In the opinion of many, Hungary is no longer a democracy

If Viktor Orbán were as talented at governing as he is at political maneuvering he would be an excellent prime minister. But his brain power is spent on devising devious traps for his opponents whose imagination can’t possibly measure up to his, with his bag full of tricks. Dirty tricks, dishonest tricks, shameful tricks. Fortunately there are not too many people on this earth who can surpass his moral turpitude. He is a man who thinks that in politics anything goes. I don’t blame the political opposition for being duped by him once again.

So, what happened? The head of the press department of the Prime Minister’s Office said that Viktor Orbán would deliver a speech before the day’s parliamentary agenda. The announced title of the speech was “Magyarország nem hagyja magát!” (Hungary doesn’t give in!). Considering that the vote on the amendments to the constitution was scheduled for today, everybody assumed that the prime minister would talk about his government’s decision to go ahead with the scheduled vote despite requests from Brussels and Strasbourg to postpone it. The title of the speech certainly suggested as much.

MSZP had already decided to boycott today’s session. Their empty seats were decorated with huge exclamation points. Only their leading spokesman for the day, József Tóbiás, was in the chamber ready to deliver his answer to Orbán’s speech. Then came the surprise. The speech was not about the constitution and about the request of the Council of Europe and the European Commission to postpone the vote. It was about a recent court decision that allowed utility companies to pass on to their customers the added expenses that they have to endure because of extra taxes mandated by the government.

He was most indignant. He said that he can “hardly find words fit for polite society” to describe what he thinks of the Hungarian judiciary. The decision rendered is “scandalous.” And he went on and on about the poor Hungarian people who pay too much for utilities and about those foreign companies that earned very handsome profits in the past. He asked all Hungarians “to raise their voices so these companies would realize that they are facing not only the government but the whole nation.” Among other adjectives, he used “impudent” (arcátlan, a favorite word of Fidesz politicians) in connection with the courts. Ferenc Gyurcsány rightly considered Orbán’s attack on the courts “a very serious and unacceptable violation of judicial independence.” For good measure he added that “it is not the courts that are impudent but Viktor Orbán, who doesn’t seem to understand the very basis of democracy.”

József Tóbiás, after a few sentences in which he complained that the prime minister had nothing to say about the most important issue at hand–the amendments to the constitution, surrendered his right to speak and left the chamber.

The Hungarian prime minister could thus demonstrate to the electorate that he is their advocate, battling with the utility companies and the courts that are supporting these awful capitalists, while the MSZP delegates didn’t even bother to show up. What kind of mind can come up with such a scenario? Moreover, even if he achieved his immediate goal he also demonstrated that the fears of the European Union and the Council of Europe are not without foundation. Today the Hungarian prime minister again proved that the country he transformed over the last three years is no longer a democracy. A woman member of parliament cried out during the speech: “Dictator!” while four members of DK held up a banner that read: “Önkényuralom,” a synomym of “Dictatorship!” I think it was a high price to pay for a fleeting moment of victory.

DK's banner that reads "Dictatorship" / Photo Simon Móricz, Népszabadság

DK’s banner that reads “Dictatorship” / Photo Simon Móricz, Népszabadság

Shortly after 5:00 p.m. the amendments were passed. There were only 309 members of parliament present. 265 voted for the amendments, 11 against, and 33 abstained. Most of the Jobbik MPs abstained, but Mrs. Loránt Hegedűs, Péter Schön, and Tamás Sneider said no. The Schiffer wing of the former LMP was there and voted against the bill. So did Katalin Szili, formerly MSZP but now an independent. The Jávor wing of LMP refused to participate in the charade and so did members of DK in addition to the MSZP delegation.

The opposition’s last hope is President János Áder, who is in Berlin at the moment. According to former president and chief justice of the Constitutional Court László Sólyom, in his legal interpretation the president is empowered to veto the bill. Sólyom wrote an article on the subject that appeared in Népszabadság. What an irony, this man who was Fidesz’s choice to become president and who never hid his disdain for the socialists and his support of Fidesz today is able to publish an article only in Népszabadság. I might add that there are a couple of very critical opinion pieces in right-of-center publications like Heti Válasz and Mandiner. Tomorrow I’ll concentrate on Sólyom’s arguments and the writings of these right-wing critics.

