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Punishment: a condition of public trust?

August 12th, 2011

It is little wonder that the Hungarian Socialists are in decline, writes the editor-in-chief of Heti Válasz, Gábor Borókai, given the short-sighted policies of their  leaders since the late 1990s. His commentary comes in response to a statement by former MSZP president Ms Ildikó Lendvai and as a contribution to the ongoing debate about making former political leaders accountable.

In an interview in the left-wing daily Népszabadság, Ildikó Lendvai (former floor leader and president of the Socialists) says that since the parliamentary elections last year her party has been in a political and social quarantine, unable to break loose.

Gábor Borókai believes that the roots of this phenomenon go back to the end of the 1990s, when the leadership of the Socialist Party became an uncritical advocate of globalisation. It made use of the nostalgia for the Kádár era in order to win power, but then used it for its own (and its satellite corporations’) financial purposes.

“That ‘the party of commoners, employees and the socially disadvantaged’ was only able to find its Prime Minister in the new millennium in the person of an opulent businessman is indicative of the Socialists’ mental and spiritual state of mind” – suggests  the editor-in-chief of the moderate right-wing weekly, adding that in its search  for a  possible challenger to Viktor Orbán, the left-wing opposition is still looking backwards, to the likes of Ferenc Gyurcsány and Gordon Bajnai, the last PMs of Socialist administrations, which left the country deep in debt.

Borókai  peppers his column with contrasting opinions on whether former leaders should be punished for plunging Hungary so deep into debt (BudaPost, August 3rd, 5th and 9th). He refrains from concluding whether or not they should be put on trial, but finds it only too logical that the government wants the voters to know who is to blame for the present economic hardships, and intends to make clear that the times when politicians do not have to account for their actions are over. “This is the only way the political élite can win back public trust. And without public trust, democracy and its checks and balances are nothing other than a kind of theatre set.”

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