Gábor Demszky on the illegitimacy of the Orbán regime and on civil disobedience

With municipal elections to be held this Sunday, I decided to devote a post to the political reactivation of Gábor Demszky, lord mayor of Budapest between 1990 and 2010.

After Demszky’s fifth term ended, he not only left political life, he left the country. Prominent members of former administrations learned soon after the 2010 election that avenues for gainful employment in the public sector were blocked. Demszky therefore applied for grants and scholarships abroad and spent three and a half years in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States. Once he returned, he decided to share his opinions on the present state of politics in the country and in the city.

In early August, when Lajos Bokros was just one of the many candidates for the mayoralty of Budapest, Demszky announced that he would support him since he considered Bokros the best person for the job. Then in Élet és Irodalom he gave a long interview to Eszter Rádai just a couple of days before the democratic parties decided on Bokros as their candidate instead of their original choice, Ferenc Falus. Here he not only talked about why he considers Bokros to be the best man for the job, he also elaborated on the political importance of the mayor of the capital city in the regime change that will eventually take place. In addition, he talked about his conviction that the present regime can be removed only through civil disobedience. Finally, he did not hide his contempt for most of the opposition parties.

So, where should we start? In Demszky’s opinion, the candidate for the job of lord mayor of Budapest must not promise much to the electorate because under the circumstances the city is entirely at the mercy of the central government. The situation was also bad during the first Orbán government between 1998 and 2002, but then at least the city still had some assets. By now, the city has been stripped of all its former wealth as well as its autonomy. What we have now, instead of self-government, is “a modernized form of the council system” that existed in the Kádár regime.

Yet the role of the mayor of Budapest is an important one because the post can be used as a bully pulpit, which gives the mayor an opportunity to represent the opposition toward the central government. He will have to act as a kind of ombudsman who stands up for the interests not only of the inhabitants of Budapest but of all citizens. The mayor of Budapest can have a powerful voice, which gives the man who holds the position political leverage. If the next mayor is a spokesman for the opposition, he might be able to challenge Viktor Orbán for the premiership four years later. And it is only Lajos Bokros who would be able to do that. After all, he once saved the country from bankruptcy. He is an internationally known economist who is strong enough to take up the fight against the mafia state.

Lajos Bokros and Gáboe Demszky at the book launch of Hungarian Octopus, vol. 2

Lajos Bokros and Gábor Demszky at the book launch of Hungarian Octopus, vol. 2

At this point Eszter Rádai reminded Demszky that Viktor Orbán in this case would make a second Esztergom out of Budapest. Esztergom is the place where an independent mayor was chosen instead of the Fidesz candidate for mayor in 2010. The city was punished for it. Not a penny came from the central government to rescue the city that had become hopelessly indebted under Fidesz management in the previous years. Demszky’s answer was that Viktor Orbán did the same thing with Budapest between 1998 and 2002 and yet it was Budapest that won the election for the opposition in 2002. Demszky is not exaggerating. I remember vividly that Fidesz was leading all through the early hours when the votes were pouring in from outside of Budapest but then the late Budapest results started coming in and suddenly everything changed. Fidesz lost the election. Viktor Orbán certainly did not forget the disloyalty of the city.

The conversation moved on to the opposition. In Demszky’s opinion, “the opposition is an integral part of this regime” and all of its sins because it has not stood behind its twenty years of democratic achievements. Since it is not ready to take responsibility for its past, it does not have a future either. It accepts the Fidesz narrative of the “muddled twenty years of transition,” the way Viktor Orbán likes to describe the period between 1990 and 2010. This is the greatest sin a political opposition can commit in confronting a dictatorship. Giving up the praise of democracy and freedom. It denies its most important tradition, liberalism. In fact, the leaders of the opposition want to free themselves of the liberals. The opposition parties “only act as if they are the representatives of the democratic opposition while they have nothing to do with either democracy or opposition.”

Out of the five opposition parties Demszky considers three to be Fidesz appendices: Jobbik, MSZP, and LMP. I guess the relationship of Jobbik and LMP to the governing party does not need further elaboration, but I think MSZP’s inclusion in this category does. In Demszky’s opinion MSZP is not really a party of the left. It never was. The MSZP leaders united only to grab power, but once they lost it they became helpless. That leaves only two parties, Demokratikus Koalíció and Együtt-PM, that Demszky considers bona fide opposition parties. Együtt-PM is so small and weak that it cannot be taken seriously while DK will be, in his opinion, unsuccessful in the long run because it is led by Ferenc Gyurcsány, who is the most divisive politician of the opposition. Gyurcsány is correct when he emphasizes the necessity of a unified opposition party, but one needs more than that.

