On László Botka’s nomination and an NGO win

I will try to cover two topics today. First, I will share my initial reactions to László Botka as the official nominee of MSZP for the post of prime minister. And second, I will give an example of the kind of success NGOs can achieve in defending the rule of law in Hungary.

László Botka’s nomination

This morning, on Klub Rádió’s call-in-program “Let’s Talk It Over,” I listened with great interest to the by and large enthusiastic reception of MSZP’s nomination of László Botka as its candidate for prime minister. I myself was also glad that at last MSZP, a party known for its confused messages and timidity, had made a definitive move. I still welcomed the move, although initially I had disapproved of MSZP’s decision to act on its own. I hoped that the socialist leadership had explained to Botka that he must have an open mind in his negotiations with the Demokratikus Koalíció because Botka’s opening salvo against the chairman of DK didn’t bode well as far as future negotiations were concerned. And without DK there is no possibility of forging a workable election alliance.

Great was my disappointment when I read the short summary of Botka’s program in 168 Óra. In Botka’s opinion, the Third Way, which can be described as a political position that tries to combine right-wing economic and left-wing social policies within the social democratic movement, proved to be a failure in Hungary. He named Ferenc Gyurcsány as the chief proponent of this political philosophy. The failure of the Third Way, he said, led to the rise of populism and the stunning electoral victory of Viktor Orbán.

I would need a little more time to ponder Botka’s theory, but at first blush it doesn’t strike me as a valid criticism. One obvious counterargument is the growth of populism throughout the western world without either a Third Way or Ferenc Gyurcsány. I would suggest that Botka consider the 2008 world economic crisis as one possible cause of our current problems. With a little effort we could come up with many other factors that would counter Botka’s theory, among them the very strong showing of Fidesz from at least 2002 on, when experimentation with Tony Blair’s brainchild was still nowhere.

In any case, if Botka is serious about becoming the candidate of all democratic parties he should reconsider his attitude. Otherwise, his failure is guaranteed. One can’t start negotiations from such a position.

DK’s reaction was muted. Csaba Molnár, deputy chairman of DK, announced that they are expecting Botka’s call, adding that they agree that a new program is necessary for the removal of the Orbán government. He offered DK’s almost 80-page program “Hungary of the Many” for his consideration.

The Helsinki Commission (and Friends) and the European Court of Human Rights

The Orbán government has singled out three NGOs as the most objectionable: the Helsinki Commission, Transparency International, and Társaság a Szabadságjogokért (TASZ), which is the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union. These three organizations stand for freedom, equality, the rule of law, human rights, and transparency. They call the government to account when it doesn’t follow the country’s laws or doesn’t fulfill its international obligations. Naturally, they are incredible irritants to the Orbán government.

One such case in which they called the government to task was the nomination of a Hungarian judge to the European Court of Human Rights.

Since, after 2010, the Hungarian Constitutional Court has been filled with government appointees, the “last resort” of NGOs is often the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg. The Court’s current Hungarian judge is András Sajó, a legal scholar, university professor, and member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, whose nine-year tenure will expire at the end of the month. Therefore, the Orbán government will be able to nominate one of its own.

According to Council of Europe policy, the nomination must be democratic and transparent. If not, the nominee might be rejected. Three names ought to be submitted for consideration, and their nomination must be preceded by an open application process.

Knowing the Orbán government’s attitude toward such international obligations, the Helsinki Commission was worried already a year ago about the government’s plans for the nomination of a new Hungarian judge. Therefore, they inquired from László Trócsányi, minister of justice, about the progress the government had made. The answer was worrisome because Trócsányi called the prescriptions of the Council of Europe “recommendatory documents.” In June, the Helsinki Commission inquired again and was told that the ministry of justice was in the midst of consultation with experts. When asked who these experts were, the ministry refused to divulge their identities, citing privacy rights. It then informed the Helsinki Commission that the list of names had already been submitted to the court. In response, 11 NGOs together demanded the withdrawal of the submitted names and asked for an open application process. This time, the ministry of justice didn’t even bother to answer their letter.

At this point 15 Hungarian NGOs informed the Council of Europe about the illegality of the Hungarian nomination process. It turned out that of the three submitted nominees two were closely connected to the current Hungarian government: one was an adviser to Trócsányi and the other was a department head in the ministry of justice who at one point had represented the Hungarian government in a case before the ECHR.

The General Meeting of ECHR decided against the two objectionable candidates, and so the Hungarian government turned in two new names. One of the replacements was also connected to the ministry of justice. And the open application process was again ignored.

