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Who is to pay for the debt?

August 9th, 2011

Commentators in Hungary are still arguing on the Parliamentary majority’s plan to find a way to sue politicians responsible for the country’s indebtedness. In the mainstream press there is full consensus on the impossibility of retroactive legislation, but left and right wing commentators disagree on all the rest.

After six months of deliberations, the parliamentary subcommittee investigating the cause of the debt crisis decided at the end of July that the (Socialist) politicians who ran the country and its finances from 2002 to 20010 were to blame. During that period, Hungary’s sovereign debt doubled, and the debt ratio rose from 57 to 80 per cent of GDP. (BudaPost, August 3rdand 8th)

In a sarcastic comment in left wing Hírszerző, László Seres accuses the government of wanting to merge all powers (executive, legislative and judicial) under one joint leadership, which would put an end to democracy in this country. That would be the only way former political leaders could be actually held responsible for their deeds in a legal sense, he suggests. Seres describes the present government as a ‘two-third autocracy’, but warns them that the source of their legitimacy is exactly the same as that of their predecessors. The latter were elected in 2002 and reelected in 2006 by some of the same voters that brought the new government to power last year.

Hungary’s debt does not originate in the previous few years but in the decades of the Socialist dictatorship which created a ‘phony welfare system’ based on Western credits – writes Szilárd Szőnyi in Heti Válasz. He believes that all governments since 1990 have only aggravated the problem. “There’s no doubt that in this process the Socialist governments by far out-performed their rivals in the indebtedness stakes” – adds Szilárd Szőnyi. “But is, regrettably we were unable to find a constitutional solution to call the leaders of the communist era to account,  then how much harder might it be to find a way to impeach all those who have plunged the country even deeper into debt ever since”– writes Szilárd Szőnyi in Heti Válasz.

In Magyar Nemzet, deputy editor-in-chief Szabolcs Szerető argues that holding former leaders accountable was a central promise by Fidesz while in opposition and that there is a powerful demand among right-wing voters for some sort of punishment. But since retroactive legislation is out of the question, “Fidesz can hardly deliver enough to satisfy the expectations of an impatient society. At the same time, however little it delivers, it will stand accused by left-liberal interest groups of undermining democracy.”

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