Hungary’s ruling party and its concept of democracy

A fairly lengthy psychological portrait of Viktor Orbán has been circulating online lately. It is not new. It was put together in 2010, and my hunch is that it’s arousing interest now because after almost three years of the Orbán regime people are becoming curious about the psychological makeup of the man. After all, it is becoming clearer by the day that there is something not quite right with the original founders of Fidesz. Perhaps they are not what people thought they were. Attila Ara-Kovács’s short essay on the young Orbán stirred things up, and I hope that others who know a lot about this period will probe further into the beginnings of Fidesz and the people who were responsible for its founding and nurturing.

The profile is based on Freudian psychoanalysis. To my mind its real value comes not so much from its theoretical hypotheses as from its account, based on contemporary sources and later recollections, of how  self-government in the college dormitory where Fidesz was born functioned. If we can believe László Kéri, the political scientist who was one of their original supporters, four people ran the show in the dormitory: László Kövér, Lajos Simicska, Viktor Orbán, and Tamás Varga. (Varga subsequently spent more than three years in jail for tax fraud.) Orbán, Simicska, and Varga all came from the Székesfehérvár gymnasium. The “gang of four” were the ones who told all the others how they were supposed to behave and what they were supposed to think. Kéri thought that they were an aggressive, exclusive group who ignored the opinions of others and constantly sought out enemies. He compared them to the “Lenin boys” of Béla Kun who traveled the country murdering people. Kéri apparently warned that when Orbán runs this country he “will hang [István] Stumpf and me first because we know who you were once-upon-a-time.” Lately there has been a concerted effort to discredit Stumpf who as a judge on the constitutional court has exhibited too much independence and tends to side with those who rule against the government.

Kéri may have been that perceptive in the late 1980s, but I must say that he showed less acumen when before the 2010 elections he was actually looking forward to a new Orbán government, preferably with a two-thirds majority, because Viktor Orbán in this case will accomplish great things. When the reporter who conducted the interview with Kéri reminded him that Orbán’s first government was not very promising, he optimistically remarked that Orbán is eight years older and therefore wiser. He will be a great prime minister.

Soon enough Kéri had to admit that he was dead wrong. Reflecting on the lost election of 2002, Orbán told József Debreczeni, his biographer, that the only reason he failed was that he was not tough enough.

Critics of the current government tend to gloss over the first Orbán government even though almost all of the present tendencies have their antecedents in Orbán’s first four years in power: extreme nationalism, unification of the nation across borders, accommodating MIÉP (an extremist anti-Semitic party), interference with the media, government propaganda, strained relations with the neighbors. And one could go on and on. General dissatisfaction with, and even fear of, the government led to a record turnout in the 2002 election. And yet eight years later the same crew was reelected with a large majority.

Today, conflicts with the outside world are considerably more numerous than they were between 1998 and 2002 when Hungary wasn’t part of the European Union. But even then Viktor Orbán wasn’t exactly the favorite of foreign political leaders. He had especially strained relations with the United States. George W. Bush refused to meet him, most likely because although he was present in the chamber he acted as if he didn’t hear István Csurka’s (MIÉP) comment after 9/11 that the United States only got what it deserved. Relations with Romania were bad and Orbán managed to tear into Austria as well. Because of his attack on the Beneš doctrine he was not exactly beloved in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. He looked upon Russia as an arch enemy. By the end he had only two friends left: Silvio Berlusconi and the Croatian Franjo Tuđman, whose funeral was boycotted by foreign politicians. But, fear not, Viktor Orbán was there.

A few days ago László Kéri wrote a fairly lengthy critique of the second Orbán government. The essay focuses on the first sentence of the government program allegedly written by Viktor Orbán: “The victor has a job to do, not to insist on being right…. For me this is the motto of modern governance.” And yet, says Kéri, Orbán has been doing nothing else in the last three years but trying to convince everybody that he is right. Always right. While none of the tasks he set forth has been accomplished. He destroyed practically overnight the old structures but was unable to set up functioning new ones.

