Unfortunately there seems to be no hope of changing political discourse in Hungary. At least this is my impression after reading a few newspaper accounts of Viktor Orbán’s speech this afternoon. Today is a national holiday: it was on March 15, 1848, that news of the revolution that broke out in Vienna reached Pest. It is on March 15 that the birth of parliamentary democracy is celebrated in Hungary.
The police were well prepared because by now no national holiday passes without some disturbance. Those who create trouble are small groups of extreme rightwingers who seem to go from event to event and try to fluster the speakers. This year at least there was no egg throwing because a few months ago a judge with some sense decided that throwing eggs is not a legitimate expression of free speech. Thus the “brave” men of the right held up pieces of paper on which one could read that the person would like to throw an egg at Gábor Demszky, mayor of Budapest, but under the circumstances this piece of paper will have to do. By the way, according to Hungarian law the organizers of demonstrations in the past that created havoc (rocks thrown at the police, cars burned, etc.) can continue to organize demonstrations with impunity. The police have no right to cancel their demonstrations although there might be good reason to believe that last year’s disturbances will be repeated.
A few people demonstrated in front of parliament. But the greatest attraction for the demonstrators was the National Museum where Petőfi allegedly recited his famous poem, “Rise Hungarians!” It was in front of Petőfi’s statue that Gábor Demszky spoke. While at other places there were only a handful of people, here the reports talked about at least a thousand. Whatever their numbers, they were certainly noisy. They kept on going even when Demszky asked for a moment of silence to remember the deaths of Marian Cozma, the handball player, and the father and son who were killed in Tatárszentgyörgy. One would have thought that at least in Cozma’s case they would show some respect. But, no. They went on. Altogether the police arrested nineteen people at these demonstrations.
No one disturbed the speech of Viktor Orbán. A few years ago Fidesz tried to find a place that was big enough to hold many thousands, but this year Orbán spoke on a relatively small square in the Castle district. There were still a lot of people spilling over to the side streets, but in the cramped medieval castle with its narrow streets crowds look bigger than they actually are. It had been raining all day, but by the time Viktor Orbán began his speech the rain stopped. After Orbán’s earlier “state of the union” speech everybody commented on his relative moderation. He tried to talk to the middle, commentators said. He didn’t want to alienate anybody. That was certainly not his tone today.
He again talked about his political opponents as the enemies of the country. The people currently in charge are “pitiful men of hopelessness” who in the last seven years have completely ruined the country. The current crisis is not economic in nature but political and therefore only a political solution can solve it. He and his followers must take the country back from the representatives of the old world. Orbán accused the current government of trying to return to the socialism of János Kádár. “Our trouble is that the country is ruled by a political clan whose members can’t resign themselves to the demise of the socialist regime.” This is, of course, nothing more than a brazen lie because if anyone is using socialist slogans it is Orbán and the representatives of Fidesz. According to him, the government of Gyurcsány achieved nothing; it only ruined the lives and work of millions. Hungary should belong to those who worked, who struggled, who sacrificed, those who love this country, its people, its language, its earth, and its air. Those who love its past, its present, and its future. Those who remain in the country, those who see it as great even when it is small. Those who believe in it.
Orbán made no secret of his plans: “Day by day we must destroy the resistance of the Hungarian government.” He is actually doing a very good job. Attack after attack, trying to make the government’s work impossible. The government was accused of heinous crimes: “It terrorizes people, it tries to intimidate independent institutions, tries to break up the judicial system.” If anything, the problem with the current Hungarian government is its helplessness while Fidesz and its supporters everywhere–from the ministerial offices to the courtrooms–are doing their best to render it impotent.
According to Orbán there are two kinds of men: “the captives of yesterday and the free men of tomorrow” and “the time will come when the free men of tomorrow will turn Hungary in a different direction, toward a future where Hungary will be a strong, a much valued nation.” The free men of the future, I assume, are Orbán and his political friends, but unless one is swept off his feet by his oratory one must remember that after all Viktor Orbán has been a politician for twenty years. He has been a prime minister, a member of parliament, and always a major player on the political scene. In his place I would not try to cast myself as the man of the future. Someone who has nothing to do with the past. All in all, I consider this whole speech nothing more than a falsification of history and a distortion of facts.
Meanwhile, Jobbik had a meeting with thousands in attendance and the Magyar Gárda has 650 new members. No question, it’s growing. The size of the new class of recruits seems a bit frightening. I’m sure that it is frightening to Viktor Orbán as well. The radical right is growing, and at the next elections it will be Fidesz who will lose votes as a result. Perhaps the shrill voice of the speaker had something to do with that fear.