Is Fidesz’s soul lost, or is there more to it?

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.

The Damned Soul by Michelangelo c. 1525

The Damned Soul by Michelangelo c. 1525

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.

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Jon Van Til
Guest

On the subject of the university protest, here is my latest for the Huffington Post, waiting to move from their drafts pile to being placed on line:

https://blogger.huffingtonpost.com/tmp/7108682_p.html

I agree with Eva that there’s great hope in a student movement backed by principled adults.

kincs
Guest

The time is ripe for a moderate, genuinely conservative centre-right party, such as Ibolya Dávid’s Democratic Forum was. That’s why Orbán crushed it, and her.

Mrozek
Guest

Excellent observation. I agree, there is a major shift in the Hungarian media. Frigyes Solymosi (not Solymossy) is a cautious conservative and I always enjoy his critical pieces.

Webber
Guest
Eva, I don’t know what others feel, I can only speak for myself: After five years of watching and reading those gentlemen defend the indefensible, and viciously attack the defenseless whose only “crime” was to point out everything those gentlemen defended, I’ve had enough. I’m not impressed by these gentlemen’s sudden “realization” that there are serious problems with the Fidesz government. When Fidesz was at the peak of its power and popularity, they said nothing critical. They were full of praise. Their record is public. It cannot be erased by this critical turn. When it suited them, they fawned on power. The served it in every way possible Now that they see that Fidesz may lose the elections in 2018, they’ve become critical. All I want from them is an admission and then silence. They can admit that they served power because they actually believed what they said, in which case they are admitting they are idiots. Or they can admit that they served power out of self-interest, because it was lucrative, and maybe because they were afraid of what would happen to them if they were even slightly critical of Fidesz, in which case they are admitting that they… Read more »
Guest

Now why do I have to think of rats leaving a sinking ship?

Poor Hungary!

tappanch
Guest

The Hungarian “Kuria” (former Supreme Court) permitted segregated schools for Roma (Gypsy) children in a decision yesterday.

http://nol.hu/belfold/vallasba-oltott-szegregacio-1529759
http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1055060-szegregacios-ugy—demonstraltak-a-kuria-elott-fotok

tappanch
Guest

The “Christian” wing of the ruling party has welcomed the decision.

http://www.hirado.hu/2015/04/22/harrach-a-kdnp-udvozli-a-kuria-donteset-a-huszar-telepi-iskola-ugyeben/

Humphrey
Guest

Seems that the trade unions want their right to strike returned to them, too. I expect they will have to take it back and if coupled with student unrest, they will make a powerful political and economic force. Why they ever gave up the right to strike is a real head scratcher.

HiBoM
Guest

It is interesting to observe Fidesz unraveling but there is still a long way to go. I don’t think this administration is still nowhere near as viscerally loathed as Gyurcsány’s was post 2006 and that was perfectly able to govern its full term, despite the economic collapse. So while it is looking harder for them to win in 2018, they still have 3 whole years left. And unlike the MSZP, Fidesz has all the state institutions, as well as its pretend coalition partner in its pocket. So Orbán remains impregnable, although I hope I’m proven wrong

Nádas
Guest

The only thing wrong with Orbán “retiring” is that he would probably be replaced by Lázár. That’s a very scary thought.

On the subject of the Fidesz government’s silly “National This” and “National That,” the Szeged graffiti artist “Two-Tailed Dog” (Kétfarkú kutya) stenciled a sign near a Chinese business not long ago that read, “Nemzeti kinai bolt.”

István
Guest

You are clearly not alone in your thoughts on Lazar being the replacement which would not change much really. See http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1055130/1

petofi
Guest

Not Lazar.
If Orban flies the coop, his place will eventually–after some power struggle–be taken by Rogan.

Nádas
Guest

If it came to a knife fight between the two, I think Lázár would shred Rogán.

petofi
Guest

Not.
Rogan would bring a gun…

spectator
Guest

Then there comes the solution: Rogán will take the Fidesz while Lázár the premiership…

And now all of you/me/us should feel much better!
Or else.

Max
Guest

Gy. László Tóth was not only a loyal Fidesz political scientist, but between 1998-2002 he was officially a senior political adviser for PM Orbán, along with Zoltán Balog and Mária Schmidt.

dezső
Guest
Orban is a lawyer. His creation was the new system, this corrupt authoritarian regime he built, aka NER (System of National Cooperation). The Basis Law is absolutely entrenched, Orban’s people are entrenched all over the branches of government down to lower levels. He made a new group of oligarchs, including his extended family rich beyond belief and thus influential for generations to come. In other words, Orban has done what he wanted. There is a system which is a kind of suicide pact, impossible to disentangle, but is here to stay and that was his intention. He accomplished total elite change — a real revolution. Everything else is just a good game a means to this end. He doesn’t care about health care or education only to the extent he can steal or entrench his cronies and die-hard voters. Orban knows that (1) Jobbik is coming which loves the system’s main features (2) the Left would always, always compromise with Orban, so even if Orban would be defeated most of the elements of his system would stay because the lefties accept everything, and they anyway lack a vision as to what else to do. So Orban won, his DNA is… Read more »
Guest

I am tired of commenters listing Orban’s victories. It’s too early. The more he tests his luck the more he puts his “victories” at risk.

Latefor
Guest

Dezso,
According to your noble observation, Jobbik likes everything Orban does and the Left (the opposition) agrees with everything Orban proposes. In this case (by the looks of it) the “unorthodox approach to the economy” seems to be working, everyone agrees. So what’s the fuss?

Guest

Re: ‘Fidesz has lost its soul’

Just wondering if the adage the ‘road to hell is paid with good intentions fits in there.

I’ve always wondered what ‘politics was all about. Is it the issues or the people in the politics that count? But I’d think everything in politics at the last boils down to ‘character’. So besides its ‘soul’ the party and its adherents perhaps have also lost their ‘character’ as well? I’d simply ask what ‘drives’ those people? What concentrates their minds ‘wonderfully’,eh? Why are they going to work each day?

Sadly if it’s the mark, a yen or a buck or a pound or perhaps even clinging desperately to ‘powah’ well I think it’s enough to show all a bit of what perhaps is the Fideszian ‘character’ today. Just my take on all this.

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