A noteworthy article appeared in B1, a blog that identifies itself as a site “where blogging begins.” I must admit that I had never heard of it until yesterday, when I received three e-mails from three different sources calling my attention to a post on that site. The pieces on the site are written by “nickgrabowski.” It would require an analysis of style and word usage to decide whether all the articles are written by the same person. I have not gotten that far.
My three friends were impressed with the logic of the article titled “What or who keeps the Orbán regime in power?” Reading it, I was also struck by the likely correctness of the author’s post.
According to “Nick Grabowski,” analysts usually offer three alternative explanations for the continued political success of Fidesz and Viktor Orbán. The first lays the blame on the media. Journalists are unwilling or unable to drive home all the criminal activities of the Orbán government. The second group of critics concentrates on the “impotent” opposition. Their voices are just not loud enough. And third, the continued existence of the regime is the fault of the electorate who are not bothered by the corruption all around them and/or don’t understand the intricacies of some of the rather complicated financial deals.
But these explanations are unfair, says the author. The media does what it has to do, and the opposition politicians are loud enough. It is true that the electorate can’t always understand the fine points of such matters as the Hungarian National Bank’s “foundations,” but that has no relevance to the discussion at hand because “it is not their job” to understand or interpret these details. The public pays taxes to maintain institutions that deal with such matters. Specifically, in a democratic state it is the prosecutor’s office that is supposed to handle criminal cases. But as “Nick Grabowski” points out, “while Julius Caesar and Genghis Khan had armies and Lenin, Hitler and Rákosi had their internal network of policing, times have changed. Today [heads of governments] cannot simply kill their political opponents. They must maintain a semblance of legality.”
What does Orbán have? The prosecutor’s office
“Nick Grabowski” argues that Péter Polt is the modern-day incarnation of those earlier forces that both protected their leaders against attack and went on the offensive against their enemies. Before I turn to the long list of cases “Grabowski” cites where Péter Polt, the prosecutor-general, failed to bring charges against individuals involved in highly suspicious cases, let me go back in time, all the way to 2000, when the highly regarded prosecutor-general, Kálmán Györgyi, resigned two years before his term would have ended. In those days the prosecutor-general was elected, on the recommendation of the president, for six years. Györgyi’s second term would have expired in 2002. Györgyi offered no reason for his resignation. By now the consensus is that the Orbán government wanted to get rid of the far too independent Györgyi and replace him with Fidesz’s own candidate. To this day we have no idea about the real reason for the resignation, but the suspicion is that Györgyi was blackmailed. Even before the resignation of Györgyi became known, rumors circulated that his successor would be Péter Polt. Polt has been the prosecutor-general of Hungary during every Orbán administration.
I agree with “Nick Grabowski.” Polt is worth his weight in gold. Although he is not entitled to special government protection, Viktor Orbán recently assigned a contingent of TEK guys to him as a security detail.
Polt’s job seems to be twofold. First, he is supposed to ensure that no procedures are launched in cases that are politically uncomfortable or worse for the Orbán regime. A few examples will suffice here. Polt’s office doesn’t seem to be interested in investigating the skinheads who prevented István Nyakó from turning in MSZP’s referendum question. The facts of the case point to Fidesz involvement. Nothing happened in the case of the phony parties the government financed in order to enhance Fidesz’s chances at the ballot box. No investigation is underway into the VAT fraud of 100 billion forints which András Horváth, the whistleblower at the tax office, reported. No matter how many times Péter Juhász (Együtt) went to the police about the real estate fraud unearthed in District V under the mayoralty of Antal Rogán, nothing happened. As “Nick Grabowski” says, “what’s going on is the systematic plunder of the Hungarian state,” but since the prosecution does nothing, we can’t even call it a crime.
Prosecutor’s office as shield and weapon
The prosecutor’s office shields the regime from any damaging legal procedure. As long as Péter Polt is prosecutor-general, Viktor Orbán and his minions are safe. And he will hold this office for a very long time. In 2010 he was elected for nine years, and his term can be renewed ad infinitum. No retirement age applies in his case. Therefore, Péter Polt can remain prosecutor-general as long as he lives.
Polt’s office not only shields the criminal activities of the government, it also acts as an agent of the government party. As “Nick Grabowski” more forcefully says, “it acts like a political police.” The office does nothing when it comes to Rogán’s shady real estate deals, but it proceeds against Péter Juhász for slander. It moves against people who “liked” a Facebook text uncovering shady real estate deals of the Fidesz mayor of Siófok. There were cases in which the prosecutors hired “false witnesses” against the opponents of the government. They were quick to bring charges against MSZP politicians on the flimsiest of evidence which, after years of litigation, proved to be unfounded.
The power to bring charges lies exclusively with the prosecutor’s office. Since 2011 this provision was even put into the constitution: “The Prosecutor-General and the prosecution service shall be independent, shall contribute to the administration of justice by exclusively enforcing the State’s demand for punishment as public accuser.” Its mandate includes corruption cases. The Orbán government, which considers corruption a means to its political goal of creating a national bourgeoisie, remains perfectly safe as long as Polt is the chief prosecutor.
What happens is the following. Some criminal activity takes place. The media uncovers all the details and the opposition protests, but the case never comes before a judge. Within three days everybody forgets about all the dirty details. “Nick Grabowski” finishes his article on this sarcastic note: “If one day we want to be autocrats, someone should warn us to make sure that we acquire a sufficiently loyal prosecutor-general…. If the prosecutor-general is ours, we can do anything.”