The politicians of Fidesz don't believe in them

The politicians of Fidesz don’t believe in them.

These criticisms point out administrative failings. But George Kopits, former chairman of Hungary’s fiscal council between 2009 and 2011, is harder hitting. In The Wall Street Journal he bluntly calls Viktor Orbán’s newly constructed regime “a constitutional mob rule” because with the two-thirds majority Viktor Orbán can do whatever he wants. May I remind everybody that George Kopits is an economist with conservative political views, not one of those liberals whom the government accuses of treason against the nation when they criticize his government. Kopits also thinks that “today’s Hungary is eerily reminiscent of the communist regime of János Kádár, under which all public institutions were potemkin bodies that dared not challenge the hegemony of the Politburo.”

Is Kopits exaggerating? Surely not. Just today a lengthy interview with László Kövér appeared in Heti Válasz. Only a summary is available online, but the quotations are telling. “In a democracy there is only one constituent assembly, the people, which at election time receives a mandate through its representatives who via fixed rules and regulations exercise their rights.” The scrutiny of the constitution by the constitutional court “would mean the end of the rule of law and democracy.” He continues: “Who is a democrat? I, who think that the country’s future depends on the free decision of the people which can be corrected in four years, or those who in their distrust of the people expect a small body to read what kinds of messages the God of the Constitution (alkotmányosságisten) sends to earthlings based on the constellations, viscera, and bird bones?” In brief, the constitutional court is not only superfluous but is an outright undemocratic institution. So much for any understanding of democracy by the present rulers of Hungary. If one takes a look at the old 1949 Stalinist constitution, one will find very similar sentiments. Obviously Kövér and company feel quite comfortable with the constitutional arrangement of that dictatorial regime.

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Minusio
Guest

What I have been saying all along. 🙁

sebt
Guest
I haven’t read the psychological portrait in depth (perhaps I was put off by Kirsten, or maybe it was An, saying it wasn’t much good). But I’m slowly reading Sándor Márai’s “Esther’s inheritance”; slowly, not because I’m reading it in Hungarian (perhaps I’ll be able to do that, in a few years’ time…), but because it’s too intense to read much of at a time. I don’t know yet how Lajos in the book is going to turn out. But how’s this? (in a translation by George Szirtes): “I never got to know Lajos’s political views. Tibor, who I often consulted on this kind of issue, shrugged and said Lajos had no political convictions at all, that he sailed with the prevailing wind and simply wanted to be involved wherever power was distributed. It might have been fair criticism, and yet it wasn’t accurate enough.” [snipped another paragraph, simply because I don’t want to quote at great length. But this whole passage addresses the contradictory, enchanting mystery of Lajos – the character who is not there to be engaged with. Perhaps I’ll meet him before the end of the book. Perhaps not] “My experience of Lajos is that he is… Read more »
An
Guest

This one is an interesting read, about a dictator’s personality in general. An interview with Prof. Jerrold Post who is a well-known researcher in the field (and works for the US gov. as a profiler). Like I said, it’s not about Orban, it’s about dictators in general…. but it is very informative, and it’s worth comparing our dear leader with what the prof says about these hardliner dictators.

Unfortunately the interview is in Hungarian. No time to translate/summarize in English right now, but if there is interest, maybe later.
http://hvg.hu/velemeny/20110427_diktator_agya_interju

Kirsten
Guest

Sebt, very interesting quote, I will now consider reading the book :-). As for Eva’s today’s entry, it is my experience also (and I heard similar opinions also in Germany, West), that democracy IS equated with majority rule or the idea that the government should implement policies that reflect the ‘will of the majority’. As if such easy answers to complex issues existed! The personality of OV (and its inner circle) matters, but democratic education even more. The ‘consumer’ approach to democracy, mentioned by Minusio, has to be replaced by more interest in participation, even if the consumer approach is prevalent in other regions of Europe as well.

