The standard reference book of Hungarian sayings and proverbs contains dozens of examples related to lies and lying. I would like to single out two that apply to daily politics in today’s Hungary.
The first is an assessment of the fate of a liar. According to the Hungarian proverb, “it is easier to catch a liar than a lame dog.” The second claims that “a man who comes from afar can easily be believed.” As far as the first saying goes, if folk wisdom centuries ago thought that liars cannot fool people for very long this is especially true today after the communication revolution we have witnessed in the last twenty years or so. As for the second, it is less and less true that a person from faraway places can tell tall tales without being found out.
Fidesz politicians, however, are behind the times and keep repeating lies. Lies about the world, about the Hungarian economic situation, about their own earlier statements, and about Hungary’s future prospects. Despite the repeated unveiling of their lies, the lying goes on. I guess they believe that repeated lies stick. Hungarian society is so polarized that the majority of Fidesz voters would never think of reading newspapers or visiting Internet sites that are critical of the government. Repeated lies, as another Hungarian saying asserts, eventually become truth (at least for the party faithful).
In the old days it was fairly cumbersome to fact-check statements about events that happened, let’s say, ten years ago. Today this task is a great deal easier, although in my opinion Internet papers could further assist researchers by expanding their archival search functions. But let’s not complain, because what we have is already splendid in comparison to what we used to have at our disposal.
And now on to the real topic of today’s post: Antal Rogán’s latest performance. On January 4 Rogán was a guest on Olga Kálmán’s Egyenes beszéd. Kálmán began with a question: how is it that within a few days he changed his mind on the government’s response to the question of voter registration? After all, on December 28, right after the Constitutional Court’s decision that found the so-called “temporary provisions” unconstitutional, he and József Szájer, the “author” of the new constitution, confidently announced their plans to put the “temporary provisions” into the main body of the constitution. That would certainly solve the problem. And now, Kálmán continued, there is a 180° turnabout. Fidesz decided not to circumvent the decision of the court. What is the explanation, she wanted to know.
Rogán didn’t flinch. He outright denied that any such words left his or Szájer’s mouth. No gentle prodding by Kálmán could move him from this position. “This is not what I said. What I said was that we respect the decision of the court and since the objections were only formal objections we will move the ‘temporary provisions’ into the main body of the constitution.” As for the law on the election procedure, Rogán claimed that he refused to comment on a law that was still under consideration by the court. Here is an excerpt from the Rogán interview. The complete version can be viewed on ATV’s website.
Well, checking the accuracy of Antal Rogán’s contention was easy enough. YouTube already had the video of the ten-minute Rogán-Szájer press conference online. Szájer used most of the press conference to explain the “historic reasons” for not including the “temporary provisions” in the constitution proper and to outline how the parliament will vote on a bill that will move these provisions into the constitution. That should satisfy the court. And naturally, the law on electoral procedures was one of these “temporary provisions.” At the end of the press conference a reporter asked Rogán about the electoral law. Rogán repeated Szájer’s opinion that they have to address only the court’s formal objections, which can be remedied by incorporating the law into the main body of the constitution. He added that parliament doesn’t have to revisit this law because the objections were formal. Not a word about not wanting to comment on the law that is still under consideration by the court. You can see on the video of the press conference of December 28, 2012.
This particular lie was easy to detect. Another one, I must admit, I didn’t catch, most likely because I have been following Hungarian politics only since 1994-95 and Rogán’s second lie touched on something before that date. It was Zsuzsa Kerekes, a lawyer, who called attention to that lie in Galamus. Rogán called Olga Kálmán’s attention to a grave unconstitutional act by the MSZP-SZDSZ government in 1994 when the government, using its two-thirds majority, put into the constitution a provision that deprived Hungarian citizens of their voting right if they happened to be abroad on the day of the election although the Constitutional Court found this part of the election law to be unconstitutional in March of 1990.
As it turned out, the whole story is a typical Fidesz fabrication. In October 1989 the last parliament of the Kádár regime did vote on the electoral law, including this particular provision. The Constitutional Court that was established in October 1989 indeed found in March 1990 that this particular article in the law was unconstitutional. But it wasn’t the MSZP-SZDSZ dominated parliament that put this provision into the constitution but the parliament of the Németh government on March 9, 1990.
Zsuzsa Kerekes found it unfortunate that Olga Kálmán didn’t remember this particular detail. As a result, “as with so many other Fidesz lies it remained unquestioned and uncorrected.” I have to come to Olga Kálmán’s defense. I also occasionally feel that I could have brought up events or points that contradict the “recollections” of Fidesz politicians that were missed by the reporter. But it is one thing to watch a conversation from the outside and something else to be able to react very quickly under pressure. Moreover, unfortunately, we can’t remember everything even under normal circumstances. And since I started with proverbs here is another Hungarian saying: “A fejem nem káptalan” (My head is not a chapter). What can this possibly mean? Help me out!