László Kövér’s ideas about the ideal democracy: Governance by decree

I really didn’t think that László Köver, president/speaker of the Hungarian parliament, could still surprise me. Yet he manages. Here is his latest.

By way of preface, I should note that there are some commentators who say that one ought not take Kövér terribly seriously. He is just this kind of a fellow. Perhaps his bark is worse than his bite.

Well, I don’t belong to the camp of those who take him lightly. He is the alter ego of Viktor Orbán. He always was. In reminiscences about the early days of Fidesz participants often describe him as the man who had an enormous influence over young Viktor Orbán. Kövér took his sweet time graduating from law school and therefore was four years older than Orbán. According to those who shared their recollections of Kövér in the book compiled by György Petőcz (Csak a narancs volt), Kövér was a cantankerous, hard-to-get-along-with fellow who was utterly devoted, body and soul, first to the college that he, Orbán, and others ran and later to the party. To those who didn’t particularly like him, he was Viktor Orbán’s evil spirit. If Kövér wasn’t around, it was easy to come to an understanding with Orbán. Some even claim that there is a cowardly side to Orbán; if he feels threatened, he is ready to give in. Not so Kövér. He often propped up Orbán, and thus there could be no compromise in the party leadership.

I don’t know whether it was clear to his fellow college students that the man was an ardent nationalist even then. Apparently Kövér’s real interest was in history, not so much in the law. Therefore he attended classes in the university’s history department. His references to modern Hungarian history reveal his deep-seated nationalism, which leads to historical distortion. In the center of his historical universe stands Trianon. I suspect that in this respect Kövér didn’t change much. As far as his politics are concerned, he did change from ardent socialism to fierce anti-communism with a good dose of right-wing extremism mixed in. On his way from extreme left to extreme right he never managed to feel at home in a democratic republic. The very idea of democracy is alien to the man, as we will see from his latest pronouncement.

Yesterday afternoon Kövér gave an interview to Aréna, a political program on Inforádió, a right of center radio station.  In it he covered many issues dealing with the Hungarian parliament. During the course of the interview he said: “I would find it normal, quite independently from what kind of governments we will have in the next few years, if the parliament would lay claim only to the creation of the most fundamental legal guarantees and would otherwise hand over its mandate to the government for the next four years.” When pressed, he explained that this would mean a kind of governing by decree. In his opinion it is no longer necessary to have a government whose functioning depends on laws enacted by parliament. The present system was worked out in 1989-1990 because of the fear of a return of dictatorship. This fear was justified until 1998. But by now this danger is gone.

An incredible statement demonstrating a complete ignorance of the role of parliament in a democracy. The parliament enacts laws not because it is “afraid of dictatorship” but because the representatives of the electorate thus have the opportunity to discuss the laws proposed by the government and can have a measure of control over them.

Kövér also has peculiar views on the essence of democracy. If there is no fear of dictatorship, the government can do whatever it pleases. Earlier on this blog we discussed Kövér’s willingness to get rid of the Constitutional Court because then, he claimed, parliament would have the final, irrevocable say in matters of policy. But now he would be willing to emasculate the parliament of which he is the speaker and empower the government to govern by decree.

Kövér also seems to believe that once democracy is firmly established it needs no improvement or even much oversight. According to this static view, the democratic political system cannot slide back into dictatorship. It would be amusing, were it not so sad, that Kövér believes that this perfect state of democracy arrived in 1998, when Fidesz won for the first time.

I doubt that Kövér learned much about modern Germany while dabbling in history. Otherwise he might have been more cautious in advocating governance by decree. It was in March 1933 that an amendment to the Weimar Constitution took effect which gave power to Chancellor Adolf Hitler to enact laws without the involvement of the Reichstag. The act stated that this arrangement was to last four years unless renewed, which subsequently happened twice. This so-called Enabling Act (Ermächtigungesetz) gave Hitler plenary powers and made him the dictator of Germany. What did Hitler himself say at the time of the enactment of the Enabling Act? It will sound familiar to us: “after the methodical destruction of the nation” the age of renewal has arrived. “The most important question is the handling of the short- and long-term foreign indebtedness. One must save the German peasantry, and the national government will also assist the middle classes.”

