I wish I knew what was going on in the heads of Fidesz leaders when they decided to launch a frontal attack on the police and other uniformed units, such as custom officials and prison guards. I don’t think that this is some sudden decision born out of the feeling of omnipotence coming with their overwhelming majority in parliament. Although Fidesz didn’t say much in its campaign program about the party’s plans, it did talk about “a new police force.” Of course, that could be interpreted as a reorganized institution that would function better than the one Fidesz would inherit. As Ferenc Krémer, an associate professor at the Police Academy, pointed out recently, the program claimed on the one hand that this old police force was “the symbol and enforcer of the rule of the state” while on the other it described the police as “weak and without means.”
Already in 2008 Csaba Hende, who became minister of defense in the Orbán government, came up with the brilliant idea that alll currently serving policemen should be fired. He didn’t get so far as to inform us what the state would do without a police force while the Fidesz policemen are being recruited and trained.
Only a few days after the swearing-in ceremony of the Fidesz government we heard the startling news that 10 billion forints will be spent immediately on a newly created so-called anti-terrorist force which, as it turned out, has only one job: the defense of Viktor Orbán and Pál Schmitt. Thus Orbán created a “praetorian guard” for himself. You may recall that the praetorian guard was an elite group of soldiers who defended the Roman emperors. What could he have in mind? Why did he need hundreds of men armed to the teeth to defend him? What is he afraid of? Was he already thinking about a future attack on the police force that might result in his regime not being able to rely on those currently serving in the police force? Of course, we are unable to answer these questions with any certainty. Only suspicions linger, especially in light of developments of late.
Let me state right at the beginning that I think that the current very lax law governing retirement age is most likely untenable. The average age of retirement in Hungary is 58 years. I don’t know how this compares to other European countries, but looking at the figure from North America it seems very low. Given Hungarian demographics some changes must be made. But not the way the Orbán government is doing it.
It would be one thing to pass a piece of legislation that would tighten the rules and regulations concerning retirement that would affect people entering the profession now or with, let’s say, ten or fifteen years to go until retirement. But Fidesz is not a democratic party and the Orbán government is not a democratic government. The law parliament is planning to pass is retroactive. Those who have been enjoying their pensions must either return to work or, if they refuse to do so, their pensions can be taken away. At least this is what the latest change in the constitution voted on yesterday is preparing. No wonder that the representatives of the trade unions negotiating with Sándor Pintér and Viktor Orbán ended the protracted negotiations. Two trade union leaders walked out already last week, the rest remained for another last meeting with Orbán, but as most people predicted their negotiations also ended in failure.
Here I would like to say a few words about the two trade union leaders who decided already last week that further negotiations were a waste of time. Both are articulate and intelligent men who seemed to have realized early in the game that these negotiations were not being taken seriously by Viktor Orbán, who had already made up his mind on the subject. Péter Kónya represents the police and Kornél Árok the firemen. For Kónya I think the last straw was Orbán’s refusal to talk to “the clowns” demonstrating in front of the Ministry of Interior. The policemen had already taken verbal abuse. They were called “Kádár hussars” by one Fidesz leader, and János Kövér talked about the cowardly policemen who “were hiding like sh…t in the grass.” Kónya had enough and decided to join Árok of the firefighters in organizing “a demonstration of clowns.” Not as trade union leaders but as private citizens who want to stage a mass demonstration of all who are worried about the state of democracy in Hungary.
This is a surprising development. Two trade union leaders are organizing a demonstration not for the defense of narrow interests of the people in the union they represent. Rather, as citizens they are asking people to join them in defense of democracy that in their opinion is being threatened in Hungary.
These people are angry because they were dooped. Most of the policemen, I’m sure, voted for Fidesz and now the leader of the party they voted for calls them “clowns.” And they feel like clowns because they actually voted for the “revolution in the voting booths.” The organizers of the demonstration will set up a few voting booths of their own where the “clowns” can vote “retroactively” against the Fidesz revolution. For good measure one can read on the poster: “Everyone should bring along one more clown.” That was an old Fidesz slogan that came in handy for the organizers of the “revolution of clowns.”
The teachers’ unions already demonstrated on Sunday, the clowns will be joined by a number of trade unions on the 16th, and a week later another group of unions will be on the streets. Trade unions have been meek and mild in the past twenty years, but it seems that the present government’s measures woke them up from their slumber.