Viktor Orbán is moving farther to the right

Or at least this is the impression his appearances and messages of late indicate. It was in his March 15 speech that I noticed a fairly sharp turn to the right but since then the signs of a profound change in tactics are visible. Or at least I noticed a change.

Although most papers and politicians were happy that the national holiday passed in relative calm, Orbán and Fidesz decided that they could not miss an opportunity to criticize the government and the police for their alleged wrongdoings. First, it seems to me, they laid some traps for the police. The most glaring was the following provocation. Two men held up a banner reading: “Responsible government to Budapest.” The police, who most likely received instructions that no banner can be displayed during certain events, asked the two men to put away the white sheet with the slogan. The slogan wasn’t the same but very similar to one of the twelve demands of the revolutionaries in 1848. The original demanded a “responsible ministry,” presumably a ministry dealing with Hungarian affairs, in Pest-Buda. Surely, the policemen in charge didn’t have the foggiest idea about the connection between the banner and the events of 1848. I happened to see the encounter between the two men and the police and I must say that it was most civilized. The policeman politely asked and the two guys politely obliged. However, they were arrested. A huge outcry followed on the right. Surely, this is dictatorship when two peaceful men cannot display a famous slogan from 1848. Not only that. After they were arrested they were strip searched and left for hours without food or drink.

The first paper to report the news was Magyar Nemzet. The paper referred to one of the men as a lawyer, but as it turned out he was actually a former employee of the paper. He was also one of the publishers of another right-wing paper, Heti Válasz. In addition, he currently serves as a member, nominated by Fidesz, of the committee dealing with complaints, mostly political in nature, of ORTT (Országos Rádió és Televízió Testület). ORTT is the body overseeing the affairs of radio and television stations. But this journalist-lawyer-politician wasn’t the only one who decided to entrap the police. Another one who appeared with a huge book on the life of Stalin was once the press secretary of the ministry dealing with family questions under the Orbán government. So much for political mischief. RosdyOn the first picture one can see the lawyer-journalist-politician while on the second one the former press secretary in the Orbán government. Rasdy2 And  if that weren’t enough Zoltán Balog, Fidesz chairman of the parliamentary committee on human rights, initiated an immediate investigation of the wrongdoings of the police on March 15. Máté Szabó, ombudsman in charge of complaints concerning such wrongdoings, also decided to move into action. Perhaps it is not immaterial that Szabó is a Sólyom appointee. He has been superactive ever since he received his appointment and this superactivity seems to be coupled with paranoia. The other day he was investigating a death that occurred in the Kaposvár prison and his parked car was involved in a traffic accident. He indicated his strong suspicion that the local police out of vengeance ruined his car!

Now I don’t know why these men were arrested. But obviously they were in violation of some Hungarian law that both Fidesz and the police knew well. The law, I assume, is petty enough to make the police seem heavy-handed and the arrestees innocent victims. In brief, Fidesz criticizes the government for weakening the police, they keep demanding a strong and disciplined police force, but at the same time they do everything in their power to make the Hungarian police as impotent as possible. After a while, the police will not dare to do anything because of the consequences they might suffer. And, of course, it will be the fault of the government.

All these provoked incidents provided Viktor Orbán with an opportunity to repeat time and again that he was perfectly right when he talked about the restoration of socialist dictatorship. While after his relatively moderate speech on March 6 he made his rounds on respectable, run-of-the-mill television stations, this time he decided to visit EchoTV and the extreme right paper Magyar Hírlap. Both are owned by Gábor Széles, a billionaire of extreme views. Until now Orbán was careful about not associating himself with Széles’s media empire. But for one reason or other he now thinks that it’s necessary. My guess is that Fidesz must have some polls for internal use only that indicate that Jobbik and other right-wing groups are gaining ground at the expense of Fidesz. This news must be behind the rather sharp turn to the right. At Echo TV he again repeated that Fidesz is keeping tabs on the illegal moves of the government and when they are in charge “these people will be punished.” The policemen ought to be the most afraid: they are gathering information on them. They know who was where and did what! In plain language Orbán is quite openly intimidating the police!

Orbán in the same interview at Echo TV made a couple of other “interesting” observations. He tried to explain better what he meant by “socialist restoration.” Of course, he wasn’t speaking of the restoration of a “socialist society” because then “there would be work for everybody and there would be public safety.” The current government doesn’t want to restore the socialist order but rather a dictatorial form of exercising power. It wants to create a regime very similar to or the same as one-party rule. He had the temerity to say that it is the other side that intimidates people. Especially since only a few minutes later he threatened the whole police force. He continued that he is certain that “even people of socialist persuasion” will reject this “socialist restoration.” He is sure that the Hungarian people are witnessing the end of that restoration attempt. Over 50% of the public wants change and there will be change soon.

