Coming to an understanding with Viktor Orbán and his followers?

Yesterday’s post didn’t excite too many people. But how can one compete with Trianon? Who cares about the LIBE Commission’s report and the 500 some proposed “amendments,” mostly from Fidesz MPs and their Hungarian friends from Slovakia and Romania? On top of it all some people didn’t even get the details although I gave a link to the amendments that are available on the Internet.

But isn’t it the case that these amendments are a hundred times more relevant to the fate of the Hungarian people than absolutely useless discussions of a treaty, however just or unjust it was, that cannot be altered? Revisionism was the cornerstone of Hungary’s interwar foreign policy and some people were convinced, as was John F. Montgomery, U.S. ambassador in Budapest in the 1930s, that “the Hungarian people were not quite sane on that subject.” Well, it seems that some Hungarians are returning to the very same insanity that led Hungary nowhere except to another lost war, the loss of millions of its people, and a series of absolutely tragic events. But there are always people who are incapable of learning from past mistakes. Just like the Bourbons.

So, discussing Trianon endlessly and crying over Hungary’s misfortunes are dead ends. The Venice Commission’s opinion and the LIBE Commission recommendations, on the other hand, are of the utmost importance. The outcome of the investigations of the Hungarian government’s reshaping of Hungarian democracy into an authoritarian or even worse regime affects the very future of Hungarian democracy.

Let’s talk a little bit about the fate of Hungarian democracy. Some people are convinced that true democracy no longer exists in Hungary due to Viktor Orbán’s “renewal” of the country. I know that a lot of the readers of Hungarian Spectrum are certain that Viktor Orbán and his ilk will be running Hungary for the next twenty years. They are certain that Fidesz is unbeatable because the party communicates better, because all the state institutions are in party hands, and because the new electoral system is designed to keep them in power. By contrast, the opposition is fractured and lacks a charismatic leader. So why bother to do anything?

This defeatist attitude may be misplaced, especially since almost half of the electorate at the moment either doesn’t know or doesn’t divulge its political preferences. The various social groups that have been injured in one way or the other by the “renewal” measures of the Orbán government are numerous: civil servants, teachers, doctors, judges, university professors, artists, writers, and people receiving the minimum wage. One could go on and on. At the moment all these people are shaking in their boots, fearing for their jobs. They are afraid to go out to demonstrate. Surely, hidden cameras will reveal their identity. Fear has returned to the country.

But there might be a tipping point when all the grievances converge and serious opposition to the government breaks out. Who could have said on October 21, 1956 that in two days there would be an open rebellion against the Rákosi regime in Budapest? Or two weeks ago who would have thought that there would be street fights between young Turks and the police? Most likely nothing that drastic will happen in Hungary, but the possibility of a broad common front cannot be ruled out. Therefore, the opposition must be ready for such an occurrence. Moreover, the democratic parties have to come to some kind of an agreement concerning their attitudes toward “the accomplishments” of the Orbán government. Of course, I’m using the word “accomplishments” ironically.

What I mean is: can there be some kind of compromise between Fidesz and its democratic opposition? Because if not, says one school of thought on the subject, the present political division will only be perpetuated. Others are convinced that there is no way any kind of compromise is possible: Orbán’s autocratic rule cannot be “balanced” by those who believe in liberal democracy. Oil and water don’t mix.

Let me go back a bit to history and linguistics. I use the word “compromise” for “kiegyezés.” Indeed, when we talk about the historical “kiegyezés” of 1867 between Austria and Hungary in English we use the word “compromise.” The Compromise of 1867. However, the German word for the same event is “Ausgleich,” which means not so much compromise as “settlement.” Austria and Hungary settled their differences. So, according to a number of politicians, including Gordon Bajnai, the opposition must sit down with the politicians of Fidesz and settle their differences.

A settlement in the offing? / calgaryfoodpolicy.blogspot.com

A settlement in the offing? 

