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Hungary abused

Published on January 27, 2012 by: in: Politics

Who am I? This is the question that every child asks. Some are haunted by this question all their lives. Others are glad with the answer that easily crosses their minds and having found solace in the arms of the proud group that praises tradition and unity, they block all the other interpretations. And there are also those – smarter ones – who quickly realize that there is no simple answer but looking for one makes them bored, so they say it is not significant and…enjoy their lives.


What group does the Hungarian Prime Minister belong to? Who can Viktor Orbán see looking in the mirror? “The Financial Times” cartoonist depicted it perfectly well by presenting Orbán standing in front of the mirror, but the reflection he can see is…Vladimir Putin. The juxtaposition of two omnipotent prime ministers seems to be natural and everyone, who is particularly sensitive about violation of civil liberties, will definitely give the Budapest government a severe look.

Viktor Orbán – elected, what about democratic?

Orbán’s laid-back composure is puzzling. Isn’t he surprised by what he sees? Doesn’t he see what we see? Is the Hungarian Prime Minister unlikely to see signs of “putinism” in his policies? The reality is undoubtedly complex. Everyone perceives it in a different way eliciting only those shapes, colours, sounds, scents that they are most familiar with. But can we seriously believe that such an experienced politician does not really know who he is and does not know what he does? It is hard to say. One thing is certain – he knows that as a fervent Christian his potential sins will be absolved. Furthermore, I suppose that his pride may make it difficult to stay in touch with the reality. Intoxicated by his almost absolute power he does as he sees fit, heedless of the domestic or international criticism.

Having won more than two-thirds of seats in the parliamentary elections in April 2010, Orbán can adapt the law to his needs – change the Constitution and fill the most important institutions with his people. These are the apparent democratic rights. After all, the winner was selected in free elections…This argument seems to be crucial and, in the discussion on Orbán, is likely to be used – victoriously by his followers and with resignation by his critics. Many commentators are outraged that the European Commission claims the right to interfere with Hungary’s domestic affairs as, in contrast to Orbán’s government, it has no democratic legitimacy; that is, it has not been elected. I know these arguments. They often appear in various other contexts and seem to block any discussion. In the same way, the accusations against NGOs are formulated since “true democrats” are concerned about the growing importance of non-profit organizations. Nevertheless, we tend to forget about one detail: the core of democracy is not elections above all – even if voting is held without the use of coercive measures. Democracy is first and foremost the rule of law and human rights! Yet Orbán extends his control over the central bank, limits the independence of the judiciary and “disciplines” the media. Where is the separation of powers? Where is the place for pluralism – a prerequisite for a real public debate, the lack of which makes each choice seemingly free? Most of the time Orbán stays tight-lipped and only uses the government spokesman to assure that “Hungary is the state of law and the government is devoted to European, universal values”. He certainly feels that his actions are inconsistent with these values, but the urge for absolute power is irresistible.

How is it that ardent anti-communists (and Orbán is one of them) so eagerly imitate their old enemies? This is an apparent paradox. Psychology has long described the phenomenon whereby the abused child becomes an abuser as an adult by following the patterns learned at home. Let us hope we will not see Budapest at the Vistula.

Translation: Adam Intrys

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About Krzysztof Rutkowski

Graduate of Economics and Management at Manheim University and European College in Natolin. He has lived in Germany for over 20 years, former expert of the Centre for Eastern Studies.

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