The cooperation of the Hungarian opposition in action

Last night’s scandalous interview with three opposition personalities on ATV’s “Szabad szemmel” deserves a post even if it was only three days ago that I wrote an article entitled “Hungarian disunity a barrier to a political solution.”

In that piece I wrote that I consider Gordon Bajnai’s appearance at the demonstration organized by Péter Juhász of Milla, a Facebook group that has already staged quite a few well attended demonstrations against “the regime,” ill advised. I have serious reservations about Juhász and Milla.

First of all, we don’t know who makes up Milla. We see only one man, Péter Juhász, who seems to be the spokesman; the people behind him remain in the shadows. After Milla became a registered “association” a couple of days ago and Juhász was asked about the group’s membership, he talked vaguely about “the many people who work on the organization of Milla’s demonstration.”

Another problem is that we don’t know where Milla stands. When Péter Juhász is asked about his political views he often contradicts himself. He is consistent in only 0ne respect: he seems to be the enemy of politicians and parties. In his eyes all politicians are crooks, none of them works for “the homeland” or for “the people,” everything they do is done for political reasons. So, by definition, all politicians are guilty of corruption and self-serving behavior. When people point out to him that after all he is a politician too, he admits to that sin, but I’m sure he thinks he is the exception to the rule.

Quarrel / flikr

In the last few weeks Juhász got a lot of media attention, mostly because he hinted that some  surprising event will take place at the demonstration he is organizing. As it turned out it was Gordon Bajnai’s participation in the event. As we find out more and more about the man, what surfaces is not very attractive. In fact, there is something to what Ferenc Gyurcsány said about him: he might be more of a hindrance to the cooperation so necessary in opposition circles than a promoter of it. Last night’s debate pretty well proved Gyurcsány right.

In order to explain some of the contentious issues I have to go back to the end of September when six researchers attached to the Eötvös Károly Intézet (EKINT), a legal think tank, published an eight-point survey of the damage that has been inflicted on Hungarian democracy in the last two and a half years. They also offered some suggestions about how to remedy it. I wrote about this briefly at the beginning of October, promising to return to the document. I still haven’t managed to fulfill that promise, but let me cite here the second of their eight-point agenda that they urge be implemented once the Orbán government is gone for good. The issue is the political appointees who were named in an unconstitutional manner to formerly independent institutions which thus ceased to be independent of government control. So, says the study of EKINT, the independence of these institutions must be restored and “the political appointees must depart from independent institutions.”

László Majtényi, former ombudsman and the head of EKINT, sent this document to all parties and civic groups he deemed democratic, including Milla. In return, Majtényi received an answer signed by Péter Juhász although the letter is written in the first person plural : “we, the organizers of the Facebook group of One Million for Hungarian Press Freedom (Milla).” Juhász’s first question concerned the nature of democracy. He wanted to know to which parties Majtényi and his colleagues had sent the document because “the past activities of the politicians of MSZP and the current leaders of DK call into doubt their democratic commitments.” To support his claim he mentions ” the numerous infractions of the law, mass and routine arrests, restrictions of the freedom of assembly.” As if Juhász were reading from the script of Krisztina Morvai, Zoltán Balog, and Viktor Orbán.

Juhász’s second question concerned EKINT’s contention that political appointees cannot stay in their posts after the restoration of true Hungarian democracy. In his opinion these people were appointed legally and in a democratic country these political appointees cannot be removed. Zsófia Mihancsik very rightly pointed out in an article entitled “Milla-baj” (Million problems) that “on these grounds we could question the legitimacy of the 1989 regime change because it built the legal foundations of democracy contrary to the laws of the socialist system.” In brief, Juhász doesn’t want to realize that democratic institutions have been compromised and hence the legitimacy of their personnel is questionable.