Those who believe that the Orbán government and its mafia state can be removed by ordinary parliamentary elections are wrong. Naturally, Demszky does not advocate the violent overthrow of the government, but he recommends civil disobedience. One should study Mahatma Gandhi as the Polish opposition did in the 1980s. One must realize that Orbán’s regime ruined the constitutional order, took away political and individual rights, and ruined democratic institutions. The present political system has thus been rendered illegitimate. One needs more than a change of government; just as after Kádár, Hungary needs a regime change.

Demszky admits that at present very few people are ready to stand against the regime openly, but he is convinced that the situation will get to the point that people in large numbers will be ready to resort to civil disobedience. Poverty will only grow and, although at present there are no political prisoners, there will be. Dissatisfaction with the regime will grow. Demszky excludes the possibility of Fidesz’s tight ranks breaking up under the weight of outside pressure: “what holds these people together is power and fear because they know that they could lose everything. They put all their money on one card.”

I think most of us can agree with Gábor Demszky–and Bálint Magyar–that the opposition must concentrate on regime change because by now Viktor Orbán’s system has solidified into a full-fledged regime that Magyar calls a post-communist mafia state. Many of Hungarian Spectrum‘s readers, to judge from the comments, have a very low opinion of MSZP and few believe in its survival. However, when it comes to Lajos Bokros’s role in the regime change, few would bet on him as a contender to replace Viktor Orbán as prime minister of Hungary. Not because he would not be an outstanding prime minister but because a political career cannot be built without a viable political party and Bokros at least at this moment does not have such a party behind him.

But when it comes to Demszky’s main thesis about the illegitimacy of this government and Orbán’s state he is certainly right. The opposition forces should pay serious attention to this fact. As long as they collaborate with the government and with Fidesz in parliament they only help to ensure the survival of the regime.

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petofi
Guest

Let’s face a sad fact: there is now a criminal organization in power.
What differentiates a criminal (political) opponent from a political opponent is the lengths the criminal will go to to win. Moreover, the government will use every power at its command to defeat opponents. There is just no competing with that.

So give up defeating the government by political means–there is no such animal.

Willy-nilly, the country faces a doomsday scenario; and as I’ve said so several times, I’m not
sure that that isn’t where Orban has consistently directed the ship of state.

Again, the question is, why?

sena
Guest
For the opposition it is often better if Fidesz wins as if a rival opposition party wins a certain post. Let’s take the case of Lajos Bokros, or Zoltan Bodnar. Candidates for tiny parties who never had any chance to win when they started running. Their only goal was to split the opposition vote. Bokros in the April election decided not to run, not to split the opposition and hurt the opposition. Now he changed his mind, now he wanted to hurt the opposition and he did. Bokros from the start stated he will not withdraw under any circumstances. Someone who is interested in the opposition’s victory in general, will certainly at least consider withdrawing. The same is true for Zoltan Bodnar he too is interested only in dividing the opposition and sabotaging it. Now Bokros who first divided the opposition, then forced Falus to withdraw by saying he will “never”. Even though Falus was much more popular as Median poll showed. So for these people it is better if Fidesz wins than if another opposition candidate wins like Ferenc Falus. If they wanted Falus to win not only must they withdraw (which they said they never will) they must… Read more »
KTP
Guest

“Demszky therefore applied for grants and scholarships abroad and spent three and a half years in Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States. ”

We can be sure that Demszky will be scrutinized and will be made to answer exactly what “grants” he recieved and for how much. And for what reason and in exchange for what services he received all that money. Especially since he was acting like a political hitman against Viktor Szigetvari and Attila Mesterhazy in this same speech. For some reason Demszky’s attack against them was left out from the blog post.

It certainly raises questions, why Demszky is trying so hard to characther assassinate Viktor Szigetvari, and Attila Mesterhazy. The greatest rivals of Gyurcsany.

petofi
Guest

I don’t know who this Zena cat is, but his offering is so much more ‘litter’ in this blog.
“Bokros is working AGAINST the opposition”?!! Really…
It seems that the KGB-like moles can’t get to work soon enough to undermine a respectable,
possibly successful, opponent. This nonsense of Zena’s is a prime example.

