Viktor Szigetvári’s mistaken notions about current Hungarian politics

Heti Válasz discovered me. As it is clear from the article, the journalists of the magazine know who I am, but only as someone who formerly contributed to Galamus and who appeared a few times on Klubrádió. Both were years ago. For example, the last regular article I wrote for Galamus was in May 2011.

This is the first time my name appeared in Heti Válasz. Once before Tamás Fricz, someone who calls himself a political scientist, mentioned me in Magyar Hírlap in connection with his attack on Professor Kim Lane Scheppele of Princeton. The Heti Válasz piece is a variation on this theme.

I rarely look at Twitter. I simply don’t have time to follow thousands of tweets. When there is a crisis somewhere I may follow the comments of journalists on the spot, but otherwise I ignore the little bird. Therefore it was unlikely that I would have discovered Viktor Szigetvári’s pearls of wisdom that he finds time to dispense on Twitter. But Twitter decided that I had been neglecting them and sent me an e-mail listing some of the topics I might be interested in. The very first item on the list was a comment by Szigetvári from March 12. It read: “jogilag és tartalmilag kim lane scheppele-nél pontosabb és mégis visszafogott értékelés plankó és herczeg uraktól” (in legal terms as well as in content a more precise and more moderate analysis than that of Kim Lane Scheppele from Messrs Pankó and Herczeg). And he gave the link to an article in 444.

I could hardly believe my eyes. Not because Viktor Szigetvári the private person thinks that Messrs Pankó and Herczeg are better legal scholars than one of the most prominent experts on Hungarian constitutional law but because I found it astonishing that a politician could be so unskilled that he would make his criticism public. A politician should never turn against supporters of his cause. And Scheppele’s views more or less coincide with the opinions of the Hungarian opposition. They, like Scheppele, find many of the changes introduced by the Orbán government unconstitutional, undemocratic, and therefore unacceptable.

I’m trying to imagine a situation in which one of Viktor Orbán’s politicians would openly criticize a leading conservative theoretician who just wrote a glowing report on the Orbán government. I wonder how long this man or woman would remain part of the team. Not a minute, I’m sure. And I wouldn’t blame Viktor Orbán for getting rid of the person. In politics, party loyalty is important. If someone cannot adhere to this basic rule of the game he or she should get out of politics. This is a price you pay when you decide to become a politician. And this loyalty extends to supporters as well. A politician doesn’t weaken his party’s case by calling an argument supportive of that case imprecise and inferior.

confusion3

It was for this reason that I decided to engage in a dialogue with Viktor Szigetvári. If he had decided to admit his mistake I would have left it at that. But he insisted that his open criticism of Scheppele was a most normal and acceptable way of talking about one’s supporters. After all, he has the right to express his opinion. He is mistaken. He as a politician doesn’t have this privilege. He might tell his friends what he thinks, though even that might not be a smart move. In no time it can become common knowledge that X has a low opinion of Y or that X doesn’t agree with the party’s strategy. Soon we may hear from friends and acquaintances that there are huge political differences among the top leaders of the party or coalition. In fact, this kind of talk reached me from many quarters over the last few months.

One could retort that I’m advocating a  monolithic and therefore undemocratic party structure like that of Fidesz. But that would be a misunderstanding. I encourage broad debate, but only inside the party. Every time the opposition parties are accused of not having a unified voice, as is often the case, a pious explanation comes about the virtues of diversity. But that is no more than self-delusion. Especially when the stakes are so high and one’s opponent is a truly monolithic party. Under such circumstances one cannot afford the luxury of speaking in many tongues or criticizing one another in public. That’s why I said that Viktor Szigetvári shouldn’t entertain political ambitions. Unfortunately, as co-chair of Együtt 2014, he does.

From our exchange I came to the conclusion that Szigetvári’s main problem with Kim Scheppele is that she is too harsh on the Orbán government. It seems that Szigetvári still clings to the notion that one can come to some kind of understanding with Orbán’s Fidesz. It is time to wake up. One cannot make a deal with the Fidesz of today. I suspect that Szigetvári is one of the proponents of this mistaken notion just as he most likely had a hand in Együtt 2014’s mad search for the nonexistent “moderate conservative middle.”

Why should we be more moderate in our criticism of the Orbán regime? Why is the more moderate analysis of the electoral law preferable to the harsher criticism of Kim Scheppele? Whom is Szigetvári defending? Viktor Orbán? What is he defending? Orbán’s dictatorship? It looks like it. Szigetvári’s analysis is fundamentally wrong and can lead only to defeat. That’s why I decided to take him on in public.

