At the moment a fairly sizable crowd of students is marching from the ministry of human resources to the new university for civil servants, policemen, and officers nicknamed “the school for janissaries.” The students were not impressed by the government’s gesture to allow them to major in subjects the authorities find irrelevant to the national economy. They want freedom not just within the walls of the university but in the whole country. I don’t think it will be long before others join them. The Orbán regime is in trouble. When a conservative university professor, a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, openly suggests that Viktor Orbán retire, the Fidesz edifice begins to look increasingly precarious.
I’m talking about Frigyes Solymosi. He has been critical of government policies for almost a decade, but his criticism was always packaged in such polite language that I found his opinion pieces on the boring side. Even now, Solymosi suggests only a temporary retirement, which might help restore “our international credibility.” Then, after a few years of rest, Orbán could again return to politics “with renewed energy either as the successor to the president or as the candidate of your party for the premiership.” The comments are less kind. “Nice, nice that you urge Viktor to take a short retirement, but please, don’t delude him. He must leave for good while he can.”
I heard an interview with Solymosi this morning, and I suspect that deep down even he doesn’t believe that his suggestion of a temporary retirement is realistic. He admitted that Viktor Orbán is not a man who is ready to change his ways, and therefore a “second coming” wouldn’t make the slightest difference.
Solymossy at least has been critical of Orbán and his political system for years while others on the right have remained quiet. But something has happened of late to induce them to speak out. A number of right-wing journalists at Magyar Nemzet, Heti Válasz, and Mandiner have recently written critical articles. Starting with the last, I would like to call attention to a piece by Gellért Rajcsányi that was translated into English by Christopher Adam, editor-in-chief of Hungarian Free Press. Rajcsányi claims that “Fidesz has lost its political buoyancy.” He suggests that it can recover but only if it can change and be reborn. And, he cautiously adds at the end, “it’s quite the challenge to be born again from this state or to hit the re-start button … if Fidesz is at all capable of this.”
Another right-wing journalist, András Stumpf, formerly of Heti Válasz, now with Mandiner, wrote an opinion piece in Magyar Nemzet two days ago, which is just one of the many devastating critiques of Viktor Orbán coming from the right. Zsolt Bayer, whose unspeakable racist prose I’ve called attention to many times, wrote an article in which he bitterly complained that in the last few years “Fidesz has lost its soul.” Stumpf is convinced that the problem is not only with the party’s “soul,” which is why he titled his own piece: “Soul? Come on!” And then he catalogues the sins of Fidesz rule in the last five years.
A party whose original mission was the creation of a country made up of a comfortably well-off citizenry cannot possibly turn away from the West, where the very idea of the bourgeoisie was born. But Viktor Orbán did exactly that and created a system in which it is not merit that counts but loyalty. Behind government decisions one always finds selfish political goals. The word “nemzeti” (national) became an empty phrase where even tobacco shops offered to party loyalists are called “nemzeti dohányboltok.” And Orbán created a country that allowed a murderer to return to Azerbaijan, where he was hailed as a national hero. Where was the soul then?
It is incredible to hear from a journalist who worked for years at Heti Válasz that “a new media empire is in the making, except now the dough will end up in different pockets.” He doesn’t even spare Fidesz when it comes to its relation to Jobbik. Orbán cannot attack Gábor Vona for his pro-Russian sentiments; after all, he himself is a great admirer of Vladimir Putin. The only weapon that remains in his hands is labelling the party neo-Nazi. No wonder that Vona makes every effort to rub the SS tattoo off. Once this is done, Vona “will stand there in a snow-white shirt not soiled yet by the dirt of prior governance and he will say more or less the same thing that [Orbán] does. And he doesn’t have a beer belly.” Quite an indictment.
What surprised me even more was an op-ed piece in today’s Magyar Nemzet written by Gy. László Tóth, who in the past was a loyal Fidesz “political scientist.” Years ago, by mistake, I picked up a book of his essays that I simply couldn’t get through. And now what do I read? He talks about the “ruthless fight for Orbán’s trust and for getting into the charmed circle around him from where it is possible to step into his shoes.” He tells about the “servility” of these people, about “the low level of intellectual capacity” in the leadership, about “the total lack of morality,” about “arrogant, cynical communication often accompanied by lack of manners” which “is rejected by the whole right.”
These criticisms are not voiced by some hopeless liberals but by people who have been enthusiastic supporters of Viktor Orbán and his party. So, there is a growing number of former Fidesz supporters who have had enough of Orbán’s vision of Hungary. They see the same corruption, greed, immorality, and cynicism as the other side does. What these critics haven’t realized yet, perhaps because they don’t know enough about the subject, is that the situation is not much better in the economy. Yes, I know, some people will point to the good GDP figures for last and perhaps even this year. But these figures are misleading. The growth is fueled by subsidies coming from Brussels. The amount has been especially high in the last two years because we are nearing the end of the European Union’s seven-year budget cycle when every country tries to spend as much money as possible in order not to lose a penny from the allocated amounts. But this happy state of affairs will soon come to an end.
It has taken five years, but Viktor Orbán has managed to alienate even his most ardent supporters. Now the question is whether the two sides can find some common ground. Reading these essays, I don’t think it would be impossible.