The fate of the plagiarizing president of Hungary is still in limbo. If we are generous and assume a certain level of rationality among the Fidesz leadership, odds would favor his early departure. With such a package he couldn’t possibly fulfill his duties as president. Moreover, even without this case of blatant plagiarism Schmitt turned out to be the butt of jokes and a target of scorn. An embarrassment to Fidesz and especially to Viktor Orbán who insisted on his appointment.
Rumor has it that Fidesz’s top leadership was not at all thrilled with Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s choice, but Orbán persisted despite László Kövér’s serious reservations. What Kövér’s objections were we don’t know, but I suspect he knew of Schmitt’s very limited intellectual abilities and was also worried about the possibility of political skeletons falling out of Schmitt’s rather large closet. After all, he held high political positions in the Kádár regime. In addition, there was a good possibility that he, as an Olympic champion and later as a high official of a hotel frequented by foreigners, might have been an informer. Given Kövér’s worries and Schmitt’s very poor performance, one would think that this plagiarism case might actually be a handy excuse for Fidesz and the government to get rid of Schmitt.
Of course, in Fidesz the final word on anything, big or small, is always uttered by Viktor Orbán. We don’t know how many times Viktor Orbán forced his will on the top leadership and made a decision entirely on his own. Perhaps even against the advice of the party top brass. My guess is that it happened often enough. Given the general state of the economy there might have been several decisions forced on the leadership by Viktor Orbán that were questionable and in fact will have to be reversed. That doesn’t do much for the image and standing of the leader.
And now here is another case where the party chief wasn’t infallible. Schmitt, just as Kövér predicted, has been an embarrassment. The word this morning was that Viktor Orbán simply refuses to think about the Schmitt case. According to HVG he said nothing about this matter either at meetings of the Fidesz board or to the Fidesz members of parliament. In fact, prior to the marathon caucus meeting in Eger, the Fidesz communication office made it clear that the Schmitt case would not be discussed. I guess it is too painful for Orbán to get up in front of the party leadership or the very large parliamentary delegation and admit that he made an awful mistake. Yes, Schmitt signs everything put in front of him, but in the eyes of the world he is not only a dolt but also a cheat.
Fidesz while in opposition was a very tight-mouthed party. Nothing ever leaked out. Lately, however, journalists can gather fairly reliable information from important party leaders even when Orbán specifically tells them not to talk about something. This is how word of the alleged putsch hit the news stands last week.
This morning HVG reported that many Fidesz members of parliament, especially those coming from outside of Budapest, actually believe Schmitt and don’t think that the committee set up by Semmelweis University will find him guilty of plagiarism. Moreover, the decision is Orbán’s. As one high-level Fidesz politician said, “it all depends on how Viktor reacts.” All in all, the impression HVG got was that Fidesz will sweep the whole thing under the rug.
However, by the afternoon Népszava received conflicting information from obviously different Fidesz politicians. According to them Viktor Orbán spoke openly of his decision to let Pál Schmitt go. Apparently, the top leadership is in fact discussing Schmitt’s possible successor. The most likely candidate, according to Népszava, is János Martonyi, the current foreign minister.
I resign, I don’t resign, I resign, they make me resign
If the information about János Martonyi is correct, Viktor Orbán might be making another mistake by removing Martonyi from the post of foreign minister. I will never understand it, but the western world seems to believe János Martonyi’s soothing words. They consider him a “real diplomat” and a man who is committed to a transatlantic foreign policy. He does not make rash remarks about “eastern winds” and always emphasizes that Hungary’s future lies with Europe. On the other hand, especially recently, he has steadfastly defended Viktor Orbán and Hungary against the “unfair” attacks while loudly proclaiming Hungary’s commitment to democracy. He was also the one who ordered Hungarian ambassadors to write letters to newspapers and stand up for the honor of their country.
Still and all, it is possible that Martonyi’s obviously different approach to foreign policy from his own bothers Orbán and that he might feel more comfortable with, for example, Undersecretary Zsolt Németh, his friend from student days.
HVG‘s article was accompanied by a picture that I find telling. It indicates to me that Népszava might be right: Schmitt’s days are numbered.
Pál Schmitt and Viktor Orbán this morning in the parliament (Photo: Gergely Túri)
Normally on such occasions everybody nearby looks on adoringly at Viktor Orbán and the person with whom he is shaking hands. Zsolt Semjén, deputy prime minister, especially beams on such occasions. Now he is resolutely looking at the floor. Mihály Varga (left) is amiably chatting with Zoltán Pokorni while Antal Rogán looks at them instead of either Orbán or Schmitt. And what is most important, Viktor Orbán is not smiling.
The current parliament passed a cardinal law concerning the legal status and the remuneration of the President of the Republic. According to this new law Schmitt could resign immediately and would still receive his full salary, an appropriate house, car, driver, and administrative staff. This is a new provision that looks to be almost tailor made for Pál Schmitt. He would have these perks for life. But only if he resigns. If he is removed from office he will get nothing.