Metamorphosis of Viktor Orbán?

A few months ago I had a debate about Viktor Orbán’s metamorphosis from liberal to right-wing populist with someone who has known Viktor Orbán ever since the beginning of the democratic opposition’s struggle for regime change. I insisted that no one can change that much and that fundamentally, and therefore, I submitted, Orbán was never a democrat. My friend, a well-known member of SZDSZ, insisted that yes, Viktor was a true liberal but power had a terrible effect on his psyche. I wasn’t convinced.

Lately I have been noticing a change of heart among those who worked closely with Orbán or who as members of the media have been following those Hungarian political events in which he played a prominent role.

Just today Endre Aczél, a seasoned journalist with vast experience with MTI in the 1970s and MTV in the late 1980s, wrote one of his short but sharp-eyed opinion pieces in Galamus. In it he expressed his “suspicion” that it was at least fifteen years ago that Orbán abandoned the idea of the “rule of law.” He recalls a speech by the freshly elected young prime minister that was delivered before the yearly meeting of the country’s ambassadors. Orbán suggested to Hungary’s representatives abroad not to emphasize the “rule of law” but to stress the “law and order” that his government wants to re-establish.

The orange is rotting. That's all / faszkivar.blog.hu

The orange is rotting. That’s all. / faszkivan.blog.hu

Tamás Bauer, an economist, former SZDSZ politician, and today deputy chairman of DK, also remembers the day when he knew that Viktor Orbán was not a democrat. It was also in 1998, on July 6, when during the debate on the government program in parliament Orbán said: “I ask everybody who wants to re-establish order and security; everybody who wants a child be important not only to the family but also to the state; everybody who wants to belong to the Hungarian nation; everybody who wants to make Hungary a country that cooperates with other European nations to vote for the program of the government.” It was at this point that Bauer truly understood, although he had had an inkling before, how Orbán imagined the exercise of power. Because Orbán made it clear that he envisaged himself as the man who alone represents the nation and who considered the opposition a group of people who don’t belong to the nation. After all, in normal parliamentary democracies, the opposition doesn’t vote for the government program.

Therefore Bauer knew way before 2010 what kind of rule Orbán was going to introduce, especially once he achieved the much coveted two-thirds majority. Although according to some interpreters the original Orbán constitution of 2011 was still a democratic document, Bauer disagrees. A constitutional committee was set up, but the majority of the members came from the two government parties. Thus the new constitution reflected the will of the government and the party, Fidesz-KDNP. There was no use participating in this farce. It was Ferenc Gyurcsány who first called for a boycott and his call was followed by MSZP and later by LMP. That constitution was about as legitimate as the 1949 communist constitution. After all, the 1949 constitution reflected only the will of the Hungarian communist party, and the 2011 document was similarly created by and for Fidesz-KDNP.

Yes, both commentators claim, Viktor Orbán hasn’t been a democrat for a very long time. Perhaps he never was, I might add.

In the last few days there is a video that has been making the rounds on the Internet. It originally appeared on the website of Népszabadság. The video was taken at the demonstration organized to urge János Áder not to sign the amendments to the constitution. The speaker is Péter Molnár. Perhaps not too many people remember him, although he was one of the founders of Fidesz and the group at István Bibó College where Fidesz was born. He even spent four years in the Hungarian parliament as a member of the Fidesz caucus. And then he left the party and politics. On the video one can hear him telling Áder: “That is not what we dreamed of, Jánó!” A few days ago I quoted Tamás Deutsch’s tweet claiming that this is exactly what they were dreaming of back in the late 1980s. Surely, this was an answer to Molnár.

I first encountered Molnár’s name in György Petőcz’s book Csak a narancs volt (It was only the orange / Élet és Irodalom, 2001). He was one of the contributors to the volume. He and the four other contributors left Fidesz completely disillusioned in 1993-1994.

What are Molnár’s recollections of the early days of Fidesz and Bibó College? According to him, László Kövér managed to create a lot of tension even in those days. At every meeting he insisted that all members of the college–there were around 80 students–must be politically active. Kövér and Orbán worked together and wanted to rule the community according to their own ideas. Molnár recalls that in the college there was a feeling of unity and solidarity but “Viktor’s political management destroyed it just as he destroyed [the original] Fidesz.” A good example of how this “solidarity” worked in Fidesz land. Once a member of the college group said that “Viktor can be certain that he can rely on his old friends in Bibó College.” Two years later the old buddy of Viktor lost his high position in the party and the government because he dared to disagree with him. “Solidarity existed only as long as the person followed the ‘correct’ policy. It didn’t matter whether he belonged to the inner circle or not, if he disagreed with Laci Kövér and Viktor, he was finished.” Does a democrat behave this way?

