Changing of the guard

People  who didn’t vote for Fidesz talk wistfully about the civilized change of government in Great Britain. In Hungary, by contrast, they say that boorishness rules. The president of the country refuses to shake hands with a man who just received some decoration although it is his job to conduct the ceremony. Another man, an actor, refuses to accept an award from the hands of the prime minister. The leader of the opposition refuses to congratulate the winner. And these are only a few examples of unacceptable behavior on the part of those chivalrous Hungarians who are so proud of their noble heritage.

The leader of the Hungarian opposition barely made an appearance in parliament because he found his changed position too hard to take. Try to imagine that in Great Britain. And now that he has won the elections he is still battling the former government with all his might. A few days ago there was a caricature in Népszava that is telling. It says: “Revolution.” Orbán, flag in hand, is ready to climb the wall of the fortress when one of his men says to him, “But, chief, the Bastille is already ours.”

Since the appearance of this cartoon the revolutionary rhetoric has only intensified although one would have thought that in the last couple weeks Viktor Orbán could calm down and realize that his eight-year struggle to be prime minister again is over. He can relax. Let go. But no. Just the opposite. First we just heard about a revolution in the voting booths, and by now we have a “revolutionary parliament” and a “revolutionary government.” Magyar Hírlap came out with this incredible headline: “Revolutionary parliament signals the end of a defeated regime.”

I just read a wonderful article by Endre Bojtár, professor of comparative literature, about “The shady side of romanticism” in www.galamus.hu in which he spends quite a bit of time on East Europeans’ fascination with revolution. I’m sure that the flow of this nonsensical talk about revolution inspired the piece. He mentions that even absolutely peaceful transitions are called revolutions. The Hungarian negotiated settlement during 1989-90 is often described as some kind of revolution, if necessary turning to the Czechs for a little velvet. Or everybody talks about March 15, 1848, as a revolution when in fact it wasn’t. The same could be said about the October 1918 events that are called “the aster revolution.” 1956 was a revolution all right but, as Bojtár rightly points out, not only was it not allowed to be called a revolution but those who took part in its defeat called their newly formed government “the revolutionary government of workers and peasants.” I’m very much afraid we will not be able to get rid of this nonsensical adjective for a while. I know the Fidesz parrot commando only too well.

One thing is sure. Viktor Orbán is not tackling the very serious problems facing the country with any humility or modesty. Here are a few telling lines from his speech in parliament. “I’m not standing in front of you for the first time. It isn’t the first time that I accept the post of prime minister. I know what I have to do. I know what the country expects from me and I will not disappoint them. I will do all that people expect from me. [Great applause.] I am ready to struggle against all odds, but those who know me also know that difficulties and obstacles put in my way don’t deter me. It doesn’t matter what kind of powerful forces try to thwart me, I will succeed because the Hungarian people entrusted me with the task. People want drastic and fundamental change in all aspects of their lives. For this change I received a mandate and authority and this is what I will fully accomplish.”

Let’s stop right here. There are far too many problems with this passage. Most importantly, we don’t even know what Fidesz voters expect from Viktor Orbán, just that they had had enough of the socialists. I suspect that they would like to have a higher standard of living first and foremost. Another serious problem is that Fidesz voters really didn’t know what they were voting for. Orbán kept his plans secret. His voters had to go on faith. Therefore any reference to expectations, especially fundamental and drastic changes, sounds hollow.

The next problem is with his claim that his endorsement was so overwhelming that it allows him to introduce those drastic changes he wants to introduce. But the fact is that this doesn’t hold water. In 1994, 2002, and 2006 the socialists and the liberals had just as many voters and they didn’t think that they were authorized to initiate a “revolution.” It is also presumptuous of him to think that the whole nation is behind him because it is not so. It is very unlikely that the voters of MSZP and LMP would like to see “a victory over the past” as Orbán said in another part of his speech. These people don’t want to turn against the twenty years that brought democracy to the country. Orbán in no uncertain terms makes clear that he considers this particular election the final act of the regime change. According to him the period between 1990 and 2010 was a communist transitional period. But with this election the time of freedom from bondage has arrived. But in that case what on earth did he do as a member of parliament between 1990 and 2010 and as prime minister of the country between 1998 and 2002? Prime minister in a semi-communist country? How is that possible?

The government hasn’t been sworn in but already storm clouds are gathering on the horizon. But as Orbán said in his speech: he is not deterred. He is a strong man, a strong prime minister of a strong country. And he flexes his muscles. But so does Robert Fico, prime minister of Slovakia, and we don’t know yet what muscles will be flexed when the IMF sits down with György Matolcsy. And we haven’t even talked about the “revolutionary” attack on democracy that is beginning to take place. But more about that some time later.

