Hungary is heading towards the brink, both politically and financially and it’s so hard for me to watch, yet I continue to watch as I have strong ties and cannot avert my eyes…
The Viktor Orban led right-wing government is doing enormous damage to democracy. Using their overwhelming 2/3 electoral victory Fidesz declared a ‘booth revolution’ and promptly went about re-writing the constitution of the country, muzzled the constitutional court which used to be one of the cornerstones of democracy there. The supreme council and budget council have also lost their roles and power. Media has been systematically silenced by a new media authority, currently they are at work shutting down the last opposition radio station that 1/2 million people listen to (Klubradio).
A new generation of right wing judges, headmasters and hospital directors have taken up their post. Some 39 fundamental laws have been changed from taxation to electoral law, and they have all been ‘fortified’ so that only a 2/3 majority will be able to change them again in the future. This effectively ‘concretes in’ the power of Fidesz for potentially many many years to come.
The new constitution will potentially limit human rights and Amnesty International and others have already sounded the alarm. Fortunately the English language based international media is slowly waking up to this crisis after the German language one has been paying attention in the last few months.
Fidesz flirts with the ultra right and gives them concessions in country areas where the ultra right have already been killing and intimidating Roma. The institution of the family has been re-defined to include only married male-female couples with children, and no other family formation will be protected under law, making Hungary head back to the 19th century in terms of social norms reflected in law. Embryos may become protected more than women’s own health based on the new definition of personhood starting at conception. Even a conservative US state managed to refuse such a regressive re-definition, whereas in Hungary the conservative government just went ahead without much fanfare.
What’s more, Orban has been working hard at alienating all allies from UN to IMF to EU. Currently Hungary is on the brink of financial bankruptcy after its credit rating was downgraded to junk status. The Forint has been falling sharply since. I’m just hoping the EU’s potential bailout will come with heavy strings attached: namely to re-write media and other legislations that directly contravene both EU laws and human rights laws. This might be the only chance for the EU to force changes in Hungary, so progressive Hungarians are now finding themselves in a very conflicted state, hoping for bankruptcy only to achieve political change eventually.
Last week Green MPs were chaining themselves to Parliament in an effort to stall sweeping legislative change in Parliament that was going to be sneaked in a day before Xmas. In the end the Green MPs and the ex prime-minister were taken away by police. They were let out, while activists are still rotting in there. Also, the laws were passed anyway, just to bring an even more depressive Xmas to Hungarians, many of which are struggling in deep poverty with little hope.
Another desperate attempt is ahead in front of the state television station: media workers are on hunger strike in order to force changes as they were required to selectively report events and of course, there are the new media laws that would force all media workers to divulge all their sources, which is clearly anti-democratic. In the last few days govt workers decided to torment the hunger strikers with light and music on loop, with now both sides seeking legal remediation of the situation.
The charismatic nationalistic anti-EU ‘fuck you all we’ll run to China’ rhetoric can only last so long with a drastically diminishing support for the government (going from 67% to now 20% acc to polls). Yet Orban and his increasingly insane juggernaut are hurtling ahead full speed, possibly towards a cliff. What will happen after that? Noone knows.
An orange revolution that ends up solving nothing a la Ukraine quickly sliding into authoritarianism and constitutional dictatorship? A more Russian style totalitarian sham-democracy? EU playing hardball with the Hungarian govt and achieving minimal concessions and the right-wing govt continuing to erode democracy and making millions of lives miserable until at least 2014 (next election)? How long can Hungarians put up with this and what the hell can they actually do short of a revolution?? Who is going to help? (My guess, noone) It’s all very very sad… I was hoping for a way better future for my home country, but the hopes are diminishing each day…
In other news, Radio Free Europe might be re-starting its broadcast after shutting down decades ago. This is very sad, but perhaps a necessary step in order to enrich media diversity, though I doubt in the age of the internet the govt can truly shut down the public sphere short of what China and other repressive states are doing.
Also read the Guardian’s ‘Hungary playing chicken’ article.
Other English language articles: