Attila Mesterházy and Ferenc Gyurcsány outline their plans for the restoration of Hungarian democracy

It’s time to get back to the present, which is a great deal  less upbeat than the days just before the Hungarian government allowed the East Germans to cross into Austria. Those days were full of hope. The Round Table Negotiations were winding up and within a few days the establishment of the Fourth Republic was declared.

Today the mood of the country is outright gloomy. The economy is languishing and the opposition is in disarray. And yet one must move ahead. One helpful sign: a discussion about how the wounds the Orbán government inflicted upon the democratic institutions of the country can be healed is going on in earnest on the Internet. Zsófia Mihancsik, editor-in-chief of Galamus, was the one who initiated a series of articles on the topic. Up to date eleven pieces have appeared; I will compare the last two. Yesterday Ferenc Gyurcsány wrote and today Attila Mesterházy.

Attila Mesterházy

Attila Mesterházy

My first impression was that their ideas on the restoration of democracy in Hungary run along very similar lines. In my opinion, if it depended only on these two men, MSZP and DK could come to an understanding on practically all the important issues in no time. I don’t know whether Gordon Bajnai will join these two politicians and outline his own ideas on Galamus, but from what I know about E14-PM ‘s view of the future without Viktor Orbán it is quite different from those of Gyurcsány and Mesterházy.

Gyurcsany Ferenc

Ferenc Gyurcsány

So, let’s see what they agree on. Practically everything. Neither of them believes in any kind of compromise with Viktor Orbán’s party. Gyurcsány, as is his wont, puts it in stark terms. He considers the Orbán government illegitimate and illegal. Illegitimate because it didn’t receive a mandate to change the basic democratic structure of the country and lead it toward autocracy. It is illegal because it strives toward the acquisition of exclusive power. He also finds the 2012 Constitution illegal and illegitimate.

Neither Gyurcsány nor Mesterházy thinks that the 2012 Constitution can be left in place, but while Gyurcsány considers a two-thirds majority necessary to write a new constitution, Mesterházy perhaps  a little bit more realistically thinks that some kind of legal possibility exists that might solve the problem. For example, wide societal support for a new constitution that could force a referendum on the issue. That would require some very clever legal finagling given the current restrictive provisions of the Hungarian constitution.

Mesterházy spends some time distinguishing between Fidesz as a party and the Fidesz voters. He is convinced that the majority of those who voted for Fidesz in 2010 did so in the hope that Viktor Orbán would ensure them a better future but that by now they are disappointed in their man and his government. I disagree with his assessment of the current state of affairs. I don’t think that most Fidesz voters are disappointed. Yes, a lot are, but the so-called hard core is unshakable. In my opinion Mesterházy is far too optimistic when he writes about the eventual attrition of Orbán’s followers. Past experience tells us that 1.5 million people will always vote for Fidesz no matter what. Gyurcsány doesn’t address this problem.

Both think that political appointees must be relieved of their jobs because otherwise the new government would be totally powerless to make the changes necessary for the restoration of democracy. Gyurcsány specifically mentions a few crucial appointments in the judicial system such as Fidesz nominated judges to the Constitutional Court, new high-level judges, and the supreme prosecutor. He also thinks that many of the newly appointed civil servants most likely will have to be let go because by now the whole civil service is completely politicized. Unfortunately neither of them tells us how he would be able to accomplish this legally.

Both agree that the illegal concessions, be they land leases or tobacconist shops, must be reevaluated and if necessary revoked. As for the tobacco state monopoly Gyurcsány specifically calls for an immediate abrogation of the law. Let’s open the tobacco market, he says, and let the new Fidesz owners compete on a level playing field.

Gyurcsány is quite specific about which Fidesz changes he would leave alone. He would allow municipalities to choose whether they want to have their schools back or whether they are satisfied with having local schools under centralized state administration. One could even make an argument to leave hospitals in the hands of the state. He would not abolish the new administrative unit, the járás, although one most likely would give them autonomy instead of centralized state oversight.

These two men could easily see eye to eye. EP14-PM is a different matter. Bajnai’s team are ready for a compromise with Fidesz, and they think they could live with the current constitution after a little fiddling with it. On this point both Mesterházy and Gyurcsány are clear: there can be no compromise with Fidesz. This is such a basic disagreement of principle that it will be difficult to resolve. And, by the way, E14-PM again lost a couple of percentage points according to the latest Tárki poll that was released only today. The postponement of the negotiations in the hope of gaining strength didn’t bring the expected results. On the other hand, MSZP gained a couple of percentage points.

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Csaba K. Zoltani
Guest

Apparently those who speak for the opposition in their quest to regain power are still enamoured by Kadarism. They seem to be unaware of the fact that where democracy is practiced, a change in regimes does not legitimate purging of the opposition regardless of the rule of law as they seem to advocate.