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Karl Pfeifer
Guest

When I heard Szigetvári last time on ATV I thought he belongs to Fidesz.
People like him lead the way to defeat. Eva you did the right thing to take him on in public.

Kim Lane Scheppele
Guest

I’m grateful to Viktor Szigetvári for proving once and for all that I am have no affiliation with the political opposition. And to Éva for her continued faith in my work.

petofi
Guest

@ Kim Lane Scheppele

You honor the country by your continued involvement in pin-pointing the political wrongs of an amoral society. Your writings will prove to be the political wealth of Hungary in times to come.

lutra lutra
Guest

Could there possibly be a bit of sexism going on with Szigetvári, that the real cut and thrust of politics should, in his view, be left to the boys?

sebt
Guest
OT, the topic being Sizgetvári. But after reading your reportage on Orbán’s 15th March speech, I found Orbán’s exact antipode today. I just happened to come across the name of Kurt Tucholsky on Wikipedia; and as I spent some happy evenings last week getting drunk on Tucholskystrasse in Berlin, I was intrigued who this person might be! Here’s a quote from him: We have just written “no” on 225 pages, “no” out of sympathy and “no” out of love, “no” out of hate and “no” out of passion – and now we would like to say “yes” for once. “Yes” – to the countryside and the country of Germany. The country where we were born and whose language we speak. (…) And now I would like to tell you something: it is not true that all those who call themselves ‘national’ and who are nothing but gentrified militants have taken out a lease on this country and its language just for them. Germany is not just a government representative in his tailcoat, nor is it a headmaster, nor is it the ladies and gentlemen of the steel helmets. We are here too. (…) Germany is a divided country. We are… Read more »
HiBoM
Guest

This remains the most extraordinary self-righteous storm in a teacup. You have still not demonstrated how you came to the conclusion that this fairly innocuous comment is in fact an outrageous political betrayal. Has Szigetvári even said what he meant in detail? And where has he said anything to suggest that he rejects what Kim Scheppele says? Kim Scheppele is not part of the political opposition, she is an independent scholar. And yet what you are saying is tantamount to suggesting that there are certain scholars who not be criticised in public. That may be politically expedient but if Kim Scheppele as a scholar believes that she should be immune to criticism, then I’ll eat my hat. And it is not as if Szegetvári has actually criticised her in any meaningful way in the first place.

To crank out my favourite quote (by the English playwright Joe Orton): scratch a liberal and find a fascist bleeding.

Karl Pfeifer
Guest

sebt, the problem was, that despite Tucholsky’s conversion to Lutheranism during World War I and despite his German patriotism only a small minority listened to this German writer. German students burned Tucholsky’s books while Goebbels raved against Jews and intellectuals. Tucholsky fled to Sweden where he committed suicide in 1935.
After the power was given to Hitler in 1933 he recognized the defeat of the democrats. István Bibó wrote about the German Hysteria. Today we can see the Hungarian Hysteria at work. The similarity is shocking.
Let us hope that the Hungarian Tucholskys will not end like Tucholsky

Guest

@sebt:

Is there anyone in Hungary that might be compared to Tucholsky?
He’s one of my favourite poets – with his golden heart and his iron gob/mouth.
And he clearly said what kind of people the Nazis and their supporters were …
Is there anyone today in Hungary who can write against Jobbik and Fidesz in his style?

lumpy Lang
Guest

lutra lutra :
Could there possibly be a bit of sexism going on with Szigetvári, that the real cut and thrust of politics should, in his view, be left to the boys?

The patronizing sexist tone of his responses is so palpable you can cut it with a knife.

petofi
Guest

@HiBoM

“It’s a tempest in a teacup…” yet you insist on stirring the shit.
Very suspect.
We’ve seen this technique before–

An
Guest

@HiBoM: “To crank out my favourite quote (by the English playwright Joe Orton): scratch a liberal and find a fascist bleeding.”

What happened to Kingfisher?

“Reading some of the reactions to Pibroch’s extraordinarily reasonable and well argued posts, I’m reminded of a comment from one of my favourite playwrights, Joe Orton: “Scratch a liberal and find a fascist bleeding.” It is the same mentality that is appalled (rightfully) by the extraordinary bias and absence of pluralism in the pro-Fidesz media but professes to admire programmes like ATV’s Újságíróklub.”

