Orbán is playing with words again: This time it is “inviolable”

The Hungarian Constitution, or, pardon me, Basic Law, just like the old constitution written in 1989, states that “the person of the President of the Republic shall be inviolable” (Article 12/1). Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is hiding behind these words when he claims that he is unable to put any pressure and can’t use any persuasion to convince President Pál Schmitt that it would be in his best interest to step down.

Endre Aczél in a Népszabadság op/ed piece today zeroed in on the weakness of Orbán’s argument. He brought up the example of the abdication of Edward VIII. Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin told the king on November 16, 1936 that his marrying a divorcee was unacceptable to the British people. Baldwin made it clear to Edward that if he marries Mrs. Simpson the government will resign. Edward abdicated. And, says Aczél, as king Edward was certainly “inviolable.”

So, let’s see what “inviolable” (sérthetetlen) means in legal terms. According to the Magyar Értelmező Szótár it refers to a person “under special protection.” The Netlexicon explains that inviolability (sérthetetlenség) has two components: (1) exemption from law suits in connection with activities connected to the president’s job and (2) special protection in the sense that any attack against his person is treated by the courts as more serious than a similar attack on an ordinary citizen.

That’s all simple enough, but then why are most people, even educated ones, somewhat confused about the meaning of this particular sentence in the constitution? I suspect that there are at least two reasons for the confusion. First, the root word of “sérthetetlen/sérthetetlenség” is the verb “sért” and that word has many, many meanings. Here are a few: to injure, to damage, to hurt, to offend, to insult, to infringe, to violate, to encroach on. Among these many meanings one can certainly find a few that might be associated with “pressuring” the inviolable person. For example, “to encroach” on the prerogative of the person under such protection. The other reason might be the old legal status of the king whose omnipotence was often expressed by the well known statement that “the person of the king is holy and inviolable” (a kiráy személye szent és sérthetetlen).

It is true that, according to the Constitution, parliament cannot remove Schmitt from his current position unless he “willfully violates the Fundamental Law or any Act while in office, or if he … commits a willful offense.” Thus, the decision must be his own. But his inviolability doesn’t preclude putting pressure on him if the prime minister feels that his resignation would be appropriate.

By now Orbán has made such a fetish out of this “inviolability” issue that yesterday when he received a question about whether in his opinion Schmitt cheated or not, Orbán answered that “because of the inviolability rule even asking such a question is unjustified.”

I can understand that Orbán didn’t want to answer the question, but hiding behind the inviolability rule is ridiculous. If we took Orbán’s explanation seriously, then the members of the fact finding committee, the doctoral council, and the university senate all committed some terrible unconstitutional act when they stated that Pál Schmitt cheated. Perhaps even their inquiry was unconstitutional! Of course, this is nonsense.

Since last night when Schmitt decided to have a friendly chat with Péter Obsersovszky, his amiable assistant in misleading the Hungarian public, political commentators cannot decide whose decision it was for Schmitt to tough it out for a while. A growing number of people think that Schmitt is so vain and so power hungry that, realizing that the decision to stay or resign was entirely his own, he decided to go against the wishes of Viktor Orbán. Then there are those who believe that nothing happens in Fidesz circles against Viktor Orbán’s wishes. The two schools of thought are artfully summarized by Zsófia Miháncsik in her “Kis magyar kremnológia” in Galamus.

Ildikó Csuhaj of Népszabadság, who has been focusing on the affairs of Fidesz for a long time, gained the impression from unnamed Fidesz politicians that Orbán is actually powerless because Schmitt decided to stay. Apparently his plan is to make the rounds of television and radio stations and try to convince people of his innocence. If his performance last night is any indication I doubt that his plan will succeed. It was miserable.

Let me here translate the notes Klára Sándor, former SZDSZ politician, took during the interview Schmitt gave to Péter Obsersovszky on MTV. The title is “A statesman’s one-minute story.” The word statesman in Hungarian, “államférfi,” is misspelled (álamférfi) because this was one of the words Schmitt couldn’t spell in his infamous entry in the guest book of a restaurant. The “one-minute story” is a take-off on the famous “Egy perces novellák” of István Örkény (1912-1975), one of the greats of Hungarian prose in the twentieth century.

