Péter Polt will again be the supreme prosecutor

Before you read this post I highly recommend that you get acquainted with Péter Polt, who was the supreme prosecutor between 2000 and 2006. I wrote about him at length a year ago. Polt was a Fidesz party hack with practically no prosecutorial experience. He turned out to be an excellent appointment from Fidesz's point of view because after the party lost the elections in 2002 Polt was pivotal in preventing any investigation of the Orbán government's corruption and the alleged criminal cases linked to the government. For weeks now there has been no question that President Pál Schmitt will fulfill his duties and nominate Viktor Orbán's choice, Péter Pold. Thus the "suspense" is over. Polt is Schmitt's candidate.

First, a few words about the current status of the prosecutor's office and the rather unusual designation of the chief prosecutor as "supreme prosecutor." Perhaps you will not be terribly surprised to find out that the current structure dates back to the communist takeover in 1948. Prior to that date the prosecutor's office was not "independent" as it now is, at least on paper. It was, as in most western countries, under the jurisdiction of the minister of justice. Interestingly, the "independence" of the prosecution was introduced because the communist party wanted to have direct access to the prosecutorial hierarchy. As for the silly name "supreme prosecutor," that was also a communist invention borrowed from Soviet practice. Prior to 1945 the chief prosecutor was called the "crown prosecutor."

One of the mistakes made by those responsible for the new constitution and the reorganization of the government in 1989-1990 was that they left the "independence" and the whole structure of the prosecutor's office untouched. Instead of restoring the prosecutor's office to a position subordinate to the minster of justice, they came up with the idea that the "independent" supreme prosecutor should be answerable only to parliament. In plain language, to no one. If the supreme prosecutor did something truly outrageous, and under Polt's six years that happened often, he was hauled into parliament, was questioned, his answers were never accepted, and he went home unscathed. It was a useless exercise.

During the first Orbán government, before the appointment of Polt, Ibolya Dávid (MDF), who was minister of justice between 1998 and 2002, tried to change this impossible situation and abolish the "independent" status of the prosecutor's office. The opposition (MSZP-SZDSZ) fiercely opposed any such move. I think if you asked them today they would readily admit that they erred. Because if the prosecutorial hierarchy were responsible to the minister of justice, the minister could be called on the carpet in case of wrongdoings. He would be responsible. Now, the supreme prosecutor really is supreme.

The second Orbán government never expressed any desire to subordinate the prosecutor's office to the government because this wouldn't serve its purpose. They don't want to take responsibility for anything the prosecutor's office does. They want to hide behind the independence of the office, but at the same time they want someone as supreme prosecutor who is their man and who can take orders.

Only four years have gone by since the present supreme prosecutor took office. But because the president nominated a man who was close to the compulsory retirement age of 70, a new man must be elected. As many commentators noted in 2006, László Sólyom, a supporter of Fidesz, wanted to make sure that in case Fidesz wins the elections in 2010 it will fall to Viktor Orbán's government to elect a new supreme prosecutor; he will not be stranded with one who still has two more years to go.

Viktor Orbán is so enamored with the "independence" of the prosecutor's office that in the proposal they submitted which would change the law governing the status of the supreme prosecutor they suggested that from here on the new man will not be able to be questioned in parliament. And to make sure that Mr. Polt (because they knew from day one that they want to have Polt back) will stay for a long time, they changed the length of his tenure from six years to nine. But that wasn't enough. Currently, a simple majority is sufficient to elect a new supreme prosecutor. However, from here on this appointment will require a two-thirds majority. One round of voting will decide the issue. If the new candidate doesn't receive a two-thirds majority, the current office holder will remain in his post until another candidate receives a two-thirds majority. That is almost impossible. In brief, Péter Polt will be the supreme prosecutor until the age of 70, or even longer, because another change introduced the right of the prime minister to modify the retirement age. Polt at the moment is fifty-five years old. So he will be around for a very long time. I should mention here that this requirement is more stringent than that for electing the president of the republic. Even though on the first ballot a two-thirds majority is necessary, the candidate for president has two more chances to be elected. By the third time around a simple majority suffices.

And no one can do anything to prevent such atrocities. I really don't know what anyone can do. I don't see too many opportunities. I might also add that there were rumors concerning the appointment of the new man to the effect that he must agree to be ready to place Ferenc Gyurcsány in custody. Maybe this is just talk but, given Polt's past, I wouldn't be shocked.

