It was on Friday, November 18 that MTI, the Hungarian news agency, reported that Fidesz is working on a new bill described as a document that would take care of “temporary decrees” attached to the new constitution. In case you don’t understand what that means, don’t feel bad. I don’t either. In Hungarian the document is described as “az új alaptörvény átmeneti rendelkezéseiről szóló jogszabály.” Try to figure out what they have in mind.
In any case, in the preamble to this bill it is stated that MSZP, as the legal successor to János Kádár’s MSZMP party, shares responsibility for all the sins of the one-party dictatorship ever since 1945. The list of crimes is long, starting with the establishment of a one-party system with the help of the Soviet army after World War II, responsibility for the country’s indebtedness, “the catastrophic ruination” of Hungary’s competitiveness, murders, deliverance of the country to a foreign power, responsibility for illegal incarcerations, sending people to forced labor camps, responsibility for their inhumane treatment and torture, arbitrary divestiture of their property, depriving people of their rights, discrimination on the basis of a person’s social origin or political views, and building up a spy network for the illegal surveillance of the country’s citizens.
Furthermore, MSZP would be responsible for the terror following the 1956 revolution and for the fact that about 200,000 people had to leave the country after the failed uprising. This document would in plain language make the Hungarian Socialist Party a “criminal organization” whose leaders even today would be responsible for “the upkeep and management of a tyrannical regime.” In addition, they are guilty of legal infractions and of treason.
In order to investigate the criminal activities of the party and its leaders the government will establish an organization called the National Remembrance Committee whose job would be the disclosure of the workings of the dictatorship and the role of those in power. The Committee would make its findings public. The people whom the Committee investigates will be stripped of their right to privacy.
Péter Niedermüller, one of the vice-presidents of Democratic Coalition, immediately announced the new party’s solidarity with MSZP and delivered a lecture on the impossible nature of the proposition. He rightly pointed out that Fidesz is trying to expropriate the 1956 Revolution as the revolution of the Right and deprive the Hungarian socialists of any role in that struggle when everybody knows that it was “the reform communists” who provided the intellectual underpinning of the revolution. LMP didn’t go as far as DK did. András Schiffer, the leader of the LMP parliamentary delegation, claimed that this sudden interest in the past sins of the socialists was no more than an attempt on the part of the government to divert attention from the disastrous economic policies of the last year and a half that resulted in the government’s return to the IMF for financial assistance.
The news of the impending bill broke on Friday but it was only late Sunday night that János Lázár, leader of the Fidesz delegation, and Péter Harrach, his counterpart in the Christian Democratic caucus, jointly turned in this incredible legislative proposal.
And his Christian Democratic co-sponsor:
168 Óracalled it the “Sunday night horror bill.” In the article dealing with the subject the editors published a short list of those Fidesz leaders or supporters who also participated in the “criminal organization” that conducted the affairs of the country between 1948 and 1990. For example, Viktor Orbán began his career as KISZ secretary of his high school. Pál Schmitt was the vice-chairman of the National Office of Physical Exercise and Sports between 1983 and 1986. His rank was the equivalent of an undersecretary. After finishing law school László Kövér worked for a while for the Institute of Sociology attached to the Central Committee of MSZMP. In November 1988 he became vice-chairman of MISZOT (Magyarországi Ifjúsági Szervezetek Országos Tanácsa). The other vice-chairman was Ferenc Gyurcsány. There was no chairman. Imre Kerényi, who is responsible for the horrible fifteen paintings depicting the important events of the twentieth century, was a member of the party and the organizer of mass demonstrations to celebrate the October Revolution and the Liberation of Hungary. György Matolcsy for years worked for the Finance Ministry. János Martonyi was also an MSZMP member and between 1979 and 1984 he was commercial attaché in Brussels. In 1985 he became department head in the Finance Ministry.
The leadership of MSZP is trying to minimize the danger of this proposed bill to their own party as well as to Hungarian democracy. Gergely Bárándy, MP handling legal matters within the MSZP delegation, “dares not think” that the bill was put forth with the idea of disqualifying MSZP as a political party. They assume, or perhaps only feign it, that the framers of the bill just didn’t think through their proposal. Surely, MSZP leaders announced, Fidesz couldn’t possibly be thinking in terms of stripping MSZP of its right to participate in Hungarian politics.
I hate to bring them bad news, but I truly think that the framers of the bill know exactly what they are doing. They have two goals in mind. One is to bring criminal charges against not just individual leaders of MSZP who were active in MSZMP but also against the party as an organization. Once the courts find the party guilty of the charges laid out in the bill, it will be forced to dismantle. According to people who are familiar with the current legal system, the courts, once the bill is adopted, will have no choice. They will have to call MSZP a criminal organization that would thus be ineligible to participate in the political process.
Just to illustrate how carefully this whole scheme has been worked out, it is worth taking a look at the proposed electoral bill in which it is spelled out that the courts will disqualify parties under criminal investigation or already found guilty of criminal acts. According to Zoltán Tóth, an expert on elections and election laws, this tactic was “discovered a long time ago in Arab countries. The charge is made and the courts finish the job.” To the suggestion that the party so disqualified could change its name Tóth’s answer was that according to the bill the continuous presence of certain leaders will make such a name change useless.
Yes, Fidesz is planning to eliminate the strongest opposition party which won three free elections in the last twenty years. But the bill has another purpose. Politically rewriting the history of the period between 1945 and 1990. Research of the period will no longer be the job of historians; the same National Remembrance Committee that is looking for villains will take over their work. As János Lázár said yesterday, they will close the history of the twentieth century. So, there will be an official history of the period entrusted to non-historians, political appointees who follow the wishes of a governing party.
I can hardly find words to describe my outrage. Could the European Union close its eyes and allow this to happen? Watching the European Union’s handling of the current Eurozone crisis, I am forced to conclude that even that is possible.