Bajnai, in an interview with Die Zeitenvisages an electoral outcome in 2014 in which the united opposition achieves a modest victory which “would be an opportunity for a kind of national agreement for fair negotiations.” He wants “to cross party lines to reach a consensus” and has no intention of turning everything back to the pre-Orbán period. After watching Viktor Orbán up close and personal ever since 1998, I would like to see just one occasion when he was ready to come to a “national agreement.” We all remember when in 2002 Péter Medgyessy, then apparently on the advice of Ferenc Gyurcsány, tried to extend a hand to Viktor Orbán. He called this approach “filling the trenches” or “burying the hatchet” in English. He got nowhere. He was only rebuffed.

The latest attempt at “appeasement” (at least this is what I call it) on the part of Gordon Bajnai is asking for forgiveness for the referendum of 2004 when the Fidesz-supported idea of giving citizenship to Hungarian nationals living in the neighboring countries was rejected with the active support of the government parties. Since then the Orbán government’s super-majority voted for citizenship, which includes voting rights. Bajnai feels that this right cannot be revoked. Thus, the citizens of Hungary must live with perhaps a million extra votes of people who have no real stake in the outcome of the election and don’t have to bear its consequences. That is a very large number when only about four million people vote at national elections.

Bajnai, in the hope of extra votes from the other side, is giving in on many other issues as well. For example, he made special mention of the Day of Unity (in other words, the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Trianon) where he talked about three-fourths of the territories and two-thirds of its population Hungary lost. Of course, these numbers are correct, but failing to point out that the majority of this two-thirds were not Hungarians was a mistake. Talking about Trianon as a “tragedy” is again only adding oil to fire. He is hoping to come to an understanding on “the trauma of the Soviet occupation” and “the trauma of the Holocaust.” No wonder that the headline in HVG declared: “Bajnai compared Trianon to the Holocaust.” I don’t think that the loss of territories and the loss of lives can cause the same trauma. The last sentence of Bajnai’s communiqué stated that “we will have to close the period that meant the silence and abuse of Trianon.” That to me means that he promises the Hungarian nationalists that Trianon will remain a topic of debate. Keeping Trianon alive will also stoke the self-pity that is so injurious to the Hungarian psyche and that should be discouraged.

But that’s not all. Gordon Bajnai said the following about anti-Semitism and the Orbán government in Berlin the other day. “There are many problems with the government but one cannot claim that it has anything to do with antisemitism and racism.” One doesn’t have to go that far in seeking “national consensus” or “settlement” with Viktor Orbán and his followers. After all, Orbán’s attitude towards both is far from unequivocal.

That is the Bajnai approach, which in my opinion is utterly mistaken. Devoted Orbán followers will not vote for the democratic opposition because Bajnai supports the voting rights of Hungarians in the neighboring countries. It is also unlikely that a devoted supporter of Fidesz will be terribly impressed with  all that mea culpa on the issue of Trianon. But the voters of the democratic opposition may lose trust in him.

In the next few days I will outline some other ideas about what the opposition should do concerning the Orbán government and its supporters.

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Varese
Guest

I was glad you posted information about all those crazy amendments yesterday – even if I didn’t comment on it at the time. Today’s post is good as well – disappointing to hear about Bajnai’s statements in Germany re: Trianon and Antisemitism.. looking forward to tomorrow’s post..

