One of the hot topics of conversation beside Viktor Orbán's speech in front of László Kéri's former students of political science is an interview, quite open and candid, with István Stumpf a week ago Saturday on MR1. Stumpf currently is the head of a think tank called Századvég (Fin-de-siècle) established by Fidesz in the early 1990s, but its roots go back to a publication, also called Századvég, published by those college students who later established Fidesz. The editors of the periodical were István Stumpf and Viktor Orbán. The date was 1985. Although Stumpf claims today that he has practically nothing to do with the party and barely sees or talks with Viktor Orbán, from this interview it is quite obvious that Stumpf is still one of the most important advisors of Orbán. If not the most important, at least in political matters. The two men's friendship goes back a long way. Stumpf, as a young teaching assistant, was put in charge by the dean of the law school of the dormitory where Fidesz was born. He remained as head of the dormitory for five years (1982-1987), just about the time Orbán was a student there. Stumpf could do all sorts of things other people in a similar position couldn't because he was the son-in-law of the Minister of the Interior. One must remember that the internal security apparatus was part of the Interior Ministry.
In any case, after Viktor Orbán won the elections he asked Stumpf to head the Office of the Prime Minister with the rank of cabinet minister. The Hungarian system is an interesting amalgam of the British and the German. Yes, there is a prime minister not a chancellor, but the prime minister's power is very similar to that of the German chancellor. He can pick and choose his ministers who don't even have to be members of his party or members of parliament. He has a very large office, practically as large as a good-sized ministry. This office is headed by a minister, unofficially called "kancellária miniszter" (minister of the chancellery), and also has several undersecretaries. In any case, Stumpf was in charge of this whole operation between 1998 and 2002. Since then he has been trying to make us believe that he is just an ordinary political scientist. His bias, of course, is clear, but among those political analysts who side with the right he is the most intelligent and best informed.
But, let's go back to the interview. Given Fidesz party discipline, without Orbán's permission Stumpf could never have said all the things he did. Perhaps he was too candid, but it seems that this is the new Fidesz strategy. Until now they said almost nothing about their future plans, and now we hear rather shocking revelations about what Fidesz and Orbán are planning.
I already wrote about Orbán's plans for a very stringent austerity program as outlined in László Kéri's seminar. There he talked about two really hard years that would be very painful for many, many Hungarians. A few days later, talking to Hungarian business leaders, he modified his stance somewhat: for a year or so he would do nothing but gather ideas about the ways to handle the Hungarian "crisis" situation. He said relatively little about his political plans except that he wanted to remain in power for at least twelve to fifteen years. He also boasted about his unique position on the right: he cannot be replaced, no one else in the party has a chance.
Stumpf's revelations add a few details to Orbán's political plans. First of all, Stumpf assumes a huge Fidesz win at an early election. He assumes a two-thirds majority, in which case Fidesz can change the constitution. One of the changes should be to assign a more important role to the president. Certain powers should be taken away from the prime minister and given over to the head of state. The president's tenure should be lengthened from five to eight years. This strengthening of the role of the president perhaps would end the "ideological war" between the parties.
Throughout the interview it was obvious that Stumpf would like to decrease the importance of parties, perhaps even get rid of them altogether, though they are the mainstays of parliamentary democracy. He kept talking about "social contracts" between government and different interest groups. He also would like to see a second chamber in parliament. The members of this second chamber would be appointed and would represent different groupings. Although Stumpf never uttered the word, this plan bears a suspicious resemblance to "corporatism." Corporatism or corporativism is a kind of political system that is based not on parties but on different civic assemblies called "corporations." These civic assemblies would represent all facets of society: economic, agrarian, industrial, social, cultural, and professional. The idea goes back to Pope Leo XIII and his Rerum Novarum in which the pope outlined his plans for Christian socialism. In the twentieth century Mussolini was a proponent of such a political structure. In Austria the theoretical proponent of corporativism was Othmar Spann. So Stumpf is not exactly original, but what he echoes is a frightening prospect. He added that such a second chamber is not far from Hungarian tradition. Indeed not. There was an Upper House prior to 1918 and again between 1926 and 1944.
Stumpf's parting word was that he could easily imagine Viktor Orbán in the position of president but not now and not under the present circumstances. After all, Orbán is too young to assume a basically ceremonial position. But if the constitution is changed, once Orbán served his twelve or so years as prime minister of Hungary he could move over to a beefed-up presidential position for an additional eight years. A corporative state with a strong president–quite a prospect.