At the moment I wouldn’t like to be in Viktor Orbán’s shoes. Let’s summarize briefly the troubles he has encountered in the last couple of weeks. First there was the less than successful visit of Angela Merkel, followed by his widely criticized meeting with Vladimir Putin in Budapest. His trip to Warsaw was a disaster. And then came yesterday’s stunning defeat in the Veszprém by-election, which caused such panic that today he called together the Fidesz presidium for an emergency meeting. In addition, nowadays criticism doesn’t come exclusively from the liberal papers. Magyar Nemzet has more or less found its voice as a conservative paper critical of the politics of the Orbán government. Even former colleagues, for example, Foreign Minister János Martonyi, voiced his disapproval of Orbán’s pro-Russian foreign policy.
On top of everything else, one of his greatest defenders, a so-called political scientist who describes himself as “a political thinker,” gave a long interview to Magyar Narancs in which he revealed details of the political strategies of the Orbán regime. These revelations were shocking, especially to right-wing followers of Viktor Orbán who thought that the prime minister’s program was a collection of high-minded ideas, noble goals for the good of the country. Well, Gábor G. Fodor, the political scientist in question, disabused them of this lofty view.
What offended the faithful to such an extent? G. Fodor in an interview described Viktor Orbán’s political career as nothing more than a series of manipulative moves devised to improve his standing in the polls. No grand ideas, only mendacious slogans that his stupid followers believe. His advisers look down on these people who can so easily be manipulated. Even his more sophisticated followers believe that Viktor Orbán’s concept of “polgári Magyarország” (a democratic Hungary based on middle-class values) was something the prime minister was truly aspiring to. Here is what G. Fodor says: “There are many among the right-wing intelligentsia who have the mistaken notion that the concept of ‘polgári Magyarország’ was a political reality, but it was no more than a political product. These people still think that Hungary between 1998 and 2002 was really ‘polgári.’ That is a huge mistake. This is at the bottom of their current aversion to the present regime.” Well, if G. Fodor is correct, Tibor Navracsics is among these duped right-wing Fidesz leaders because just yesterday he defined himself as someone who, I guess in opposition to current Orbán politics, believes in the “polgári Magyarország” that existed during the first Orbán administration. And if this is the case, as I believe it is, let’s hope that it will not be the “moderate” Tibor Navracsics who will save Hungary from Viktor Orbán. After all, Navracsics seems to believe in something that never really existed.
Anyone who thinks that G. Fodor is not a faithful follower of Viktor Orbán is mistaken. He is one of the most loyal defenders of the Orbán regime. According to him, everybody who devotes himself to political analysis is “really a soldier” who “defends the truth of the government.” Later in the interview he spoke of Viktor Orbán as a political genius who needs no advisers.
All this reminded Hungarian commentators of Niccolò Machiavelli, who indeed was a very important political thinker, the father of modern political science. But his best-known work, The Prince, became notorious over the centuries. “Old Nick” for the Devil or Satan is no coincidence. Neither is the adjective Machiavellian, meaning cunning, amoral, opportunist, something or someone characterized by expediency and deceit. Here are a few fairly typical sentences from The Prince:
… those princes who have done great things have held good faith of little account, and have known how to circumvent the intellect of men by craft, and in the end have overcome those who have relied on their words.
[A prince must be] a great pretender and dissembler; and men are so simple, and so subject to present necessities, that he who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.
G. Fodor, who seems to be an excellent student of Machiavelli, I’m sure finds all these qualities in his idol, Viktor Orbán. And they are, to his mind, admirable qualities. But members of the right-wing intelligentsia were appalled by G. Fodor’s political analysis. As an unnamed Fidesz politician told Népszabadság, if G. Fodor were a member of the government, this interview would be as devastating for Viktor Orbán as the Balatonőszöd speech was for Ferenc Gyurcsány. G. Fodor’s description of Orbán’s political methods further undermines the prime minister’s credibility. Barna Borbás of Válasz was obviously shaken and came to the conclusion that “we have to figure out what we have exactly. What is still reality and what it is that we have to let go because it seems that the System of National Marketing is truly no more than a product.” Note that he used the word “marketing” instead of “cooperation.”
Magyar Nemzet’s Zsombor György was equally shocked. He called the interview “an atomic bomb” because, if G. Fodor’s allegations are correct, then “the trust in the ‘polgári-keresztény’ governance is shaken to its very foundation.” All those values–like God, nation, family, Transylvania–were just packaged goods to be sold to the naive folks. György is upset by the Machiavellian notion that a leader’s primary duty is to make people do what he wants. “We must protest. This is not the mission of political leaders in a democracy.” Suddenly, Magyar Nemzet discovered that in a democracy “there must be transparency, information, dialogue and compromise.” György and his political allies want to believe that “GFG presents only his version of governance and that the greater part of the political leadership believes in polgári Magyarország.” Yet it seems that György is not convinced that G. Fodor is not telling the truth. “After all, Gábor G. Fodor is the strategic director of the political think tank that assists the government’s work. But reading this interview we can state: God save us from anyone listening to him. What he is talking about is a different world and another value system.” Is it?
I am shocked that these people seem to be truly shocked. It looks as if they honestly believed all the political marketing that was put in front of them when actually it was “Old Nick” who was guiding the hands of their great leader all along.