An
Guest
I couldn’t agree more with your assessment Eva. Bajnai must have some very bad advisors and fails to recognize the true nature of Orban Viktor. It is impossible to compromise with him or with anyone in the Fidesz leadership (just look at how everybody who sat down to negotiate with him was duped). I don’t think Orban’s followers, or the “silent majority” will be impressed with such efforts, either. Because the true followers are like religious zealots,whatever Orban says they just follow… it’s personality cult, it has nothing to do with the actual issues.. so compromising on these issues won’t achieve anything. As for the silent majority, it is hard to see where they stand on these issues, but wherever they stand, it is very unlikely they feel very strongly about them to sway them either way. I think what Bajnai is trying to do is to court an imaginary conservative voter who may not be a fan of Orban’s autocratic ways. I doubt there are very many of those, but if there are, it would be a better strategy to actually sit down with some more prominent moderate conservatives who are not sided with Orban (left or fallen out… Read more »
Sandor
Guest
Very well, by all means go ahead and outline those ideas. But in the meantime I should like to state clearly my opinion (before you might convince me otherwise), that this bunch of yahoos in Fidesz are completely discredited for the purposes of a compromise. Not to mention that they are not showing any interest in a compromise themselves. It would be my pleasure to roll off the list of evidence to that effect, but it is unnecessary, they are commonly known all over. Orban has never been in the compromising mood, the damage he caused is immense and I would not trust him even half as far as I could throw him. How about you? Would you buy a used car from any of them? How about buying a worn-down, bled-out, overused country? Would you be partners with them in reviving that country? Now, you see? My idea, to precede yours, is that they should soundly defeat them, investigate their wrong doings, from the over-throwing of the Constitution to the public tenders,’ land and tobacco boondoggles, charge them and take them to court. Let justice take its course. Not only that, but try them under their own hastily improvised… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest
Éva: “But the voters of the democratic opposition may lose trust in him.” The whole post is very interesting, only when reading this sentence, I was thinking about how large a group you may be speaking about. Surely such people exist, but whether they will be VOTERS, or who exactly (and how united) the “democratic opposition” is, I am not too sure currently. The threat from losing these votes appears not too big considering the “exemplary” cooperation between the opposition parties and the widespread belief that “nothing can be done” and “Bajnai is a second Gyurcsany”. I hear that even people who have never before spoken about “Jewish conspiracies” etc., are starting to repeat such nonsense. I am unable to judge from own experience from current Hungary, but for me it is not entirely wrong to try to speak to these people also. I think currently “democrats” should not be too picky about how “pure” their strategy should be. The programme and the idea what type of Hungary they envisage should be clarified, no doubt, and because we live in the 21st century, Trianon and other “highly topical issues” should not dominate the programme. But you need also be first… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest

Now that I read Sandor’s comment, I understand that the suggestions of Bajnai might be understood as some serious offer from Bajnai to cooperate with OV after the next elections? I do not know of course whether this is a tactical move or meant seriously, but I think it cannot be anything different from tactical because with the new election law, Fidesz will not need any coalition partner after the next elections, and in the unlikely event that they might need such partner, OV will rightly consider this a major failure and certainly will not stay boss of Fidesz. So for me these offers of Bajnai can be only directed to the Hungarian voters, of which many currently repeat the national crede, and who still should be won for a less stupid programme than that of OV.

Thomas
Guest

I just lost all my respect for Bajnai, if I ever had any. There is not one politician who stands on principal in Hungary. ( For that matter they be extinct everywhere).

leaveyourcommenthere
Guest
Wooow. There were some 8 commenters, who raised their voices that – at the anniversary of one of the most shocking traumas of the XXth century Hungarian history – perhaps You, as a historian, should pay more attention to Trianon. An entire blog entry, maybe… given the fact that there are restrictive laws on Hungarian minorities in the neighbouring countries, so Trianon and the peace treaty of Paris have their own negative legal effect to us. And You got to the conclusion that the FIDESZ followers are insane, because they do not care much about some guy’s report which will be amended at least 300 times in a legislative body, which is not really a legislative body, but a consultative one, and the report itself focused on such legal issues, that can be hardly explained even in Hungarian. The problem with this blog is, that You have a strong preconception towards this region (the revival of nationalism + antisemitism due to Orbán and Hungary.) and You only pick up sources which prove Your point. Absolutely no empathy, will to understand the thinking of the opposite side from the inside. Why don’t You write an article on the minority rights of… Read more »
Sandor
Guest
leaveyourcommenthere : The problem with this blog is, that You have a strong preconception towards this region (the revival of nationalism + antisemitism due to Orbán and Hungary.) and You only pick up sources which prove Your point. Absolutely no empathy, will to understand the thinking of the opposite side from the inside. Why don’t You write an article on the minority rights of the Hungarians in Slovakia for example? Jewish renessaince in Hungary? You don’t want to explain or understand the politics of Mr. Orbán – this, revival of nationalism, etc issues explains nothing. What would You do here as a politician? Or at least why don’t You come home and give lectures here at the universities? No, my dear leavyour…, the problem of this blog is that you have the audacity to come back here again with your unbelievably primitive, left-handed lies, idiocies and ignorance when exactly the very same bilge was roundly rejected just a day ago. To say nothing of your pompous, pious, holier than thou manner that makes me puke. You look, taste and read like a mouthpiece for the Christian Democratic party of Tömjén Zsolt: a disgusting hypocrite and an ignoramus, just in case… Read more »
leaveyourcommenthere
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :

Thomas :
I just lost all my respect for Bajnai, if I ever had any. There is not one politician who stands on principal in Hungary. ( For that matter they be extinct everywhere).

