This Position Paper was completed in the run-up to the election of the European Parliament on 26 May 2019. This time, polls have definitely brought about more surprises in the political life of Hungary than at the earlier parliamentary elections. The turnout (43%) has been higher than on former occasions and surpassed all expectations. The distribution of EP seats among the political parties was very different from the pre-election forecasts, and while the 13 seats won by Fidesz is a significant result, it was below this party’s own expectations. Ultimately, the proportion of seats shared between the government and opposition sides has not changed fundamentally, but essential rearrangements happened within the opposition camp. The centre-left Democratic Coalition has strengthened and the success of the liberal Momentum party (which has a strong European orientation) outstripped even their best hopes. These parties therefore may have new opportunities in European politics as well as promising prospects at the local elections in Hungary, due in the autumn 2019. With the decline of Jobbik, the ‘central power’ concept of Orbán constituting the basis of his ‘National Cooperation System’ seems to have been eroded.
Of course, important changes also occurred regarding the European Parliament as a whole. For the first time ever, the two biggest political families, the European Peoples’ Party and the Socialists and Democrats, cannot constitute an absolute majority together. They need at least one third grouping (Liberals or Greens) in order to adopt important decisions, for example to approve the composition of the new European Commission or the EU’s budget for the next seven year period. Extremist political parties, which are typically highly critical of, or seek to dismantle the means of European cooperation, gained votes. However, they have not become decisive political forces in the EP, and their support is not needed by those who intend to construct a more powerful Union.
It is in this context, that we, the V21 Group, seek to give an authentic picture about the situation in Hungary with this “Breaking the Silence” paper. Three decades after the demise of Communism, we had to recognise that the present state of affairs in Hungary is far from what the people had held as objectives in 1989-90. We had very different aims then. However, Hungary has fundamentally deviated from its mission to catch up with the West. In 1990, together with Poland, we were the pioneers in the region. Two decades later our two countries have stalled, no longer striving to rid ourselves of tyranny and of mendacious behaviour from its political leaders.
How is it that Viktor Orbán is able to muster a durable block of supporters when he is steadily dismantling democratic institutions and governing Hungary through demagogy and despotism copied from eastern models? When the population is increasingly experiencing breakdown of social institutions such as education, health care and local government paid for from their own taxes? And all this while in the eyes of our most important partners and allies the government of Budapest – and step by step Hungary as a nation – is losing credibility. How is it that the government hate campaign directed at “migrants” – a campaign without any real evidence that fundamentally differs from European values – impresses people in the country so effectively? Why do Orbán’s supporters accept, without criticism, the repeated diatribes against the West and blindly support their leader’s risky eastern adventures with nations that have, historically, had nothing to do with, or worse, been inimical to the country’s development?
The answers are to be found in the immature nature of Hungarian civil society and old injuries of the peoples’ soul. Without a thorough investigation and adequate treatment of those shortcomings no convenient answers can be formulated to the challenges of today. The first decades since the regime change in 1989-90 have not resulted in the expansion and strengthening of the middle class in Hungary. After the political turn, the slow development of the market economy, together with the unjust distribution relations, have led to rapid and deep division of society. For centuries, Hungary was unable to enjoy unfettered national sovereignty. While other nations were learning to decide about their affairs autonomously and with responsibility, Hungarians had to concentrate their forces on resisting foreign domination or circumventing it.
Instead of helping Hungarian society in overcoming its historical backwardness, “Orbanism” cynically misuses all these social shortcomings for the primary benefit of its own narrow leadership cabal. In particular, the regime has worked unceasingly to construct a series of unprincipled moral deals and create a series of ‘in-house’ companies with the single aim of tapping the EU’s development funds. It pretends, untruthfully, to be a political force creating a competitive, home-based capitalist class while leading a ‘European freedom fight’ for the nation. For many in Hungary it seems an impossible task to remove this regime by democratic elections, although others believe that changes in external circumstances and the pressure of the opposition groups, slowly learning to cooperate, can bring about the renewal.
One of the main conclusions of our analysis is that the economic wellbeing of the majority of our people, based on a more just distribution of goods and revenues, along with social harmony and public discourse and private life cleared of lies will only become the norm if authority in Hungary shuns a culture of lies and deception and approaches governance in an ethical, European, democratic manner. We believe that a return to civic security and to a society governed by the rule of law is still possible in this country, but it will require the resolute, sustained work of many. We should not accept that acquiescing in the interests of an unprincipled minority in power is of higher value than investigating and speaking out the truth. Nobody should become an accomplice to fraudulent politics, deceiving foreign supporters or investors and slyly sharing stolen money. People should understand that the defence of national interests is not accomplished by the malicious exclusion of others, be they close neighbours or natives of remote continents.
The V21 Group calls on all political organisations, civic circles, unions and all who feel responsibility for the fate of Hungary to participate in a nation-wide discussion of the document “Breaking the Silence”: let us read and scrutinise our diagnosis together! The widest possible common evaluation of Hungary’s situation is necessary to determine policies which will move society towards democracy at the local elections this autumn and begin the fundamental transformation of the political landscape.
Budapest, June 2019