Remarks from Jobbik MEP Márton Gyöngyösi:
Unsurprisingly, such terms as “Orbánism” or “illiberalism”, as heralded by the Hungarian prime minister, have become buzzwords and points of reference for many journalists, politicians and other opinion shapers socialized in the European political culture. Although our community’s fundamental values have hardly been openly challenged by anyone inside the European Union before Orbán, I would still warn against crying “Orbánism” whenever you see an ambitious politician resorting to dubious means in order to achieve their goals. Why? Because it prevents you from recognizing the Orbán regime’s true anomalies…
In the last few days I have been frequently asked to comment on Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’ resignation or Czech PM Andrej Babiš’ fall in the election. I’m not surprised by the interest – as a member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET), I am often asked to evaluate political situations, especially when it comes to the Central European region. However, I was certainly surprised how easily journalists and the general public have been labelling European politicians and countries as “Orbánist”.
The purpose of this post is neither to defend nor to condemn Austria’s resigned chancellor. He himself and Austria’s judicial system will do so instead of me.
This brings me to the point we need to understand in order to see what Hungary’s real problem is.
Sebastian Kurz landed in the Austrian and European political arena as a comet. His youth, his unconventional style and his obvious talent for politics have been a matter of speculation before, too. However, the latest accusations seem to suggest that the young chancellor may have been clinging to his power a bit too much and perhaps used some illegal means to keep it. The serious accusations have led to Sebastian Kurz’s resignation. Now it’s the judicial system’s job to investigate whether he committed the alleged acts. Like it or not, actions that are now attributed to Kurz are nothing new in politics. There have been and there will unfortunately be politicians who resort to dishonest means. That’s why we have the rule of law, the system of checks and balances, the independent judiciary and democratic norms in general to help us investigate such cases and hold these politicians to account if they are proven guilty.
Former Czech PM Andrej Babiš was another often criticized figure in European politics.
His government term was marred by a series of scandals, but overall, Babiš was the head of a fairly fragile government and he lost the last election albeit with a narrow margin. He admitted his defeat and the Czech Republic will soon see the formation of a new government. We have always had and will continue to have scandal-prone, controversial politicians. That’s why we have the rule of law framework to let people get rid of the politicians who cross the boundaries.
The above two cases are typical examples of how a healthy democracy and the rule of law works. Orbánism and illiberalism are something utterly different: they have neither the rule of law, nor judicial independence. The fairness of the elections is highly questionable as well.
When you live in Orbánism, it is inconceivable that any scandal, no matter how big it is, would shake the power of the prime minister.
Instead, it is you who should be afraid of the consequences if you present incriminating evidence against those in power, because every court is under the government’s direct political control. When political leaders cross boundaries or get caught up in some malpractice, most citizens don’t even hear about it, because the controlled media either hushes up the embarrassing cases or completely re-contextualizes them, just like in Soviet times.
Let me ask all of you to refrain from using “Orbánism” as a general political stigma. If you use it too much and too generally, you will wash the Orbán regime clean. The regime operators’ goal is to appear nothing more than slightly unconventional while they build a dictatorship. They are not just unconventional. Let’s not help them blur the lines. The country where dishonest politicians are held to account by the court or the nation is a functional democracy.
The country where they can get away with anything is an Orbánist regime. That’s what “Orbánism” means. It’s as simple as that.