The resemblance between the German Enabling Act and what Kövér proposed in this interview was first picked up by János Avar and seconded by György Bolgár on ATV’s UjságíróKlub last night. It has since been repeated by many bloggers. It is one of the most frightening suggestions I have heard in the longest time. And let’s not fool ourselves. This is not some kind of off-the-cuff remark that Kövér hasn’t thought through. Already in February he was talking about giving more power to the government at the expense of the parliament.  In the interview he complained about the current practice which requires that every piece of legislation be enacted by the legislature and long debated. What a bore! Let’s cut out the middle man.

MSZP and Együtt2014-PM made a joint statement in which Gordon Bajnai and Attila Mesterházy found it “appalling that the president of the Parliament wishes to enlarge the authority of the government at the expense of the Parliament.” They considered the very suggestion “threatening.”

This man isn't joking!

This man isn’t joking!

I guess the Fidesz leadership decided that Kövér revealed more of the party’s plans than was advisable and immediately announced that naturally the opposition completely misunderstood what Kövér was getting at. Gergely Gulyás, the constitutional expert of Fidesz, in fact claimed that Kövér said the exact opposite of what we all heard from Kövér’s mouth. In fact, said Gulyás, he was talking about “the extension of the opposition’s rights and the greater oversight of the government by the parliament.”

Some observers, including one of our commenters, suggest that Fidesz here is working on a devilish plan that would allow the party and Viktor Orbán to continue their present policies in case after 2014, as they suspect, they don’t have a two-thirds majority in parliament. By curtailing the powers of parliament and enabling the government to rule by decree, the unfettered governing by the third Orbán government could go on despite a stronger parliamentary representation by the opposition. This hypothesis sounds plausible to me.

Of course, if the opposition wins, the big loser in this scheme will be Fidesz. But Viktor Orbán and his alter ego like to gamble. If I were an opposition politician I would double, triple my efforts to unseat this government. Otherwise Hungarians may end up living in Fidesz’s perfect democracy, known to the rest of the world as a dictatorship.

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Minusio
Guest

I think that this is the best description of Kövér, his strange ideas and enormous influence I ever read. Thank you, Éva!

Kirsten
Guest

Eva: “If I were an opposition politician I would double, triple my efforts to unseat this government.”

And also: If I were a citizen of Hungary, I would double, triple my efforts to unseat this government.

Minusio
Guest

@Kirsten. “And also: If I were a citizen of Hungary, I would double, triple my efforts to unseat this government.”

But, Kirsten, where are they, those citizens who know what “res publica” means? The few we know are a sad, desperate lot – but not a “critical mass”.

Mutt
Guest

This is so absurd, that if he was sober at all, he probably just wanted to threaten his foes.

Besides, what the hell is this guy doing? Other than handing out hefty fines to opposition PMs holding up signs during the parliamentary sessions and occasionally going to bury a few nazis in the neighboring countries? What is he? A parliamentary nazi undertaker?

Kirsten
Guest

Minusio, I believe they have to be “collected” and won in a piecemeal manner. That is why I think that the main work to be done is at the grassroots level, and I would not that much think about whether it work out in 2014, 2018 or 2022. Actions like that of Ferenc Gyurcsany in Felcsut may have be funny for a moment when watching the video but it does not change anything in the political skills of the broad public. So gather people who already do know that they would like to change the “system”, try to develop a cooperating mode among these people and approach individuals who are uncertain about their positions now. No grand plan, just Mutt’s “m” word.

Minusio
Guest

@Kirsten. I absolutely agree with you. But were is the country-wide “grassroots” these efforts need? A few districts in Budapest won’t do. Hungary is largely a country made up of small villages.

But I agree with you on the long perspective – 2022.Then something may change – but not democratically, either.

tappanch
Guest

After 80 years, appeasement is in vogue again.

Assad is getting away with gassing hundreds of civilians [and murdering tens of thousands with other methods], so Orban has free hand in re-creating a Fascist state in a so far bloodless fashion – Merkel keeps supplying the funds for the experiment.

