Together against Orbán: Hungary’s new opposition


Robert Hodonyi and Helga Trüpel in Eurozine:

At the beginning of the year Prime Minister Victor Orbán predicted that 2013 would be the “Year of Harvest” for Hungary and that everything would be better than in 2012. To reap the fruits of his own policies, as he had already declared in a speech to Hungarian diplomats in August 2012, the path of “unorthodox” measures would be continued and further conflicts even with the EU would not be shied away from. Orbán's announcement may well impress his followers but to minorities in the country, the opposition and European institutions it must seem like a cynical threat. Although Orbán is still leading in the polls, the right-wing conservative government coalition Fidesz-KNDP has lost a significant share of the votes (41 per cent, down 12 per cent compared with 2010). The two-thirds majority is a thing of the past.

A determination to cement power

Since the “revolution at the ballot box” (in Orbán's words) the government has been pulling out all the stops to implement laws aimed at cementing its own power and in the long term preventing other political majorities. The latest example of this is the introduction of the compulsory registration of voters, which for the time being has been blocked by the Hungarian constitutional court; this is, however, only one element of the proposed electoral reform that Orbán has declared a priority for his current term in office. Compulsory registration would have barred spontaneous voters and citizens without any clear party political preferences from voting, thus favouring the Orbán camp. The government is not contesting the ruling of the constitutional court. Rather than admit defeat it is in the process of preparing a law aimed at overturning the prevailing constitutional practice and henceforth prohibiting the court from using its own rulings of the last 22 years as a basis for its judgement.With such “reforms”, Orbán's Fidesz Party is already positioning itself for the next general election to be held in the spring of 2014. And the Hungarian public is already eyeing next year's election as a “key election for the state of the nation”. In the wake of the “cold civil war” between the Left and the Right, an anti-Orbán alliance has formed and is now in the process of establishing itself as an institution and exploring possible coalitions with parliamentary oppositions for 2014. But also, profound changes are taking place in the relationship to “Brussels” and the European partners, not to mention the constant flirtation and increased economic co-operation with authoritarian regimes such as Russia, China, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. This article looks at both the state of the conflict with the EU on the one hand and the new awakening of civil society on the other, as well as the relation between these phenomena.