It is commendable that wannabes reveal their modus operandi. The people of Hungary will have a real choice between corrupt Kadarism or building a future legitimated by the ballot box.

GW
Guest

Csaba K. Zoltani, if you would choose to stick to policy choices and management style, then it is clearly the present government which is Kadarist. The present government looks to partners and models in authoritarian states to the East. The present government confiscated private retirement accounts, is returning to an economy dominated by single state-owned or -near bank and energy company, and grants business favors and monopolies to its party cronies in massive style, from long-term leases of agricultural land to cigarette retailing. The present government places state legal advertising only with party-loyal newspapers, suffocating the opposition press. The present government was responsible for the referendum ending a modest market-oriented health care reform. And so forth. The present government is massively spending on unnecessary projects in the insignificant home town of the present prime minister, a man who lives in houses that could not have been purchased with his salary as a public servant. If you really love Hungary and hate Kadarism, you’re certainly supporting the wrong party, you supporting a Kadarist-like regime that is doing the one thing Kadarism never quite could: achieving a cult of personality around its mediocre leader.

Member

@GW Very well put. Unfortunately this list have been put up over an over again, but those in oblivion are seem to miss it each and every time. Either that or they pretend not to see it. Orban tries to call himself what he is not, and his followers are simply way not to smart or they are also served by this Kadar style Orban government too well to call things for what it is.

laugh-laugh-or-cry
Guest

Don’t insult old Kadar.
He was everything, but not too corrupt, or very greedy.

Sackhoes Contributor
Guest

I find this post very depressing. Gyurcsany, who had more to do with Orban’s sweeping election win and Mesterhazy, who cannot find his own groove, are just terrible as candidates to defeat Fidesz in 2014. Bajnai, who has a somewhat less handicap, does not seem to have the force and charisma to step up against a Populist Orban, especially while these two sourfaced socialists are on the scene, fighting.

The only glimmer of hope may be an internal split in the Fidesz party. I won’t hold my breath for that.

So it’s on to another Fidesz victory in 2014. The sad thing is that it would be actually better if Fidesz wins a 2/3 or at least a 50% parliamentary victory, because anything less will force them into coalition with guess who? MSZP – never. LMP? DK? gotta be kidding. That leaves Jobbik.

J Grant
Guest

Sackhoes Contributor :
So it’s on to another Fidesz victory in 2014.

Well, if you write this sentence often enough, it might even happen. How utterly demoralised can you get? I know, lots of people think I am overly optimistic, but what do you need? Bajnai is preparing for a compromise with Fidesz (as Prof. Balogh writes) and they drop 2 percent. Mesterhazy finally comes out with a clear statement that no compromise is possible with Fidesz and he goes up a couple of percents. Do you need anything starker than this to indicate that the electorate on the whole wants this bag of criminals out and are prepared to have even discredited parties/politicians back as anything is better than these crooks. Needless to say that the brainwashed, rock solid million and a half will be awfully difficult to shift, but that has always been the case. And, of course, if you could come up with a completely new, never before seen, powerful alternative with mass following and no discredited leaders, we might all vote for them, but there isn’t one. You have to work with what you’ve got!

Istvan Foldesi
Guest
Why did the Socialist-Liberal government suffer a devastating defeat in 2010? Their governing philosophy, if any, was not working, it was rapidly losing popular support, they were inept and sometimes outright clumsy at administration, and of course there was much more than an appearance of corruption. In their last two years they miserably clanged to power thus only increasing disappointment and resentment leading to FIDESZ domineering majority. Do they or their political descendants want to continue the basically same IMF and EU inspired economic policy? Or perhaps more professionally? If yes, then it is surely not an election winning proposition. It might be a good idea to address the questions of how to achieve economic growth, how a stimulus package will be financed, what kind of burden-sharing will be introduced, i.e. a new tax system. But before that it would be desirable to present a report on the state of Hungary, what the country can offer and where and how it wants to fit in the international community. Checks and balances, independent judiciary and a controversial constitution are pivotal issues, but from the perspective of winning at elections they are certainly not crowd pleasers. Last but not least they should… Read more »
GW
Guest

Eva wrote; “I simply can’t understand how these right-wingers can’t see what’s going on…”