Minusio
Guest

@tappanch. The crunch seems to be that nobody can prove who actually launched these gas cartridges [It is not totally out of the question that the “rebels” did it themselves. They are not beyond any moral questioning, either.] It may have been Assad, but where is the smoking gun?

I am not a Merkel fan at all, but she certainly didn’t help the Assad case. She only belatedly joined a US paper that doesn’t mean a lot either.

Meanwhile, people are suffering – and fleeing the country by the hundreds of thousands. To me, people voting with their feet are always the most convincing!

Paul
Guest

If Parliament were to “hand over its mandate to the government for the next four years”, what practical difference would it make?

What Kövér proposes has effectively already happened.

Let’s get angry about what is happening now, rather than what some nutter would like to happen in the future.

Paul
Guest

tappanch :
After 80 years, appeasement is in vogue again.
Assad is getting away with gassing hundreds of civilians [and murdering tens of thousands with other methods], so Orban has free hand in re-creating a Fascist state in a so far bloodless fashion – Merkel keeps supplying the funds for the experiment.

Exactly. When I argue with people against military intervention in situations like Syria, Iraq, etc, they say “how else do we stop it?” – to which my reply is we don’t allow it to happen in the first place.

If we dealt with the Orbáns of today, we wouldn’t have to ‘deal’ with the Assads of tomorrow.

But it isn’t really appeasement (yet), it’s more a case of nor knowing/caring/bothering. By the time the mess is nasty enough to bother (police state, brown-shirted thugs, open oppression of Jews and Roma), it will be too late to sort it out without destruction and bloodshed.

Pete H.
Guest

What is Köver’s track record? How often has he launched a trial ballon of such an extreme nature and seen it end up as law?

Paul
Guest

What does it matter which chemical you use to kill children and destroy their homes? Gun powder, TNT, Semtex – good. Uranium, phosphorus, mustard gas – bad.

Insane.

tappanch
Guest

@Minusio, my greetings

I mentioned Merkel in reference to Orban only.

Syria: The rebels may have obtained small quantities of sarin from the army,
but do not have the tools of delivery to kill 1000+ people. In addition, they would not
have targeted the civilians on their own territory. Sunni fanatics do not murder Sunni
children deliberately.

http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/german-intelligence-contributes-to-fact-finding-on-syria-gas-attack-a-920123.html

Member

This is not something to be afraid of. Let’s not forget that most Fidesz politicians are in place for the money. If the Parliament would hand over the power, what would happen to all the Fidesz puppets’s wages? Even if handing over the power would been the best thing for Hungary, these bozos would stay put, they are not in for the country, they are in for the money.

An
Guest

@Some1: They would till be MP and till would get the money. Only they wouldn’t even have to get in there to push buttons as often.

@Paul:”If Parliament were to “hand over its mandate to the government for the next four years”, what practical difference would it make?
What Kövér proposes has effectively already happened.”

Yes, it has already happened, the Parliament has no say in anything in today’s Hungary… but only because Fidesz has 2/3 majority and filled the place up with its drones. With this plan, however, they could keep it this way even after the elections, even if the voters don’t give them 2/3. And the voters won’t give them 2/3 again, one reason being is that they were abusing their 2/3 majority in the Parliament.

An
Guest

My keyboard is skipping the “s” key… sorry, the “s” is missing a couple of places (still, not till)

Troppauer H.
Guest
Paul: Agee with An, and in addition in the Parliament there are still formal processes to observe. If Fidesz fails to adhere to such procedures then the law could still be deemed unconstitutional. Also, given all the bills the various party members submit you still get some information about the lobbying efforts and about who is assigned by Orbán the job to submit a particularly controversial law (some opportunity for kremlinology). Moreover Áder, the president, however loyal he is to Fidesz, still has the theoretic power to submit new laws to the constitutional court (which is, yes, almost a Fidesz-party branch but is still an obstacle) before promulgation. With O.V. being able to solely issue laws (decrees) under Kövér’s plans he would essentially be a dictator. There would be zero transparency. How much do you know about the Ministry for National Development, about what happens there? You don’t even have a proper resume for the enigmatic minister lady. It’s completely opaque. That is how transparent Orbán’s personal legislation would be. Among others, Orbán could make a decree about taxing one particular company or penalizing an individual and it would be impossible for the president or anybody to step in before… Read more »
Guest

“László Kövér’s ideas about the ideal democracy: Governance by decree”

The madness is accelerating.

