Yesterday I talked about the fact that the Orbán government seems to be bent on alienating practically every segment of Hungarian society. I read more and more critical analyses of the Fidesz government that come to the conclusion that this questionable strategy is due to a lack of experience. Bad politics, they say. But surely, this explanation doesn't stand up. One cannot call Viktor Orbán a bad politician who because of his stubbornness to achieve his pet projects will turn the whole country against himself. As if he purposely wanted to cause his own downfall. No, there must be some other explanation.
In order to come up with a more logical explanation we have to turn to what Viktor Orbán himself told his followers in one of his speeches. The tide will turn soon and the government's popularity will shrink. It is also possible that the parliamentary two-thirds majority will not hold. All the momentous steps must be taken while there is the magic two-thirds. Maybe they will have six months, but no more. There is little time left and the goal is so important that even the lack of popularity doesn't really matter in the long run. Speed is of the essence.
The changes that are being made on all levels of government will drastically alter the whole fabric of Hungarian society. The goal is the establishment of a political force so powerful as to prevent the rotation of governing parties. Orbán made no secret of his plans, although at the time few people grasped the true significance of his speech at Kötcse in September 2008. The aim is perhaps as much as twenty years of Fidesz government. Once the structure that ensures permanency of Fidesz governance is in place, personal popularity will not really matter. There will be no way of removing Fidesz and Orbán from power. And he has to be in a hurry because the troops are already getting restless. Even KDNP got so offended that their representatives on the parliamentary committee on constitutional matters walked out together with the opposition when the Fidesz chairman wouldn't allow them to speak.
Today another interesting piece of news hit the stands.The government is contemplating the "partial" restoration of compulsory military service for those between the ages of 18 and 40. Well, that will really boost the popularity of Fidesz. Hungarians hated compulsory military service, and interestingly enough one who really hated it was Viktor Orbán himself. He later claimed that his year in the army between high school and university turned him against the regime of János Kádár. Prior to that he was apolitical. However, a few years later his view on the army changed dramatically. He came to the conclusion that a man is not really a man unless he has spent some time in the army.
Orbán made Csaba Hende minister of defense, which was a great surprise to almost everybody, but it looks as if Orbán knew what he was doing. Csaba Hende is a zealous defender of Hungary against those imaginary enemies who lying in wait, preparing to run down the country. I wrote about Hende earlier. He is about as behind the times in military matters as Rózsa Hoffmann is in questions of education. Hende at one point wanted to buy discarded Austrian tanks to use in the defense of the fatherland.
The first idea was to have a reserve army made up of volunteers. Recruitment began, and by January the first volunteers, after a short period of military training, were employed: they stand in front of military barracks and defend them from intruders. The MTI report didn't specify how many volunteers they managed to recruit.
Most likely the enthusiasm for reserve duty was not too great, so now they came up with the brilliant idea of compulsory military service, abolished by the socialist-liberal government after 2002. According to the ministry, since the abolition of compulsory military service it has become evident that there is need for an army even in peacetime.
As usual, the wording of the document that got into the hands of the journalists of Napi Gazdaság is not very clear. The document talks about a volunteer reserve army but adds that compulsory military service can be introduced in "extraordinary circumstances or . . . in a situation preceding such an eventuality." ("A katonai szolgálati kötelezettség, amely formái szerint fegyveres, vagy lelkiismereti ok miatt fegyvertelen katonai szolgálat teljesítését jelenti, csak rendkívüli állapotban, vagy az Országgyűlés döntése szerint már megelőző védelmi helyzetben lehetséges teljesíteni a jövőben is.") Every healthy citizen between the ages of 18 and 40 can be called up for duty normally lasting twelve months, but in case of war there will be no time limit. Of course, in order to be able to call up these peacetime warriors the government needs detailed personal data. People will be especially happy to hear that members of the European Parliament, members of the Hungarian Parliament, mayors, and members of city councils will not have to serve. Three children can also save mothers and fathers from serving the fatherland in case of dire need.
There are many questions that come to mind. First and foremost, surely here they are talking about more than gathering personal data on all citizens between the ages 18 and 40. These people will have to have some military training because otherwise calling up people who never had a gun in their hands is a pretty useless exercise. Most likely a strict registration of people's places of residence will be necessary. Then what about people who temporarily live abroad? Since the plan is talking about "citizens" and not "men" it seems they want to call up all adult men and women under the age of 40.
For a good laugh you should read some of the comments accompanying the news. For example, in Népszabadság a reader was worried that Viktor Orbán is off his meds. One can joke about these things, but these madcap ideas crop up daily in Hungary. Who is going to stop them?