I’m very disappointed. He is not really a politician and his advisers lead him in the wrong direction.

Yeah, good king bad advisors…

Guest
London Calling! Eva – a very very good analysis of your readers views – and a perspicacious summary of the sins of the opposition. “This defeatist attitude may be displaced…” As one of the ‘defeatists’ – obviously, I would like to pre-empt you just a little as Sandor has done. And I look forward to the next instalment. I believe that the only way Orban will be defeated is via his right hand – who is now governor of the bank – and via his Finance Minister. Yes – It’s the economy stupid. There is an unusual phenomenon occurring in Hungarian economics – I would say unique. And it is so unique I have coined a word. Ungrowth. While Orban is so desperate to encourage growth in the economic sphere – his political actions more than overwhelm the smallest ‘green-shoots’ of growth. They are swamped. (Just like my house might be soon!) Yes the Hungarian economy is being swamped by ‘Ungrowth’. Demographically the young are leaving – and their disposable income – however small is lost. Ungrowth. As the aged demographic statistically grows they have less money to spend. More Ungrowth. As Orban nationalises the energy companies and reduces energy… Read more »
petofi
Guest

“…democracy is doomed to failure…”

Sad to say, this seems to be the case in Hungary for a host of reasons: I don’t think I should repeat the arguments about twisted education; the over-sized role of the Catholic Church in the life of the country; the predilection of Hungarians to fall for simplistic, romantic nonsense about their uniqueness and greatness–none of these factors tend towards accommodation and a preparedness to compromise, without which a democracy just does not function.

So then, let’s have a dictator….but could we at least have a dictator who has the interest of the country at heart rather than a thin coterie of his buddies and backers; and who, strangely, harbors some sort of secret hate to Hungary and Hungarians…(Hmm, this sounds like Rogan, doesn’t it?)

petofi
Guest

BTW, a prelude to the above is my agreement with Sandor in having lost faith in Bajnai. His recent pronouncements are awful. To me, he sounds more like petitioning Orban for the role of second banana, ahead of Mesterhazy.

Member

leaveyourcommenthere :
Wooow. There were some 8 commenters, who raised their voices that – at the anniversary of one of the most shocking traumas of the XXth century Hungarian history –

Get over it! We had at least twenty different threads about the subject, the last one two days ago. You want to read more about Trianon on this blog?
Scroll up to “Search this blog with Google” on the top right, and Enter “Trianon”. Enjoy.
Now the rest of us can get back to the current affairs of Hungary, thanks to Eva!

Guest

London Calling!

Leaveyourcommenton……

Get one thing straight:

No bordering country will ever cede one square millimetre to ‘undo’ I Rant On.

Not one millimetre in your lifetime, your children’s lifetime or your children’s children’s lifetime.

Suck it up.

Many of us believe Hungary got what it deserved.

Doesn’t that make you rage, rage, rage into the night?

Now go.