It goes like this:

human being, sportsman, double standards, I wrote it twenty years ago, because my mother asked me, most honestly, with the best of my knowledge, it was a man’s job, Georgiev was my personal acquaintance, the bibliography was enough, I indicated it, his knowledge is public knowledge, I don’t say that I created new value, my readers didn’t say anything, they encouraged me, it bothered me that they took it away, they didn’t even ask me, I expected that the senate would wait for me, I will not argue with them, I would have given it back myself, if necessary I will prove at the age of 70 that I am able even in difficult circumstances to write a Ph.D., now I am trying to think with green eyes, there is a lot about this in my head, I lead conferences, I published a lot, [the reporter you’re a beloved man by many who was now hurt, one cannot sue the president,] I will not sue, it is fair this way, my honesty wasn’t damaged, I have to defend the TF [the university of physical education] also, I have to defend my dissertation adviser, I defended my summa cum laude according to the rules of the day, this is a question of honor, I accept the challenge for myself and for the truth, my conscience is clear.

His speech was received with disbelief by some and with hilarity by others. The picture most often found on the Internet is this one, referencing the fact that László Kövér who opposed his appointment called him Paprika Jancsi, harlequin, clown.

 

András Hont, a sharp political commentator, also described “the historical interview” as a parody worthy of Dürrenmatt or Örkény. In the speech Schmitt repeated all those lies he had already dropped elsewhere since HVG broke the story in January. Prior to his appointment as president he had achieved a lot, especially considering his abilities. He had practically everything, except prestige and authority. And now, thanks to Viktor Orbán, he also received prestige and authority. And he doesn’t want to let go of it.

I have the feeling that his fight for his prestigious position will be a short one. Even within the party Viktor Orbán, who is not inviolable, is being pressured to tell his puppet that it is time to go.

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Francois Borginon
Guest

Schmitt is just an exponent of today’s Hungary, a country where 63% of the population believe it is impossible to get ahead in life or business without corruption.

Minusio
Guest
“Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is hiding behind these words when he claims that he is unable to put any pressure and can’t use any persuasion to convince President Pál Schmitt that it would be in his best interest to step down.” Now before you might want to try to convince Schmitt that it would be in is own best interested to resign, I’d like to know what Schmitt’s best interest really is. Honestly, will he have a better life when he gives up his perks? The answer is: no. Will Orban be better off by admitting an appointment foulup and trying to find someone equally pliable? The answer is: no. Does his outfit look better to most people if everybody stays put: clearly yes. This whole thing signifies absolutely the same benchmark as all the other scandals, large and small. The Hungarian state is about the power of Viktor Orban – and the necessary funds to shore up that power (whereever they come from or have to be squeezed out from). That’s all, folks. No philosophy to bother about, no constituencies to listen to and care fore, no economy to get worried about, no foreign countries or international institutions to… Read more »
Member

I am not sure if any of you recall but a week also ago Lazar and somebody else started working on new legislation that would kick in if the President resigns, as the Hungarian Basic Law does not have anything regarding this. Can anyone clarify what came about from this? I tried to do some searches but I cannot find it. There is no coincidence in the timing I am sure and we would have some answers if we could find that stuff somewhere.

Member

“Lovely” article about Schmitt in the Chicago Tribune:
Will the IOC boot an academic cheat?
Hungary’s Schmitt, longtime IOC member, found to have plagiarized in Ph.D thesis
http://tinyurl.com/85haodt
So, all of those who try to find some excuse for this disgraced idiot with his spineless twin Prime Minister, wake up! THese two make Hungary the joke of the month around the whole world. You don’t have to be afraid of the liberal ideas, what you need to be afraid of these career politicians who are going down, and dragging down the whole country with them!

Leo
Guest

It’s conceivable that Schmitt is hurt and angry with Daddy for not protecting him better.
Why should he go while Daddy stays on? Isn’t Daddy as much of a cheat as he, huh? Why should we care all of a sudden about such things? We never cared about those commies and libs before did we? So, why pick on me?