The NGOs complained and this time turned to the ECHR. In response, the secretary-general of ECHR indicated to the Hungarian government that in the absence of an open application procedure, the nominees will be rejected. At this point the Orbán government threw in the towel. In October it withdrew the nominations and announced it would hold an open application process for the jobs.

The applicants had only two weeks to prepare, and outsiders had little knowledge about the selection process, but this was still a big step forward. This time, of the three names, only one has government ties, less intimate than in earlier cases. The finalists are Krisztina Füzi-Rozsnyai, an administrative lawyer, Péter Paczolay, former chief justice of the constitutional court, and Pál Sonnevend, head of the department of international law at ELTE. On January 12 the three applicants had their hearings. A final decision will be made on January 24.

After reading just this one case, I think it is easy to understand why the Orbán government wants to demonize these NGOs and possibly remove them. It is not a stretch for Orbán to claim that they are involved in anti-government political activities since they are defending the rule of law in a country where the government does everything in its power to circumvent the law. And they are often more successful than the political parties because of their expertise in both domestic and European law.

January 19, 2017
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Guest

Thank you for this Éva.

For years I have thought that the only way to end the nightmare of Orbán’s regime is through outside influence and pressure, and this article underlines the reasons why.

Opposition political parties are incapable of working together to form a cohesive coalition so they will never depose Orban.

And since all checks and balances on Fidesz’s corruption are now non-existent, the only place to turn is the EU. So it is heartening to learn that the European Commission is now finally taking action to protect NGO watchdogs here.

A while ago you organised a questions and answers dialogue with Gyurcsány for your readers, Éva. My question to GF was why the EU kept funding such a blatently corrupt regime, and despite being a DK member and great admirerer of Gyurcsány, I was not satisfied with his reply, since I believe that only outside influence and pressure has any power over Orbán’s government.

This article shows exactly how much power the EU can exercise over one of its wayward members. If only they would do the same with the funds pouring into Hungary, and straight into Orbán’s pockets. The EU could and should do much more.

Member

The council of Europe is not the EU.

The EU is still paying for dismantling democracy in Hungara in the middle of Europe (unbelievable).

The European comission still does very lttle about the permanent breeching of contracts and money stealing of EU money.(unbelievable)

The European peoples party is still fine with Fidesz belonging to them. (unbelievable).

Guest

Thank you for correcting me, so maybe you know, where does the council of Europe get its funds?
I just assume it is from the EU, therefore is part of the EU machinery?
Would be good to have correct information on that.

Member

Actually I don’t know very much either, than what is written in WIKI:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Europe
The COF consists of much more countries than the EU (even Russia).
And the Court of human rights which belongs to it still seems to work well.
COF = Straßbourg
EU = Brussels

Guest

And I agree, Winston, that it is unbelievable that the EU continues to fund a mafia organisation, in its midst.

The EU weakness and timidity is the reason that bullies like Orbán have flourished. Schoolyard bullies find a weak spot and and attack accordingly.

Orbán and his ilk have spotted the weak spot in the EU- an inability to defend the very premise on which it was estabished in the first place.
.
Hungary under Orbán is nothing more than a schoolyard bully in the EU, strutting around and repeatedly rubbishing the very hand that feeds the Fidesz mafia.

By not taking swift and decisive action such as sanctions and a complete freeze on funds, the EU exposes itself as an over-large bureaucratic institution, incapable of defending its own interests.

Member

Yes, and after 5 years of inaction on behalf of the EU Kaczynski followed his idol Orban.
And now we have already 2 (at least) of the sort.

webber
Guest
Eva – Gyurcsany used to talk about the Third Way quite a lot. Botka is correct, and I think there is quite a lot to what Botka says. I don’t know, however, why he is saying it in a public forum. If it is just an egregious kick at Gyurcsany, it is less than helpful. If he is telling his party-mates that they cannot go on any longer with the Third Way, then perhaps there are still some who are following it and need to be brought around. The “Third Way” philosophy was actually very widespread among socialist parties throughout Europe. It was most thoroughly worked out by Anthony Giddens in his book The Third Way (1998), and was first applied in the UK by Tony Blair, whom Giddens advised. Gyurcsany’s advisor Tibor Dessewffy translated The Third Way into Hungarian, and it served as a sort of bible for the left for some years. The Third Way helped propel Blair to power in Britain, and got him a lot of capital backing, because for the first time in its history the Labour Party was strongly pro-market. It is really just classic liberalism with a fairy dusting of old socialist rhetoric.… Read more »
Istvan
Guest
Webber I was impressed by your brief distillation of the “third way,” which is unfathomable to my conservative military indoctrinated mind. In general the Heritage Foundation has taken control of much of Trump’s domestic agenda and the new administration will impose reductions in numerous areas of federal spending by $10.5 trillion over 10 years which will be largely transferred to defense spending. The best article on this can be read here http://thehill.com/policy/finance/314991-trump-team-prepares-dramatic-cuts In general I support this transfer of funds to defense, even though I am concerned about the dual strategy of China containment and Russian appeasement. So the white working class which you note in good part supported Trump will get hit by entitlement cuts in a variety of ways. The job creation in the manufacturing sector, assuming it actually happens, will offset only some of this. As Soros said the other day Mr Trump was “definitely gearing up for a trade war” with China. “You can’t have a trade war and a well-functioning international system,” according to Soros. That is true, but also irrelevant to the economic nationalists supporting Trump. I think even if by some miracle an MSZP centered coalition came to power in Hungary with a… Read more »
webber
Guest