Bokros is the right candidate. He had the balls to put out a program–the so-called ‘Bokros Csomag’–which was political poison yet it was what the country needed. Of course, the mentally-challenged electorate could easily be duped into believing that it was poisonous. Once ‘imprinted’, one can always resurrect the same thoughts/feelings in the hapless masses.
Bokros belongs to that ever so rare phenomen in Hungary–like Angyan, Bogdan, Bekesi–who’s belief in the Right, and the morally correct, is the foundation of their being. They are not to be defeated. These are the examples Hungarians must learn to follow.

Sadly, though, put a little ‘cheese’ in front of a Hungarian–such as the ‘rezi csokentes’–and they
will easily be led to the precipice…

petofi
Guest

Oh-oh. The animals have been let loose.

Now this “KTP” pops up hurling accusations and suggestions that Dempszky, by way of foreign grants, is out to ‘assassinate’ Szigetvari and Mesterhazy. (Yeah, nice work if you can get it.)

Fact is, it took no great imagination to dope out that Mesterhazy’s weird working with the opposition was rather signs of something sinister. Szigetvari–let’s not forget his ridiculous
attempt to undermine Professor Scheppesi–is of the same cloth. I think Bajnai is still busy
trying to extract knives from his back.

Anyway, ‘sowing confusion–lesson 39’, gratis, from the mind-benders in Moscow…

Istvan
Guest
Petofi you are labeling a significant number of posters on this blog, as KGB agents and trolls, including myself. It’s neither healthy nore of much use. Far better to deal is the issues of those you suspect being Putin agents and avoid the characterizations, Eva can police this blog. To the issue of civil disobedience as part of let us call it a moral revolt against Orban’s rule. If Demszky is talking about some type of Orange Revolution in Hungary because Fidesz has the decks stacked against Orban being voted out of office, then it will inevitably turn bloody because the Jobbik and Fidesz supporters will attack any mass demonstrations or civil disobedience actions that get far enough to desabilize the regime. Moreover if the EU/NATO sided with the non-violent demonstrators and supports them Orban would call on brother Putin and his own security apparatus to stop the destruction of the theoretically democratically elected government of Hungary. Then we are in one hell of a mess bordering on civil war in Hungary, the thought of which frankly scares the hell out of me after what has happened in Ukraine. I do not see the pot simmering enough right now to… Read more »
rn2000
Guest

Istvan wrote: I do not see the pot simmering …?

From another admirer of this blog: When will the pot overflow?

Post 1989, the moment the reactonary Hungarians embraced the loose elements of the Kadarist society, Hungary was doomed.

Like the Horthy regime, the FIDESZ/Jobbik/MSZP… cliques have failed Hungary.

The violent overthrow is in the making, and nothing positive, but more violence will be the case.

Hungary is a brewing Syrian civil war in the making.

A minority group hijacked the power, and rules against the nation.

This blog is bringing clarity to the matter, just a little too cautious to call a spade a spade.

wong
Guest

KTP, you’re being a bit aggressive in a somewhat sinister way, “will be made to answer”. Demszky is an independent public intellectual at the moment, he will not be “made to answer” other than by journalists who interview him. He can say whatever he wants, you either believe him or not. Or he could be taken into custody like in the old days… Demszky was critical of Gyurcsany, your implication that he “character assassinates” Szigetvari and Mesterhazy in order to assist Gyurcsany is ridiculous. Like there’s no room for criticism and Demszky cannot say his theories about politics and it will be his theories which will kill off the political futures of Szigetvari and Mestrehazy. Right. Given that you were aggressively defending the government yesterday it’s surprising that now you ares similarly aggressively defend the reputations of Szigetvari and Mesterhazy, but since many in the opposition suspect that they were/are fidesznik moles, I guess there is a bit of a logic to it.

nemdebar
Guest

At Soroksár district of Budapest with some 22,000 residents and one of the few potentially contested districts, at least a 1,000 Romanians (all registered as full time residents in a 40 bed dormitory, and probably ethnic Hungarians) will vote for the mayoral position. And this location is only one of the many potential such places all over Hungary…

Way to go szocis, way to go…

http://444.hu/2014/10/09/ezer-ember-allando-lakcime-lett-egy-negyvenagyas-soroksari-panzio/

nemdebar
Guest

The successor of Tarlós will be Máté Kocsis and until that time Kocsis will be Tarlós’ deputy.