Let’s return for a moment to Endre Aczél’s opinion piece that appeared today. Its title is “Order? My own!” No,  Orbán hasn’t changed his stripes.

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big tears
Guest

The regime change catapulted many inexperienced power hungry undemocratic people to the top of those immature parties.
Since 2006, he has cultivated alliance with violent elements to overthrow the ruling governments.
He conducted a violent election campaign too.
2010. He reached the target.
The rest is not pretty.
He is the ridiculous leader.
His close supporter are the winners.
The nation is the prisoner.

miohun
Guest

Loosely related: a video that’s been making its rounds on FB last week, Orbán fantasizing about shooting at the MSZMP vs. Gábor Fodor’s moderate tone. Cca. 1988.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=214052095405992

Minusio
Guest

What about Charles Gati who described graphically (because he was at that meeting) how and when Orbán decided that there was no future in liberalism and that the huge voter reservoir Fidesz needed was right – or far-right – of centre?

Ain985tteron
Guest
I fully agree with Prof. Balogh: people do not change fundamentally. Orbán Viktor, and László Kövér, we might add, not to mention others, was exactly as agressive and unrelenting in 1990 as he is now. In fact all people of the 90’s and 2000’s (way before Orbán’s effective coup d’etat of 2010), who had to deal with Orbán unanimously concur in that he was an extremely agressive, ambitious and unscrupulous person. What’s the surprise now? This is apparent from contemporary reports, although some people only realise things now [like Gábor Demszky, former mayor of Budpaest for 20 years, when he recently realised that even in the early nineties Fidesz was extremely agressive, except when it was about handing the charimanship of then natinal security committe to László Kövér, as Demszky was elected mayor. In that case Orbán and Kövér were really helpful and polite. 2 days later they were back at their unbridled agressivness and this was in 1990.] I think the fundamental mistake Aczél and Bauer make (at least Bauer did not see it before 1998) stems simply from the fact that they are outsiders who don’t care about power and therefore cannot really understand the ambitions and thinking… Read more »
Minusio
Guest

@ Ain985ttero. This is a very good psychogramme with which I fully agree. Also the description of Fidesz as being owned by Orbán is absolutely correct.

Thank you!

You wrote: “These were all before our eyes, but people wanted to hope for future in a fantasy.” That was what I tried to preach to my friends long before 2010. I told them what would happen, step-by-step. They wouldn’t believe me.

How did I know? I am a German – living in Switzerland – very conscious of my country’s history. It’s painful, but it helps. This past gave me some intuition. And unfortunately I wasn’t wrong. Everything happened under Orbán as I predicted – long before he was elected.

Ms KKA
Guest

A very close personal friend of mine, who has known OV and his gang of thugs since they were quite young, describes them simply as criminals…Hungary is being, and has been, run by criminals for 3 years, and it is unlikely that this will change without EU/other outside intervention.

Paul
Guest
I think the key to Orbán (and many others like him throughout history) is not in his politics, but simply in his desire for power and control. Orbán was attracted to the original Fidesz in 89/90 because it was revolutionary and looked like it might be the new controlling regime – the route to power for him. After a while he realised that this wasn’t going to happen, so he reoriented the party to ensure that it did. But even that didn’t work, as he was ousted in 2002 and lost again in 2006. He realised that even right-wing politics wasn’t the key to his goal, it was no more effective than left-liberal politics had been, what he needed was a means of getting into power and staying there. And if democracy, parliament or the rule of law were going to get in the way of his aims, he would simply neutralise them. I don’t think he is any more right-wing than he was left-wing, in fact I think he is probably pretty much apolitical. He adopts whatever policies, or makes whatever speeches, he needs to at the time (hence the peculiar mix of old-fashioned socialist and far-right policies of… Read more »
Paul
Guest

A little OT, but yet another insight into today’s Hungary, the mind-set of Fidesz supporters, and the total control Orbán has over the news:

Watching a BBC film of the chaos on the M1 today, my wife commented that how proud Hungarians were with their government for the way they had organised the response to the (completely unpredicted) snow storm. Thousands had been recruited to bring aid to the stranded motorists, and the country had rallied in its hour of need. This is the difference between today’s new Hungary under Orbán (who cares so much for his people) and the cynical old regime.*

Needless to say, she had just come off the phone to her mother in Debrecen.

