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Hungary divided at 1848 national unity commemoration

March 17th, 2015

As Hungary celebrates the anniversary of the 1848 revolution, commentators both on Right and Left call for national unity and accuse each other of further polarizing the nation.

In his March 15 speech, PM Orbán said that national sovereignty was the organizing principle of both the 1848 Hungarian pro-independence revolutionaries and of his government. The left-wing opposition, on the other hand, accused the government of betraying the spirit of the 1848 revolution through what it considers as the curbing of democratic rights and freedom of speech. Jobbik politicians rejected the past 25 years and said that the achievement of the post-1989 period are not in-line with the main principles of the 1848 revolution.

In Népszava, György Sebes accuses Fidesz of trying to appropriate the memory of the 1848 revolution. The left-wing columnist contends that likening the 1848 national revolution to the 2010 “ballot booth revolution” of Fidesz is intended to deny the fact that the liberal and socialist opposition played an important role in the post-1989 democratic transition.

Instead of showing unity at least in the commemoration of the 1848 revolution, we divide into partisan camps and criticize each other from behind ideological bulwarks, László Kiss writes in Magyar Hírlap. The conservative commentator finds it tasteless that the Left which now fears the decay of democracy remained silent in 2006 when the police attacked peaceful opposition demonstrators. Kiss wonders why the opposition demonstrators who used the March 15 commemoration to call for press freedom and accuse the government of censorship did not raise concerns when eight years ago the public media left the police atrocities under-reported.

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