Serious cracks in the Hungarian Right

The signs are unmistakable. Ever since it became evident that Pál Schmitt didn’t write 99% of his dissertation the Right began to wake up. I already mentioned the Hungarian Academy of Sciences’ very cautious statement about academic integrity, followed by the somewhat braver announcement of the Batthyány Circle of Professors. At the same time the right-wing media, specifically Heti Válasz and Magyar Nemzet, began calling for Schmitt’s resignation. Initially, Gábor Borókai, spokesman for the first Orbán government and editor-in-chief of Heti Válasz, removed the article from the paper’s website and began disciplinary action against András Stumpf, the author of the opinion piece. However, once Magyar Nemzet came out with its own demand for Schmitt’s resignation, Borókai became suddenly courageous and published an editorial reflecting the paper’s new stand on the issue.

And that was just the beginning. After the Christian Democratic parliamentary caucus published a statement in which the KDNP MPs expressed their satisfaction that the fact-finding committee had found the university guilty and hoped that its conclusion would put an end to the affair, which they labelled “a political attack,” came the chairman of the Budapest chapter of KDNP, Botond Szalma, who found his party’s attitude unacceptable. Those who try to deny or minimize Schmitt’s guilt should be punished, he claimed. As some liberal commentators pointed out, that list could start with Péter Szijjártó, who called the news about the possible plagiariasm no more than unfounded gossip.

Cracked, Yury Prokopenko

Cracks (Flickr/Yury Prokopenko)

Naturally, Botond Szalma received many invitations for interviews, mostly from the liberal media. I heard two of them. One with György Bolgár on March 29 and the second with Olga Kálmán on March 31. He struck me as a straightforward man who takes the tenets of Christian democracy very seriously. His trouble, as we will find out a bit later, started with his interview with Olga Kálmán. He repeated that KDNP must exhibit high moral standards especially since, in his opinion, there is a moral crisis in the country. When Kálmán pointed out to him that he seems to be going against his party’s leadership, he repeated his belief that his way was the right way. Kálmán noted that his fight seems to be a very lonely one. Szalma retorted that Jesus Christ was also alone at the beginning but eventually the twelve apostles followed him. To Kálmán’s somewhat skeptical inquiry whether there will be people within his own party who will follow his lead, Szalma answered: “There will be, but not just from KDNP but all people of good will–Fidesz, KDNP, MSZP, DK, LMP and independents.”

At this point Kálmán expressed her fear that Szalma might be in some danger within his own party. Szalma remained defiant. The Budapest chapter is independent and the whole leadership is behind him. They are convinced that this is the right thing to do. He also admitted that although the party/parties had eight years to prepare, “they were not ready for governing.” As for Schmitt, he can’t tell Schmitt what to do, but if he had been the president he wouldn’t be in office today. He can only suggest retirement that could been spent with his grandchildren in the United States.

After this interview all hell broke loose in KDNP circles. Disciplinary proceedings were initiated against Szalma because he went against the official policy. György Rubovszky, who has the rather strange title of party prosecutor, explained to Népszabadság that at the end of the investigation it is possible that Szalma will be dismissed from the party. What seemed to have really incensed the good Christians was that among the “apostles” MSZP members were also mentioned. “That must be investigated,” said the party prosecutor.

From what Rubovszky told Ildikó Csuhaj of Népszabadság, I gathered that the KDNP official line on the Schmitt affair was adopted after Zsolt Semjén, chairman of the party, talked to Viktor Orbán. So, whatever the Christian Democrats said has to reflect Viktor Orbán’s current thinking on the matter. And that position is that “as far as the KDNP is concerned the affair is closed.”

However, there is not only one lonely rebel in KDNP in the person of Botond Szalma. Several politicians of the Budapest chapter also “find it incredible that Schmitt hasn’t resigned yet.” Moreover, they consider Schmitt’s interviews on MTV and MR “morally unacceptable.” They told the reporter: “What does that have to do with Christianity, we are asking here below. Especially just before Easter. And we’d better not mention that it was Pál Schmitt who signed the Easter Constitution. But the KDNP leadership doesn’t even hear what we are saying. Or if they do, the party prosecutor is threatening us with expulsion.”

