It is not a good idea to run afoul of Viktor Orbán. He is not a nice guy and if he feels threatened, humiliated, or even just plain criticized he hits back. Since this vindictive, mean-spirited man became the “lord of the manor” with practically unlimited power, when he hits back he hits back hard. Especially against people who are in no position to retaliate.
He is most likely terribly frustrated that he is the prime minister of a country that belongs to the European Union and thus vis-à-vis Brussels he is forced to submit. I’m sure he often thinks of the good old days between 1998 and 2002 when he didn’t have to bother with the European Union’s bureaucrats. Mind you, then he didn’t have a two-thirds majority behind him. Can you imagine what he could have achieved if he had? But then, Hungary would never have become a member of the European Union in the first place because Orbán’s Hungary wouldn’t have been considered to be a democracy by EU standards.
Here I would like to bring up a couple of examples of the petty mean-spiritedness of Viktor Orbán and his close associates. One is the planned introduction of a new set of rules governing the functioning of the National Assembly, or parliament. The other, the fate of Gábor Iványi’s church and his prize.
Not just a question of age: Viktor Orbán in 1990 and in 2011
One of Viktor Orbán’s burning desires is to see Ferenc Gyurcsány, his political nemesis, utterly ruined. Perhaps even behind bars. The two men have known each other for a long time. They encountered one another already in 1988-89 during the heady days of transition from dictatorship to democracy. Orbán was one of the leaders of the new independent student organization, Fiatal Demokraták Szövetsége (Fidesz) while Gyurcsány was trying to save and transform KISZ (Kommunista Ifjúsági Szövetség). As Gyurcsány later admitted, in those days Orbán was on the right side of history. Orbán, as we know from an old video, had a rather low opinion of the KISZ leaders with two exceptions: Ferenc Gyurcsány and György Szilvásy, later a member of the second Gyurcsány government. Orbán has been working for at least three years to destroy Szilvásy, and there is a distinct possibility that Szilvásy will end up in jail on trumped-up charges sooner or later.
It is unnecesssary to recall the character assassination of Ferenc Gyurcsány that was very effectively executed between 2006 and 2010. Gyurcsány’s sins are numerous as far as Orbán is concerned. For starters, he made Orbán look ridiculous in the television debate a few days before the elections of 2006 and then Gyurcsány beat him at the polls. There is also the strong possibility that Orbán recognizes Gyurcsány’s superior intellect, which only adds to his hatred of his adversary.
On October 22, 2011, Gyurcsány and nine other members of MSZP left the socialists and formed a new political party called Demokratikus Koalíció (DK). The parliamentary committee on constitutional issues decided that the new formation would be able to form a caucus in six months’ time as laid down in the house rules. The six months will be up in April.
László Kövér, the speaker of the house, shortly after the establishment of DK indicated that he would like to change the house rules to include a new rule: no new caucus could be formed by members of parliament who received their mandates as members of another party. I’m no expert on house rules, but those who are claim that such a rule would go against the spirit of parliamentary democracy because the right of free decision is vested in individual members. Between November and March Kövér and his legal advisers have been working on a new house rule that will be a great deal stricter than the existing one. It would prohibit the formation of new parliamentary caucuses between elections. That would mean that DK members who left MSZP in the belief that in six months at the latest they would be able to form a distinct political caucus no longer could do so. All that one month before the deadline.
László Kövér thinks that he can do practically anything, and he’s right
No final decision has been made yet, but DK has already launched a complaint with the Council of Europe, the European Parliament, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The pettiness of this particular incident is staggering. What are they afraid of? Ferenc Gyurcsány and his nine DK members? After all, right now DK is a very small party that doesn’t warrant such precautionary measures.
The other example is the case of Gábor Iványi, the pastor of the Evangelical Brotherhood of Hungary, a Methodist group that was established as a separate church in 1981. Problems within the Magyarországi Methodista Egyház (MME) began in the 1970s when leaders of the church had too cozy a relationship with the communist dictatorship. Those who opposed the official line were forced to leave the church, and it took nine years before the authorities allowed the establishment of another one. They were forbidden to use the word “methodist.” Therefore they picked the name Magyarországi Evangéliumi Testvérközösség or MET, emphasizing their adherence to Methodism with this acronym.
Gábor Iványi doesn’t like the Fidesz government and Viktor Orbán certainly doesn’t like Gábor Iványi. Although his church runs several kindergartens, elementary schools, a college, old folks homes, and homeless shelters, the Fidesz government refuses to recognize MET as a church and thus MET most likely will not be able to continue its educational and social activities with the underprivileged, the Roma, and the homeless.
But that is not enough. In today’s Népszabadság there was an article about the Sándor Scheiber Prize which is given yearly to Hungarian citizens or Hungarians living abroad who distinguish themselves in the study of Hebraic studies, in the history of Jewish religion and culture, or whose activities facilitate dialogue between Jews and non-Jews. Three people were nominated this year: Shaul Shaked, professor emeritus from Hebrew University, Károly Kecskeméti, a historian, and Gábor Iványi. The prize normally is awarded on March 3, the day of Rabbi Schreiber’s death. March 3 came and went, but the ministry responsible for awarding the prize was late. As it turned out, they were busy getting rid of Iványi from the list of three. As a result Professor Shaked was the only one who accepted the prize. Kecskeméti refused it in solidarity with Iványi. The attacks go on and on. Total victory is the aim and no effective opposition is allowed.