their national elections, one in 1994, the other in 2010. One of the following spent a quarter of a century imprisoned in extremely harsh conditions at the hands of his political foes, suffering under a regime that denied his people any kind of equality or suffrage.
    And one … didn’t.
    But which is the one YOU would/could cooperate with?
    “The calm and tolerant atmosphere that prevailed during the elections … sets the tone for the future. We might have our differences, but we are one people with a common destiny in our rich variety of culture, race and tradition. People have voted for the party of their choice and we respect that. This is democracy. I hold out a hand of friendship to the leaders of all parties and their members, and ask all of them to join us in working together to tackle the problems we face as a nation.”
    “We want to punish people who are responsible for setting people against each other and who caused great harm to the country.”

    You don’t get to choose your opposition, just how you deal with them. You can behave like them and thus be them or…..

  15. I tend to agree with bubala51, in Post #6 with a big bold on the majority. The 2/3 number is a good reflection. There is hope, there are still 1/3 of the Hungarian people who think otherwise.

    tappanch #11 I am not surprised. THey done it with Magyar Hirlap, etc. I think Fidesz now is swinging into a new strategy of censorship. THey will slowly by up the media (Metro Magazine is gone), and they write the news at their liking. THere will be not a single media left that does not agree with them.
    Orban already funnelling in money to so called “civic unions”, like the now infamous Women support group for Orban, that received millions of forints even though they are only in business for two years. (Eva wrote about this a few days ago.) So there will be these “non-partisan” groups with millions of dollars behind, just to spread all the good deeds Fidesz is doing, and protest for Fidesz. It will be just like North Korea, all united in the common goal to love the Dear Leader and his ideas. They will be all together, like North koreans on Kim Jong’s funeral. http://www.theatlanticwire.com/global/2011/12/north-korea-wants-some-south-korean-respect-kim-jong-ils-funeral/46608/

  16. Eva S. Balogh :
    A fairly long video of Viktor Orbán from 1989 [in Hungarian].

    Young Sociopath Fledging

    Violent father, defiant youth, self-avowedly and unabashedly devoid of any cultural background, soccer his first attraction, politics his second (though hedged with an inchoate and scarcely credible preference for solving a couple of “real problems” and then becoming a “university professor” — of what, one wonders?)… What speaks most loudly is the self-satisfied determination: Whoever does not already detect the young sociopath here should just look at a series of clips like this across the succeeding years, till the point where it can no longer be missed…

  17. Eva, the interview with the young Orban is very interesting, thanks for posting it! It’s funny that he is talking about how he doesn’t want to become a professional politician although he finds that career attractive (he doesn’t want to spend 8 hour days negotiating behind closed doors to reach some kind of deal) but he’d rather become a professor of political science… I wish he had stuck with that decision! He would have done a lot less damage.

  18. An, someone who worked closely with the young Orbán and therefore knows him very well claims that this talk about his wanting to be a university professor and not a politician is phony. Orbán said that because he knew that being a politician and only a politician might not be popular with his listeners.

  19. This idea of compromising or cooperating with the Fidesz has really picked up since Bajnai suggested dialog a few days back …

    So what is this? Laying the mental foundations for a revenge after 2014? Hold your horses my typical Hungarian compatriots. We need to work for the win … First figure out how to take over the parliament. Legally of course.

    If the anti-Fidesz forces gain 2/3 majority the question will not make sense. The government will do whatever it pleases. But that should not be revenge or anything proving that we don’t compromise. It should be establishing law and order in Hungary for the first time.

    If the win is only a simple majority, then you won’t have no choice but compromising. Constantly. It’s called politics. Get used to it Hungary. Luckily the brick wall of laws the Fidesz built to protect their organized thievery has plenty of cracks in it. These will be the bargaining chips for a future government with simple majority.

    At this point preaching about rejecting compromise and dialog is a surefire way to losing the next elections. Go, Hungarian lemmings!

  20. The day Hungary becomes a democracy should also be the day that Orban and the rest of his mafia are arrested and criminal proceedings against them commence.

    He spits on “compromise”, the only “compromise” democrats should allow him is which prison he serves his sentence in.

  21. Stevan Harnad :
    Whoever does not already detect the young sociopath here should just look at a series of clips like this across the succeeding years, till the point where it can no longer be missed…

    I hate to admit it but this is actually not a bad video of him. I was born in the same year as he and I’d say in 1989 we were all like this. He at least had a father. I didn’t. This doesn’t mean anything. Liked soccer? Like almost all of us. It’s Hungary. And the self-satisfied determination with a healthy dose of bullshit (teaching in a college) was actually a good thing. We have seen a lot of great men and great achievement raising from a checkered youth.