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Kevin Moore
Guest

You had 8 free years to go when your will prevailed, no matter who else wanted what.
Learn to experience the same from the other side.

Thomas
Guest

Orbán left parlamentary democracy the day he lost the 2002 elections when he took his claim to power to the streets, SA style. After reading the last two paragraphs of Eva Balogh’s post, I am now more convinced than ever that Hungary will not see “normal” national elections again until Orban’s death and a general uprising. But that will be slow in coming, because political culture and a participative interest in the res publica is absent in the largest part of the population.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Thomas: “After reading the last two paragraphs of Eva Balogh’s post, I am now more convinced than ever that Hungary will not see “normal” national elections again until Orban’s death and a general uprising.”
I’m rather pessimistic too. I always smile when I hear LMP or MSZP politicians say that this government will not even last for four years because it is so bad. Bad it may be but it will make sure that it remains in power for a very long time.

kormos
Guest

Well…. Good portion of Hungarian People, including the Prime Minister has been taught few good lessons in the past eight years. The pussyfooting of 1998-2002 just cannot continue anymore.
Here is a rather poor English translation of part of the verbal exchange between Gyurcsan and Orban in 2006. Written words just cannot give the proper ambiance of the original happening:
Mr. President, I need a favor here. This is a very silly and untrue campaign statement; that anyone here wants to establish a prescription fee, be so kind to withdraw it. You are a gentleman. No one has said such a thing. But now a campaign is to be built. You cannot take an unjust way to win. These accusations are not true, and it’s not good for the country to win election based on untrue accusations.
I will now tell you, this is not true. You know what? Withdraw this campaign (statement), because it does not do justice……..
There is no more tolerance for this type of sly tactics.
There is no reason to be pessimistic; after all most of the correspondents of this blog live in the West, well shielded from Hungarian hardship, unless there are many Paul Lendvais around.

An
Guest

@Kormos: perhaps you have missed something; it is 2010 now, not 2006, and we are discussing the ways the current government is (mis)treating its people not how the former government (mist)treated its people.

Thomas
Guest
Eva: It may not even matter, but also rebuilding some sort of opposition seems very difficult because everybody is blind of hatred when any of the socialists are mentioned. Objectively speaking, Gyurcsány is the only political talent, but he would need a totally new party and better communication skills – although he is the only one who can hold a meaningful speech without a piece of paper or a teleprompter. This makes it logical to lock im up soon. This ‘government’ will face huge problems in one or two years. When the election date nears enough reasons will crop up to postpone the election and/or limit the number of unwanted candidates by all sorts of pseudo-legalistic restrictions. And all will be glorified as the will of the people conquering cumbersome democracy. They “own” the country. In their eyes and those of its followers plans are to keep everything as it just is – forever. They won’t let silly things like elections get in their way. But next will be that money can no longer be transferred abroad. I am certain, and it’s logical. It’s against EU laws, but they’ll find a way and make it sound patriotic. I would be… Read more »
kormos
Guest

Ann: I am not well educated in politics (as per earlier comments from Historians, being one of those undervalued technical persons) and with all respect to you, I believe people elect (forms) the Government. I am very aware of the date. It is/was very clear to me from early on, those hard changes and many more of them needed to balance and improve things after so many decades of domestic gang and foreign exploitation.
We must learn from the past. I do not believe for a moment that this Government wants to mistreat the Hungarian People. Yes, formerly privileged might suffer, but who said life was fair.
The pendulum has finally swung.

