Ferenc Gyurcsány’s latest political road map

As an illustration of how little Viktor Orbán’s minions understand and respect democracy, it is worth recalling Szilárd Németh’s comment about the “outlandish” announcement of Ferenc Gyurcsány after the municipal elections on October 12 that “he will do everything in his power to defeat the Orbán government.” He added that to this end Gyurcsány has solicited “foreign help” in the person of André Goodfriend, the U.S. chargé d’affaires in Budapest. Németh, by the way, happens to be one of the most unsavory characters in Orbán’s entourage. He is currently the deputy whip of the Fidesz parliamentary delegation.

Well, if Németh thought that for an opposition party to strive to defeat the Orbán government at the next election is tantamount to treason, he and his fellow Fidesz politicians will have a heyday with Gyurcsány’s announcement at the Demokratikus Koalíció’s congress today. There he declared his hope that the Orbán government will fall by 2016, two years ahead of the scheduled national election.

Politicians of the opposition parties have been reticent to express their views on the civic movements that have cropped up lately, with a new cast of characters.Their restraint is understandable given the organizers’ reluctance to be associated with parties. Any party. At the same time we know that there can be no parliamentary democracy without parties and that sooner or later the civic groups and the politicians will have to come to an understanding.

Gyurcsány decided to break the silence. Whether it was wise or not only time will tell, but at least he came out with the outline of a program, which is more than his fellow politicians on the left have done. Here I will summarize the speech he delivered this morning. I am relying on three independent sources–Népszabadság, Népszavaand Hir24because their reporters were on the spot and filed their reports prior to the appearance of MTI‘s summary.

Let me start with some of the new ideas that appeared in this speech. Earlier, Gyurcsány, while admitting the “mistakes” of the past, wanted to return to 1989 and restore the constitution of that year. Now he is thinking in terms of a new constitution and a new republic. That new constitution should decrease the power of the state and widen the rights of the people, who could express their wishes more directly through referendums. To hold referendums was very difficult in Hungary even before 2010, but since then Viktor Orbán has made sure that the governed have practically no opportunity “to interfere” with the work of his government. With this shift Gyurcsány was obviously responding to the majority view that politics even prior to 2010 was misguided and that it does not provide an appropriate model for future governance.

Source: Népszabadság / photo by Zsolt Reviczky

Source: Népszabadság / photo by Zsolt Reviczky

While he was at it, Gyurcsány introduced his own program without calling it that. One may question the feasibility of some of the items on his wish list, but at least he put them out for public response. He emphasized that although it will be the street demonstrations that will put pressure on the government to resign, these demonstrations must be peaceful.  Meanwhile the opposition forces must prepare themselves for the eventuality that in a couple of years they must be ready to govern and not find themselves in “a democratic chaos.” As far as foreign policy is concerned, a clear commitment must be made to the West. The “double dealing,” the shuttling between Moscow and Brussels must come to an end. As far as domestic changes are concerned,  the courts and the prosecutor’s office must become independent again. The media must be freed from its current stranglehold. People should be able to establish churches of their own choosing. NGOs should be allowed to do their jobs. An independent “anti-corruption office” should be set up. And something must be done about the growing poverty of ab0ut half of the population.

He spent some time on corruption and the world of the oligarchs, pointing out that “the number one oligarch is Viktor Orbán himself,” something that, in my opinion, many people don’t seem to realize when they demand the removal of “corrupt officials” only.

He spent a long time analyzing the current political situation and offering possible answers to it. He pointed out that Fidesz’s achievement of gaining a super majority again did not result in “the stabilization of Viktor Orbán’s power.” On the contrary, it roused people’s ire because of the arbitrary decisions of a government whose support has been decreasing over the years. In a democratic country there is “correction” from within, but in a tyranny one can only revolt. “The Hungarian parliamentary system is practically dead,” and therefore national resistance remains the only option.

Gyurcsány, unlike some other former liberal politicians, said that the disappointment, anger, and passion of the organizers of the demonstrations are perfectly understandable. He was happy to see the flags of the European Union at the demonstrations because that means that they opt for the democracy of the West, not the tyranny of the East. One ought not be surprised, he added, that no programs have been formulated by the organizers of these demonstrations because, after all, first one must reject the current political system. The young organizers have to decide whether they are willing to join an already existing party or whether they want to create one of their own. In either case, they must understand that “there is no parliamentary democracy without parties.” Yes, he knows that the civic leaders who organized the demonstrations are suspicious of politics and politicians. But politics is not dirty by itself; only corrupt politicians make it so.

The Fidesz propaganda machine needed less than an hour after the reports on the DK congress became public to react. The short statement has all the hallmarks of classic Fidesz propaganda: Ferenc Gyurcsány only a few days ago pretended that “he was an elegant stranger who kept himself away from the demonstrations, but by Saturday it became clear that he lied. He admitted that in fact it is the Left that is behind the demonstrations.” According to the government party, “the chairman of the opposition party admitted that the only goal of the demonstrations is the overthrow of the government and he is willing to use all means to obtain this end with force.” That short statement says a lot about the propaganda machine of Fidesz. Unfortunately, misinformation, lying if you wish, is the trademark of the present Hungarian government.

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28 comments

  1. There was an important point in the interview given by Mate Daniel Szabo of TASZ (in English: the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union) in last week’s ES, the literary weekly.

    He said that a new constitution (after the Orban regime, that is) must not be based on the previous (i.e. current) legal regime. In other words, there must be a clear rupture in the legal continuity.

    Orban’s Basic Law was carefully adopted in a way which totally complied with all the procedural rules of the previous, 1989 constitution, which itself was a 90% amended version of the 1949 constitution. Orban wanted to comply with all formalities to prevent legal challenges but this also meant that Orban’s Basic Law received its formal legitimacy because its creation was perfectly legal according to the legal system that preceded it — but from which Orban desperately wanted to break free.

    A real system change or regime change, however, actually requires a much clearer break from the past. Such a new regime must not apologize for its existence (for its coming into being) and is thus not obligated to respect the rules of the previous system, that of a corrupt tyrant.

    This rupture is a very important notion which to my knowledge was first proposed openly by Szabo. There is no need to rely on the Basic Law when a new power (perhaps one which is really revolutionary) establishes itself and wants to discard and dismantle the Orban-system.

    I’m almost certain that the more conformist, always-ready-to-compromise entities like Együtt or MSZP would not be ballsy enough to create such a new constitution — even if in my view Western powers would acknowledge a regime based on such a constitution. But let’s not forget that MSZP has a bad conscience for communism ingrained in its DNA (ie. bad conscience for being a direct legal successor of the historic communist party) and thus it never dares to act boldly — just like Germany will forever carry the shame for the destruction brought on by WWII and the Holocaust, which will prevent Germany from ever acting boldly. (Never mind that MSZP is still without irony called the “communists” in rural regions.)

    Since the politics of the last few years, especially since the case of the Norwegian funds showed that the democratic opposition parties – perhaps with the exception of DK – are unfocused, weak, politically corrupt (Zsolt Molnar et al), lacking vision, lacking discipline, it is the focused NGOs like TASZ which are keeping the flames of democracy and the rule of law alight. Thus their say and influence on the rebuilding of the Hungarian democracy must be bigger than in a normal case. Current opposition politicians are not to be trusted when it comes to potential compromises with Fidesz (e.g. the pettiness of MSZP politicians knows no bounds, they sell their souls for a monthly 200 USD, imagine what will happen when Fidesz will fight for its survival and will be open to divide the spoils from the EU funds or Paks 2).

  2. @wolfi

    It’s not just Fidesz which is afraid of him, also right wing voters love to hate him partly because they too feel instinctively that he’s a much tougher cookie than MSZP or Együtt or LMP or PM or whoever else. He once humiliated their idol, and that’s hard to forgive. Every time they face Gyurcsány they face the fact that Orban’s not invincible after all, that he too is a mere mortal.

    Also it’s much more difficult to deceive or purchase Gyurcsany and this makes him dangerous.

    Of course, Gyurcsany’s name became a symbol for everything bad like the “liberals”, “jews” etc. so it’s a name you throw in and it immediately starts the defensive reflexes in right wing voters. The main characteristic of such symbol is that it requires no further explanation, it’s self-explanatory.

  3. @Jóska
    “MSZP has a bad conscience for communism ingrained in its DNA (ie. bad conscience for being a direct legal successor of the historic communist party) … (Never mind that MSZP is still without irony called the “communists” in rural regions.)”

    You notice that there is “communism ingrained in the DNA” of MSZP.

    But it seems you are surprised that they are called communists in rural regions. What would you call a party which has communism in their DNA, their very core? Anti-communist?

  4. It is telling that there is so much, “communists, communists, communists” to be heard in Hungary at every opportunity….but nary a mention of the nazi sympathisizers which are
    to be found everywhere in the soft underbelly of the nation…

  5. The Orban government submitted an omnibus bill on Friday, which eliminates major provisions of the 2007 “sunshine” law.

    If adopted, the government can legally give taxpayers’ money to [Fidesz] party affiliated organizations from January 1.

    In bidding processes, the losing tenders will be destroyed, so it will be impossible to compare them with the winners in the future – this [illegal] practice was already used in the tobacco store and agricultural land scandals.

    According to the new bill, an official can give public money to himself, his wife or children – the vestiges of the “conflict of interest” stumbling blocks are also eliminated.

    http://atlatszo.hu/2014/11/22/januartol-konnyebb-lesz-lopni-megint-lehet-majd-kozpenzbol-tamogatni-a-partkozeli-szervezeteket-es-a-csaladot/

  6. OT: The Prime Minister’s Office has instructed all staff of the Foreign Ministry to report in writing all their meetings in the last couple of years with US diplomats. The written note should include and clarify the purpose, venue and exact time of the meeting.

    “A Miniszterelnökség kérésére a Külügyminisztérium dolgozóit arra kötelezték, írásban jelentsék, hogy az elmúlt években mikor, hol, miért találkoztak amerikai diplomatákkal.”

    http://www.vasarnapihirek.hu/fokusz/megall_az_esz_a_kulugyminiszterium_dolgozoit_kotelezik

  7. Gabor, I am not so sure. I think Jóska meant ‘bad conscience ingrained’ (for communism). I would opt for this because the German parallel also talks about bad conscience that never goes away.

  8. @tappanch

    This is organized criminality.

    This regime is worse than a mafia because a mafia usually cannot make its actions “legal”, whereas Fidesz can and does. (Obviously after destroying evidence proof of larceny is much more difficult, especially when Fidesz controls the prosecution and the courts.)

    I think Fidesz’ people are getting completely insane now, there’s just no bound to their corruption.

    TGM had a point, re Budapest though, so it’s not representative for the whole nation at all, but people now openly curse Fidesz (although many such people would vote for Jobbik). But this is new and I hear it too.

    One tumblr blogger wrote that he saw a fidesznik politician he vaguely recognized on the street the other day, and acting on the impulse he (the blogger) told the politicians on the spot that he (the blogger) would like to see him (the fidesznik) rot in jail. The blogger couldn’t tell which one of the fideszniks the politician was, he just felt he had to say this. After discussions among the bloggers, it turned out the politician was Lajos Kósa.

    I seriously wouldn’t be surprised if at some point in the future some of these amok running criminal fideszniks would be lynched by the mob.

  9. Re. Max’ comment at Max November 23, 2014 at 12:41 am I wonder why don’t they ask for the same regarding meetings with Russian parties? It is a peculiar world. Not long ago Orban warned us about the Soviets, and Russians, and telling us about how freedom came from the West. Now obviously he is afraid of freedom, and would like Hungary to cozy up to ex-KGB agents, like Putin. They are “afraid”of secret communists, but Orban has no problem to restore Soviet values as long as his personal interests are at bay.
    Since Orban pushed the panic button, it makes you wonder what other USA knowledge is he afraid of? I believe there is way more behind the “no travel list” than the name of Vida.

  10. @Grófúr:

    You and Jóska are right of course – it’s up to Gabor the troll to misinterpret everything in his blind hate!

    One shouldn’t forget that Fidesz still does not want to open the archives of the Communist secret police – they probably have “many skeletons in the cellar”.

    Re the Germans’ conscience:

    As a German I can tell you that the memory of Nazi times makes one very watchful on undemocratic tendencies. And I’m proud that our current president Mr Gauck was formerly head of the office which looked at the communist archives and gave everybody the option of looking at their data.

    I have several friends from East Germany who were shocked when they realised how much info the Stasi had collected on them – hundreds of pages on just one person (!) collected by people who they had thought were their friends …

  11. I realise I am in a minority here but I feel a sense of despair that this deluded egomaniac is still pontificating in this way. There is not the remotest chance that there will be elections in 2016 so why pretend? Of course, he is hoping that somehow the protest movements will select him as its figurehead, and that is about as unrealistic as his prediction of early elections. The man was prime minister for 4 and a half year, the first two years of which were devoted to cooking the books and running the country into the ground economically in order to win the 2006 election (which worked) followed by two and a half years of ineffectual governance, the only result of which was that it facilitated Fidesz winning its super majority in 2010. He is no Bokros who was unfairly reviled in 1995 but is now respected. His rhetorical skills apart, he has done nothing to earn him a second bite of the cherry. Some of the hatred felt for him is unfair and exaggerated but that is never going to go away and he just refuses to accept this. He needs to vanish from public life. And this speech does nothing but give fuel to Fidesz who will now besmirch the protestors through Gyurcsány’s transparent attempt to line himself up for their vote.

    I also find it offensive that Gyurcsány talks about oligarchs when he proved quite incapable of dealing with those in the MSZP, many of whose deals were shared with Fidesz.

  12. And another article in the Guardian on Orbán’s “unorthodox policies”:
    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/18/hungary-taxes-advertising-supermarkets-soap

    I wonder what people will make out of that “soap tax” – just waiting for the jokes that will follow …

    Re that article on Orbán’s pivate visit in Baden-Baden (no one from the left/green Schwab government, not even the local mayor attended …):

    Those very rich private family investors will have to think about Hungary – they surely know about Orbán’s crazy tax ideas:
    Whenever some one makes money from his investments – tax them!

    Only the rich Hungarians profit from the flat income tax – which also prominently features in that Guardian article!

  13. @HiBoM: “I also find it offensive that Gyurcsány talks about oligarchs when he proved quite incapable of dealing with those in the MSZP, many of whose deals were shared with Fidesz.”

    Well, Gyurcsany was the only one trying to rein those in… no wonder he is hated left and right.

  14. I am fascinated by the pointed remarks of petofi:

    ‘petofi
    November 22, 2014 at 5:19 pm
    “It is telling that there is so much, “communists, communists, communists” to be heard in Hungary at every opportunity….but nary a mention of the nazi sympathizers which are
    to be found everywhere in the soft underbelly of the nation…”

    Let us see clearly, too many hungarian grandfathers, fathers propagated hate crimes, and too many living hungarians remain sorely infected by old and new propaganda.

    Let us also salute the many noble hungarians who maintained a clear vision.

    Gyurcsany is one, with a crystal clear vision. He needs a clean up counsellor, and he will be alright.

  15. I began to comment on HS after I had learned that the Orban government had replaced the Hungarian Constitution with the infamous Basic Law and bragged about it as “carved in stone”. As I had grown up in a Western democracy it was immediately clear to me that the most important task for the Hungarian opposition was to get rid of this law which could only have been fostered in criminal minds. In one of my first comments I suggested that if the opposition could not agree about anything else they might at least agree on drafting a new democratic constitution for Hungary, and the drafting should be done in such a way that it could be followed, and commented on, on an internet site as it developed. How naive I was. It took me a long time to realize that restoring Hungarian constitutionality was far from the first priority of the majority of the Hungarian opposition politicians. I slowly began to suspect that several of them would be happy to govern the country under the Basic Law – that they would use it to their own advantage if they came to power. By the time my suspicion has solidified to certainty. I am happy that Gyurcsany has finally come to the conclusion that Hungary must break with its constitutional history and begin again at square one.

    I know that it is never well received in Hungary if a foreigner suggests anything of a political nature. Anyway I am going to propose what should be the first paragraph in the urgently needed new Hungarian Constitution:

    “Hungary is a republic that occupies the territory defined by the Trianon Treaty.”

    Comment: This wording describes the present fact. A border change requires a change of the constitution. (Which should be difficult to achieve).

  16. “Hungary is a republic that occupies the territory defined by the Trianon Treaty.”

    Comment: This wording describes the present fact. A border change requires a change of the constitution. (Which should be difficult to achieve).

    – You know, the Trianon Treaty still is a wound get teared up regularly, – driven by selfish interest – of these mindless heap of morons who dare call themselves ‘true Hungarians’ and ‘Nationalists’.

    The Hungarian nation ever get the nearest to be able to ignore the effects of Trianon when they joined the EU and the borders all but disappeared, with a very few exceptions.

    One would think, that they happily lived ever after, but hey, this is Hungary..!

    So, instead of working on to keep the best relation with our neighbours they doing their best to alienate just about everyone – drawing the conclusions on the head of the native Hungarians happened to live the other side of the border, and with the privileged treatment of the native Hungarians living in the other countries creating animosity between ‘inborn’ Hungarians and those living elsewhere.
    If it wasn’t enough, they keep hinting that Hungary shouldn’t be member of the EU at all – while screaming their lungs out that ‘no, no never’ they will accept the present territorial limits of Hungary.
    So, you see just how ‘true patriotic’ these people really are?
    And how damned stupid as well..?

    Unfortunately, as long as these phoney ideas will bring a few hundreds of thousands votes to the respective parties, there is no hope of any rational approach.
    Did I mention, that it all happens in Hungary?

  17. Regarding the subject;
    Since the Hungarian electoral system in effect is unfair and unjust, I hardly see a point to hold general elections by the same terms in two years, even if Orbán happens to have a miraculous recovery from his mental status and will resign on the spot…

    In my opinion new elections should be held first time after the constitution and the parliamentary- and electoral system has been renewed, made new from the ground up, in order to get rid of the existing ‘Manual for Advanced Criminals & Their Legislators’ – which also called ‘The Basic Law’…

    All of this will take time – knowing of Hungary, probably only 3-4 times as long as it should, since it should be based on agreements and general consensus, may even longer…
    Before you think I exaggerating – what I am, but still – I’d like to remind everyone to the case of “Együtt” and their path to the participation in the elections, or/and the relation among generally like minded parties, and the whole mess what it became. That’s what I mean.

    The solution?
    I’d rather recommend an interim – or provisional – government, possibly free of party-politicians as long as it takes to clean out the system, restore democracy and install legal safeguards that similar shameful situation couldn’t happen ever, what Hungary must endure presently, as an illiterate autocrat enforcing an illiberal state upon a whole country.

    Any better solution is warmly welcomed, then only the mundane task of doing remains!

  18. It says all there is to say about the state of ‘opposition’ in Hungary, that, after over 4 years, Gyurcsány is still all we’ve got (plus a bunch of politically illiterate youth).

  19. @Paul

    Look at the opposition of Japan or Turkey. One is a democracy, the other is a pseudo-democracy, but still, there’s no real opposition in either. In Japan the governing party has some 30% popularity, but it’s likely to win decisively yet again in the upcoming snap elections. “Who else do we got?” ask many Japanese, which is an eerily similar question many people asked in Hungary in April 2014.

    It’s not straightforward for Hungarian people being in opposition to start parties, especially not when you’re up against a dictator who has unlimited campaign funds, can send the prosecution/tax authority/secret services onto you at any time on some trumped up charges or have you character assassinated in its media-empire in no time, all when you as a beginner have no media at all and no funding. The Hungarian opposition is divided and feeble, I agree much more so that would be warranted, but disarray is actually a pretty usual state for the opposition in a system where there’s one autocrat controlling all branches of government and facets of life.

    There was a huge diversity of species (parties) in 1990 when people knew that there was total freedom to stat parties. As long as Fidesz’ hold on power looks stable people won’t start new parties because in rural areas it is impossible to come out as an opposition personality (unless you are a pensioner without relatives in the region or unless you are a jobbiknik, who often cozily work together with Fidesz) and no party can hope to win without a strong position in rural regions. Fidesz thought this out thoroughly. What’s happening is not unusual for autocracies at all. Your statement is like asking people who lived under communism or in North Korea right now why they didn’t (don’t) stage a revolution if they hated the system so much? It’s just more complicated than that. I think once Fidesz falls, new parties will emerge, but right now no real cracks can be seen on its complete power (if I look the how the prosecution, courts, constitutional court, national bank, state/fidesz media, police, secret services etc. operate). Fidesz is still ascending, look at Szijjarto (now employing half a dozen football pals at the foreign ministry) or new crazy laws which are being still introduced day after day, it’s not like they’re slowing down. This universe is still in an inflationary phase.

