Thinking global, living local: Voices in a globalized world

Democracy on Life Support: Vive la Fidesz

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Fidesz supporter Citizen X shares his thoughts on the logic of Fidesz’s rise.

Do you think policies such as those of Fidesz/Orbán are viable in the twenty-first century? Do you think they are appropriate to prepare Hungary as an EU member state in the next 5-10 years?

Citizen X: Some of the most important values of the last 100 years are national self-determination, sovereignty and the freedom of identity. These values are unquestionable in the 21 century. The second Orbán government recognizes these values, and builds its politics on the fact that the member states of the EU have different linguistic, cultural, geographic and economic features, therefore a full economic and political integration among them is not possible. It would moreover lead to a dead end.

Zoltán Latinovits, famous Hungarian actor, claimed in another historical period that „without a nation, there is no internationalism.” The full economic and political integration of Europe is not possible, because there is another layer beyond economics and politics: the layer of language, identity, way of thinking (not to mention economic or political capabilities), that is very different all around Europe. We can integrate each other in the same extent as we understand and accept each other’s language and culture. With China and Russia it is not a problem – or let’s say it is another kind of problem. With its cultural, linguistic and identical features, the EU-integration has a natural limit, and the full monetary and political union is definitely beyond this limit. In the next 5-10 years, the EU has to face and take seriously the question of identities and related values, therefore the debates boosted by the Orbán-government can only help the renewal of the EU.

Do Orbán’s politics contribute to the broader economic and political crisis in Europe? If so, how? If not, why do you see them as isolated?

Citizen X: In the last ten years, Hungary was a typical instance of budgetary imbalance, state indebtedness and irresponsible economic processes. In this period burdened by a world economic crisis, Hungary, most unfortunately, needed and still needs the help of the international monetary institutions, and the situation necessitates a powerful crisis management as well. The ambivalent negotiation policy of the Orbán government against the IMF does not help the stabilization of the Hungarian economy or the recovery of the trust of the markets, and it has negative effects on the EU as well. It is characteristic of the Hungarian government that it mixes economic interests with political interests – just think about the introduction of the strict flat tax system or the redemption of the MOL shares, or, on the other side, about the new Labor Code. Such behaviours sometimes strengthen, other times weaken the positions of the country and its society. Their contradictions should be eliminated, and then Hungary could play a positive role and become a good example, strengthening the EU as well.

How entrenched do you think Orbán’s “reforms” already are? Do you think the next government could reset them, if there is a change in political attitudes? Are there any reforms that will be extremely hard to set back to the pre-Orbán state?

Citizen X: The ambitions of the second Orbán-government are high, and sometimes even too confident. The implementation of the new constitution was timely and acceptable, the preceding and following institutional changes (the restructuring of the Media Council and the Constitutional Court or other national public institutions) are likely to prevail in the long term as well. In my opinion, the task of a possible new government would not be the re-reforming of the recently implemented and/or reformed basic systems of the state, but rather the qualitative proofing and refinement of them. Instead of the reprivatisation of the private pension funds, an individual account system could be introduced to the state pension system, the personal income tax system could be reformed into a double-rate tax system in case of extra income, and as for education, students should get access to new resources of stipendium. In my opinion, two years of symbolic governance (with giving double citizenship to over-border Hungarians or with the reconstruction of the main square around the Parliament), was enough, the situation of the country now can only be stabilized through a real social and economic recovery.

How is it that Orbán’s party is so popular, despite criticism from outside Hungary? Is it just populism and some sort of economic revanchism, or is it something more? Is it the sense of the ‘big Hungary’ and the post-War order that makes people so prone to the populist rhetoric?

Citizen X: On the one hand, it has to be admitted that the party of Orbán is extraordinarily well-organized. Personal relations strengthen this organization: the most intimate friends and colleagues of Orbán are in the most important positions, while other regimes often fail because of collegial relations and rivalry. On the other hand, after Trianon and the communist dictatorship, people have a certain demand on a national and value-oriented governance, which is based on a decent political will, a significant support and an ability to govern. Orbán and his government try to represent the possibly broadest layers of the society and to gain their support – should we call that populist?

The World War treaties have had deteriorating effects on Hungary, and ca. 5 million Hungarians were left over the borders. Handling their situation in the 21 century is a linguistic, cultural, or at most economic, but for no reason territorial question! I think that the Hungarian diplomacy is perfectly aware of this. In spite of that, a more tactful diplomatic direction would be necessary. It is an important initiative to give Hungarian citizenship to 5 million Hungarians, but this does not solve the societal and economic problems of Hungary. The country rather requires exemplary initiatives, best practices, and, most importantly, real cooperation between the political parties, the public sphere and the civil society to solve these problems.

Do you believe a local ethnic conflict is still possible in Central Europe (e.g. with Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, or Slovenia)?  Why or why not?

Citizen X: Hungary and the other countries of Central Europe should finally learn from the history of the past 150-160-170 years that it is neither possible nor permissible to establish homogeneous nation-states. The ethnic references of the Hungarian revolution of 1848-49 or the two world wars are the best examples supporting this standpoint, emphasized among others by István Bibó, famous Hungarian politician. Nevertheless, the listed countries constitute an important geopolitical unity, and besides the dangers and threats, can offer significant possibilities for each other in case of cooperation, we should never forget about this. But, while it is possible to accept a language law that discriminates Hungarians in Slovakia, and while in case of other countries there are no problems with double citizenship, but in case of Hungary it is treated as a political game, there cannot be a real cooperation between these countries. Still, Central European politicians may act according to bad historical reflexes and habits, but we should not play the role of the scaremonger! Everyone should support the understanding and development of different identities, they should be made acceptable and possible to live with, and no-one should treat them in violent or suppressive ways.