I don’t know whether Tamás Bauer, formerly SZDSZ MP and now one of the deputy chairmen of DK, wrote his article that appeared in today’s Népszabadság before or after the television debatebut I assume before. His criticism is similar to that of Mihancsik or for that matter my own. Milla in the last two years wanted to keep its distance from parties, and that strategy worked. Milla managed to call great crowds to the streets. Initially their slogan was “I don’t like the regime,” but this year they devised a new one, “Let’s end the past.” That implies a negation of the past twenty-two years, democracy and all. This slogan echoes the opinions of Jobbik and LMP. Bauer also calls attention to Juhász’s claim that MSZP and DK, currently parliamentary parties, are not democratic parties. Equating the Orbán regime with  the governments of Antall, Horn, Medgyessy, Gyurcsány, and Bajnai, he argues, is unfair. These governments obeyed the decisions of the constitutional court; they didn’t try to silence the media of the opposition parties; and they by and large acted like politicians in a democratic country. The Third Republic was founded on the principles of a multi-party democracy. But Milla’s Péter Juhász questions these accomplishments. Juhász’s stigmatization of all parties only increases Hungarians’ suspicion of parties and politicians. That is not the solution. In fact, Juhász of Milla is doing a disservice to Hungarian democracy. So, says Bauer, that’s why he won’t attend Milla’s demonstration.

And then came the shouting match on ATV last night. Here I came to the conclusion that Juhász is also unfit to be a politician because of his personality. He completely lost his cool. But even before he got to this point he made some remarks that were unacceptable, at least to me. He twice said that “there is no use replacing the Orbán government if the same situation returns that caused the two-thirds majority.” He accusingly turned to Tibor Szanyi (MSZP) and Ágnes Vadai (DK), pointing his finger at them and accusing them of being responsible for the victory of Viktor Orbán. As we know, the reason for the landslide victory of Fidesz is a much more complex issue than Juhász tried to portray it here. The economic crisis, austerity programs, the irresponsible behavior of the opposition, unrealistic promises, and one could continue.

His opponents were extraordinarily patient. Ágnes Vadai was especially conciliatory, most likely because her colleagues told her not to lose her temper and to show that DK is ready to cooperate with all who are against the present government. So she kept repeating: “But there is still more that binds us than separates us.”

When it came to the cause of the present financial woes of the country Juhász, following the Fidesz lead, pointed to 2002–that is, after Fidesz lost the elections. But we know that deficit spending started with the first Orbán government in 2000 in anticipation of the elections. Of course, Péter Medgyessy added to the troubles with his salary increases, but in 2006 the second Gyurcsány government reduced the deficit considerably. Then, alas, came the world financial crisis. Nothing is as simple as Péter Juhász, the novice politician, thinks. Fooling the people continues. Not only by parties and bona fide politicians but also by quasi-politicians like Péter Juhász.

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Kingfisher
Guest

I think it is a mistake to think of Milla as a political party. It isn’t. It is an internet movement that gives focus to a fairly widespread discontent. It is the duty of the politicians to come up with policies and ideas that will persuade Milla followers to vote for THEM. Having seen Vadai and Sányi, they clearly have very little to offer.

But what is your view of Szanyi? He is a crass populist and it would be pretty depressing to have him overthrow the current crass populist.

spectator
Guest

Sadly it was clearly disappointing to watch and listen to Péter Juhász.
I appeared to me, that he has no clear picture in his mind, just which way to go, so he declared ‘against everything what existed before’ (not the exact words, my interpretation)
Unfortunately politics aren’t working this way, not if you intend to take out the country of the hole what Orban and Co. digging vehemently.

I agree, the style and patience of his opponents were much more adequate to a politician, even if he claimed that he is in politics many years already, the difference was significant.

As a matter of fact, Mr.Szanyi said something what I’ve find reasonable – for my surprise.
“Why don’t we celebrate our National Day together with everyone under every kind of flags and logos, and start the negotiation right on the day after, regarding the political alliances?”
– or something in this effect.

Couldn’t agree more!

As it seems right now the opposition engaged in a futile pissing contest instead of setting up priorities and acting upon, at least for one time’s sake.
Well, we are still in Hungary, aren’t we..?

petofi
Guest

I’m afraid I don’t agree. I think Juhasz was right to blame MSZP–atleast, their monstrous level of corruption just prior to the elections–which precipitated the 2/3rd majority of Fidesz. A lot of people I spoke to voted Fidesz as an anti-MSZP vote. (So did I.)