And that’s not all. There are a number of conservative blogs. Among others Mandiner, Jobbklikk, Konzervatórium, and Mos Maiorum. These four blogs published a joint statement in which they called for the resignation of Pál Schmitt. They emphasized that they respect Schmitt as a sportsman and an Olympic champion, but he happens to be the president of the country. And the president is supposed to embody the unity of the nation and symbolize decency and honesty. His reputation had already greatly eroded in the last two years, but the plagiarism case puts an end to his political career. Schmitt could provide a good example to politicians by behaving in a sportsmanlike fashion and resigning. If he did, he would help change the image of Hungary as a country without consequences.

And the final blow. The president of Semmelweis University, Tivadar Tulassay, resigned. The reason is that he no longer feels the support of the ministry and the government as a whole. That is a polite way of informing the world that someone told Tulassay that he is no longer viewed as a team player. That person can only be Viktor Orbán or his designated spokesman. It seems that Orbán was expecting the Doctoral Council or at least the University Senate to whitewash the plagiarism. After all, the fact-finding committee’s composition was supposed to ensure that Pál Schmitt would be able to survive the incident. But even they couldn’t come up with unequivocal exoneration. Yet there was still hope, and then came the faculty of Semmelweis University.

Orbán, I’m sure, was hoping that Tulassay would do what was expected of him. Both he and his family are from Debrecen and are close to Fidesz. In fact, it was Tulassay who was first asked to serve as minister of national resources, the position Miklós Réthelyi, the former president of Semmelweis, currently occupies.Tulassay turned down the offer. Yet in the final analysis his professional integrity trumped his party loyalty.

What else does Viktor Orbán need to be convinced that what he is doing is hurting his own party and his government? I guess we will see in the next few days.

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Member

Eva: “Disciplinary proceedings were initiated against Szalma because he went against the official policy. ” So, is the official policy of the KDNP is to protect cheaters and liars at any cost aganist God will and the country’s interest if the Prime Minister told them so. How Christian!
I think Orban is peeing in his pants because this affair will open up questions about the validity of many degrees, not at last his own degree and certainly Deutsch’, just to name a couple.

tigerente
Guest

If there’s something good coming out of this affair, it’s that many are not willing to follow the Great Leader blindly if it means contributing to the country’s shame. Now, if only the opposition seized the moment to organize!

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Some1: “think Orban is peeing in his pants because this affair will open up questions about the validity of many degrees, not at last his own degree and certainly Deutsch’, just to name a couple.”
Deutsch’s degree is highly questionable. As for the rest of the law students in the group, I don’t think that they cheated but that the requirements were not too stringent. For example, Orbán wrote his final paper (I don’t know what it’s called in a Hungarian law school) on the Polish Solidarity Movement. I could ask, what on earth the Solidarity Movement has with the law.
Even in much more rigorous American law schools the students really learn the nitty-gritty of lawyering after they finished their three years of law school (after a bachelor’s degree). They go and work for a law firm as “associates” and there they really learn to practice law.
Therefore, I have the feeling that none of the Fidesz legal geniuses could stand in a courtroom and do anything useful for their clients.

Member
The servile right wing media, especially the Magyar Nemzet, would never write anything without an agreement or order from the GröFaZ. Orban The 5th very likely declared open season on Schmitt. But moral is overrated in the FIDESZ – he’ll never admit that his creature, Schmitt, is a fuckup. So Vickie was quietly waiting for the president to resign, presumably after realizing that even the right wants the cheater out. But the political monster Orban created went rogue. The fucker is so vain that he’ll never let the high position, the pampering, the palace, the perks go. Many say he might even start blackmailing his master threatening him with spilling the beans about the inner workings of the government should he be bumped from the Sandor Palace. So the good news is this: Orban is loosing either way. Schmitt will be a big stinking pile in the middle of his courtyard if he stays and the semi-honest people on the right will misinterpret the clues about Schmitt and accidentally start telling the truth. Dangerous prospects. If Schmitt goes then it will be a big defeat for our political Frankenstein. The monster is dead. That will confuse a lot Igors. Very… Read more »
Petofi
Guest