It is both fascinating and deeply troubling to see ostensibly conservative Hungarians supporting a party that, yes, gives plenty of play to nationalist and populist themes, but actually governs with a mixture of populist legislation, taxation in particular, that is far to the left, indeed far more socialist, of anything done in the past 20 years by the liberal/socialist coalitions, combined with a series of very specific tactical measures redistributing national wealth to party favorites and creating new, non-transparent bureaucratic and security entities. This government may be described in many ways — let’s start with a one party kleptocracy with a nationalist veneer and its own private police forces on the government paycheck, bent on creating a new elite of landed gentry (let’s expect another Orban term will turn those land leases to sales on cheap credit and those tobacco monopolies into perpetual hereditary grants) —. but a prudent, market-oriented, and small-d democratic conservative party it is not.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Funny that those very figures want to “restore democracy” who cannot get into power exactly because there is a functioning democracy. Bottom line: they want to dismantle democracy because that is the only way they can get power in the foreseeable future.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :
I simply can’t understand how these right-wingers can’t see what’s going on and keep repeating the same old stories about Orbán, the great democrat while the liberals and socialists are the ones who don’t understand democracy. A very interesting and sad phenomenon.

It is because it’s YOU who cannot see what’s going on.
You may stick to your views and false feeling of confidence for as long as you wish, but you doom yourself to never understanding reality.

GW
Guest
Johnny Boy, Are you blind to the way in which Hungary’s agricultural land has been transfered to Fidesz cronies, most of whom are absent landlords, while the people who have actually worked the land for generations have become landless indentured servants? Are you blind to way in which tobacco retail monopolies were taken away from the small shop owners who have now lost their livelihoods and reassigned to Fidesz cronies? Are you blind to the private police forces without oversight created for the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament? Are you blind to the massive spending in the Prime Minister’s home town? Are you blind to the new tax system which means that if you put 100K Ft in a savings account today, you’ll only have 96K Ft if you withdraw it three months later? Are you blind that, that only twenty years after the end of the Communist block, this government’s favorite partners are Russia and China? Why do you hate Hungary and the Hungarian people so much that you would turn a blind eye to corruption on this scale? Why do you hate Hungary so much that you don’t want it to be just another mediocre kleptocracy… Read more »
Johnny Boy
Guest
GW : Johnny Boy, Are you blind to the way in which Hungary’s agricultural land has been transfered to Fidesz cronies, most of whom are absent landlords, while the people who have actually worked the land for generations have become landless indentured servants? Are you blind to way in which tobacco retail monopolies were taken away from the small shop owners who have now lost their livelihoods and reassigned to Fidesz cronies? Are you blind to the private police forces without oversight created for the Prime Minister and the Speaker of Parliament? Are you blind to the massive spending in the Prime Minister’s home town? Are you blind to the new tax system which means that if you put 100K Ft in a savings account today, you’ll only have 96K Ft if you withdraw it three months later? Are you blind that, that only twenty years after the end of the Communist block, this government’s favorite partners are Russia and China? Why do you hate Hungary and the Hungarian people so much that you would turn a blind eye to corruption on this scale? Why do you hate Hungary so much that you don’t want it to be just another… Read more »
Bowen
Guest

Has anyone noticed these Fidesz trolls seem to be multiplying recently?

Bowen
Guest

Eva S. Balogh :

Bowen :
Has anyone noticed these Fidesz trolls seem to be multiplying recently?

Unfortunately, yes.

The Ministry of Truth must have freed up some money in the budget.

Guest

I sat next to a Hungarian-American gentleman at the opening ceremony for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival which features Hungary. (Fellegi and Navracsics represented the country) He was a nice man but spoke much as Johnny Boy does. I showed him the book I was reading on the Metro, Lendvai’s “Hungary–Between Democracy and Authoritarianism” and he in turn informed me that Lendvai is ‘much hated’ in Hungary. I tried to talk of other things.

Guest

Johnny Boychild wrote:

“It is because it’s YOU who cannot see what’s going on.”

And then this idiot complains “Do you think calling me blind qualifies for an argument?”

Please don’t spend too much time on this creature – this is fun only while it lasts …

Joe Simon
Guest

‘FIDESZ’ trolls are multiplying?????
So are the Hungarian Spectrum’s trolls, minions and side-kicks nurtured by Eva, with a few exceptions.

Member

Johnny Boy :

GW :
Johnny Boy,
Are you blind to the way in which Hungary’s agricultural land has been transfered …

Do you think calling me blind qualifies for an argument?
No.

You are as blind as a fool can be when you still have blind faith while Orban and Co. is robbing you blind.