István, I agree.
Powerful leftist rhetoric, however, is just what MSZP needs to win votes, I think (damn reality!)

Jobbik has gone full tilt for “Western European wages for Hungarians,” meaning a massive increase in the minimum wage. Why doesn’t the Hungarian left do this, and more?

To hell with “reality” – it never bothered Fidesz, after all.

webber
Guest

P.S. For sure, increased military spending is going to lead to job-creation in the US – and good-paying jobs, too. I understand the Navy will get a lot of new ships, and those will surely be built in shipyards on the Atlantic coast. Lots of jobs there. If the Air Force gets new planes, Boeing in Washington state will likely be hiring.

All much needed.

If Trump can get China to stop undercutting American steel and other heavy industry through (artificially) low prices, that too will be to the good.

(can’t stand Trump – but one can hope)

I know that some think that China is the loser here, since the Chinese taxpayer is subsidizing steel, but it weakens the US to lose productive capability, and it certainly has not done good things for social stability in the US to lose those jobs.

J. Stiglitz has a piece in The Guardian that you might appreciate:
https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jan/09/my-new-year-forecast-trumpian-uncertainty-and-lots-of-it

Istvan
Guest

Joseph Stiglitz in the article assumes that the WTO may have some power over the USA even under a hard line nationalist leadership, it probably has very little. As Stalin once said of the Catholic Pope objecting to some of Russia’s actions, how many combat divisions does this Pope have?

Donald Trump said back in July on a national news show that he had a plan for punitive import taxes of up to 30 percent on firms that move manufacturing activities abroad, citing NAFTA partner Mexico as an example. When show host Chuck Todd objected that such plans would be challenged at the WTO, he responded: “Doesn’t matter. We’ll renegotiate or pull out. These trade deals are a disaster, Chuck. World Trade Organization is a disaster.”

On this trade war stuff Trump is for real, while he scares the hell out of some conservative free trade Republicans with this talk, they are too afraid of his armies of working class followers to object any too much. They are in Washington in force as I write this, as if they are entering the promised land. More likely we are crossing the gates of hell.

webber
Guest

Only slightly ot: The Book of Revelations people are out there too, seeing signs in the promise to open an embassy in Jerusalem, and potential conflict with the Eastern power (once USSR, now China in their view). They are praying for the End of Times and rapture, and think in terms of nuclear war.

Is this just my false impression? Is the Air Force officer corps not a little heavy with evangelicals of this fruitier sort?

webber
Guest

P.S. Yes, indeed, if the United States were to leave the WTO, that would certainly be the end of it. Not a single country in the world wants to cut off trade with the US just to futilely try to save the WTO regime.

Guest

I can’t believe Trump (or rather his advisors) really wants a trade war -against the rest of the world.
If Europeans and Chinese won’t buy any US products, then what happens?

Re the working class:

The biggest problem I see is that too many workers are unqualified for modern work. Let me give an example. An old friend of mine started as a mechanic at the Bosch factory – now he oversees the robots doing the production and exchanges mail with his collegues in other factories all around the world – in English of course, because that is the language for company communication …

And if you want other examples look up companies like Herrenknecht (they built 70% of the big tunnel boring machines) or Würth (The screw king) and Fischer (inventor of the dowel) – all situated in or near the Black Forest …

webber
Guest

Why can’t you imagine a trade war against certain countries? I can, particularly against China.
Trump has never said the whole world – he has just specified a few countries with which he wants to change the current trading agreements. Those countries include China, Germany, and Mexico.
He has also suggested a free-trade arrangement with the UK after it leaves the EU.
I heard what the German Minister said in response to Trump’s statement that tariffs would be raised against German car companies which move manufacturing to Mexico. What the German Minister said was just as nationalistic as what Trump said.

webber
Guest

P.S. Wolfi – All Trump’s supporters need to know is that Germany sells more goods to the United States than the United States sells to Germany. Conversation over. They will want tariffs now. If they are told that will mean tariffs against the whole EU and vice versa, they will discover that the EU sells more goods to the US than it buys. Conversation over.