Kingfisher, November 25, 2012 #1
http://hungarianspectrum.org/2012/11/24/orbans-election-campaign-has-already-begun/

Kindred souls.

Kormos
Guest

Is Ms. Scheppele “one of the most prominent experts on Hungarian constitutional law “?
How many constitutional lawyers would believe this in Hungary? Szigetvari reported having supper with her recently and she is not affiliated with leading members of former Aproistan?
Come on people, get real!

spectator
Guest

In my opinion Szigetvári’s case is one of the not quite unusual pitfalls of people (wannabe politicians?) with rather over-developed self-esteem (better than thou…) – if I put it mildly.

I still remember his efforts to dwarf the DK at times of the renegotiation, voicing Juhász’s criticism against Gyurcsány and so on, stressing, just how big favour they really doing by letting them get some electoral districts.
As I see it not only sexism, but even territorial instinct plays quite a role. I think he trying to keep away people with more distinct character from the ‘limelight’ so to speak, in order to ensure, that their mild and compromising line remains in the centre-stage, so he attacks people with clearly defined and expressed principles before their people may get tempted to go over.
Not to forget, this is his chance to finally build his own image after a decade behind others, so he uses everything in his power to do so.

Istvan
Guest

Professor Scheppele last week gave a very good interview on her overall perspectives on the Orban/Fidesz changes to Hungarian society that go well beyond constitutional law. You can hear it at http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/lawreport/5313292

Jano
Guest

Even though I perfectly agree that Szigetvári shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near any campaign based on his past and current performance, I don’t agree with your anger here. I went through all the tweets and he found that particular article better wanted to call attention to that too, that doesn’t amount to trashing Ms Scheppele’s. Ms Scheppele is not an opposition ground trooper as you refer to her as a ‘supporter’, but an independent constitutional legal scholar specializing in Hungary. That’s what makes her credible to e.g. me.

Unfortunately, virtually nobody cares about this other than you, Szigetvári and Ms Scheppele and a handful of people, I think you gave Heti Válasz the opportunity for some schadenfreude by engaging in this rather pointless debate (why didn’t you write Szigetvári an email instead?) for no good reason.

spectator
Guest
Kormos : Is Ms. Scheppele “one of the most prominent experts on Hungarian constitutional law “? How many constitutional lawyers would believe this in Hungary? Szigetvari reported having supper with her recently and she is not affiliated with leading members of former Aproistan? Come on people, get real! So, in your opinion being a “prominent expert” on something or other is only the question of if you- or whoever believe it or not? Well, I tried to take your advice about getting real, but beliefs and reality doesn’t mix, sorry! Recently I have had a dinner with one of the leading member of the Hungarian Academy of Science and I still do not affiliated with the Academy..! Would it come later on, or must the esteemed Szigetváry be present as well, in order to be able to ‘report’ about the event, otherwise the “affiliation” doesn’t count? Now I try to remember, who more I have had dinner with, – one never really knows, how many different affiliations may have been ‘reported’ after dinner over there… Not to mention the imminent danger not being real! So, watch out, people, whom you dare dine with, particularly if you happens to be a… Read more »
speki
Guest

On the historical day when Crimea referendum makes it clear that high tensions remain, why should we concern ourselves trying to defend a disgraced American scholar Kim Scheppele?

One whoose work is deemed inaccurate by EVEN one of the leaders of the opposition Viktor Szigetvári.

Viktor Szigetvári is a highly placed leader in the opposition a leader of Együtt, the future of Hungarian left wing politics and he is also an expert on Hungarian election laws. If he says Kim Scheppele writes inaccurate and self-weakening arguments then you can bet the farm that he is right!

He has no reason to lie whatsoever so the explanation is much more simple. What Szigetvári wrote is the truth.

Member

A TALE OF TWO VIKTORS

Kim Lane Scheppele :
I’m grateful to Viktor Szigetvári for proving once and for all that I am have no affiliation with the political opposition. And to Éva for her continued faith in my work.

It is not just Professor Balogh who respects and values Professor Scheppele’s scholarly and analystical work, it is all decent, thinking people in Hungary and worldwide who have any knowledge of the shameful goings-on in Hungary today, unchecked.

It is History that will be Professor Scheppele’s judge and expert witness.

It is the Hungarian populace who will declare (belatedly) its eternal indebtedness for her penetrating legal and analytical skills, eloquence, scrutiny and critical acumen, exercised tirelessly (and thanklessly) on their behalf.