Guest
London Calling! More trolls? Yes – they are getting increasingly rattled and humourless – and they still don’t answer rational questions! They wallow in their brainwashed stupor. As regards the ‘No Compromise’ of Mesterhazy and Gy – I agree that is the only way to maintain – and build – integrity. I believe that the opposition can only now aim for the election after next – in 2018. This is the election I believe they can realistically win, contrary to Minusio – And I will take his wager that Orban will win then – He will not. Why? Because then several factors will converge: 1) The Hungarian economy will be able to hang on through the 2014 election, but it is now technically bankrupt. Eva alluded to the enormous unpaid municipal debt that is, and will be, outstanding for a long time. But the nationalisation spending and wrecking of State-(part)-owned companies and the continuing ‘Alice-in-Wonderland’ economics cannot be sustained. 2) Even now Matolcsy’s successor is implementing policies that inadvertently negate growth – Ungrowth. The stats have been too optimistic – the E-tills and the E-tolls simply won’t yield the revenues. 3) And the public will realise, inter alia, that the… Read more »
Member
Meanwhile on Planet Hungary … Rozsa Hoffman’s letter to high school graduates in 2013: “On the occasion of your graduation the Government of Hungary would like to initiate you into the adult membership of the nation with a symbolic gesture. Therefore each of you will receive the special edition of Hungary’s Basic Law. Let it guide you with its crystal clear thoughts, words and spirit. Let it encourage you to be loyal to the homeland, even in times when it is not easy to live here, and you are tempted to leave for better quality of life or a more sucessful career. Turn the pages with pleasure when you can be proud to be Hungarian! Let its sentences about freedom and clear citizen moral resonate with your minds and hearts!” The document is the same as last year. They just changed the date. They are giving out the first “carved in stone version” – a large chunk of it is obsolete. So much about clear thoughts and words. This is the fancy 10 pounder version personally designed by Orban’s jester Kerenyi. Hoffmann does’t have a title under her signature. She is still technically “Secretary of State for Public Education” but… Read more »
Member
Johnny Boy : Funny that those very figures want to “restore democracy” who cannot get into power exactly because there is a functioning democracy. Bottom line: they want to dismantle democracy because that is the only way they can get power in the foreseeable future. I think you missed GW’s post. For your benefit: “The present government looks to partners and models in authoritarian states to the East. The present government confiscated private retirement accounts, is returning to an economy dominated by single state-owned or -near bank and energy company, and grants business favors and monopolies to its party cronies in massive style, from long-term leases of agricultural land to cigarette retailing. The present government places state legal advertising only with party-loyal newspapers, suffocating the opposition press. The present government was responsible for the referendum ending a modest market-oriented health care reform. And so forth. The present government is massively spending on unnecessary projects in the insignificant home town of the present prime minister, a man who lives in houses that could not have been purchased with his salary as a public servant. If you really love Hungary and hate Kadarism, you’re certainly supporting the wrong party, you supporting a… Read more »
Member

Johnny Boy :
Funny that those very figures want to “restore democracy” who cannot get into power exactly because there is a functioning democracy. Bottom line: they want to dismantle democracy because that is the only way they can get power in the foreseeable future.

My marxism-leninism teacher said the exact same thing 30 years ago.

spectator
Guest

@GW
“…indeed far more socialist, of anything done in the past 20 years by the liberal/socialist coalitions, combined with a series of very specific tactical measures redistributing national wealth to party favorites and creating new, non-transparent bureaucratic and security entities.”

Why don’t you try ‘National Socialism’ for a measure? You’ll find it fits quite well.

Kirsten
Guest

Very well put, Charlie. I am not yet sure about what Fideszniks will have understood by 2017 or 18, but the future state of the economy is quite likely as you write. Hopefully by then the public has been able to generate a number of new and able politicians. The scepticism of Sackhose is quite understandable for me.

spectator
Guest

Too many Fidesz trolls?
If you can stomach this crap, here comes an explanation:

polgarportal.hu/civilosszefogas/cof/2067-szellemi-honvedok-a-legszentebb-europai-ertekeket-gyalaztak-meg

In hungarian, mind you, and I have no intention to translate it, only the essence: a kind of “Intellectual (?) Defence Force” on the warpath to “Struggle against Europe for the European values” (Európával szemben küzdünk az európai értékekért) and their duty to react to everything ever written against Orbán and his Anthill Mob, so they are here, on duty…

spectator
Guest

And now something totally different: a light entertainment for all of you who handle Hungarian. Or else, if you wish 😉

atv.hu/belfold/20130627_gyurcsany_ferenc

Jano
Guest

Spectator: I just watched it! I almost had to stop work for laughter. I think old Fleto might be loosing it a little bit.Other than the infantilism, he has a few points, but I adored the part when he cites that he is the only one who has experience in defeating Orbán and then adds, that it is only possible if you speak the truth. Like his experience taught him in 2006.

spectator
Guest

Jano :
Like his experience taught him in 2006.

I guess, it certainly did.
Remember, in his infamous speech he already declared being sick and tired of the lies, with good reason, I might add. However, today he is one of the very few, who actually can afford to speak the truth.

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