Minusio
Guest

@ Kirsten. I don’t know who said it, but it is true: The quality of a democracy can be measured by the way it treats its minorities. So it’s NOT the tyranny of the majority – or even mob rule.

Kirsten
Guest

Minusio, I hope I did not suggest this. I only wanted to say that I came across such opinions also in ‘democratically better educated’ areas. It is not being thought only in Hungary. Otherwise I find it an important question what exactly makes a political system democratic.

Minusio
Guest

Kirsten :
Minusio, I hope I did not suggest this. I only wanted to say that I came across such opinions also in ‘democratically better educated’ areas. It is not being thought only in Hungary. Otherwise I find it an important question what exactly makes a political system democratic.

And you are quite right to question what makes a political system democratic. Here in Switzerland where I live quite happily as a German the direct democracy poses time and again a challenge to how minorities are treated. But they have a long tradition of finding compromises. After all this country is so diverse that they speak of a “Willensnation” (a nation that is kept together only by the will to do so). The writer Dürrenmatt once said that the only thing that really holds Switzerland together is the railway and the postal service…

Sir Karl Popper (with whom I disagree in many fields) defined as the most important feature of a democracy that you could get rid of a government regularly and peacefully. That already disqualifies Orbánistan as a democracy.

Guest

Kirsten, re democracy in Germany (after WW2 of course):

One of the best features is that we have changing majorities in Germany – often in one of the states the opposition rules. Also usually one party is not strong enough to form the government so we have had many variations of coalitions, from black/liberal to black/red, red/liberal, red/green and on a local level green/red and even black/green …

Now in Germany also many people complain because this makes life more complicated – but it forces politicians to find compromises …

And compromise is in my view the essence of democracy – and not the rule of the majority as Fidesz seems to believe!

That’s another aspect of “checks and balances”.

oneill
Guest

Orban’s personality or what factors have brought it into being is less important imo than the effects that personality has on my and in the wider picture, the country’s life.

I don’t like or trust politicians as a species but until Orban their tangible effect on my life was negligible. His bullying and meglomaniacal personality *does* now affect my life (to take but one example, the attempt to steal Ms oneill’s personal property, her private pension).

He has the kind of personality which delights in punching the quiet, unassuming innocent kid in school, punchjng them to the point where they either retaliate (and then he and his mates will deliver a brutal stamp on the head causing quite probable irreversible brain damage) or the poor simply retreat further into the corner, in which case Orban the bully smirks and then simply resumes punching them the next day.

That innocent kid is the rule of law and decency in Hungary and why thugs like Orban and Kover delight in kicking it into intensive care is of less importance than teaching that bullied kid to fight back, surely?

petofi
Guest

Kirsten :
Minusio, I hope I did not suggest this. I only wanted to say that I came across such opinions also in ‘democratically better educated’ areas. It is not being thought only in Hungary. Otherwise I find it an important question what exactly makes a political system democratic.

“What makes a political system democratic?”

–recognition and rule of law; all fall below the Law, none above it…the respect with which laws are dealt with..the measured and considerate ways in which they are changed;

–respect for institutions

–the ‘spirit of the law’ is maintained

–respect for the opposition; their inclusion in committees

–laws enacted with due consideration and discussion

–transparency of government actions with respect to allocation of
funds, programs; choice of contractors

–etc.etc

cheshire cat
Guest

I really enjoy this conversation started by Minusio and Kerstin.

To me democracy can be defined in several ways:

1. as Petofi says, the possibility to change the government in fair elections

2. to be able to speak up if the people in charge (of anything, government, work managers) are doing something anti-democratic

3. transparency, the lack of corruption

4. where real meritocracy counts, not who you are, or whose who you are, does anybody owe you a favour etc. This way democracy guarantees quality of everything.

5. the system of political check and balances, where the political institutions control each other, eg police, government, judiciary, local governments

6. equal opportunities – racial, sexual, ethnic etc.