The next day Orbán visited Magyar Hírlap, the newspaper that employs Zsolt Bayer, the notorious antisemite whose so-called journalistic activities are a disgrace. By the way, Bayer was one of the founders of Fidesz and a close friend of Viktor Orbán. Here he emphasized the necessity of a united right. He more or less repeated his thoughts uttered earlier at Echo TV about the police, the government, the socialist restoration, punishment of the guilty, and the happy days that await the nation after the change of government. In addition, he decided to say a few nasty things about MDF and its chairman, Ibolya Dávid. He called Dávid’s move to promote Lajos Bokros “jokes of a clown.” MDF didn’t leave Orbán’s remarks unanswered. It considers what Orbán has been doing for years the “acts of a clown.” He loudly demands change but when there was an opportunity to change prime ministers, he ran away.

There are people who wouldn’t agree with me about Orbán’s move to the far right. They think he has been there for some time by now. They point out, rightly, that in Hungary there has never been a moderate right as there were no liberals either. That’s why Ibolya Dávid and SZDSZ have such troubles gathering strength. Some people would go so far as to say that one cannot build a democracy without democrats. Historically, I agree with the above assessments. Indeed, there has never been a moderate conservative base in Hungary and with the exception of Budapest between the two world wars there were no liberals either. The only thing I can’t decide is who Viktor Orbán actually is. An irresponsible demagogue who says what his audience wants to hear? Was he ever a liberal? Was he ever a conservative? Is he now a representative of the far right? I honestly do not know.

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“They point out, rightly, that in Hungary there has never been a moderate right as there were no liberals either.”
If it had not been for the flowering of democracy in western Europe after 1945, and in southern Europe since the 1970s we could say this about a number of countries that by common consent now have moderate centre-right parties – just to give you my list: Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece. We shouldn’t look for the pathologies of FIDESZ in an apparent tradition of authoritarian right-wing politics, which characterise a number of countries which have gone down a different route. We should instead look for the source of the problems in Orbán’s ambitions to be “more than a Prime Minister”; those who have built FIDESZ as a centralized, clientelist vehicle for Orbán’s ambition rather than a functioning democratic political party; the power of “post-Communist” trauma in Hungarian society; the strength of ethnic nationalism among some of the population, and the sense of disappointment with what has happened since 1989.

Your difficulty Eva, in slotting Orban into one, or an other ideological cubicle stems from the fact that this pale shadow of Mussolini has no ideology. Time and again it turns out that he shamelessly copies historical and foreign examples, more and more obviously devoid of any ideas of his own. If there is anything admirable about this guy it is his audacity he applies in spouting the worn cliches. He covers his lack of self-confidence with swagger and his lack of political savvy with rudeness. Some years ago the good doctor Torgyan was threatening for a moment of becoming the president of the republic, but the electorate has recoiled from that prospect then. Now, in light of the fidesz’ electoral chances, the possibility cropped up again, Orban may shoot for the presidency. We can only hope again that the public will ultimately see the writing on the wall and recoil again from that dismal prospect. However, the way things are going now in Hungary, even I am slowly coming around to accept that it would really hardly make any difference. The only possible one being that now the EU might pay some attention to Hungary, while at the times… Read more »
Odin's lost eye
Mark You have hit the nail right on the head when you say *** “We should instead look for the source of the problems in Orbán’s ambitions to be “more than a Prime Minister”; those who have built FIDESZ as a centralized, clientelist vehicle for Orbán’s ambition rather than a functioning democratic political party” ***. Fidesz is just a vehicle for Orbán’s overwhelming desire to become the ‘All Highest’ in Hungary. What he would do with such power I hate to think, but I suspect that once he gets there he will never again have to face an election. Actually the far right and the far left are one and the same thing and have the same objective which is to retain power. The idea of democracy or ‘hoi poli’ having any say in the matter is a non-starter for them. Those who object simply disappear or become people who never were! I doubt if Orbán and any of his merry men have any idea as to what to do about the financial crisis. Neither do the apes from Jobbic. Professor as you say *** “They point out, rightly, that in Hungary there has never been a moderate right as… Read more »
Good to find this website. As a Brit in Hungary for the last 13 years I am quite familiar with the situation here. An Orban led government would be quite alarming but I think some people here might be a little too frightened. In the current situation we could be looking at elections in the next 3 months but Viktor cannot be assured of an easy ride for many reasons. Chief amongst these is that he tries to appeal to anyone who hates MSZP which is a wierd coalition ranging from gypsies to the far right with all the sheep in between who fall for his demagogary. Second is Fidesz’s relationship with Jobbik. Orban has gone to the far right to try to squeeze Jobbik becase he won’t want to have to get into a coalition with them but it could turn out to be an ugly fight in which both sides hopefully delf-destruct. Third, and crucially is that Orban is the main bogeyman in Eastern Europe and as the prospect of him returning becomes greater more sensible people will recoil from it and vote MDF leaving Fidesz being unable to govern on their own. My prediction is that a… Read more »
Erik the Reader

This blog turns blind eye on the mischief done by the socialists thus it’s clearly biased pro leftist. Can we read here about Zuschlag case or any MSZP or SZDSZ affairs? Or even the BKV stuff? Or about the police brutality?
@hawkchurch forgets that MSZP,SZDSZ ruined and robbed the country and for this they will be held accountable.