Meanwhile, more and more people are expressing their concern about the amended constitution. They point out that the changes are so fundamental and extensive that the original document is unrecognizable. Journalists are calling this new document “Constitution 2.0.” José Manuel Barroso again expressed his worries and so did Herman Van Rompuy, Thorbjørn Jagland, Hannes Swoboda, Martin Schulz (president of the European Parliament), and many others.

There has been only one official Hungarian response to all this. Hungarian Foreign Minister János Martonyi announced that “Hungary is open to dialogue with anyone on the subject and Hungary will ask the opinion of the Venice Commission on this newly amended document.”

And finally, here is the letter Barroso wrote to Orbán on Friday. It didn’t do any good.

Barroso to Orbán

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Member

Here is Orban’s own metaphor of democracy:

“a vonal fel van festve a fára, már csak bele kell vágni a fejszét.”

The mark is painted on the tree, you just have to cut it with your axe at the mark.

[Orban’s reported words in a closed meeting of the Fidesz faction before the vote on March 11, 2013]

petofi
Guest
By now people should no longer be surprised by Viktor’s machinations–no rules; no respect for precedent or established, predictable way of doing things…Orban at his unruly best. Why did he rush a clearly contemptible rehash of the constitution? This is a tactical question. Brusquely, he had those miniatures of humans called parliamentary representatives vote on cue. They did without a quibble. The brouhaha is expected. Next step? If one could bet on it, I’d wager a significant sum that now Ader will (be directed) not to sign it. This will commence a period of negotiations etc. calculated to display Orban’s and the country’s ‘democratic commitments’. It should last quite a few months. In the meantime, the Felcsutian con-artist will take on ‘enemies of the people’ like the gas companies. If it wasn’t so god-awful, it would be laughable. So, Orban thinks that added taxes cannot be passed on by the companies but the Orban government can declare that any EU penalties will be shifted to the citizenry in the form of new taxes. That’s not a double standard; that’s not the gold standard; that’s the “Orban Standard”–a new conception in the field of politics. Anyway, the main point: Orban keeps… Read more »
petofi
Guest

My original intent was to write this (before I ‘lost it’ and wrote the above):

If the constitutional changes are signed into law, the right penalty by the EU for Hungary would be to suspend voting rights and development funds for two years; and subject to review thereafter.

Member

Orban’s diversionary tactics:

When he abolished the Constitution and introduced “Basic Law” 1.0 in 2011, he gave the red herring of his fighting against the EU and the foreign banks.

Now he pushed through “Basic Law” 2.0 and speaks about his fighting against the foreign utility companies.

These tactics are so demeaning to human intelligence.

V iii!!!
Guest

Suspension for Orban’s life!
The inferior individuals in Hungary, who can not sympathize with the freedom loving demonstrators, are lost to humanity.
Their home is the hell.
They are without soul.
Lost to humanity.

Member

>>”These amendments raise concerns with respect to the principle of the rule of law, EU law and Council of Europe standards,” Barroso and Jagland said in a joint statement.<<

These weak statements from the EU leaders raise concerns that they are strong in appeasement only.

Member

What is wrong with the fourth amendment of the basic law?

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Member

Sorry to occupy so much space here, but I cannot sleep, I am so upset.

Did Chancellor Merkel utter any criticism when she talked to Ader yesterday?
I have not read anything.

A democratic minded leader of great calibre would have cancelled his/her
meeting with Ader in protest, since Ader is in tyrant Orban’s close circle!

Gardonista
Guest

tappanch :
What is wrong with the fourth amendment of the basic law?
comment image

Can we get a translation of this?