Democracy is not something that you either have or you don’t. Societies and individuals are all responsible to look after it, constantly keep an eye on it, do something if they notice it deteriorate.

Kerstin is right: education is the key. Nobody should expect politicians to create and respect democracy for them.

Deak Ferenc
Guest

Not surprising that we see a clownish concept of democracy from such a government:

Guest

A bit OT:

http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/justiz/mutmasslicher-nazi-kriegsverbrecher-laszlo-csatary-droht-auslieferung-a-891617.html
Now that Slovakia has changed the sentence for Csatary from the death penalty into “for life” the question remains:

Will Hungary give him to the Slovaks or just let him live the rest of his life at home ?

Paul Wal
Guest

“They always go overboard”.

Ferenc Kumin‏@FerencKumin 21 Mar

“German public service kid channel is active in Hungary-bashing.
Political pederasty? Yes, of the worst kind”.

Political pederasty? Yes, of the worst kind!!!

Well you can not go lower.

Guest

Győr Calling!

Democracy?

“Sometimes I think that a parody of democracy could be more dangerous than a blatant dictatorship, because that gives people an opportunity to avoid doing anything about it.”

Aung San Suu Kyi

“A healthy democracy requires a decent society; it requires that we are honourable, generous, tolerant and respectful.

Charles Pickering

Regards

Charlie

Member
Minusio : @ Kirsten. I don’t know who said it, but it is true: The quality of a democracy can be measured by the way it treats its minorities. So it’s NOT the tyranny of the majority – or even mob rule. John E. E. Dalberg The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities. John E. E. Dalberg Cardinal Roger Mahony “Any society, any nation, is judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members ; the last, the least, the littlest.” Matthew 25 41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison,… Read more »
Guest

and btw…….

Lord Acton said:

“The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by minorities.” (1887)

He who said….power corrupts, absolute power etc…………

Regards

Charlie

Guest

and btw (2)

Lord Acton = John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton!

Regards

Charlie

Guest

and btw 3

Cardinal Roger Mahony will only be remembered for his covering up of child molesters – not his rehashing of Acton!

Regards

Charlie

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/13/sex-cases-conclave-cardinal-settled

Kirsten
Guest

I was not too amused either when watching this comment about Hungary on Kika. Certainly OV did not have to react to this, because of irrelevance or because of journalistic freedom. And yet these short films on Kika (not only about Hungary but a number of countries where there are “problems”) are understood by children as saying that the respective COUNTRY is “bad”. I am not sure whether this is what is intended, and yet this is how it is understood. I heard already interpretations of 6-year old children that they learned that “Israel is bad”. Also from Kika. You then need not be surprised that there are people who do not “believe” in the complexity of political problems. On Kika at least things are quite simple.

Bowen
Guest

@ Kirsten: Well, it’s a chicken and egg situation, isn’t it? I wonder what impression Hungarian kids get about the world from today’s Hungarian media. About Romanians, about the Slovaks, the Roma, and ‘the West’.

One of the saddest sights (for me) is seeing young kids at Balaton in the summer wearing T-shirts with Trianon messages, or “idosebb vagyok mint szlovakia” or “Magyar vagyok, nem turista”, which you can buy at every other souvenir stand.

Yes, Kika’s cartoons reflect badly on Hungary. But the fault for that lies with the Hungarian government.

Kirsten
Guest

Bowen, but I hoped that “we” are not like “them”. If we do not have better means how to reflect on such a situation, how can we believe that we can offer a more positive vision? The t-shirts you are speaking about are no doubt awful.