Regards

Charlie

leaveyourcommenthere
Guest
Sandor : leaveyourcommenthere : The problem with this blog is, that You have a strong preconception towards this region (the revival of nationalism + antisemitism due to Orbán and Hungary.) and You only pick up sources which prove Your point. Absolutely no empathy, will to understand the thinking of the opposite side from the inside. Why don’t You write an article on the minority rights of the Hungarians in Slovakia for example? Jewish renessaince in Hungary? You don’t want to explain or understand the politics of Mr. Orbán – this, revival of nationalism, etc issues explains nothing. What would You do here as a politician? Or at least why don’t You come home and give lectures here at the universities? No, my dear leavyour…, the problem of this blog is that you have the audacity to come back here again with your unbelievably primitive, left-handed lies, idiocies and ignorance when exactly the very same bilge was roundly rejected just a day ago. To say nothing of your pompous, pious, holier than thou manner that makes me puke. You look, taste and read like a mouthpiece for the Christian Democratic party of Tömjén Zsolt: a disgusting hypocrite and an ignoramus, just… Read more »
Sandor
Guest
leaveyourcommenthere : Sandor : leaveyourcommenthere : The problem with this blog is, that You have a strong preconception towards this region (the revival of nationalism + antisemitism due to Orbán and Hungary.) and You only pick up sources which prove Your point. Absolutely no empathy, will to understand the thinking of the opposite side from the inside. Why don’t You write an article on the minority rights of the Hungarians in Slovakia for example? Jewish renessaince in Hungary? You don’t want to explain or understand the politics of Mr. Orbán – this, revival of nationalism, etc issues explains nothing. What would You do here as a politician? Or at least why don’t You come home and give lectures here at the universities? No, my dear leavyour…, the problem of this blog is that you have the audacity to come back here again with your unbelievably primitive, left-handed lies, idiocies and ignorance when exactly the very same bilge was roundly rejected just a day ago. To say nothing of your pompous, pious, holier than thou manner that makes me puke. You look, taste and read like a mouthpiece for the Christian Democratic party of Tömjén Zsolt: a disgusting hypocrite and an… Read more »
leaveyourcommenthere
Guest

CharlieH :
London Calling!
Leaveyourcommenton……
Get one thing straight:
No bordering country will ever cede one square millimetre to ‘undo’ I Rant On.
Not one millimetre in your lifetime, your children’s lifetime or your children’s children’s lifetime.
Suck it up.
Many of us believe Hungary got what it deserved.
Doesn’t that make you rage, rage, rage into the night?
Now go.
Regards
Charlie

Mint minden kezdet, ez is nehéz volt, de manapság már 400-500 olvasója van a Hungarian Spectrum-nak. Amire igazán büszke vagyok az a kommentek magas színvonala és az a stílus, amely jellemzi őket. A magyar internetes hozzászólok tanulhatnának belőlük.

http://galamus.hu/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=48&Itemid=76

Moderating herself would be fun….

Guest

London Calling! (Finally!)

100% O/T – Just a conumdrum. My dilemma.

Saint Orban says the dykes will hold.

The (Government) scientists say the Danube will peak at 920cms – at a dyke which can take 960cms.

The floods in Passau have never been experienced since firstly the 14th century – then 12th century.

And the Hungarian dykes have never been tested to the predicted 920cm level (the previous record high was 875cms).

With a 40cm ‘safety’ margin.

Unknown unknowns.

So if a (Government) scientist really believed (or analysed the data) such that the water was higher than the dykes…

And against Saint Orban’s fiat….

Would he be brave enough to say? And risk loosing his job? What is the ‘fear’ factor in this equation?

Interesting times ahead.

Regards

Charlie

Member

I still have faith in Gordo. And only in him.

Congrats to the HVG for the irresponsible headline. What he is saying is that we all have our pet traumas, but we have to respect each-other’s problems. You commemorate whatever is your favorite – just don’t don’t let the government decide which is the “good” one.

This Zeit article is by the way 3 month old. Nothing new in it.

What he is promoting is a compromise but not with the Fidesz but with the right wing voters who are disappointed. I think it is obvious for him that there is no way to negotiate with Orban. The target is the growing number of Fidesz refugees.

This is a very sad thing. Both the MSZP and the Fidesz are fighting now the only man who is trying to unite the nation. Their logic is simple. Get more people to hate the other side and they’ll win.

Forget the MSZP! Support Gordo!

Member

I like Vadai. But considering the brain washed masses in Hungary there is no way that anything that is associated with Gyurcsany can gain serious support. This is a tragedy but also a reality.

