Is Europe right to distrust Hungary’s prime minister?

2012. október 8. 13:39

Christopher Caldwell
The Weekly Standard
"Ten million freedom fighters," Orbán says. "That has some advantages, but from the governmental side it’s difficult."

"Orbán, the youngest of Hungary’s Cold War heroes, ought to find it easier to govern Hungary than his predecessors. Still in his 40s, widely read, Calvinist (like many Hungarian politicians through the ages), tough when he has to be (and sometimes when he doesn’t), he has a vision of a proud and prosperous Hungary that his followers find stirring. Two years ago, his Fidesz party took two-thirds of the seats in parliament—enough to rewrite Hungary’s constitution and reorder its society. (...)

He had recently helped found Fidesz, which is a Hungarian acronym for 'Alliance of Young Democrats,' and at the time it admitted no members over the age of 35. This was a group that saw no 'good intentions' in communism, nor anything the past generation had contributed to Hungary except terror and corruption. Orbán’s speech was of a shocking brusqueness. He told the Soviets they should get out of Hungary, lock, stock, and barrel. Later, when Communists were negotiating a transition arrangement that would have allowed the party to maintain 'workers’ combat groups' and party representatives in workplaces, Orbán was among those who blocked it. He has been the country’s top conservative politician for most of the intervening decades, serving a term as prime minister at the turn of the century. (...)


Unlike other Central and Eastern European countries, Hungary did not start from constitutional scratch after the end of communism in 1989. Until this year, society was being guided in large part by a constitution written in 1949. The new constitution, which came into force in January, defines marriage as between a man and a woman and declares that life begins at conception (although abortion remains legal and easily available). It changes the country’s name from the old Soviet-era 'Republic of Hungary' to just 'Hungary,' but it explicitly states that the form of government shall be a republic. It makes the chief prosecutor responsible to the legislative, not the executive, branch. The constitution also tips its hat to the role of Christianity in Hungary’s history—but no more than the Portuguese constitution does to the role of socialism, Orbán’s supporters insist. If you back Orbán, you will note that there is nothing in the constitution that does not follow established practice in some other Western country. If you oppose him, you will say that the whole can be less free than the sum of its parts. (...)

Fidesz is not Jobbik. But non-Hungarians grasp that only with difficulty—'despite the Fidesz leadership stating practically every day for eight years that they will have nothing to do with Jobbik,' as the Anglo-Hungarian writer Tibor Fischer puts it. The philosopher and Fidesz member of the European parliament György Schöpflin complains that certain Hungarians blur the distinctions between the parties as well. 'The Hungarian left,' according to Schöpflin, 'appears to have no theory of the democratic center-right and, hence, to assume that they and they alone own democracy.'"
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