Gábor Horn’s “Third Road”

I don't know why Hungarians like "third roads" so much. The original "Third Road" was associated with the so-called populists (népiesek or in Russian narodniks) of the 1930s who looked around and said: "We don't like capitalism but we don't like the Soviet style of socialism either. Let's find a third alternative, a third road." These populists (sociologists and writers) were unfortunately very influential in their own lifetimes, and their ideas are still deeply ingrained in Hungarian political thinking. Their third road was an inward looking, nationalistic political movement based on an allegedly unique Hungarian national character. The Hungarian peasantry was pivotal to their vision of Hungary's future. Well, this was a dead end. Their opponents, political and literary, were the urbanists, mostly Budapest Jewish intellectuals who wanted to build a modern society. Interestingly, even after forty-five years of "socialism" these divisions didn't completely disappear from Hungarian political life. At the time of the change of regime, in MDF there were groups whose political origins went back to the ideas of the populists while in SZDSZ one could find those who stood close to the urbanists. SZDSZ quite openly announced that "there is no third road." Fidesz categorically stated twenty years ago that they didn't belong to either the populists or the urbanists. However, since then a lot has happened, and Fidesz also became fond of talking about a "Hungarian Road."

Once again, the old third road concept has resurfaced, though on a much smaller intellectual scale. For SZDSZ it's neither MSZP nor Fidesz, but a third road: a "government of experts." On September 1, in a radio program called Kontra two young political scientists were asked by the reporter about the meaning of a "government of experts." Kornélia Magyar and Zsolt Pétervári in no uncertain terms explained that in politics there is no such thing, that talking about a "government of experts" is meaningless. It was Viktor Orbán who first suggested a "government of experts" to solve the country's problems. It was clearly an attempt on his part to get rid of his archrival, Ferenc Gyurcsány. This idea was picked up by Gábor Fodor (SZDSZ) who advocated a government of experts to replace the current minority government.

So what is this "government of experts"?  Well, it is fairly difficult to explain a concept that doesn't exist. Political scientists call a "government of experts" an illusion, "a political product that can be easily sold" but behind which there is nothing. The naive general public might think that there is expertise that is perfectly neutral. They might think that there are people who are in no way influenced by politics and whose position, in the final analysis, doesn't depend on the political parties and their representatives in parliament. But who is going to select these experts? Which parties? Will it be a grand coalition? All these questions were addressed to Gábor Horn who was invited by József Orosz of Kontra today to have a discussion with the two political scientists. Horn desperately tried, for at least an hour and a half, to explain his concept of a "government of experts." To no avail. Neither Orosz nor the two political scientists were convinced. I listened to the progam twice and must admit that I never thought that Gábor Horn was so muddle minded. This man has been in parliament for seventeen years. How can he have so little knowledge of practical politics? Or common sense? Or logic? Call it what you will.

So let's see what Gábor Horn has in mind. To the question whether he could envisage cooperation with Fidesz, his answer was no. Out of the question. "The two parties' programs are too far from each other." To the next question whether he has in mind a grand coalition of all parties, the answer was no. Then what? According to Horn "there are moments when one ought to rise above politics, one ought to rise above the dichotomy of Gyurcsány versus Orbán." Well, came the next question: does SZDSZ want to get rid of Gyurcsány? Answer: they cannot tell MSZP what to do, "this is not our business." But just today it became perfectly clear that MSZP is not getting rid of Gyurcsány, so then what? And here we go back again to the "government of experts" whose members of course entirely depend on the parliamentary delegations, as it was pointed out to Horn. Yes, but the parties should forget about political battles. However, when he was asked whether he thinks that he could convince Orbán to set aside his political ambitions and support such a government of experts, Horn answered in the negative. But he repeated a few more times that "politicians should grow up." Yes, he could imagine an government of experts under the aegis of MSZP-SZDSZ, but "we cannot support the current government." When it was pointed out to him that if Gyurcsány resigns only a less liberal MSZP politician would step into his place, Horn answered that that is another topic and he doesn't want to go into the details of who is more or less liberal.

Horn was very frustrated that he couldn't convince his listeners about the wisdom and necessity of setting up a temporary government of experts. He failed miserably. It was really pitiful. After listening to him my worry about the future of SZDSZ is only confirmed. The party is not in good hands. Kontra, like most Hungarian radio programs, has a forum where listeners can write comments. A well-known correspondent who lives in Boston asked Horn whether he could succinctly, with American brevity, state the aim of his party. Horn answered that SZDSZ wants to remain in parliament until the 2010 elections. All very nice, but with this strategy how is it possible?

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Odin's lost eye
Governments have experts pouring out of their ears! Any P.M., Presidents and ministers can call up any and all the experts in the land and still get nowhere. They will all just argue to the end of time just whom amongst them is the greatest expert. As my old friend used to say “An expert is someone who knows more and more about less and less until he knows all about nowt”. When Mrs Thatcher came to power, ALL the experts said that her economic policies were wrong and the only thing to do was to carry on with more of their (the experts) policies, which were failing. The Mediaeval experts said the world was flat and that Jerusalem was the centre of the universe etc. So much for experts. I do not think that SZDS really knows what it wants. Gábor Horn is lost and way out of his depth! He wants rid of Gyurcsány perhaps because Gyurcsány is doing something right. He knows that Fidesz cannot forgive MZSP for stopping their leader Orban from fulfilling his and Fidesz glorious destiny. To Fisesz this was the ultimate unforgivable sin. Professor you say *** “But he repeated a few more… Read more »