A few days ago I heard a man who lives in Austria complain bitterly that although he asked the left-of-center parties for their programs, none of them could produce one. How can anyone pick among the four or five democratic parties, he asked, if the electorate has no idea what they stand for.
This situation is going to change, at least in the case of the Demokratikus Koalíció (DK), which will officially release its program on February 13 when the party has its next congress. Two days ago Origo got hold of the 107-page document, which describes the party’s program in an “ideal situation.” The emphasis is on “ideal.”
The program assumes a political constellation in 2018 that would allow a future democratic government to undo all the harm Viktor Orbán’s illiberal policies have inflicted on the country. For that, an individual party or a coalition of several parties would need a two-thirds majority in parliament, something that at the moment no sane person could possibly fathom. So it is not surprising that the far-right site Pesti Srácok, commenting on the DK program, titled its article “DK is dreaming of two-thirds.” Indeed, but one could argue that for a party to present its political vision, it has to assume an absolutely free hand. And it should be noted that the present document is not the party’s electoral program. That program will undoubtedly be much more limited in scope.
First of all, let me say a few words about the latest opinion polls. In the last few days four different polls were released: those of Nézőpont, Tárki, Századvég, and Publicus. According to Nézőpont and Publicus, Fidesz’s rapid gain in support came to a halt between November and January. But Tárki and Századvég found that Fidesz had recovered its earlier voters and is now back to where it was more than a year ago. Both Publicus and Nézőpont registered considerable losses for Jobbik and gains for MSZP. When the results of these four opinion polls are combined, in the electorate as a whole Fidesz has 32%, Jobbik 11%, MSZP 9%, DK 5.5%, LMP 3.2%, and Együtt 1%. The undecided make up 39%.
Thus, at the moment the opposition is in very bad shape. Yet opposition politicians can’t conclude that since the situation seems hopeless, the only realistic option is to do nothing. They have to act. Since a coalition of the smaller democratic parties is outside the realm of possibility at the moment, I believe the only sensible course of action is for each party to work assiduously to build itself up and see whether in the next couple of years one of them can get the lion’s share of opposition support, preferably with more than 20%.
Origo didn’t write the DK program off as pie in the sky. Instead, it praised “its good assessment of the situation and its accurate pinpointing of problems.” I can’t cover all of the political, legal, economic, financial, and social aspects of the document. I will offer as material for discussion only DK’s view of the most important legal underpinnings of the “New Hungarian Republic.”
DK would insist on the removal of Fidesz party cadres from all responsible and allegedly independent positions. They should be called to account for any alleged criminal activities. In addition, all concessions of tobacco shops, casinos, and land sales must be examined for their legality.
A new constitution should be written, which should then be accepted or rejected by popular referendum. The Orbán government’s restrictions on holding referendums are so strict that at the moment practically none can take place. DK suggests a formula that would change this situation.
DK would return to the former right of “actio popularis,” the option for any citizen to turn to the constitutional court claiming that a law, legal provision, or regulation is contrary to the constitution. One of the first acts of the Orbán government was the abolition of this right. The party would also like to remove those judges of the constitutional court who were appointed by the government parties alone. DK plans the complete elimination of the National Judiciary Office, currently headed by the wife of József Szájer, Fidesz MEP. (Earlier, Professor Kim Scheppele wrote several articles touching on the importance of “actio popularis” as well as on the National Judiciary Office’s negative impact on the judiciary.)
DK would get rid of the new law on churches and would restore the status of churches as it was prior to 2012. DK never hid the fact that it has serious reservations about an agreement with the Vatican signed by Gyula Horn that gave the Hungarian Catholic Church special privileges. The party would demand a re-examination and possible revision of that 1997 treaty. DK would also abolish compulsory religious and/or ethical education in schools, which in the party leaders’ opinion should be ideologically neutral. DK would declare equal rights for LGBT people, including their right to marry.
The present electoral system is so unfair that it must be replaced by a so-called mixed system of individual electoral districts and party lists. Moreover, the borders of the present gerrymandered districts must be refashioned in a more equitable way. In addition, the totally unfair electoral system introduced in Budapest should be replaced by a city council whose composition would be determined by the relative strength of the parties, as it was prior to 2014.
Not everything that Fidesz introduced will be thrown out. For example, DK supports Fidesz’s decision on the incompatibility of being a member of parliament and a mayor at the same time. But close relatives of politicians would be forbidden to compete for government tenders, something the government found perfectly acceptable only a few months ago.
Another Fidesz idea of long standing that DK accepts is the subordination of the prosecutor’s office to the ministry of justice. It was something Ibolya Dávid (MDF), minister of justice between 1998 and 2002, supported, but at that time the opposition strongly opposed it. In 2010 Fidesz tried bringing up the topic again, but it was once more met with an outcry. As it stands now, the whole prosecutorial system is “independent,” even though we know only too well that this is not the case. Subordinating the prosecutor’s office to the government would have the benefit of supervision from above, which at the moment is impossible. Finally, DK would recognize the validity of dual citizenship, though the document says nothing about the right to vote. I suspect that in DK’s ideal world that right wouldn’t have a place.
As you can see, I’ve said nothing about taxation, the economy, energy, or social policy. Perhaps in a few days we can return to these topics.