And it is Rui Tavares, and Kim Lane Scheppele — and, indeed, Eva Balogh — who will be remembered for their selfless contributions to the rehabilitation of Hungary in its time of need, long after Viktor Orban is behind bars or in exile with his plunder and Viktor Szigetvari has morphed into the private sector as one of the partners in an obscure media image consulting firm.

Member

speki :
On the historical day when Crimea referendum makes it clear that high tensions remain, why should we concern ourselves trying to defend a disgraced American scholar Kim Scheppele?
One whoose work is deemed inaccurate by EVEN one of the leaders of the opposition Viktor Szigetvári.
Viktor Szigetvári is a highly placed leader in the opposition a leader of Együtt, the future of Hungarian left wing politics and he is also an expert on Hungarian election laws. If he says Kim Scheppele writes inaccurate and self-weakening arguments then you can bet the farm that he is right!
He has no reason to lie whatsoever so the explanation is much more simple. What Szigetvári wrote is the truth.

@speki You are kidding. Right?

Steve
Guest

“It is History that will be Professor Scheppele’s judge and expert witness.
And it is Rui Tavares, and Kim Lane Scheppele — and, indeed, Eva Balogh — who will be remembered for their selfless contributions to the rehabilitation of Hungary in its time of need”

You went in too deep there, brown nosing taken to a whole another level.

You can rarely see someone so desperate to suck up in a big public way. It seems the need to do this is really strong.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/suck-up

tappanch
Guest

“How wars can be started by history textbooks” By Gideon Rachman, ft.com, 03-17

“Ironically, Mr Putin’s Russia enjoys warm relations with Hungary – the one government in the former Soviet bloc that could justly be accused of adopting a dangerously equivocal attitude to the history of the far right. “

Member

FIDEZ-TROLL-FAQ #2: DUCK AWKWARD FACTS BY IMPUTING PERSONAL MOTIVES

A Fidesz-Troll posting under the false-name “Steve” wrote:
”You can rarely see someone so desperate to suck up in a big public way.

When nothing substantive can be said in defense of Orban’s plunder or Szigetvari’s (helpful) blunder, try to insinuate that critics must have some ulterior motive. The notion of truth and justice has been so long discarded by the Fidesz faithful that they may well have concluded that there is no such thing and never has been, and that all others are just unprincipled opportunists like themselves.

This Fidesz M.O. was already in full flower in 2011: Quod Erat ad Demonstrandum (QED)

petofi
Guest

Kormos, HiBoM, Speki, Steve–an infestation of mental midgets. What gives? What have you done, Eva, to deserve this?

nomen
Guest

Kormos :
Is Ms. Scheppele “one of the most prominent experts on Hungarian constitutional law “?
How many constitutional lawyers would believe this in Hungary? Szigetvari reported having supper with her recently and she is not affiliated with leading members of former Aproistan?
Come on people, get real!

Kormos, do you know anything about Hungarian constitutional law? Like anything? Kim Scheppele may not be popular in Hungary, given that the legal arena was also taken over by right wingers, but she is certainly the best foreign expert. There is nobody in the EU or in the US who would know more about the topic and, crucially, who would also understand the reality (as opposed to the black letter law) better. There can be no debate about that.

peterfi
Guest

Együtt is Szigetvari’s creation. There would not be any Együtt without him. Szigetvari essentially recruited Bajnai for his idea. There was even a reference to that in Péter Tölgyessy’s long serialized article in origo.hu. Bajnai did not want to return but was persuaded by Szigetvari. Without Szigetvari (although probably without Bajnai either) there is no Együtt. Együtt has always been a Bajnai-vehicle set up for this election, it has no national network, or brand, anything really on which the party’s future can be built. Szigetvari and couple of people whom he needed for his vehicle will have good-paying, not too demanding jobs in the Parliament in the next four years, but that is it, the party will have no separate voice and nobody would be interested in it anyway, that is clear by now.

petofi
Guest

Bajnai probably got sold a bill of goods by Szigetvari. Mr. SZ. is slated to be an Orban flunky, if he isn’t one already.

petofi
Guest

re Szigetvari…

Hungarian politics is about creating your ‘brand’. Once you have something that can be thought of value–usually to the opposition–your future is ensured. Then you sell out a la Schroder and enjoy your millions. Once in a while you’ll be called up for a ‘biggie’–like Schroder saying that Putin is a ‘great democrat’. What Hungarian politician wouldn’t salivate at the role of a Schroder?

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