@ Mutt: “Vickie waiting for Schmitt to resign….”
You must be kidding! Do you think that Schmitt is capable of doing anything that VO does not want? He ain’t. This all part Orban’s devious scenario. It’s playing out beautifully. Orban is best at playing the keys of mayhem. He’s percolating pretty good now.
He’s right on schedule sending the country directly on to the rocks.
Who wins? Who loses?
(But no matter what happens, Orban has the calm of a person who can’t lose…)

Member

@Petofi “Do you think that Schmitt is capable of doing anything that VO does not want ..”
I think he’s trying … I would be careful with these sudden cracks in the right. These guys followed the Fuhrer unconditionally for two years. Somebody told them again what to do. Our Nero’s gentle way to send the cup of hemlock to Schmitt. But the pig didn’t drink it yet.
Again I’m very skeptical about these cracks. Maybe Orban is engineering some kind of controlled pluralism here … Let’s be watchful.

Aurélie Martin
Guest

Calm, stable, serene, the man with the masterplan… that’s not exactly how Orban is described in the French media. Orban is called a trailer trash bull dog, a power freak, a dangerous man, a joke in the business. Paris Match even used the word “inénarrable”, meaning “so bizarre you can’t even tell”.
A wannabe dictator… «Orban est à la dictature ce qu’Yves Saint Laurent était à la haute couture» – “Orban is to the dictatorship what Yves Saint Laurent meant to high couture”.
Orban might be able to keep up appearances in his homeland, for the rest of the world he’s a crazy lunatic who is running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
You can find the “Viktor Orban, the man who doesn’t like democracy” article by ParisMatch here:
http://www.parismatch.com/Actu-Match/Monde/Actu/Viktor-Orban-L-homme-qui-n-aime-pas-la-democratie-en-Hongrie-370431/

petofi1
Guest

@ Mutt…’cracks’
Have you seen the rant by the land guy about oligarchs and maffia types stealing the countryside? He was a Fideszer.
The Semmelweiss Senate voting against Orban is a huge crack.
The resignation of the rector will widen that crack. Magyar Nemzet calling for Schmitt’s resignation; the KNDP guy, too.
These are serious fissures. Now, the real question: does Orban really seem to mind? Or, is he encouraging it?

Chayenne7
Guest
I must say I agree with Mutt here. Right wing papers would never dare come out with articles that have not been authorized by the Victator. If there has been any lesson learnt is that when it comes to Fidesz, control is what they do best. And they do control the right wing media. So Orbán obviously wants to get rid of Schmitt, but the guy is digging his heels in. And that is something Ovi hadn’t calculated with. What does not add up is how far some of these new voices of reason on the right are going. For example the KDNP guy at Kálmán Olga’s. Those couldn’t possibly be words put in his mouth by the fidesz spin doctors. He was going rogue and going to far so he has to be punished. So to me it seems we have to distinguish between those who act on Orbán and co.’s instructions (Plagi pls do us a favour and walk away) and those who are honestly being troubled by this affair and its academic implications and have finally found the courage to speak up against the whole filthy system. These people have signed their political death sentence by voicing… Read more »
Lutra lutra
Guest

While all this is going on nobody seems to be calling for the head (or any other part) of the muppet at the Finance Ministry, or getting alarmed at the forint being on the slide again and substantive talks with the IMF being as far away as ever.
I’m not sure if Orbán is familiar with the phrase “lame duck” but I’m sure he will stick the knife into Schmitt when the circus needs a new sideshow.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Aurélie Martin: “Viktor Orban, the man who doesn’t like democracy” article by ParisMatch here”
Yes, I remember this article. The picture of him sitting in this “kóceráj,” a junky little village café, is priceless. I think this is the real Orbán who should be a two-bit soccer player.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

chayenne7: “So Orbán obviously wants to get rid of Schmitt, but the guy is digging his heels in”
Why then Fidesz communication guys were coaching Schmitt before his appearance on TV?

Kingfisher
Guest

There is a paradox in this: Orbán has no legal right to remove Schmitt. Just as he has no legal right to remove the head of the national bank (even though he clearly wants to.) So if Schmitt doesn’t want to go, there is nothing he can do, other than threaten him with who knows what behind the scenes.
I feel a bit uneasy when I hear MSZP demanding Orbán removes Schmitt. HE shouldn’t be able to. Surely the communication is: look what a cheat the president is and who put him there, rather than encourage Orbán to act illegally.