*I am not making any of this up.

krm
Guest
The problem politically is that only an opposition that is equally ruthless and strategic has any chance to obtain and keep power. But then you have another dictator. (Although, to be honest, the modern left is simply incapable of being ruthless and strategic). Paul is right, Orbán never had a real ideology, he sorta stumbled upon being liberal vis-a-vis other players of the time, but it did not matter at all, as nothing mattered to Orbán only power (including the complete humiliation and destruction of his adversary and, of course, stealing as much money as possible). So the political analysts analysed the sh*t about Orbán’s ideology and his moves back and forth, when all that mattered to him was to get ahead to obtain power and o entrench himself. (In the meantime he also internalised the ideology of the Hungarian ‘right’ and ‘conservatism’, but that is another matter as he was also instrumental in creating it in tghe first place). In that respect Gábor Török, the well-known, now clearly Fidesz-leaning political media pundit (formerly known as a “political scientist”) got it right that Orbán did not care for anything only for power, hence Török’s extreme cynical approach to politcis on… Read more »
Charles Gati
Guest

Minusio :What about Charles Gati who described graphically (because he was at that meeting) how and when Orbán decided that there was no future in liberalism and that the huge voter reservoir Fidesz needed was right – or far-right – of centre?

Charles Gati
Guest
Minusio is very kind, but I was never at a meeting where Orban decided to abandon the liberalism of Fidesz. The move, I think, was gradual. As far as I knew at the time, it was in 1992 when he first reconsidered Fidesz’s place on the Hungarian political spectrum. I don’t have a good answer about the more important historical question: Was Orban ever a liberal? I’m more certain in my mind that he was pro-Western. (At that time one didn’t have to be liberal to be pro-Western. I didn’t think Jozsef Antall was a liberal, though he identified himself as a conservative-liberal, but he was certainly pro-Western: he was deeply anti-Soviet, even anti-Russian, and a great fan of Radio Free Europe). In any case, the only problem that bothered me when we were friends in the late 1980’s and much of the 1990’s was Orban’s unwillingness to make common cause with the liberal Free Democrats (SZDSZ). On two occasions, I brought him together with two SZDSZ leaders, but I was totally unsuccessful. I accepted that because I thought — mistakenly – that it’;’s OK to have a liberal urban party (SZDSZ) and a liberal rural party (Fidesz). Little did… Read more »
Member
Allow me to join the Orban pop-psychology club. It’s fun! First let me tell you how I became an Újpesti Dózsa soccer fan. In elementary school, somewhere in the 4th grade, everybody was a fan of some club. So I didn’t want to be bullied. My grandpa was a big time TOTO player (a betting game on soccer results). I asked him: Who’s leading division one? He said Dózsa. OK. That was it. The Fidesz and Orbán became “conservatives” because the “left” and “liberal” was already taken. Views change but there is something in the man’s character underneath that doesn’t. In Orban’s case is the urge to prove himself. The not too bright but tenacious country boy came up to the big city in the eighties with a huge inferiority complex. He realizes that honest work is not his thing so he joins politics. From that point his life story is constant struggling to prove that he is better than others. Of course he was a democrat in the eighties. We all were. We all realized that we can start talking about things and most of us will not get jailed for it. It was a thrill doing the “democratic”… Read more »
Member

Was it Antall or Boross, who corrupted the Fidesz leadership for the first time in 1993 with the “székházügy”?

(Their government gave Fidesz a public building, for free & unlawfully, as a lavish headquarters, which Fidesz sold for a nice sum, then the proceeds disappeared. Nobody was prosecuted for embezzling public assets this way, neither Antall/Boross, nor Orban/Simicska).

This must have been the original sin, never punished, for which Hungary is atoning.

petofi
Guest

@tappan:

I think both parties did the building shuffle at least a couple of times, with nary an opposition in parliament.
A Solicitor-General, anyone? (Not in our lifetime.)
But both parties were complicit in the corruption. The only difference now is that the madcap Viktor has said enough–I’m taking it all, and keeping all the power, too.

Max
Guest

As studies reveal, people with personality traits known as the “Dark Triad” — narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy — are better than others to make themselves look attractive. Good for them..

Orbán became the youth communist leader of his secondary school (Teleki Blanka Gimnázium, Székesfehérvár) at the age of 16.