Rigó Jancsi
Guest
@ kormos: somehow your comments sound like coming directly from fidesz. Either you’re Kevin’s colleague, or you really believe what you read in Magyar Nemzet, HetiVálasz etc. Please remember that the exploitation by “domestic gangs” includes fidesz and friends, especially during their first term in government. Gyurcsány is not a poor person, but of course, neither is Orbán (anymore). As for the foreign exploitation, I don’t see how companies like the one I work for do anything bad for Hungary, in the contrary. We have currently 4 plants in Hungary and several sales offices for different daughter companies, and alltogether employ well more than 1.500 people. These were no previous Hungarian companies and factories, we build this from scratch. So were is the exploiting? We pay taxes and create work places. It’s the normal life in a democracy that once in a while (or in Hungary usually every time) another party or coalition will form the government. But each government has to be ready to hand over power, when the people decide against them after one or two terms. Orbán showed very undemocratic behaviour after loosing office eight years ago, and he shows even more undemocratic behaviour now. Nothing wrong… Read more »
kormos
Guest
Liebe Drossel: I am geographically far away from my old Country and FIDESZ, and I have no encounters with Kevin or Szilard. However, I have a good number or friends and relatives in Hungary, in almost all age category and different walks of life. Thus I receive fairly diversified messages. Some of my respected friends manically hate FIDESZ. I agree with you, that FIDESZ must have made mistakes during the first term. Otherwise people would not believe and elect such clown as the “Cicero of the Carpathians” I do not know any altruistic politicians, so I won’t argue with you about who grabbed more wealth. I am glad you work for a prudent company, although you forgot to mention the third most important purpose of a company beside paying tax and creating work for people; namely, to create profit. I agree, the part of my sentence which referred to “past decades of foreign exploitation” could include the past twenty years as well, but (honestly) I did not think of those. The Russian exploitation (not to mention others) is more painful to me. Although I strongly believe in the idea of “Liberté, égalité, fraternité”, the empty parliamentary crap does not take… Read more »
Odin's lost eye
Guest

Mr Kormos – From the economic point of view one of the greatest fault lines in Hungary (and in countries where Socialism has prevailed for any length of time I include the U.K.) is the total lack of knowledge as to what is a ‘Joint Stock Company’ and how it works. The Hungarian business man regards his shareholders money as his own (to be skimmed off as quickly as possible). The Socialists (and Fidesz) can only think of is ‘Foreign Investment’. This gives rise to the ideas of ‘Foreign Exploitation’.
Local investments sources are discouraged by Government interference, the demands of corrupt ‘Local Authorities’ and the belief that Governments can run businesses better that real entrepreneurs. The ideas of ‘Public Ownership’ really means nothing less than ‘Governmental/Ministerial’ control. These people always want the Maximum profit (to spend on their pet schemes) from Government run companies. That is why these companies always atrophy and become obsolete.
Dr Salazar always had a feeling that he was being watched. Your second favourite country has a foreign friend who seldom interferes until needed, but who always seems to be there.

kormos
Guest

The sad fact is, that I must agree with Odin’s comment above.

Member

Odin, in other words the average Hungarian understanding of capitalism is broadly in line of what communist propaganda portrayed it to be.
There might be something in what you say. There does seem to be an obsession with the idea that company profit can only come about by the exploitation of others. Business is often conceptualised as ripping off the customer rather than providing a quality service and building up an advantageous business relationship.
This is why a lot of supposedly right wing Hungarian analysis seems to be pretty much Marxism-lite.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

David, you put the finger on the problem. The same problem exists when it comes to the principles of democracy and in the last twenty years, governments did very little about enlightening the people.

Kevin Moore
Guest

It is totally pathetic that practically noone among you is able to take a pro-Fidesz comment as-is, you must immediately stigmatize the person a Fidesz propagandist.
You never learn to imagine that there are many many many many persons in this world who simply do not share your wicked perception of a false reality where all ‘facts’ and origins are defined by you and you alone.
You think you are entitled to define what democracy is, what the rule of law is, and how Europe should react to your total misinterpretation of the Orbán government’s deeds.
And then it’s no wonder you never cease to sit there having no idea of what is happening and how all this can happen.

Kevin Moore
Guest

Yes it’s true that democratic behavior is far from being rooted in the average Hungarian voter’s thinking.
Were it to be, Gyurcsány couldn’t have stayed in power after the Őszöd speech for one single day.

Paul
Guest

‘Kevin’ – I know English isn’t your first language, but I am getting very tired of having to point out that ‘no one’ is written thus, not as ‘nooone’.
It’s almost as if you don’t read other people’s posts.

Joe Simon
Guest

It is really odd and somewhat perverse to hear the Spectrum preaching about democracy, admonishing Hungary at every turn when we have this enormous diplomatic embarassment of the USA going on. Yes, people will be punished who leaked the documents but not those diplomats who sent back those silly and supercilious comments and observation about world leaders. What does this clumsy, rude and ‘otromba’ practice say about American democracy. Would Eva, living in her Ivory Tower as she does, put aside her vitriolic pen and comment on this highly uncivilized practice of for example, spying on friendly countries?