  20. re: “…I know that it is never well received in Hungary if a foreigner suggests anything…”

    How true this is.
    An anecdote:
    Some years back, I was at a condo owners meeting when the question of selling the roof
    for penthouse units came up. Of course, the condo manager had a typical self-serving plan:
    he had one potential buyer he wanted to bring before the meeting. All this happened. When
    the manager asked for feedback, I was about to suggest that there should be in the process
    4/5 potential buyers. Unfortunately, in my innocence, I began my comments like this: “In Canada, we invite atleast four….” And I couldn’t finish: I was assailed by yells of,
    “We don’t care how you did it in Canada!! This is Hungary…” etc.

    It didn’t occur to ‘brave Magyars’ that they might have something to learn from others.
    What a horrible brain-washing the Hungarian society has undergone to think that all others
    are inferior.

    What simpletons!

  21. 444.hu had a point.

    Ms. Colleen Bell didn’t withdraw, so she apparently still has Obama’s backing.

    On Dec 1, there’s a new voting in the Senate about the new US ambassador to Budapest.

    I’m sure Orban and co. are praying Ms. Bell gets the approval.

    She’s absolutely unprepared, hasn’t the slightest clue about Hungary and the region and is exactly the kind of personality who will swallow all the bullshit Szijjarto and Orban have to tell her. Since she is a lady, I’m sure some female fideszniks like Szemerkenyi or Anita Orban will be called in to charm her, they will have a lot of common topics like schooling, kids and the like. I don’t know why they say Fidesz is full of corrupt and arrogant bullies, when they’re such a lovely bunch.

    She will want to be liked, will avoid conflict because she will want to enjoy her well-deserved vacation. Fidesz needs her desperately.

  22. @Paulito, I would be less harsh on Ms. Bell because I happen to know that she has been working very hard on following events in Hungary. Moreover, I hear that she is “a quick study.” And one more thing, it is never the ambassador who runs the embassy but the second man, the professional diplomat and not the political appointee. In this case, I assume André Goodfriend. So, nothing will change.

  23. HUNGARY’S UNCHECKED LAWMAKER LAWLESSNESS

    @tappanch:

    “The Orban government submitted an omnibus bill on Friday, which eliminates major provisions of the 2007 “sunshine” law.

    “If adopted, the government can legally give taxpayers’ money to [Fidesz] party affiliated organizations from January 1.

    “In bidding processes, the losing tenders will be destroyed, so it will be impossible to compare them with the winners in the future – this [illegal] practice was already used in the tobacco store and agricultural land scandals.

    “According to the new bill, an official can give public money to himself, his wife or children – the vestiges of the “conflict of interest” stumbling blocks are also eliminated.”

    http://atlatszo.hu/2014/11/22/januartol-konnyebb-lesz-lopni-megint-lehet-majd-kozpenzbol-tamogatni-a-partkozeli-szervezeteket-es-a-csaladot/

    If the EU passively tolerates this cynical, brazen abuse by its member, then it is not only the mindless Hungarian voters but the brainless EU that deserve everything that will soon be coming to them, as the cancer of unchecked lawmaker lawlessness metastasizes…

  24. Christian shaded anti-communism is some fun, why may lead occasionally to small genocides.

    Gabor wrote this nonsense:

    November 22, 2014 at 4:17 pm
    ” @Jóska “MSZP has a bad conscience for communism ingrained in its DNA (ie. bad conscience for being a direct legal successor of the historic communist party) … (Never mind that MSZP is still without irony called the “communists” in rural regions.)”

    “You notice that there is “communism ingrained in the DNA” of MSZP.”
    =======================================================

    The fathers of the gabors have already fallen into this trap. Now, it is the turns of the gabors to resist the same trap.

    Poor MSZP maybe greedy, but way less systemic communist than the loudly protesting orban.

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