Joe Simon
Guest

A sad affair, this Schmitt thing. Remember Nixon’s Vice President Agnew, or the Clinton-Monica scandal. The US surviced so will Hungary.

Joe Simon
Guest

The US survived so will Hungary.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Schmitt resigned.

Andres
Guest

Schmitt has just resigned

Member

@ Joe Simon, Hungary is nothing like the USA, either politically, electorally, democratically or morally. Comparing the USA to Hungary is like comparing Canada to China. There is no moral ground for a parallel. By the way Scmitt have had his Monicas for years and years and Orban is having his Watergate hand in hand with Pinter, but they are smarter then Nixon was, they are actually legalizing the method.

Member

@Joseph “The US survived so will Hungary”
Of course … but this is not the end of the world! This is the beginning! Dont’t you think, Joe?

Member

Eva, Andres: “Scmitt resigned!”
Let’s brace ourselves for the replacement!

Member
Member

Oops the the Post article may require login.
Video of the resignation: http://liveinfo.blog.hu/

Member

It is very interesting to watch Schmitt’s speech. Again, he takes no responsibility. He very much says that the whole scandal should be blamed on any anonimous blogger (forgets to menation what happens to those who put their name to anything tht opposes Orban’s will, like Tivadar Tulassay or Szalma. Still the priceless part is not Schmitt’s nonsense speech, but what has followed. KOver is just such an idiot that I question if he could even serve as a crossing guard in any developed country. The guy has no clue about how to keep his “nobody cares” opinion to himself.
and on a very personal note… I would love to cut off his stupid looking mustache that he keeps touching, like some crumbs left on it. It is disgusting, it looks like he has lice on it and he needs to twist it so he ca pull them off. How about if they would put a woman there and she would let her hair down and would keep picking on it.

Member

… and the PhD title is going to be … drum rolls …
Relations between environmental protection and sport!
Don’t forget to mention the horse manure at the Kentucky derby!
(c) Mutt Damon – 2012
He said the requirements of a PhD are a lot harder because they were created for the computer era. That’s right! That pesky mechanical typewriter is the culprit. Today it would take 5 minutes to google the PhD and run it trough the Google translator …

Minusio
Guest

I have to admit, I am really surprised. I didn’t expect Schmitt’s resignation and thought he would sit it out.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

I watched the speech which was full of accusations. He didn’t do anything wrong. He is the victim of a political attack coming straight from the opposition and those liberals who are also spreading the bad name of Hungary abroad. He will sue.
The Fidesz-KDNP members were showing great solidarity with Schmitt and for a second I thought that I was back in 1952 when we all had to stand up and rhythmically clap for minutes on end. However, I saw at least one MP who didn’t clap: Zoltán Pokorni.
Yet, we know that about 80% of the Fidesz MPs wanted him to resign. I guess, they were told by Orbán this morning that they have to show that they are united.

Joe Simon
Guest

Some 1. The US is the most corrupt country in the world, where business and politics go hand in hand. CNN had a brief comment on Chicago politics the other day when the former Governor was sentenced for corruption. On the state level, for example, poliics and business are so intertwined that you cannot separate the two. So that is the US for you ‘politically’ and ‘morally’.

Member

Eva: “I saw at least one MP who didn’t clap: Zoltán Pokorni.” Yes, I was noticing that, although by the end he kind of made some claps, but in the same rhythm. It looked like that someone told him that he better be clapping.

Member

Orban walked out of the morning FIDESZ meeting to visit Schmitt. Why was that? Was this decision by Schmitt so unexpected? He just woke up in the morning, looked at Mrs. Schmitt and went: “Hey, mama. I resign today!”

GW
Guest

Joe Simon:
Once again, you’re using an excuse that a good parent would never accept from a five-year-old child: “it’s okay to misbehave because others do it too.” Are you really at that level?
Above and beyond that, let’s consider the facts of your supposed example: If the US was really that corrupt, then why have those Illinois governors ended up tried, convicted and in jail? Yes, they tried hard to corrupt the system, but enough safeguards in the system exist that they were caught.
Hungary doesn’t even begin to have such safeguards and, for all the claims of corruption against the former government, Fidesz has long occupied the major prosecution chairs and has not been able to make good on those corruption claims.

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