Kevin Moore
Guest

Joe Simon: as long as Orbán can’t be depicted as negatively involved, I don’t think our “favourite” author will waste a word on the topic you mentioned.

Joe Simon
Guest

Also, I am greatly concerned that the Hungarian Spectrum’s integrity will be comromised if Eva is getting all her information about Hungary from those leaked and discredited diplomatic documents. Canada is mentioned almost three thousand times. No doubt Hungary is also unfairly targeted.

Paul
Guest

Which hand is ‘Kevin’ and which is ‘Jo’?

Joe Simon
Guest

WEll now, Eva is ‘pessimistic’ about Hungarian democracy. You spend far too much time on people like Polt or Matolcsy. I assure few people in Canada for example know or care who the foreign minister or justice minister is. It is a given that they are picked by the Prime Minister. You remember Cond. Rice? Have you ever seen a more ineffectual and silly secretary of state, a sidekick to Bush. Donald Trump always made fun of her: she waves and smiles. That is just about the extent of her achievement. Look at the state of American diplomacy and the quality of diplomats serving in foreign embassies. Should you not be also ‘pessimistic’ about the state of American democracy? Spectrum is often sanctimonious, making divine pronuncements but removed far away from the real state of affairs. I always picture Eva sitting under a mango tree dispensing justice and advice to poor natives, in this case Hungarians back home.

OpenDog
Guest

Joe, your a dick.

John T
Guest

Joe – two wrongs don’t make a right. The point is, we all deserve better than this from elected officials and public servants.

Joe Simon
Guest

Look, most writings here on the Blog are well researched and scholarly. But Spectrum is not the only and sole custodian of Hungarian democracy. Too much negativism and and bleeding-heart ‘pessimism’ is coming through. People back in our native land are educated enough to judge as to what is going on. We should not underestimate them. FIDESZ is still popular, even increasing its support. Let us trust our fellow Hungarians to safeguard their hardly-won freedom.

John T
Guest

Joe – I don’t think this blog has ever suggested it is – but to me, looking out but with family and friends who i want to see thrive and be prosperous, there isn’t much to be optimistic about at the moment. I hope that changes. But I’m also looking at the country through “western eyes” – it may be that Hungarians are happy to give up their freedoms for a different type of society, even if it is effectively another form of Kadarism. I’d be disappointed if they do, as freedoms, once lost are very hard to get back. But if thats their choice, then so be it.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

John T: “I’d be disappointed if they do, as freedoms, once lost are very hard to get back. But if thats their choice, then so be it.”
Let’s not overestimate the wisdom of the people. After all, the highly educated Germans almost to a man fell for Hitler. Unfortunately, this is how it is. A charismatic leader with bad intentions can lead the majority of the people straight to hell.

kormos
Guest

Ms. Balogh: You are an excellent writer, thus you serve your handlers very well, since not too many of the present correspondents can insinuate as well as you do. You would not waste a positive adjective on a person who is disliked by the supporters of Galamus Co, but you use your vitriolic pen to describe those who preserved some remnant feelings for Hungary.
I do not think it’s fair to cunningly suggest any similarity between Hitler and Orban, and/or the present PM of Hungary has bad intentions.

John T
Guest

Kormos – the similarity is only that the Germans probably did not know what they would eventually end up with. I’m sure they never dreamed that WWII would be the outcome. And I guess Hungarians didn’t know things would develop the way they are. As Fidesz never really set out their programme before the election, its not surprising. But is what Fidesz doing what you expected? And are you happy with it?

GW
Guest

Kormos,
Why the attack on Dr. Balogh? I suspect that it is because you are unable to even venture a defense of this appointment, let alone the possible extension, without oversight, of this appointment well into the next generation. I would be delighted to hear an argument in support of Mr Polt’s prior performance in this position, but the insistence on attacking the character of the author (a woman whose own biography is evidence of commitment to democracy and the rule of law and against an authoritarian state) rather than the issue at hand is, at best, terribly disappointing and, at worst, demogoguery.

Joe Simon
Guest

OK, John, I would be disappointed too if Hungary reverted back to some sort of autocracy. But Hungary’s problem is not FIDESZ or Gyurcsány. It goes much deeper. Socialism had destroyed the country. After the fall of communism, people expected too much. Hungarians looked at Austria and thought that once the communists were gone, that is where they should be, etc. Orbán is trying a new path. Hopefully he will be successful.

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