Petofi1
Guest

tappanch :
Sorry to occupy so much space here, but I cannot sleep, I am so upset.
Did Chancellor Merkel utter any criticism when she talked to Ader yesterday?
I have not read anything.
A democratic minded leader of great calibre would have cancelled his/her
meeting with Ader in protest, since Ader is in tyrant Orban’s close circle!

This hasn’t been reported and I’m guessing at it….Merkel said: “You can’t sign it.”

Max
Guest

Tappanch: Merkel and Westerwelle meet Áder today (Tuesday).

Breki
Guest
People underestimate Fidesz, behind Orbán are Lázár and Rogán, their most agressive and ruthless consigliere. Lázár, if anything, is even more agressive than Orbán (plus he has even more provincial as he speaks no foreign languages at all) and he learnt that it works. But the complicity of the rest be it Martonyi, Kövér, Navracsics, Deutsch, Szájer, Semjén (or Polt, Handó in the other branches who are effectively shadow members of the government) etc. makes them equally guilty. The moral turpitude cannot be imagined from afar, although Prof. Éva Balogh comes close to understanding the situation. That said, the situation on the ground is so much worse. I completely agree: what we have now in Hungary is not a democracy. It’s up to political scientists to define what it is, but it is certainly no democracy. And if you think that you have seen it all, oh, you are mistaken. The fall will continue and you have seen nothing yet what Orbán, Lázár and the Fidesz are capable of. They will stop at nothing to keep their power and destroy the opposition. For them it is religion – although I guess you can’t even imagine what that is, as most… Read more »
otto
Guest

My question is: how is Orban going to remake Hungarians into a devout Catholic nation? As far as I know, you Hungarians are not religious zealots at least as compared to my country, Poland? Not to mention the fact that it is changing in Poland to the disadvantage of the Catholic Church.

petofi
Guest

Now we’ll know if G-d has a sense of humor: all that’s missing from total, uncontrollable mayhem is the election of a Hungarian Pope….

J Grant
Guest
Prof. Balogh writes: “I don’t blame the political opposition for being duped by him once again.” I am sorry, but I do blame them. It is precisely the low quality, the cowardliness and total lack of clarity of purpose of all opposition parties, as well as their useless and frequently pointless tactics that allow the treachery and low cunning of Orban & Co. to get away with murder every single time. Boycotts, especially in Parliament are stupid, but only slightly less stupid than leaving a useless MP in situ, who had no brains to respond off the cuff to Orban’s populistic swindle re: the utility companies. I fear for the future of a nation that cannot produce the brains, never mind the courage to stand up to tyrants, the way they should do. The solution will come from the streets. Many democrats fear that, I don’t. The students, the miners and many, honest citizens will finally work out how to get back to democracy. Mind you, my hope is for workers’ democracy, not this bourgeois version which has many times in the past made a pack with the extreme right, only to find their fingers burnt. Who said that all… Read more »
xander
Guest

Orbán would simply have Áder impeached and removed in a couple of days if he did not sign. Áder is powerless. But he will sign it anyway, he is a believer, he will never spit Orbán in the eye.

The Hungarian people shall not tolerate any attempt by imperialists to meddle into our internal affairs. We shall triumph over Westren agents of destruction and shall emerge as the most glorious nation.

Member

petofi :
Now we’ll know if G-d has a sense of humor: all that’s missing from total, uncontrollable mayhem is the election of a Hungarian Pope….

Odd are down from 10% to 5%

Member

Odds are ….

EUR/HUF = 305.4
CHF/HUF= 247.7
USD/HUF= 234.9

11:18 AM

krüger
Guest

Inflation is too low, this means that they can decrease interest rates (for now) significantly further and let forint devalue.

Fidesz is absolutely comfortable with a EUR of 320 or more, until it happens gradually in an orderly fashion (like they sold Matolcsy to the market).

No problem — until circumstances change suddenly, then what happens is anybody’s guess. But we will cross the bridge when we get to the river.

