Weekend of July 23-24, 2011: Scandal Around Newly Elected Jobbik Mayor, and Viktor Orbán Gives Another Speech at Tusnádfürdő
(scroll down for English-language summary of Orbán’s speech)
Though he was only elected mayor last weekend, Oszkár Juhász, Jobbik’s mayor in Gyöngyöspata is already the protagonist of a political scandal implicating a member of parliament from the country’s governing party, Fidesz.
A day after his victory in the voting booths, Mr. Juhász had a phone discussion with the town’s representative in the Hungarian Parliament, József Balázs. But instead of the support he anticipated for his policies, Mr. Juhász was told that he should not count on the regional MP’s support for obtaining funding for his projects. I quote Mr. Balázs’s exact words – “Funding goes in this region to those who I approve. To those who I do not approve, no funding goes” – because the newly-elected Jobbik mayor managed to get it all on tape and to submit the recording as evidence in the criminal proceedings he requested against the Fidesz MP.
Exactly what kind of funding is being discussed on the tape? Mr. Juhász wants to start a gendarme program in the village (one more official then the random collection of thugs and petty criminals driven to Gyöngyöspata by their hatred and proclivity for street violence during the spring) and a model public works program. He is going to create jobs for 40 individuals to work on a forestation project close to the village.
Jobbik’s mayor now must turn this village into the far-right’s political promise – and imagine just how hard that is going to be if this is thinking process on which his actions are based. Having terrorized, humiliated, and threatened hundreds of Romas of abuse in Gyöngyöspata, Jobbik has managed to gain considerable local influence. But who is going to be responsible if Jobbik does indeed fail to solve the social problems of the village? What if it turns out that economic and social problems will not be solved – or god forbid might even worsen – by racial politics? Who is the average voter to blame under this unlikely scenario?
Except, of course, if someone is set to sabotage Mr. Juhász’ every single move. Tape-recorders are great, but the real lesson to learn here is that one can never be forward- thinking enough when it comes to finding another possible angle to renounce one’s responsibility.
Notice, in the meantime, that the issue is not that a Hungarian politician was finally brave enough to take a principled stand against Jobbik, but that a corrupt MP had been caught red-handed talking to a local mayor as if he were a Hungarian reincarnation of Don Carleone. As if this was not a country already a bit too overactive in its imaginary.
Speaking of which. In the meantime, Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orbán was away in Tusnádfürdő, at his party’s 22nd annual, festival-style, social event held in Tusnádfürdő, Romania – at a scenic vacation spot in the Carpathian Mountains which, as most Hungarians are almost always sure to add, used to belong to Hungary. There is tension brewing in that country too, between Romanian Hungarians and their Romanian government; in part because Viktor Orbán’s government granted Hungarian citizenship to the Romanian Hungarians, and in part because this may provoke Romania to administrative measures that would make the political representation of Hungarians Romanians in the Romanian state much more difficult.
One always expects the craziest things to happen at Tusnádfürdő, during this yearly gathering of the political and business elite friendly to Hungary’s governing party. Not simply because sooner or later someone will embarrass himself or herself while drinking, dancing, or saying something really, really outrageous – either about the Romanians or about the Hungarian socialists. But the real reason one watches this event is because Viktor Orbán always goes above and beyond expectations in his rhetorical excesses – every year the bar gets set higher and higher (I hope one day he will read Kubla Khan instead of giving a speech. Because, you know, it might just be that kind of a hazy rhetoric).
This year, Hungary’s prime minister spoke of the collapse of the West (as evidenced by the collapse of the debt ceiling negotiations in Washington, DC; by the collapse of the Greek economy; by the threat of the same in Spain and Italy; by the revolutionary changes rocking the Arab world; by the Western lifestyle that is unsustainable, and by the inevitable end to consumer society). On the stormy waters of world history, while most countries are swimming toward reefs, Hungary is already on its way back from the reefs, because its citizens responded correctly. They voted for Fidesz. In this way, Hungary is going to emerge as the center of the new order of industrialization in the world. In the future, the West is going to turn to Hungary to learn from the forward-thinking ways of the Hungarian citizen; most especially, Hungary’s media law and public works legislation is going to be copied abroad.
The declining West is not to be pitied though. On this point, Mr. Orbán made a remark that is perplexing even if we write it off as a mere touch of sensationalism. The west is merely the old world, a forced abode for Hungary. Once the crisis passes, Eastern-Europe is going to become the catalyst of Europe’s economy.
Therefore, argued Mr. Orbán, the emphasis in Hungarian politics must remain on building a strong nation. The problems faced by the rest of the world could not possibly be solved except by the forceful intervention of the state.
This means that the state must play an entirely new role in the economy: only the state can pay off the country’s debts, reorganize the economy and shepherd people back into jobs. A strong state, however, presupposes a strong nation, which is why the role of politics is to build a strong home country, and a strong “nation of the Carpathian basin.” (a clear reference that the nation-building extends to Hungarians living in Romania, as well as in the Ukraine, Slovakia, Croatia and Serbia).
These points do in fact summarize Mr. Orbán’s political agenda, which, since his election in 2010, has focused its rhetoric on the notion of “national cooperation.” The term denotes a political unity that translates both into the centralization of political power and into the notion that societal cooperation is best achieved on the basis of membership in the Hungarian nation (rather than, as might be the case in other countries, in individual rights or citizenship).
In response, I’ll limit myself to pointing out just how peculiar it is that not one person exists in the Hungarian prime minister’s inner circles who could stop him from sharing with us his grandiose delusional structure and his feverish ideas about what, in the end, is a rather suspicious combination of a nationalistic rhetoric and state socialism.
Not only because we know that, among the infinite possibilities in which cross-pollination occurs between political ideologies, the combination of nationalism and socialism is by far the worst. But also because there is great need in Hungary of a prime minister in touch with reality – clinically as well as metaphorically speaking.
Because, in the meantime, an entire segment of Hungarian society is experiencing intolerance, discrimination and violence based on their ethnicity and the color of their skin in escalating degrees. Because, in the meantime, racial hatred is gaining ground in the everyday life of Mr. Orbán’s nation – which, as we know from societies with their own history of racism, lingers in its impact on race relations for generations to come. And because, in the meantime, political feeble-mindedness and political scandal only defer the real solutions to problems that are devastating Hungary.