Hungarian Guard and Fidesz, “take two”

There seems to be a subtle, more fractured, change in the Fidesz’s attitude toward the Hungarian Guard. Although only a couple of days ago Tibor Navracsics announced that "the case is closed," Viktor Orbán and others in the leadership can’t stop talking about it. Yesterday, Orbán asked foreign diplomats to meet with him because he wanted to inform them about the Fidesz’s attitude toward the Guard as well as his party’s political ideas. Since the general impression abroad and in the foreign embassies is that the Fidesz is not exactly the most constructive opposition, he himself wanted to inform the ambassadors about all the positive legislative efforts his party had tried to launch but the government majority had simply ignored. For example, he mentioned the many proposals his party’s caucus had presented in parliament concerning the budget; the other side ignored them all. (That most of these proposals were outright wacky he obviously didn’t admit.) He must have felt the need to correct "wrong impressions."

According to most observers, although the five-party international press conference was not exactly what the foreign journalists expected, in the final analysis the Fidesz came out worse than the other side. So most likely Orbán thought that he had to give a better explanation about his party’s attitude toward the Guard. "Bad for Hungary" was inadequate for international consumption (and perhaps didn’t resonate well within the far-right circles that support him). Now, he used different words: "the Guard is the wrong answer to the crisis." This phraseology shows more political cunning. First, he explicitly shifts the responsibility for the creation of the Guard to the government; they brought on the so-called crisis. The crisis is evident; the villains are obvious. And how does one respond to this crisis, brought on by the villains? "The Guard is the wrong answer." He’s not saying that the Guard is bad, just that it is the wrong answer. And does it take a mental giant to figure out what the right answer is? Elect us, defenders of the nation! Of course, this is not what the MSZP-SZDSZ-MDF demanded: "please condemn the Guard jointly with us."

I already alluded to the fact that the Fidesz wants a united front and doesn’t want to lose any votes from the right even if they come from the most extreme elements. I guessed that about ten percent of Hungarian voters fall into this category. Since then I read an article by Pál Tamás, a sociologist (Népszava, September 8, 2007). According to Tamás one-fifth of Fidesz voters belong to the far right. These people sympathize with the Hungarian Guard. If Tamás is correct (unfortunately he didn’t give his source), Fidesz’s reaction is perfectly understandable.

On the other hand, there is world opinion. In Brussels József Szájer and György Schöpflin, formerly professor at the London School of Economics, tried to explain the party’s attitude. I heard Schöpflin on MTV’s late evening political program, "Este" (Evening), and I must admit that he was unusually mild and reasonable. He even managed to regain some of his former scholarly objectivity and admitted that, contrary to his party’s claim that Ferenc Gyurcsány alone is responsible for the current situation, he thinks that there are many reasons and that Gyurcsány is only one of them: I haven’t heard anything that reasonable from him for the longest time. I immediately sensed that there may be some conflicting opinions within the party.

Since then it has become clear that the even the leadership is not united on the issue. Orbán’s old friend and mentor, László Kövér, called the guardists a bunch of idiots. He likes to use strong words. But he’s not discriminating in their use. He called the prime minister (without mentioning his name, of course) a "crook," adding that he doesn’t want to get into a discussion between idiots and crooks. Unfortunately, I have the feeling that Kövér and his colleagues will have many more discussions about how to wend their way between the "idiots" and the "crooks."