Úr Dr Schmitt Pál PhD (withdrawn)
Guest
Úr Dr Schmitt Pál PhD (withdrawn)

What the outside world knows about Hungary from recent headlines:
The EU has serious problems with the new constitution.
A badly needed IMF loan is held up because of this and the government’s refusal to negotiate.
The new media law severely restricts freedom of the media.
There are frequent anti-EU demonstrations, supported by the ruling party and the PM.
The currency has severely devalued.
The national airline has gone bankrupt.
One half of the main airport is to be shut down.
The President has been shown conclusively to be a liar and a fraud, but won’t resign.
Conclusion? Hungary is a basket case, ‘run’ by criminals and fools.

janos444
Guest

For your information, Eva, and to avoid disorienting your readers, may I note that Metapedia, which you refer to, is not, repeat, not,the “Hungarian version” of Wikipedia? Metapedia is a pernicious imitation concocted by the worst “Nyilas” part of the Hungarian extreme right. (Take a look at its horrible entry under, say, “zsidó”, if you have the stomach, or any “Hungarista” thing, for that matter). The genuine Hungarian version of Wikipedia is called Wikipedia, just like the original, and is found at hu.wikipedida.org.

Kingfisher
Guest

I didn’t hear it but Schmitt gave an interview to Hungarian Radio this morning, reiterating the same sort of things. He is basically imitating Orbán’s verbal gestures and techniques. Except where Orbán is rather good at it, Schmitt has got the wrong end of the stick. And so the whole interview reads like a gruesome parody.
The whole affair was precipated by a “blogger.” It is a dispute the university is having with itself (giving it to him, not giving it, so the score is currently 1-1 (the usual football allusion), people keep asking him in restaurants and the swimming pool to resign (he’s only been in the country for 24 hours. When did he have time to go to restaurants?), only a court can strip him of his title (he thinks.)
I did enjoy Adam Lebor’s comment in the Economist – “As for Mr Schmitt, he will now start work on a new degree, he says. Perhaps he could write about political pressure on Hungarian state television.”

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

To János, please check it out. I didn’t use any worst Nyilas Metapedia but indeed the English version of metapedia.org.
http://hu.metapedia.org/wiki/S%C3%A9rthetetlens%C3%A9g

Kirsten
Guest

To: Úr Dr Schmitt Pál PhD (withdrawn):
It is OT but to give you a flavour what English-speaking media have reported about the Czech Republic recently:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-17521319
http://www.newsorganizer.com/article/new-prague-tourist-trail-spotl-f1e6254a6d3b9bdffa56cde89a806a81/
It is sad what is reported about Hungary but…

Úr Dr Schmitt Pál PhD (withdrawn) still in office, so nerrrr!
Guest
Úr Dr Schmitt Pál PhD (withdrawn) still in office, so nerrrr!

I’d never heard of Metapedia until today, so (with a slightly ironic smile) I looked it up in Wikipedia. This is what it says:
“Metapedia is a multilingual white nationalist and white supremacist,[2] extreme right-wing online encyclopedia.[3][4][5] It was officially launched on October 26, 2006 with the Swedish-language edition.[6][7] The English section was launched on April 28, 2007.[6][8] The Hungarian version is the most developed and has by far the most articles: 101,511 as of October 16, 2011.[9]”

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Although the definition of “sérthetetlenség” in Metapedia was correct I will change the reference to another site where one can find the same information.

Odin's lost eye
Guest

The problem of the president Professor Schmitt PhD (withdrawn) does not exist for the Viktator. The President will continue to do the ‘rubber stamping’ function he was first chosen to do.
The Viktator will just stand back and for the time Professor Schmitt PhD (withdrawn) will stay in his palace, eat his lunch and sign whatever he is told.

Kingfisher
Guest

I see that the KDNP is launching internal disciplinary procedures against Szalma Botond, head of the Budapest branch, because he said he thought Schmitt should resign. Of course, the charge against him is for making a public pronouncement at odds with official party policy but sends a fairly brutal message about today’s Hungary.

Member

” “Nincs szándékomban lemondani, mert a lelkiismeretem tiszta”.
“I have no intention to resign, my conscience is clear.” said Hungary’s President after they stripped him off of his dr. univ. title for plagiarism. Now, Hungarians must ask if Schmitt is mentally OK? The guy must understand and know that he copied and pasted someone else’s work as his own to earn a degree. THis has nothing to do with anyone else, but him OR with the person who done the work for him, but both scenarios are deplorable. Schmitt also have been using the phd title for years. I title he never earned, and as such he has been committing a serious fraud by misleading foreign dignitaries and the Hungarian public.
Is this the new Hungarian standard? IIs this acceptable for Orban and to the Hungarian public, that a cheat, a fraud, a fake represents our country? What kind of moral ground does this person stands on against anyone? What kind of moral ground Hungary is standing on against any type of concerns coming from any nations or organizations regarding Hungary, if Hungary puts a President up who is a Schmitt?