    In my opinion the signs were suddenly obvious when he became PM for the first time at a very young age in 1998. I think the taste of power corrupted him. He became an addict. Now he does anything to get his fix. How far is he willing to go? We’ll see in 2014.

  22. An :

    Eva, I think his dislike for negotiations is real, though :-)

    That’s for sure. He only likes to give orders. I remember reading about his cabinet meetings during the first Orbán government. In record time they were finished. One, two, three. Surely, it is easy if there is no discussion, no dissent.

  23. tappanch :
    The Orban government has taken over the money people sent to Hungarian charities and provides no clear accounting:
    http://hvg.hu/hvgfriss/2013.24/201324_kozpontositott_adomanyok_keresd_ha_tudod

    OMG Fidesz nationalized the money of the Red Cross and the other charities’ money. THey actually did it. They took away the money, so they will determine how they will distribute, and who they distribute it to. Am I sensing that that some of the money will be given to Simicska’s companies to help with the “rebuilding”. Is there anything Red Cross and the likes can do? THis is the worst robbery I have ever seen. I wonder how our Fidesz Troopers will whitewash this one. Not even in Rwanda the money was taken away from charities.

  24. I’m sorry, but I can’t share the optimism of some contributors here – and it seems Hungarians in general are even worse than the pessimists on HS, just look here:
    http://www.bbj.hu/business/hungarians-remain-pessimistic_66404

    “Some 89% of Hungarians are still pessimistic about the future, the quarterly research shows. More than half of the respondents (56%) said that their money is just enough till the end of the month after purchasing the most important things in the household. For 12% of them, though, it is not enough even to cover the basic needs.”

    On the other hand, maybe this will lead to a kind ov revolution against Fidesz, because they surely won’t change the situation of most people for the better.

    Only the few select prosper – the others ???

  25. Mutt :

    Stevan Harnad :
    Whoever does not already detect the young sociopath here should just look at a series of clips like this across the succeeding years, till the point where it can no longer be missed…

    In my opinion the signs were suddenly obvious when he became PM for the first time at a very young age in 1998. I think the taste of power corrupted him. He became an addict. Now he does anything to get his fix. How far is he willing to go? We’ll see in 2014.

    Actually I am convinced, that he will go as far as the circumstances – economy, international politics, even the people, if they ever be able to shake off the spell – let him, because he has no scruples, whatsoever. At the moment it looks like he vill go as far as he likes, because nobody is up to stop him. Yes, unfortunately tappanch is right.

    Otherwise there is no idea even to fantasise of a compromise: just show me one single agreement what Orbán hasn’t tried undo, a single promise what he kept, even to his political allies, let alone adversaries! Wake up, people, and forget these wishful dreams, will you?

    The only democratic way – as I se it – would be to beat the crap out of the Fidesz in the election, which would probably result that Orbán should be forced into stepping down as a party leader sending his cronies with him as well, then and only then start negotiate with an Orbán-free Fidesz, if ever.

    Unfortunately the present state of the democratic opposition in Hungary all but incompetent, without the slightest hope of change, and the people paralysed by fear and trying to swim with the current, willingly became servants again instead of standing up against this autocrat, so, here we are.

    Nice, isn’t it?

  26. Some1 :

    tappanch :
    The Orban government has taken over the money people sent to Hungarian charities and provides no clear accounting:
    http://hvg.hu/hvgfriss/2013.24/201324_kozpontositott_adomanyok_keresd_ha_tudod

    OMG Fidesz nationalized the money of the Red Cross and the other charities’ money. THey actually did it. They took away the money, so they will determine how they will distribute, and who they distribute it to. Am I sensing that that some of the money will be given to Simicska’s companies to help with the “rebuilding”. Is there anything Red Cross and the likes can do? THis is the worst robbery I have ever seen. I wonder how our Fidesz Troopers will whitewash this one. Not even in Rwanda the money was taken away from charities.

    There is no need to whitewash anything, obviously!
    This happened nearly a week ago, hardly a few words were raised here and there..!
    This is the “NATIONAL” way, that’s the way to do it, so it must be right, mustn’t it?

    Or else…

  27. In other words, only 29.8% of the 20-64 year old population worked in enterprises with at least five employees in 2011.

  28. tappanch :

    Where is the promised 1 million new jobs?