CORRUPTION is the main issue. No point getting the same tired hags back in power if no significant changes
will be introduced in Parliament–first and foremost–to bring Parliamentary members to account. (Also, top level bureaucrats, too.) Just as an example, MSZP was responsible for having highways built which cost more in the flatlands of Hungary than in the mountains of Croatia.

Juhasz is right to hammer on that point.

I think Vadnai was demeaning in her statement to Juhasz. I was disappointed in her. As for Szanyi, his opportunism in challenging Mesterhazy was vulgar
and despicable. His hunger for the levers of ‘cash’ is palpable.

Milla throwing its weight behind Bajnai may just be the right thing. Lord knows, Bajnai doesn’t seem to want any part of MSZP.

As for Gyurcsany, he was wrong to open his mouth and criticize Bajnai right now. He seems like a jilted
maiden…

Petofi1
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
Petofi: “CORRUPTION is the main issue. No point getting the same tired hags back in power if no significant changes”
Then how do you explain that one after the other so-called corruption cases collapse. Didn’t occur to you that they might be initiated by Fidesz with the help of the prosecutor’s office headed by Peter Polt, a former Fidesz politician? Because it occurred to me.

Eva: You should know that my cynicism knows no bounds: I was referring to cases PRIOR
to the elections. Of course, I give zero credence to Polt or Budai’s machinations. The present
cases are a political trick, I’m well aware of that. But the 2/3rd was due all the MSZP pols
who were convicted before the elections.

Petofi1
Guest

But for certain, Bajnai and MSZP is a no-go. The acid test is/was this: why didn’t MSZP join with DK to jointly back Bajnai? Simply, the rank and file want nothing to do with Bajnai: not enough thieving to be done with him at the controls.

Paul
Guest

If you have really awful neighbours that make your life a misery and someones comes along and says “let me get rid of them and be your neighbour istead”, but then turns out to be just as bad as the first lot, do you solve the problem by kicking them out and bringing the first lot back?

We often criticise the Hungarian electorate on here, but not wanting to solve the Orbán problem by replacing his lot with the previous lot is probably a pretty sane reaction under the circumstances.

An
Guest

@Paul: Not as bad as the old neighbors, but much worse. That’s the difference. You can wait for the ideal neighbor to arrive one day, or take back the old neighbors who may have picked the cherry from the tree that was bending over to their garden from yours, but never came over to your vegetable garden to take the tomatoes home, and never insisted that the cherry tree actually belongs to them.

There is a chance you can keep the old neighbors behave, though it takes continuous effort and vigilance on your part, but there is nothing you can do with the new ones, as they are rewriting the rules of the land to favor themselves and keep you from protecting your interests.

Jano
Guest
Well, once again we don’t see eye to eye either. I agree that Juhász lost his temper and is probably unfit to be the front face of a politcal party, but Vadai was the one who started interrupting him Joe Biden style (except that I’d choose Biden over Ryan anytime). As I see this there are two different mindsets here: 1. People who think that the MSZP governance was acceptable with a few minor flaws magnified to the extreme by Fidesz propaganda naturally agree that MSZP-DK is a much much better choice than Fidesz and that they should lead the opposition in ending the Victorian era. 2. People (including me) who see MSZP-DK merely as a different set of power hungry crooks and think of the Gyurcsány phenomenon as the antagonist personal cult to Orbán’s find Juhász making a lot of sense. I think most of the Hungarians belong to the second category (evidenced by the peaking disapproval rates of politics in general). The reason why the people are apathic is not that they don’t care about what happens. It’s because they don’t want to stand side by side with someone against whom they have to protest again in a… Read more »
Jano
Guest

And about Captain Szanyi. He is a pathological liar. I happen to live very near to his voting districts. He was the one who started yelling out the loudest about the voter tourism, while in the background he was working on orgainizing the most massive instance of that from József Tóth’s district (whose victory was certain anyway).

Some of what he said during this debate was quite reasonable, but who he is is plain ridiculous.