When Sigmar Gabriel said America should make better cars, that was just throwing fat on the fire.

When he said that Germans supply a lot of goods to American manufacturers, so American manufacturers would suffer from a trade war, that was more fat on the fire.

Trump’s supporters’ answer to that is “We used to make everything to do with a car here. We can do it again.”

Gabriel hit all the wrong notes. The Japanese response was much, much better. They reminded Trump of how many American people work in Japanese factories (Toyota, what have you), and how much capital Japan has invested in the United States. That is a much finer response.

Guest

Webber, we have a saying: Auf einen groben Klotz gehört ein grober Keil!
You can’t talk sensibly with someone like Trump.
If he wants a trade war – well let the EU boycott Apple and Microsoft etc, buy stuff from Japan, Korea and China – we don’t need the USA!
Of course I don’t believe this will happen – Trump’s people will find ways …

Afaik the EU sells around 10% of its products to the USA – that’s not too much …

webber
Guest

Well then, it seems everyone is ready for a trade war! It seems from your comment that Germany doesn’t even need or want the American market. Kein Problem, alles gut! Excellent, even. (read heavy, heavy sarcasm in this – I cannot stand Trump, I’m just saying what I think he is like).

Guest

webbwe, of course Germany doesn’t want a trade war – but we have to wait and see what Trump does …

See my latest comment here!

webber
Guest

Wolfi – You are misinformed. The US’s share of EU exports is not 10%. It is 20.7%, and the US is the EU’s main trading partner – exchanging even more goods (in value) than China and the EU.
And, naturally, the EU has a major surplus in trade with the US – a surplus of 123,338 m. euros last year, all to EU countries’ benefit. THAT is what Trump’s followers will want to change. Not trade, as such, but that disbalance.

petofi
Guest

@ Istvan

“…China containment and Russian appeasement…”
is really doing the Russky’s work: China’s natural
expansion is into Russian Siberia…

Istvan
Guest

That is a perspective Petofi I had not contemplated. Possibly that is one reason why some of the Trump people seem to think Putin will go neutral in a US China conflict if he plays nice with Putin.

Member
Good description of the third way, Webber. Webber: “In my view, the left abandoned the working class when it picked up Third Way philosophy” I think, this is more komplex. I will write some statements from my german point of view. It was the area of the SPD/Green coalition with Gerhard Schröder (1998-2005), who was also promoting the Blair way and later triggered some reforms – the “Agenda 2010” – with the slogan “Fördern and fordern” (support and demand). The social democrats in Germany got very unpopular, because of the “Agenda 2010” politics. Many voters moved from SPD to the new party “Die Linken” We had high unemployment at that time, in economics Germany was holding the red lantern of the EU. In one way the left (SPD) had abandoned the working class in doing these reforms (which now everybody knows helped Germany to get economically strong again) But I believe, there is no such working class anymore. A few decades ago people had a consciousness to be a worker or not. A worker voted traditionally left (SPD), everytime (so probably similar in Great Britain). Now a party, left or right, has to convince its voters again and again, because… Read more »
webber
Guest

Interesting.

We’ll have to disagree on one thing – I believe there still is a working class in the West. It showed itself during the American elections and Brexit referendum. I think it is showing itself in the French elections now.

webber
Guest
And it strikes me that the “death of the working class in the West” was part and parcel of Third Wave ideology. Everything was going to be manufactured in the Third World (or, alt., by robots), to the benefit of workers in the Third World. while we all got richer and richer as things got cheaper and cheaper. It didn’t work out that way for people who lost their jobs. This is the first generation in the West that has been told it will live worse than its parents. Anyway, there is still a LOT of manufacturing in the West, and it’s not all being done by robots (as you Germans know perfectly well). Copying from Wikipedia: “The United States is the world’s second largest manufacturer, with a 2010 industrial output of approximately $1,696.7 billion.[2] In 2008, its manufacturing output was greater than that of the manufacturing output of China and India combined, despite manufacturing being a very small portion of the entire U.S economy, as compared to most other countries. If the top 500 U.S.-based manufacturing firms were counted as a separate country, their total revenue would rank as the world’s third-largest economy.” So I wouldn’t get ready to… Read more »
Member

Webber: “So I wouldn’t get ready to bury the working class just yet.”

Let’s say: There are working people, but no “class” anymore.

There are poor people, but they do not stand together so tightly anymore.