    The # of enterprises with at least five employees and the total # of their employees:

    200874 9881 952 572
    200973 7731 821 896
    201073 8891 826 720
    2011 71 2881 851 248
    201272 0631 817 190

    http://www.napi.hu/magyar_gazdasag/ennyivel_kevesebb_embert_foglalkoztatnak_2008_ota_a_cegek.556651.html

    And what about those people who work abroad. Apparently the Central Statistical Office counts those too and the rate of emigration is higher now than in 2008.

  29. @Eva

    I think the 1.8 million people is already a horrible number. These are the profit makers in a country with 9.9 million people. The micro enterprises or government employees do not usually create taxable profit.

  30. When I read this entry of Eva, I was thinking what exactly does this question about compromises between the opposition and OV mean? Which distresses will compel OV to even communicate with the many, quarelling opposition groups? I am afraid this is a gross misjudgement of the political astuteness and attractiveness of the “opposition”. The assessment and insistence on that the majority of Hungarians currently crave for autocracy also appears quite odd, as does the question whether there should be compromises with OV AND his voters or even with the “majority of Hungarians, who demand autocracy”.

    I doubt that a majority of citizens have a definite answer to what kind of political system they would like to live in (most likely they want to live happily in easy economic circumstances). So a perceived preference for “strong leaders” in a situation when the political class has failed massively (as seen in Hungary at least between 1998 and 2006, when division of the society increased with every year), failed in 1) identifying viable solutions to economic problems, 2) creating an atmosphere of cooperation, 3) stabilising the democratic system in reducing the importance of old-boys networks and corruption, is just a reflection of how well the earlier system worked. “Democracy” as it worked after 1989 was not as attractive as one might have hoped, but for me this is not because of a general dislike for the ideas (as written by bubala51: “they certainly don’t want to live their lives according to strict democratic rules” – what are “strict democratic rules” in a transition country where transition was managed by a former Communist party…) but at least to the same extent because of the very peculiar version of “democracy” (common to all post-Communist countries in that region).

    What I read in it is that those people who wish for a return of democracy in Hungary, apparently still believe that this can be achieved through lecturing people, telling them that they are sheep, and waiting for the day when, all of the sudden, they will miraculously change (again bubala: “Until the majority of the people changes their moral values and their distorted views and become honest, they stop being racist and anti-semitic, the criminals will rule them as they doing it now.”). An alternative to such thinking requires an idea on the part of the democrats about WHAT THEY CAN OFFER to people in an answer to the three questions above. It is no offer to be told that I am sheep and until I change nothing will change.

    The “compromise” that you offer to the VOTERS of OV is: a better national political programme. And even if it may currently appear that people only care for the nationalist cause, they will quite quickly be willing to listen to other suggestions when Matolcsy economics will fail (as it must) AND some workable alternatives exist. Also in terms of personnel, and specifically in terms of cooperative spirit. It is this that should also make the future transition to democracy less problematic than thought by Mr Kremer. Should change become possible, also because of the general atmosphere in the society, this will be BECAUSE more and more people will search for other answers to the current problems than Horthy statues and peace marches AND FIND THEM. Those persons that will manage transition will have been mobilised before, and after this there can be (hopefully) compromises with some less involved people who served also Fidesz. For me the ideas of Mr Kremer sound too mechanistic, either he wants democracy and then he has to care for the average citizen, actively seek his support for a democratic programme and learn and teach the art of mutual respect despite different opinions and of compromises, or he is in his heart also an academic central planner who thinks that democracy has to be imposed and controlled from above (by the “civilised”). In the end, just another variation on the elitist uneasiness of the educated with the average citizen.

    I think Mutt at #21 if completely right. It is about the M word.

  31. It is quite clear that the present leaders of the country have been extremely successful (from a politics=power point of view) in pandering to the very worst instincts in a large number of their people, even encouraging them, even indulging in these instincts themselves (by way of setting a bad example). The success of Fidesz, and the startling rise of Jobbik, reveal quite clearly that if the opposition were to: indulge in nationalist or sectarian sentiment, give a green light to low-level corruption, rant with a little more hate about the EU and foreigners in general, up the nationalist rhetoric, or mislead an uninformed population with outrageously spun economic figures …. then their popularity would increase. THESE are the things that concern most people, THESE are the reasons that Fidesz are in power (carefully promoted through their media monopoly) and THESE are the only changes that would give the opposition hope.

    It wouldn’t and shouldn’t happen, of course, and neither should ‘compromise’ with any of the above sentiment … because whatever the hopes for power that might be revived, complete personal moral bankruptcy is the other inevitable consequence.

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