Indeed, Serbian national hero Milošević joined the Yugoslav Communist Party at the age of 18 and Czar Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin joined the KGB when he was 19.

Nick
Guest

Let me share a funny story with you. On Thursday night, Orban Viktor made a speech to viewers of MTV in which he gave his greetings to the nation, and then spoke the usual hot air. My twelve year old son was watching. After it, he said “Daddy he seems like a very nice man doesn’t he? But I know he is only pretending!”,

Kavé
Guest
I remember the surprised reaction of many younger Bibo Kollegium FIDESZ supporters around 1991 when Orban began his turn towards the right. I particularly remember one Bibo resident telling me “Viktor feels that Hungarians are instinctively conservative, therefore FIDESZ should be a conservative party.” while others laughed at the idea of abandoning FIDESZ’ liberal stand. (There was a large scale abandonment of FIDESZ in the years afterwards, with many of the brightest young generation FIDESZ members opting to go abroad.) While looking for more sources about that era I came across a series of articles that appeared in Nepszabadsag in 2011. If you read Hungarian you may find a lot of irony in passages the younger Orban once said such as „Magyarországon megjelenhet ez a nemzeti jelszavakat hangoztató populizmus”, s „a romló életszínvonal által sújtott rétegek növekvő száma” miatt megnövekedhet „a szélsőségekre támaszkodó politikai erők bázisa”, s ha a különböző szélsőséges, populista törekvések összeadódnak, az „eltérítheti az országot a normális nyugat-európai piacgazdaságú demokrácia felé vezető útról.” (Vágvölgyi B. András beszélgetése Orbán Viktorral, Magyar Narancs, 1991. április 18.) [A loud populism shouting national symbolism could appear in Hungary… and it can grow to the layer of people living in deteriorating life… Read more »
drtum
Guest
Max, having been a youth communist leader means nothing. It only shows a kind of ambition for leadership and titles, given the historic circumstances and the fact that you.arers still a child. It’s a fun way to tease Orbán and Köver with this but it would be a mistake to attribute any more to this fact than a kind of ambition. More important is the – overlooked – fact that there is no such thing as a liberal revolutionary or liberal dictator. It’s an oxomoron and in any case liberals are personally never are extremely tough persons exactly because liberalism entails certain values which are contradictory to being a single ‘decider’ and being cruel and ruthless. His personality was always extremely dicatatorial as his former friends would attest (to the extent that you could not name one other Hungarian politician with similar toughness). For some crazy naive reasons people thought that that was only part of his personality but his politcs might be different. Wrong. Personality affects poltics because one’s disposition makes it impossible to represent values contrary to it. Orbán’s lIberalism in the 1990’s was nothing. Orbán just sought a word, a label for his ambitions at the time… Read more »
oneill
Guest

“He is a mini-dictator, ie. that he does not kill people like Putin or Lukashenko, but otherwise he has absolute control over every aspect of the country.”

The question, I guess, is whether he would have any qualms to employ the same methods as Putin and Lukashenko, if the circumstances were different?

The positive thing is that unlike Russia and Belarus, he and his oligarchs desperately need EU funds to keep them in the style to which they have become accustomed- Hungary has no natural resources. The state’s *enforcement* apparatus is also a joke in terms of its incompetence and he and the rest of his cronies are really too lazy to sort that out.

But if he could solve both “problems” would he be happy to rule over a true police state?
I think his character and past history says “definitely”.

petofi
Guest

If the UN had ever been intended to be a useful ‘world community of nations’, they ought to have implanted a rule that nations who don’t meet certain criteria would have their right to self-determination suspended for 10 years. (And a governing elite from another country flown in for that period. For Hungary, the Finns would be a natural choice.)

Member
Paul : A little OT, but yet another insight into today’s Hungary, the mind-set of Fidesz supporters, and the total control Orbán has over the news: Watching a BBC film of the chaos on the M1 today, my wife commented that how proud Hungarians were with their government for the way they had organised the response to the (completely unpredicted) snow storm. Thousands had been recruited to bring aid to the stranded motorists, and the country had rallied in its hour of need. This is the difference between today’s new Hungary under Orbán (who cares so much for his people) and the cynical old regime.* Needless to say, she had just come off the phone to her mother in Debrecen. *I am not making any of this up. Thanks Paul for sharing this with us! I’m not living in Hungary, and none of my sensible, educated Hungarian friends and colleagues — those Hungarians whom I know and with whom I have regular contacts — represents this kind of thinking. (I have one colleague who openly supported Orbán before 2010. In the last few years, she has been very quiet about the whole thing, and I have never dared to ask.)… Read more »
litr
Guest

It’s not that people can’t see he is pretending. Rather, people want to believe he is for real. Their life is centered around the fantasy that there exits in the world a person like him, who is, these days, Orbán.