dvhr
Guest

Eva: I find amusing that you refer to Ms Klara Sandor, who refers to her PhD as “a tudomany doktora” title (which is in fact much much higher) here: http://www.parlament.hu/internet/plsql/ogy_kpv.kepv_adat?p_azon=s064&p_ckl=38

petofi1
Guest

@ Kingfisher
Poor Bolond–he came to grief on the rocks of Kalman
Olga’s too forceful questioning…finally acquiescing that, according to his strict Christian principles, Schmitt Pal has to resign. Now the KDNP, under the lash from Orban, is taking him to task.
Virtues and Politics ne’er do meet in Orban’s Hungary.
It’s about time, though, that an ethical outcrop is starting
to create cracks in the Orban worldview.
Hang tough, BOTOND!

Leo
Guest

Thanks Kirsten for the Czech links. A horrible story that should help us keep a perspective. Corruption is a serious threat to any country. Though it should never be an excuse for indifference.
Btw: I am still looking for reliable information on corruption in Hungary during 2002-10. If anyone has suggestions ..

Carebear
Guest

It seems the Semmelweis University dean/rector/principal resigned?
http://hvg.hu/itthon/20120401_schmitt_plagium_rektor

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

dvhr: “I find amusing that you refer to Ms Klara Sandor, who refers to her PhD as “a tudomany doktora” title (which is in fact much much higher)”
I know her and I very much doubt that she would lie about her credentials. If you look at her curriculum vitae it is obvious that she doesn’t need to lie. She has a sterling record. In this c.v. she specifically says that she received the title in 1996.
See here:http://www.sandorklara.hu/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=31&Itemid=9
But if you insist I will ask her.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Carebear, indeed he resigned. He was the president (rektor). I guess, Orbán expressed his dissatisfaction with the decision of the senate.

Gábor
Guest

dvhr: Those personal pages of MPs are not constructed by themselves. The administration of the parliaments registers the data they received on a formular and for some strange reason they consider PhD as “tudomány doktora” which – as you correctly noted – is different. You can of course blame the many Mps holding PhD because they have failed to draw the parliamantary administration’s attention to this mistake.

petofi1
Guest

And just when I thought that the decent men of this country will step out to be counted…Orban chopped off Tullassay
with nary a thought. How disgusting!

GW
Guest

It seems there is a fundamental misunderstanding by Orban of the nature of the President’s “inviolable” status. Institutionally and constitutionally the office is, indeed, inviolable, but if the person occupying the office has failed personally, it is possible that he or she may no longer have the personal integrity, authority, and earned respect from the citizenry required to fill an office of inviolable status. In such as case — as has recently happened in Germany with former President Christian Wulff — resignation is the only dignified response the flawed person owes both the office and country.

enuff
Guest

Has anyone seen this?
http://didpalschmittresign.info/
It is a timeline of this whole mess from beginning up til now

Kingfisher
Guest

GW, it is not that Orbán “misunderstands”, he is just using it as a PR device to avoid having to talk about it and is hoping that the Hungarian public won’t see through it (or won’t care if they do.)

GW
Guest

Kingfisher,
if it is indeed the case that Orban is using this as a PR device, then it is the responsibility of those who understand the issue to point out that plagiarism is a serious offense (being both lying and theft) and that it is wrong, it is not dignified, it is not conservative, and it is not patriotic to tolerate such behavior. As we have seen in the Guttenberg scandal in Germany, it is a tremendous teaching opportunity for Hungary, an opportunity to show young Hungarians that they can be better!

Kingfisher
Guest

GW, people have pointed it out and they are either ignored, or sacked. Or both.

Petofi
Guest

Inspite of its disgusting nature, I was hoping that Schmitt would refuse to resign. Now the’ve stirred a hornet’s nest in student unrest. On top of it all, they’ve also provided a martyr in the Rector.
This should be interesting…

Kirsten
Guest

Leo, I am afraid that what Hungary will experience now with Fidesz will top everything that happened in 1990-2010 (the Schmitt affair alone is mind-boggling). But people should concentrate on exactly that and not the question whether the country is a colony and the like. The main problem currently resides well within the country, is of Hungarian origin, and unrelated to all misfortunes of 1526, 1848, 1920, 1956 and even of 2006.
I still hope that the Schmitt affair will weaken OV’s position. Whether it can change the whole Fidesz system is of course not sure.

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