The future generation of Fidesz is right in front of us.

While the left is represented by Tibor Szanyi, Demszky, Bokros, Jobbik and Fidesz are grooming the future generations.

tappanch
Guest

Finnish writer Hannu Launonen refused the 50,000 euro prize from the Orban government.

“Grund ist Medienpolitik der ungarischen Regierung”

http://www.deutschlandradiokultur.de/ungarischer-lyrik-preis-finnisches-pen-mitglied-launonen.265.de.html?drn:news_id=408417

D7 Democrat
Guest

“Hungary is a brewing Syrian civil war in the making.”

No, it isn’t. Apathetic fear reigns supreme amongst 60% plus of the population.
The Fidesz/Jobbik fascist axis remains pretty secure at the moment
We are miles off a tipping point

toportyan
Guest

rn2000, this is BS. I might even say provocation, so that Fidesz or its security services could refer to HS as a forum where people “are planning and promoting a violent overthrow”. Nobody is about to rise up, not even in 1989 was there any violence in Hungary. Only the Jobbik/Fidesz/FTC fan/Gój motorosok/CÖF power conglomerate is capable of violence as they have proved it already. Most people are apathetic, almost catatonic, checked out from politics or from Hungary. For most people it’s not worth to do anything politically, let alone actively revolt because they feel that the system is too strong, any resistance is hopeless, there is nobody to turn to, there is no protection available. Revolutions can come only when the system is already in a weakened state (only the system hasn’t realized it), and this present Orban/Jobbik/LMP/MSZP system is still in growth phase, sucking in supporters and collaborators like a vacuum cleaner.

KELL
Guest

OT: Orban met with Berlsuconi. I wonder if they talked about their mutual best friend Vladimir.

Member

“Out of the five demokratic parties …… Jobbik, MSZP ….”

I’d rather not count Jobbik as a democratic party. Demszky is a solid and valuable liberal thinker. I share his opinion that FIDESZ can’t be removed by democratic means. But still a lot of hungarian thinkers believe that this can be done. Yesterday I heard Gabor Horn on ATV arguing for this idea. I respect him for his knowledge and liberal-democratic standings but I think he is a bit too optimistic on this case. So we can clearly see the division within the democratic camp.

KTP
Guest

Whoever believes that Lajos Bokros ever wanted to seriously win is deluding himself. Ferenc Falus was supported by 4 parties, DK, MSZP, Egyutt and PM.

Now Bokros is content without the support of both MSZP and PM. Bokros is doing so well without MSZP that he said “If MSZP wanted to give money to my campaign I would never accept it”. He simply does not care and disrespects PM.

Demszky is the same thing. He is pretending to work for the opposition but he attacks the opposition at the same time. The common factor in all of them is Gyurcsany. Gyurcsany who is a billionare and could easily give 100m forints to Demszky. “here you go just say you got it from grants, we have a deal right?”

Who benefits if MSZP is weakened, by both Bokros and Demszky? Who benefits if Egyutt is weakened? If Mesterhazy is attacked, if Szigetvari is attacked, who benefits?

Gyurcsany.

I also heard a rumour that Bokros will join DK as vice chairman. It would make sense. He is already doing everything to benefit Gyurcsany.

Mike
Guest

I think that both Demszky and Bokros are delusional and blithely cavorting in some dreamland. Orbán and the post-communist Hungarian maffia state are mere symptoms of a much deeper malady, rooted in the contents of the grey matter between the ears of the average Hungarian. The mentality of the average Hungarian involves a peculiar mix of the worst of the Balkans and of Eastern Europe. For the average Hungarian “liberalism” means Jew-lover and “communist” the beneficiary of Jewish power. A thin layer of leftist Budapest intellectuals and journalists notwithstanding, the Hungarian electorate cannot possibly imagine or desire any alternatives to nationalism or socialism – basically an irredentist national socialism is its ideal – is deeply, deeply antisemitic and xenophobic, and quite unsurprisingly, has today ireturned to its political comfort zone of the 1920s and 1930s. There is little that can be done to lift up to even minimal European standards its peasants, gypsies and lumpenproletariat. A hopeless mob, truly a Lower Slobbovia, á la the old Li’l Abner cartoons.