Jano
Guest

Eva: “Then how do you explain that one after the other so-called corruption cases collapse.”

How did Simicska ended up unharmed after 2002? László Keller failed just as miserably as Budai. And I refuse to believe that it was because Fidesz was such a decent government between 98 and 02

petofi
Guest

I agree with most of what Jano has said with the exception of his acid reaction to Gyurcsany. However, with all his goodwill and integrity, Gyurcsany still loves to hear himself talk: he really moved over the line criticizing Bajnai. (Orban must have loved that.)

Jano
Guest

Correction: “I see you are blatantly wrong” -> “I think you are…”

Ron
Guest

Jano :
Eva: “Then how do you explain that one after the other so-called corruption cases collapse.”
How did Simicska ended up unharmed after 2002? László Keller failed just as miserably as Budai. And I refuse to believe that it was because Fidesz was such a decent government between 98 and 02

Peter Polt was the prosecutor till 2006, and he stopped any prosecution of Fidesz and their cronies.

Turkmenbasi
Guest
With respect, Éva, your analysis is missing the point. The majority of voters in Hungary know very well that during the last two decades the parties have become unaccountible and have looted this country hand-in-hand. You do not seem to be aware of the secret axis between the Socialist and Fidesz treasurers (i.e. Puch-Simicska Pact). This Pact has resulted in the construction of unnecessary mega-projects, like the M6 highway, the 4th metro-line etc, where these gangsters could pocket billions of dollars. This politically-driven organised crime – which I call ’organised overworld’ – has mismanaged and robbed the country. As a result, Hungary has fallen from the level of Czechoslovakia to that of Rumania within twenty years. The investigations in major corruption cases collapse, Éva, exactly because they are joint enterprises!! Of course yo will never know about it by reading Népszabadság and Magyar Nemzet. The root of the problem lies in the untouchable Communist secret service archives. The network of those officers, called the ’Unvisible Legion’ still control and suffocate this country. The majority of oligarchs, just like in Russia, also belong naturally to this Legion. It is not accidental that Fidesz so vehemently opposes to the opening of these… Read more »
petofi
Guest

O, c’mon Eva, ‘all previous corruption had to do with party financing’…? Do you really believe that? What about the multi-billions in highway financing…building bridges over flat-lands..?
What about the Margit Bridge refurbishing? Et. Al.

There are many examples of looting the public treasury by MSZP. I grant you that it’s nowhere near what Fidesz (Orban) is doing now.

The problem of the electorate is that MSZP does not provide an alternative and no other party organization is as comprehensive as theirs. So, theirs no getting around it: the parties must band
together behind Bajnai is he’s to have a chance but MSZP and LMP don’t seem to want to do that. Or is it the case of a few million well-placed euros damping their enthusiasm?

Jano
Guest

Eva, Ron: If the government had proof that the prosecution is sinking well documented cases they could have acted. They didn’t. They could also pick up a lot of cases after Polt’s departure as a lot of them wasn’t beyond the expiration day. They didn’t. Turkmenbasi is on the spot.

Also, I wrote about the most fierce attacks coming from the “liberal” camp. This is what I find very very telling.

“I consider the Juhász phenomenon very worrisome and very harmful to Hungarian democracy.”

I don’t know about Juhász himself, but I consider the phenomena the healthiest that has happened to Hungarian democracy in a long long time.

But I give you one thing, we really don’t know who’s behind Milla. Somebody must be funding them, and I have a very strong feeling that it’s coming from abroad probably from the USA. But that’s just my hunch, absolutely unfounded.

Rettegő Iván
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :

Ron :

Jano :
Eva: “Then how do you explain that one after the other so-called corruption cases collapse.”
How did Simicska ended up unharmed after 2002? László Keller failed just as miserably as Budai. And I refuse to believe that it was because Fidesz was such a decent government between 98 and 02

Peter Polt was the prosecutor till 2006, and he stopped any prosecution of Fidesz and their cronies.

Thank you, Ron! Exactly.

How about 2006-2010? Was Mr. Polt in office?

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