Kirsten
Guest

Thank you very much for the link, Eva. The first thing that I saw in this film is that the interviewed Hungarians speak excellent German. The second thing that I learned is that it is not only the “government” (as it was suggested in Kika) but at least also some “students” that do not share “European values”. I read here just a few days ago that the “majority” of Hungarians does not want to be “liberated” from Fidesz. Perhaps this is what I would tell people about Hungary (IN the country the opposition is weak no matter how blatantly the Fidesz government violates democratic principles, and the international organisations such as the EU cannot or even do not want to do much about it because OV belongs to the European “conservatives”). What to do then is the million dollar question for me, and as this film was made for a German speaking audience, perhaps it could be considered to make another small film about “why the EU cannot do much about it and how this is related to our unanswered question of a vision for the EU”…

Member
oneill : Orban’s personality or what factors have brought it into being is less important imo than the effects that personality has on my and in the wider picture, the country’s life. Yes. I’m glad you said this. Orban’s flaming incompetence when it comes to running the country is even more important than his obvious tendencies to be a bully. His bogus visions and the absolute inability to select the right people is the real problem. The fellow is very cunning when it comes to grabbing the power but he has no idea what to do with it. I believe this is his worst psychological treat. The inability to accept ones limits. He is just not enough to be a prime minister. The questions is how much he actually believes that he is right? Is he really so narcissistic? I believe not. I think he knows that he isn’t up to snuff. This could turn out even worse then a dumb narcissist combination. Some “trickery” the public would even forgive, if it doesn’t do permanent damage, if he had the talent. Based on his unofficial and official biographies, Steve Jobs had an equally checkered childhood and he also became a… Read more »
Minusio
Guest

@ Mutt. Somehow I think you are asking the wrong questions or have unrealistic expectations. Orbán’s focus is solely on grabbing the power and keeping it. Good governance doesn’t enter into it. The reason why he doesn’t select qualified people is that he decides everything himself anyway, and he is afraid of rivals. So he handpicked people – including all the Fidesz members of parliament and the mayors – who owe him some and who would never rise above him. This is why the hope of some well-meaning expats that there might be an inner-party revolt against him has no substance. If he goes the party crumbles into nothingness. But this will take longer than many are willing to put up with. Hence the exodus.

Member

Poll results from Fidesz’s own pollster Szazadveg:

Don’t care/won’t say 44%

Fidesz 24%
Jobbik 8%

Democratic parties 23%
Unspecified parties 1%

Poll taken March 25 to 27. Sample size 1000.

http://www.szazadveg.hu/kutatas/aktualis/stabil-kormanyparti-elony-481.html

Guest

Győr Calling!

Mutt! did you set light to them as well?

!!!!!

Regards

Charlie

Member

Preliminary numbers about the deficit are just out, look suspiciously good, just 2% of GDP.
I do not believe these numbers. The denominator, the GDP shrank, to start with. The numbers show a surplus for the local governments.

http://www.ksh.hu/hir_130329

How much did they count from the nationalized retirement funds to lessen the deficit? Didn’t they count part of the money twice, first for 2011, then again for 2012?

http://www.ksh.hu/docs/hun/xftp/gyor/krm/edp_magyar_20130329.xls

Lots of numbers are missing from the tables. More details will come out next week.

petofi
Guest

wolfi :
A bit OT:
http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/justiz/mutmasslicher-nazi-kriegsverbrecher-laszlo-csatary-droht-auslieferung-a-891617.html
Now that Slovakia has changed the sentence for Csatary from the death penalty into “for life” the question remains:
Will Hungary give him to the Slovaks or just let him live the rest of his life at home ?

‘Yes, nice old man bothered by all those hairy jews…will they never stop? Can we not get rid of them? Csatary was an honorable Csendor who was only doing his job. All that gold and money he got went to government coffers for the benefit of the Hungarian poor at wartime. Nice man.’—A Hungarian mind thinking….

It’s good to have Csatary in the news. Nothing is more despicable than that this war criminal should be shielded by the government for no other reason that to show, ‘we protect OURS’.
Yes, there is something more despicable….that the populace accepts this.

And people think THIS society fertile ground for Democracy?
Gimme a break…

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