Member

litr :
It’s not that people can’t see he is pretending. Rather, people want to believe he is for real. Their life is centered around the fantasy that there exits in the world a person like him, who is, these days, Orbán.

I totally agree. People around him now that he is a phoney. His inner circle also knows that nothing will stop him and hanging on to his robe there is a lot to gain, so they will not let him fail. Not too many would give up the privileges that comes with him, and they are way to deep in the mud to leave him behind. Hungary was never famous for whistleblowers either. His inner circle only can survive at this point by keeping him in power. He knows and, and they know it. Many of his friends will be prosecuted very fast when he will be out and not on trumped up charges, but for real charges, freud committed by in office. (Examples are the closed tenders, hate speech, uttering threat, etc.)

akos akos atkos atkos
Guest
akos akos atkos atkos

Hungary is not different from many other unfortunate countries. Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Mali, Lybia…
Ugly rulers, ugly rules, many twisted minds, many corrupted people.
A derailed culture, material poverty.
There are too many people there who are desperately violent openly, and scare the rest into submission.
Akos Kertesz is still the most popular writer on nepszava.com.
Times will be better, when all Hungarians will memorize the words of Akos Kertesz.

Bowen
Guest

Just went to the demonstration at Kalvin Ter. No more than a thousand people there, I’d say.

The usual heavy police presence. I counted 32 police vans, all full, waiting round the back of the National Museum.

Maria
Guest

Paul :
A little OT, but yet another insight into today’s Hungary, the mind-set of Fidesz supporters, and the total control Orbán has over the news:
Watching a BBC film of the chaos on the M1 today, my wife commented that how proud Hungarians were with their government for the way they had organised the response to the (completely unpredicted) snow storm. Thousands had been recruited to bring aid to the stranded motorists, and the country had rallied in its hour of need. This is the difference between today’s new Hungary under Orbán (who cares so much for his people) and the cynical old regime.*
Needless to say, she had just come off the phone to her mother in Debrecen.
*I am not making any of this up.

http://nol.hu/belfold/az_m1_tuleloi__olyan_hideg_volt__hogy_rafagyott_a_para_az_ablakra

Do you think you could get her to read e.g. this report? Just for the unlikely case that this time Nepszabadsag isn’t lying, as all true believers seem to be convinced?

Guest
petofi : If the UN had ever been intended to be a useful ‘world community of nations’, they ought to have implanted a rule that nations who don’t meet certain criteria would have their right to self-determination suspended for 10 years. (And a governing elite from another country flown in for that period. For Hungary, the Finns would be a natural choice.) I assume that you have chosen the Finns because of the Finn-Ugric language relationship. Very few Hungarians believe in such a relationship. They have been brainwashed to believe, that the Finn-Ugric language family is a fiction invented by Habsburg agents to deprive the Hungarians of their history and national pride. Only in the darkest corners of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences there may still be found people who believe in the Finn-Ugric theory but they will probably not be disposed to admit it. The Fidesz-Jobbik doctrine which has earned widespread recognition is that Hungarian is a Turkic language utterly unrelated to Finnish. The Hungarians are relatives of the fearsome horsemen of Central Asia, not of the taciturn Finnish peasants. Therefore I believe that the majority of Hungarians would prefer to have some Turks flown in. To strengthen the… Read more »
Member

@Bowen, I just want to apologize for only always referring tappanch as the person from Ground Zero. I knew there was someone else but it skipped me who that is. I think what you are doing and being active is very important. Thank you for it.

@Paul: Pleas let your wife and her family know that my two nieces (one who just went through a series of cancer treatment) were out yesterday on the M1. They bussed them from Budapest, and they did not provide enough shovels. THey were standing around, it was a complete chaos. My nieces cannot stand Fidesz, they think Fidesz turned Hungary a bad example of how a country should not be. They went out for the people, not for Fidesz and they think that Fidesz cannot even organize volunteers. These are two educated girls, who are looking for opportunities to leave Hungary until democracy and equal opportunities (not only for Fidesz Troopers) will be restored.

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