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Peter Koroly
Guest

A strong politician but the Forint is becoming every day weaker. I just look every day at the rate at the currency converter
http://markets.ft.com/ft/markets/currencies.asp
This could of course strengthen those paranoid Hungarians who really believe that Israel wants to occupy Hungary and that there is a world conspiracy of bycicle riders against Hungary.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Peter Koroly: “A strong politician but the Forint is becoming every day weaker. I just look every day at the rate at the currency converter”
Just the other day I was thinking that a couple of years ago Orbán was complaining that the forint was weak and only weak countries have weak currencies (stupidity, of course because we know that both weak and strong currencies have their pluses and minuses). Now it turns out that Orbán and crew want to have a weak forint because they hope that it would help export and thus production. Apparently, that is not so simple, and then there are those millions who have loans in Swiss francs or euros. They will be soon be very, very unhappy.

Joe Simon
Guest

It is true that Hungarian democracy lacks the maturity and grace of those older ones like that of Great Britain. The new leader of the opposition party should congratulate the winner of the election. But let us remember how hated President Kennedy was in and outside both chambers and how much Pierre Trudeau was disliked in and outside the Parliament. There was no love lost in either historic situations.
The Hungarian Spectrum is oozing with its hatred and dislike of Orbán. One can only wonder why? Orbán is no savior of Hungary. He has a chance to bring in some welcome changes. The problems are almost insurmountable, with hostile countries around. But at least Orbán is not afraid to talk with people. Recently he went to Ózd, a depressed region, to engage all those concerned about public safety, reconstruction, etc. So far he has made a good impression. Joe Simon, Diósgyőr

Peter Koroly
Guest
©Joe Simon© Prof. Balogh cannot be accused of “hating” Orbán. She is just putting a mirror before him and you can’t blame her, if he looks not good. It is the old method we know from Kádár’s time, if one criticized the regime, one was accused to hate Hungary. Are there “Hostile countries around? This is not even now true. After all Austria, Croatia and Slovenia are not hostile. And relations could be correct, if Orbán would not push the idea of giving ethnic Hungarians abroad citizenship. For Hungarians in Slovakia and Romania this is no advantage, because their countries are anyway members of EU. But of course Slovakia and Romania will see it as a hostile step and react accordingly. Giving citizenship en masse to citizens who are not members of EU will probably not be seen by EU with favor. It is the old politics of symbols, like putting the crown in parliament. Will those new Hungarians get medical care and social rights in Hungary? If yes there will be a conflict in Hungary, because some will ask, why should those not paying taxes get such advantages? If the Hungarian citizenship will be symbolic, the question will be… Read more »
Öcsi
Guest

I’m curious as to what else Orbán said in his speech to parliament. In the quote you provide, he uses “I” and “me” 17 times!
Is there no political party behind this man? Is there no party platform? Anyone who uses “I” and “me” as often as he does indicates that he is totally self-absorbed. And that’s not what the country needs right now.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Öcsi: “I’m curious as to what else Orbán said in his speech to parliament. In the quote you provide, he uses “I” and “me” 17 times!”
You made me curious. I will check.

An
Guest

@Öcsi: I think Orban is a narcissist.
From Wikipedia
Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder defined …. as “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.”[1]
The narcissist is described as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, and prestige.[2]

Eva S. Balogh
Guest
An: “I think Orban is a narcissist. >From Wikipedia Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder defined …. as “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration, and a lack of empathy.”[1] The narcissist is described as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, and prestige.[2]” A lot of people, even responsible people, are convinced that not all is right with Orbán psychologically. People also talk about depressions for months on end after each defeat when he disappeared for long periods of time. Rumors were circulating during such times that he was seeking treatment in an Austrian facility dealing with mental problems. Of course, one doesn’t know whether any of these rumors are true or not. But there is something I find peculiar. Twelve years ago when he first became prime minister he insisted that his ministers stand up when he enters the room and they couldn’t sit down until he himself was seated. Keep in mind that all these people know each other very well. They had been on first-name basis with him and use the second person singular (te). The ministers, his friends, also had to call him “miniszterelnök úr” and couldn’t use the familiar… Read more »
Joe Simon
Guest

To Peter Koroly:
Yes, dual citizenship is symbolic. As far as I know both Markó and Csáky are in favour of it. I was in Erdély when the Gyurcsány government rejected it. People were stunned and were in disbelief. It would be showing that the mother country cares. I think Slovakia would be against anything Hungary proposes to improve the lot of Felvidék Hungarians. Slovakia wants
‘egyeztetést’ now but a year ago Sólyom was
refused entry. A strange gesture of wanting
to engage Hungary in consultation. It seems Slovakians define their nationalism in terms of being anti-Hungarian.
Joe Simon, Diósgyőr.

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