Mike
Guest

And may hasten to add that the prevailing situation is not at all the fault of the Hungarian peasantry, gypsies or lumpen-proletariat that make up the overwhelming majority of the population. Neither is it the fault of the excruciatingly thin layer of what in Hungary goes for the middle class. No, the fault lies squarely with the Christian intellectuals and the so-called educated class in Hungary, because they are the ones who “invented” Hungary in the 19th century, and filled the grey matter between the ears of the average Hungarian with loads of crap ever since. The results are a horror to behold.

googly
Guest
KTP, I sincerely doubt Bokros will join DK, except in some sort of partnership. He is not left-wing, he is centre-right. The “Hungarian Left” would benefit from MSZP being weakened, since MSZP need to hit bottom before they will truly start to reform themselves. The fact that they don’t realize how much of an impediment they have become to the opposition (and, therefore, a support to Fidesz) shows how unable they are to reform. They will keep their core supporters for another decade or so (until they die off) and then wither into nothing, unless they change. The only thing they are good for are keeping those supporters from giving up on voting or going over to Jobbik or Fidesz. Once MSZP start to reform, maybe the Left can start preparing to mount an actual campaign to unseat Fidesz, after people start to realize the huge mistake they made in giving Fidesz a 2/3 majority. I disagree with everyone who says Fidesz is not susceptible to electoral defeat. Yes, in the short term it is highly unlikely, but history is littered with once-invincible mafia-parties which lost their monopolies in elections that were rigged in their favor. People eventually get fed… Read more »
Robert Fairhurst
Guest

I have never before heard of a link between LMP and Fidesz. I would be interested to hear more details on this especially as I was considering voting for LMP as a ‘green’ party.

Deely
Guest

KTP is a real fidesznik. I explain.

Fidesz wants to have Együtt and MSZP as its preferred political adversaries. Együtt is a non-existent party, with no network, no visible politicians and is openly out to reach a “grand compromise” with the right wing. MSZP politicians as we have seen would sell their on mother for a 200 bucks a month, they are weak, clueless and open to the most petty corruption. if you add LMP to the mix, who are a similarly clueless, irrelevant party it’s obvious why would fideszniks prefer these parties to the point of defending them.

The only party they fear is DK. It is DK, just like it was SZDSZ which understands Fidesz as it is, a mafia party with which no compromise can be made. DK is thus must be fought. Not that it would have a great chance with Gyurcsany, but nevertheless, Fidesz instinctively feels it could be a danger in a way Együtt or MSZP could never be.

Guest

The North Korean State news in M1/M2 TV prove that Orbán is still afraid of Gyurcsany – his name is mentioned so often when politics come up, it’s really crazy!

If the news weren’t so horrible to watch (my wife says once a week is enough for her!) I’d have started counting.

This peculiar behaviour of the news writers should have been realised by others too – isn’t there any comment on it in Hungarian media/blogs?

PS:

KTP really is an obnoxious Fidesz troll – everybody should ignore him!

It’s also interesting how commenters like him appear here and quickly disappear again – without giving any info on themselves.

Doma
Guest
I never vote for Gyurcsany or DK because I am not racist. It was Gyurcsany who supported the anti-Roma racist, Albert Pasztor for mayor of Miskolc. It was DK activists who assaulted NGO workers who were simply protesting against the racism of DK – Pasztor. Answering with your fists for someone’s opinion, that is completely unacceptable to me and I will never vote for DK for this reason. For me the party that is just in Hungary is LMP, Gyurcsany or DK – never. Egyutt is also good and stands against racism, but LMP is best in that regard. Just yesterday an racist ATV announcer attacked an LMP politician because she was Roma (I think the ATV person is affiliated to DK but maybe that was another ATV person). I am speaking about Agnes Osztolykan who was subjected to this abuse on ATV. She was asked what she thinks of an alleged attempted lynching committed by Roma a few days before in Hungary. She was asked this because she is Roma. Osztolykan is not an expert on mob behavior the only connection of her to this case is that she is Roma. LMP is not perfect but it is still… Read more »
Jano
Guest

Doma: Well, we agree on at least one thing, Bánó was atrocious. Not just racist in my opinion but almost in Tarlósian heights of his condescence towards his female interviewee.

Ron
Guest

Coming back to Demszky Gabor. It seems he is back. I am happy for this. I like him. Although I believe he made some mistakes in his last four years of being a Mayor of Budapest, in my opinion listening to the wrong people.

For a long time this is the first time for an analysis of a way out of the current situation. We need more. Much more analysis.

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