Maybe in Germany this class working identity got lost with the Agenda 2010 reforms.

In France, Greece, … the governments still struggle to introduce some reforming, because the people still organize general strikes together.

But not in Germany anymore: I come from the Ruhrgebiet (still called the heart of the social democrats), a former industrial area with cole mines and steel factories. The last big protests there were in the nineties, when the last cole mines got closed.
I remember protests when cole mines should get closed, when not only the miners went to demonstrations, but the whole population was on the streets.

The cities there are mostly still poor (poorer than in East-Germany (they envy the subsidies, that flow to the east)) with much unemployment due to the collapse of industry, they are still voting mostly left.

But the working class as a unity I haven’t seen and felt anymore.

Member

“working class” sounds a bit old fashioned communist to me.

webber
Guest

Working poor, then? Or those who want to work again?

webber
Guest

I think “working class” should be used again, without shame. Nothing else I can think of covers all the categories I mean (see above – both terms okay, neither adequate).

Member

To get back to Hungary, I can’t notice a working class at all.

Working poor is good.

It’s e.g. this group of about five people looking depressed, walking the streets of our village up and down, cleaning ditches, sweeping leaves, starting all over again…

For 50000 Ft. Or so and must be grateful to the major to have this challenging job.

Member

I’m not so sure that DK is needed for an opposition win. If you look at public opinion polls over the last month (http://kozvelemenykutatok.hu/), DK has support of between 3-5 %, while the number of undecided voters is between 35-44%. Why does MSZP assume that those people can’t be won over?

Guest

The Inauguration is on the road. Meanwhile Mexicans are preparing for the Trump Wall.

comment imagev

Guest

Rather OT:

After reading Trump’s abominable inauguration speech here:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2017/01/20/his-own-words-president-trumps-inaugural-address/96836330/

I can only say – wait and see …

And I’m still thinking that the EU might weather that storm better than the USA.

Even more OT:

Yes, countries like Germany should import more – the export surplus is abominable, it means Germans have not enough money, they should consume more!

webber
Guest

It was an isolationist, mercantilist, protectionist, and nationalist speech (they all are nationalist to some degree).
He is going to cut aid to foreign countries, that much is clear, including military aid.
If there is any silver lining in it all, it is this: He doesn’t seem to be contemplating war or imposing any sort of order at all on the world for that matter.
The same could have been said for Bush jr., but then 9/11 and reality hit him.
To you and me, Wolfi, it was an awful speech, but I guess it’s exactly what his voters wanted to hear, to the letter.

Guest

I had a deja vue feeling when I watched Trump’s speech. Pictures of Hitler speaking to enormous crowds emerged in my mind. Eerie.

webber
Guest

I think trade wars are in the making, but of real wars I saw no hint. I hope I am right.

Istvan
Guest

Historically trade war precedes shooting wars, but history does not always repeat itself. So I hope not either for my own daughter’s sake who is a US Army Major. She seems to take all of this in stride, although she would prefer not to be activated from reserve status again after going through that in the Afghanistan war only a few years ago. She was on active duty for a full year disrupting her doctoral studies, let alone the possibility of getting wounded or worse in some village.

But a shooting war with China would not likely be protracted, but it could become catastrophic very fast. Too scary to contemplate really.

webber
Guest

Jean P – no enormous crowds, thank God:
Obama’s inauguration in 2009
comment image

Trump’s inauguration:
comment image

Guest

Trump spoke to an enormous TV audience. The crowd present was insignificant in comparison.

Jean P.
Guest

It belatedly occurred to me that comparing the crowds in the two pictures is only meanigful if they were made at the same time of day. Were they?

Member

I read the speech, too.
It was very stupid, just blabla.

Guest

It was as stupid and as blabla as Hitlers speeches.

Guest

First Trump promised to uphold the Constitution. Then he promised to give the power back to the people. He can’t do both.

Guest
Ferenc
Guest

OT
From tax authority (NAV, 2013) whistleblower to suspect (2017).
In the time from 2013 till 2016 there has been unsuccesful investigation in the case of the ‘green dosier’. And now the authorities started a case agianst the whistleblower, here’s the info (hungarian only):
2017.Jan.19: http://nepszava.hu/cikk/1118181-gyanusitottkent-hallgattak-ki-horvath-andrast—juhasz-uzent-a-rendorsegnek (incl.facebook videos)
This morning’s interview at ATV: http://www.atv.hu/videok/video-20170120-gyanusitott-lett-horvath-andras
Wish the man all the strength he needs, and not to get crushed by the OV/Fidesz ‘justice’ system.

Ferenc
Guest
Rivarol
Guest

Mmmmm

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