Paul
Guest

“With O.V. being able to solely issue laws (decrees) under Kövér’s plans he would essentially be a dictator.”

He already is (essentially) a dictator.

An
Guest
Paul : “With O.V. being able to solely issue laws (decrees) under Kövér’s plans he would essentially be a dictator.” He already is (essentially) a dictator. Maybe governing by decrees would make this fact clearer for everyone. I really wonder when it will be clear for the EU, though. Honestly, it won’t get better until Orban gets into a blatantly dictatorial mode, and the sooner he does it the better. He is trying to hide behind a facade of democracy, and a lot of people are willing to go along with this game of pretense just for the convenience of not having to deal with him. Only when he becomes either so self-assured or so scared of losing power that he stops caring about the pretenses, only then we’ll reach a critical mass in AND outside Hungary. A critical mass of those who are willing to call him what he is – a dictator. That’s the very first step to get rid of him. I believe the major task for the opposition in this situation would be to poke and push him, to try to push him beyond this point. Playing the game of pretense democracy? Elections?? Well, good luck… Read more »
Tyrker
Guest
I’m convinced that the interview, down to the wording, was meant to provoke a strong reaction from the opposition. Ms Balogh translation – “hand over its mandate to the government” – sounds good in English, but misses an important point. In the Hungarian original, he used the word “felhatalmazás” – and I’m sure this was deliberate. For the infamous Enabling Act of 1933 is called “felhatalmazási törvény” in Hungarian. Kövér as a history buff surely knows this. He used the word on purpose. And it’s no coincidence, either – that he wants the mandate for four years. That’s not an arbitrary length of time. That’s exactly how long the arrangement outlined in the German Enabling Act was supposed to last too, as you have also mentioned. This is not proof that he did not learn “much about modern Germany.” Au contraire. He did this on purpose. As to what sort of a reaction he was trying to provoke from the opposition is unclear – maybe he hoped that a joint declaration (or open letter) would be issued and signed by Bajnai, Mesterházy, Gyurcsány, Fodor and Schiffer. That would have allowed him to utter his favourite quotation, “what belongs together, grows… Read more »
An
Guest

@Tyker: “As to what sort of a reaction he was trying to provoke from the opposition is unclear – maybe he hoped that a joint declaration (or open letter) would be issued and signed by Bajnai, Mesterházy, Gyurcsány, Fodor and Schiffer. That would have allowed him to utter his favourite quotation, “what belongs together, grows together,” which he always uses in a negative sense, once again. ”

That would have been very poor strategy… the last thing Fidesz needs is giving an opportunity for the opposition parties to come together and actually agree on something…. the more divided they are, the better it is for Fidesz. Although this strategy worked well in the past, now it can actually work against Fidesz. I doubt that provoking the opposition was the intention.

Member

Kirsten :
Eva: “If I were an opposition politician I would double, triple my efforts to unseat this government.”
And also: If I were a citizen of Hungary, I would double, triple my efforts to unseat this government.

You nailed it. But a relative majority of Hungarian citizens is satisfied with the status quo, and those who aren’t satisfied simply utter the fatalist “Haaaat, ez van, ezt kell szeretni” and then get back to much more familiar pastime of wallowing in self-pity.

Member

“As far as his politics are concerned, he did change from ardent socialism to fierce anti-communism with a good dose of right-wing extremism mixed in. On his way from extreme left to extreme right he never managed to feel at home in a democratic republic.”

When it comes to the form of Kover’s politics, I agree he’s on the extreme right. But when it comes to the content of his policies, I actually see much more extreme left. After all, his profoundly communist parents raised him with these ideals.

andy
Guest

We got a train goin downhill w no brakes. Noone really got da guts or the presence to do something drastic. The West as well as the Hungarians are obsessed with their own liitle problems. Nobody cares sufficiently. Everyone just giving Fidesz another cm. and another cm. and so forth, figuring the devil just might go away. Ineffective opposition.