Member

krüger :
Inflation is too low, this means that they can decrease interest rates (for now) significantly further and let forint devalue.
Fidesz is absolutely comfortable with a EUR of 320 or more, until it happens gradually in an orderly fashion (like they sold Matolcsy to the market).
No problem — until circumstances change suddenly, then what happens is anybody’s guess. But we will cross the bridge when we get to the river.

Inflation is not low, it was just artificially lowered for one month by KSH putting in 10% less for the utilities in their formula.

I have not experienced lower utility bills, by the way.

As I explained days ago, the biggest utility bill by far is for district heating. It is already government-owned, not foreign-owned, so Orban does not mention them as enemies of the his government. They multiply the nominally 10% less rate with a bigger factor, controlled solely by them, so the bill is not smaller.

The aim of this whole exercise is to expel foreign utilities from Hungary, nationalize them, then re-privatize them to Fidesz buddies.

Member

Orban today:

We need 35% VAT (sales tax) on “luxury” items, unfortunately EU did not allow it yet.

http://hvg.hu/gazdasag/20130312_Orban_A_felsooktatas_forro_krumpli_most_n

Member

Orban:

“the high VAT rates are socially just”

I am not kidding, this is what he actually said today, see the link above

Yanee
Guest

Fidesz does not want to give the utilities to anyone.

Continued state ownership (ie. effective Fidesz control, since they plan to stay on for quite long) is the preferred method.

You can syphon of as much money as you dream, without any risk, in any number if ways. If these companies go bust, the state (taxpayers) will bail them out, doesn’t matter. (“The state always has money right? I mean if it’s necessary they always solve it somehow, these politicians? There is money there, there’s always money.”)

State ownership simply means only another place where Fidesz can take out money at the counter (kifizetőhely) as they own the prosecution and the courts.

death everywhere
Guest

orban is a puppet. the real forces hold seemingly very big power.
this is not the work of a little third rate jurist.
this is a genocidal attempt on a whole nation in the interest of some sinister plans.
this will open the gates of mohacs to “tatar” forces.

Member

tappanch :

petofi :
Now we’ll know if G-d has a sense of humor: all that’s missing from total, uncontrollable mayhem is the election of a Hungarian Pope….

Odd are down from 10% to 5%

The way I look at it, he could not control his own flock to do the honest things. I am talking about a flock that pretend or truly believes in G-d’s words. I guess G-d abandoned Erdo when sent the Fidesz on Hungary.

Member

tappanch :
Orban today:
We need 35% VAT (sales tax) on “luxury” items, unfortunately EU did not allow it yet.
http://hvg.hu/gazdasag/20130312_Orban_A_felsooktatas_forro_krumpli_most_n

..and as we know in Orban books, luxury items include certain education paths, various medications, various medical treatments to those who they are in the “last stage” of their illness, using the banking system, and the list goes on. The sad part is that I am not kidding. Fidesz did consider the previous items as excessive.

Member

Headlines from the Internet:
Hungary Tests the E.U.’s Norms – New York Times
Hungary, defying EU, limits powers of top court – Reuters UK
Hungary: Constitution Changes Warrant EU Action – Human Rights Watch
Hungary inflation plunges to seven-year low – GlobalPost
Hungary defies critics over change to constitution – BBC News
Alarm rises as Hungary defiant on law – Financial Times
Hungary’s constitutional changes spark fears – Sydney Morning Herald
Deaf to critics, Orban changes Hungary’s constitution – AFP
Hungary Central Bank Rejig, Constitution Vote Hit Forint – Wall Street Journal
Protesters await Áder at Berlin event commemorating 1848 Revolution – Politics.hu

Member

krüger :
Inflation is too low, this means that they can decrease interest rates (for now) significantly further and let forint devalue.
Fidesz is absolutely comfortable with a EUR of 320 or more, until it happens gradually in an orderly fashion (like they sold Matolcsy to the market).
No problem — until circumstances change suddenly, then what happens is anybody’s guess. But we will cross the bridge when we get to the river.

But sooner or later the HUF savings will melt. It’s dangerous game of chicken.

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