Jano
Guest

Mutt: I agree with the first comment. I’m curious to read Eva’s suggestions. The traditional left-wing approach that used to work for MSZP pre-2006 has utterly failed. Bajnai is at least trying something new. Maybe it won’t be successful or not immediately but at least it’s not just reciting lines from the big old MSZP playbook like a parrot. Plus, it is indeed clear from the interview that he’s talking about reaching over Fidesz’s voter base. Even if this is an effort in vain for 2014 the principle is right. This endless hatred between the political sides has to end eventually.

I can’t come up with any reason why anybody would vote for Mesterházy/MSZP other than that he’s not Orbán/Fidesz. Pretty slim reason for election.

I don’t like Vadai though, I find her spectacularly theatrical and annoying. I first read Eva’s comment about the most popular female politician and I had no clue who she was talking about. I think DK is overhyped by the people who love Gyurcsány, but if they don’t sneak themselves into a deal with one of the other opposition parties then we’ll be hearing much less from them in the following years.

petofi
Guest

Bajnai reaching for dissatisfied Fidesz voters is nonsense. He was best to stand by his record–geese or no geese–and repeating, time and again, his successes during his brief tenure as leader. At least he would’ve presented a clear alternative to Orban. Let the disaffected come to HIM, rather than him stooping and groveling.

I think he has shot his bolt straight up in the air and it has landed in his own foot…

petofi
Guest

Ok, since we live in fantasy land…

Anjan as President,
Bokros and Bekesi as joint leaders…how’s that?

Member

petofi :
Bajnai reaching for dissatisfied Fidesz voters is nonsense.

It is if you word it like this. They are not just dissatisfied Fidesz voters. They were not Fidesz fans when they voted for them in 2010. They just sucked in all the bs that Orban told them about the “other side”. Now they are comparing the 20B HUF dividends this year of the Simicska companies to Zuschlag’s measly 70 million and quietly bang their heads into the wall.

There is something that can be characterized as conservative right in Hungary that is immune to the Fidesz mind tricks. But you have to give them something. By the way this freakin Trianon thing is something we can give them. Aight! I sing your crappy apricot song with you after the Szekler anthem! Lets drink to greater Hungary! Just help me to get rid of corruption or we go down together like a lead balloon …

Jano
Guest

Mutt: “By the way this freakin Trianon thing is something we can give them.”

There’s more to it. If we actually entered the conversation with some genuine input, we might eventually be able to get it back from the right/hard-right. There is so much we gave to them. The other day my girlfriend and I were talking about tattoos. I’m not a big fan but the point is that she said, you should put something on that reminds you of your home. That got me thinking.

Obviously I’d automatically associate putting anything Hungary related on my body with being one of those Hungarist morons. Why is that? Why is it that all our national symbols are monopolized by the right wing?

Then I realized that this could only happen because we let them take it from us. When they said put on the kokárda and they did and we didn’t, we gave it up to them. There are so many more examples. Maybe it’s time to take it back.

Jano
Guest

Petőfi: MSZP winning in 2014 is just as much nonsense so I think I’ll just roll with my favorite nonsense and you roll with yours.

gardonista
Guest

Orban can be beaten. It’s possible to find a way to reach an electoral victory over Fidesz. I have no idea how, but we need to figure it out.

At this point, maybe we should stop worrying about the great charismatic leader that will save Hungary. We all have to become that leader collectively.

Let’s work with what we have. The democratic opposition is divided, so we should find ways to turn that into an advantage.

Orban’s greatest weakness, judging from the polls, is that most Hungarians are completely disgusted with all political parties. Most Hungarians don’t want to talk about politics, but that does not mean that they are rabid Orban supporters. The average person is not like you are I- they don’t get upset by the Louis Kovaches and the Letos- they ignore them.

We will never convince Orban of anything, but we don’t have to. We need to focus on our base of voters, expand out to the apathetic majority, and let Fidesz be their own worst enemy. If we eke out a victory, then Fidesz will want to compromise.

petofi
Guest

Jano :
Petőfi: MSZP winning in 2014 is just as much nonsense so I think I’ll just roll with my favorite nonsense and you roll with yours.

What ever gave you the idea I was for MSZP?
Perish the thought! I dislike Mesterhazy, who seems
to me to be an ideal front for the same old back room boys.

Right now, I’d back either Bekesi or Bokros.

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