Just like what is going on all around us: Creepy. Nuclear missiles, gas bomb stockpiles, AlJezeera type kamikazes, all-pervasive and nuclear pollution, global ‘warming’, military armed to the teeth, continued factory production to max. capacity,

We gonnna EXPLODE at this rate. Its closing in on all sides… While we argue over details…
I dont have any better ideas…

Paul
Guest

AlJezeera is a TV channel – I don’t think they employ too many kamikazes.

qaz
Guest

@paul
They do not employ them, they just participate in the brainwashing and fill them with hate.
But that is probably not related to Hungary yet

Mutt
Guest

andy :
We gonnna EXPLODE at this rate. Its closing in on all sides… While we argue over details…
I dont have any better ideas…

Another beer?

qaz
Guest
Maybe OT (or maybe not) I felt the need to read again Albert Camus’s La Peste (the Plague) which I read many years ago, but maybe I did not grasp at the time its full significance. I believe the first part of the book is highly relevant in the context of the current situation in Hungary. That part relates the unusual death of thousand of rats in Oran. This event was the precursor to the spreading of the plague (Nazism) that will, in the book, ultimately kill half the population of Oran. Nobody tried to understand why those rats would come up to die; it was just a fact of life, maybe unpleasant but which will pass. Nobody wanted to change their comfortable habits; nobody wanted to see that after the rats, people are next. While analyzes of the book mainly focus on the efforts to eradicate the plague by selfless characters (supposed to represent the French Resistance) I am much more impressed by the first part showing the absolute inaction of all relevant actors (population, public authorities) during the precursor stage, when something could be done to avoid what’s coming. We all know that history repeats itself, particularly if… Read more »
Kirsten
Guest

Tyrker: “He did this on purpose. As to what sort of a reaction he was trying to provoke from the opposition is unclear – maybe he hoped that a joint declaration…”

And that joint declaration would be “more shocking” for the average voter than his Enabling Act…?

And that his favourite quotation, “what belongs together, grows together,” could apply here also would be of no consequence either, I believe.

I have already had my doubts about the “arguments” put forward to explain why OV and Fidesz appear “irresistible” to Hungarians, it IS either laziness of the mind or (pretended) utter indifference towards all things public. (Because my experience is, and the polls say this also, most people DO have the impression that things are not quite right currently.) So you need not torture you brain further to come up with “explanations” why people will “prefer OV at any price, because the alternative is Gyurcsany and this is worse than hell itself”, it is nonsense.

petofi
Guest

Looking at Kover’s picture tells you all you need to know: this is a man who is a Hater; and his chief (and probably, only) talent is to spew that Hate. I believe that he and Orban are soul brothers in sharing this quality.

Ordinarily, after three years of changes and alterations, one would think that there would be a period of consolidation. Not these boys. They can’t wait to get to the next level of aggressivity and aggravation.

While pondering the above, I’ve come to the thought that, while Kover and Orban are mentally unbalanced, it’s the party behind them and the ‘enablers’ who deserve the ultimate vituperation; and eventually, the full force of civilized law with no mercy whatever.

Guest

qaz: “We all know that history repeats itself, particularly if we ignore history.”

Can we learn something general about dictatorship if we study the histories of previous dictators? There must be some historians who have tried to synthesize the prototype dictator’s personality and development from such studies. The validity of such a synthesis will depend on its predictive ability. I am not a historian and I am not aware of any such attempts. Maybe Eva or someone in the commentorship can enlighten me.

I think it would be useful to know at what stage a developing dictator commits/orders his first murder. I take it for granted that any fully developed dictator will murder in order to protect his position. My theory is that the first murder marks the time when the dictator realizes that he is dead or in prison for life if he looses his power.

I have tried to google “first murder” in connection with the names of notoriously murderous dictators and so far I have only got one answer. Hitler probably made his debut murdering his niece. As a crime of passion it does not support my theory.

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